Saturday, April 21, 2012

Climate Matters. S is for Soil

This post is for S in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

This trailer is only about 3 minutes long. It's fascinating!

Loss of topsoil is a massive worldwide problem but it rarely receives much mainstream media attention. And whilst some people are scathing about groups concerned with environmental issues, without healthy soil to grow food, we have a serious problem.

Most of the world's food comes from cropland which is being degraded an an extraordinary rate by such things as overuse, clearing, mono-crops, salinity and erosion, which leads to a massive loss of soil productivity. It's estimated that in the US alone, this is in the vicinity of $38 billion each year.

When soil erosion occurs, the soil is unable to store water or support plant growth which leads to an escalating problem of increased erosion, and decreased food production.

Eroding top soil washes into waterways, taking toxic pesticides and fertilisers with it. This eventually finds its way into human water sources leading to an increased need for filtering or chemical purification.

It's estimated that 30% of the worlds' arable land has become unproductive over the past 40 years. With increased extreme weather events occurring as a result of climate change, this may occur more frequently in the future with the result that malnourishment will increase accordingly.

Australia has experienced devastating loss of cropland both as a result of drought and flood. At times Melbourne has been blanketed with rich topsoil blown across hundreds of miles from cropland upwind, leaving those areas depleted and less productive. People downwind experienced a rise in airborne health issues - difficulty breathing, eye irritation and skin problems were prevalent. Traffic was affected as visibility decreased and driving became hazardous. In addition to direct loss of income and production on farms was indirect loss of income and production from those affected downwind. More recent flooding has eroded rich farmland and left farming communities stressed and with many livelihoods in tatters.

Recently there has been concern that coal seam gas has been discovered below Australia's most rich farmland. The push to extract it further erodes farming communities and could eventually force Australia to be reliant on other countries to supply food. Being reliant on others to regularly and happily supply food could be problematic as arable lands become more scarce worldwide and the producing countries choose not to sell.

Composting to make soil for your own garden:
A bokashi bin in a workplace kitchen encourages employees to compost rather than discard lunchtime food scraps. If they're thrown in a regular bin, they eventually end up in landfill where they release greenhouse gases. In this workplace, however, every Friday evening, one employee wins the jackpot and takes the bin home to add to the soil in the garden to enrich it! The smell is not like "off" food at all, but similar to fermenting bits and pieces and not at all disgusting.

Last year I wrote about Sociopaths and Serial bullies for S for my theme of workplace bullying. Here and Shilly-shally here.



Inger said...

I wish I had discovered your blog sooner. These are some serious matters that we all should know about. While I have been concerned with the loss of bees, I had not thought about the loss of soil. Scary stuff, indeed. I'm visiting from the A to Z Challenge and I'm a new follower.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. love the dirt video .. and your post describes the devastation we're doing to our earth - our land.

The compost pot is a great idea ..

Finding energy is not helping mankind really .. we're messing up our land ..

Cheers Hilary