Monday, March 30, 2015


You've to get behind the mule
in the moring and plow
   -Tom Waits

All we are is dust in the wind


    Well, it's interesting.  With all the focus on climate change we tend to ignore the fact that climate change is just one symptom of our general overshoot.  Our industrial lifestyle is causing so many insults - whether its the 6th great extinction,  the end of wild fishing, or the wild  climate , that we tend to ignore what's under our feet - soil.     As George Monbiot puts it

"Imagine a wonderful world, a planet on which there was no threat of climate breakdown, no loss of freshwater, no antibiotic resistance, no obesity crisis, no terrorism, no war. Surely, then, we would be out of major danger? Sorry. Even if everything else were miraculously fixed, we’re finished if we don’t address an issue considered so marginal and irrelevant that you can go for months without seeing it in a newspaper. "

       That issue is soil.  2015 is the year of soil, and the UN has a pretty stark message for us.   Soil, the basis of 95% of our food, is disappearing.  Its blowing away, and washing away.  Really pretty fast, too.  According to Scientific American

"Generating three centimeters of top soil takes 1,000 years, and if current rates of degradation continue all of the world's top soil could be gone within 60 years, a senior UN official said on Friday."

       Of course, we'll feel the impacts well before we run out.  As population continues to increase while soil productivity decreases, we'll hit the peak per capita food in the not too distant future.  According to soil scientist John Crawford

 "Under a business as usual scenario, degraded soil will mean that we will produce 30% less food over the next 20-50 years. This is against a background of projected demand requiring us to grow 50% more food, as the population grows and wealthier people in countries like China and India eat more meat, which takes more land to produce weight-for-weight than, say, rice."

          It's kind of interesting to think how we got into this situation.  After all we've been plowing for thousands of years.  It's a very effective method of weed control, as the plow breaks the weeds roots, and turns them under, leaving no competition for the seeds to be planted.  But, plowing also loosens the soil, allowing it to dry up and blow away.   The solution to the topsoil problem is a "no till" method, which doesn't solve the weed problem.  Typically that is solved with herbicides, which , of course has its own issues, like impacts to the health of soil, as well the encouragement of "super weeds",.  see more here.

        Time to get out there and make soil!
       How to compost

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