Dirt: The Silent Global Crisis

Dirt Isn’t So Cheap After All


By Stephen Leahy

Aug 30 (IPS) – Soil erosion is the “silent global crisis” that is undermining food production and water availability, as well as being responsible for 30 percent of the greenhouse gases driving climate change.

“We are overlooking soil as the foundation of all life on Earth,” said Andres Arnalds, assistant director of the Icelandic Soil Conservation Service.

“Soil and vegetation is being lost at an alarming rate around the globe, which in turn has devastating effects on food production and accelerates climate change,” Arnalds told IPS from Selfoss, Iceland, host city of the International Forum on Soils, Society and Climate Change which starts Friday.

Along with many other international partner institutions, Iceland is marking the centenary of its Soil Conservation Service by convening this forum of experts.

Every year, some 100,000 square kilometres of land loses its vegetation and becomes degraded or turns into desert.

“Land degradation and desertification may be regarded as the silent crisis of the world, a genuine threat to the future of humankind,” Arnalds said.

Food production has kept pace with population growth by increasing 50 percent between 1980 and 2000. But it is an open question whether there will be enough food in 2050 with an estimated three billion more mouths to feed.

That means more food has to be produced within the next 50 years than during the last 10,000 years combined he noted.

“Global food production per hectare is already declining,” said Zafar Adeel, director of the United Nations University’s Canadian-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health.

There are a number of reasons for this decline, including the fact that soil degradation is producing growing shortages of water. Soil and vegetation act as a sponge that holds and gradually releases water, Adeel explained.

The newest challenge to food production and conserving land and water resources is the boom in vegetable-based biofuels, says Andrew Campbell, Australia’s first National Landcare Facilitator.

“Soils are under greater pressure than ever before,” Campbell said in an interview. “Governments around the world are subsidising crops to produce biofuels.”

For complete article see Dirt Isn’t So Cheap After All.

5 thoughts on “Dirt: The Silent Global Crisis

  1. Ever more reasons appear to support proper organic farming practices, which increases the quality of the soil by adding back to it with composted organic matter, and to yourself compost (do not burn) your lawn clippings and other yard rubbish to add to the quality of the soil where you live. Towns which have public composting programs should be encouraged to expand their projects and publicize them further, and more towns should take up this important public works task (for those individuals who do not have space to do it themselves).

    More radically – Artificial fertilizers which artificially ‘prop up’ poor arid soil should be heavily taxed in agriculture to encourage more use of real soil building materials such as composted manure or plant matter. Rebuilding of natural watersheds to preserve soil and prevent erosion and flooding should be funded by governments. Dredging/development projects should not be allowed in natural watersheds by law.

  2. devastating drought, then downpouring deluge…

    starting to be a familiar cycle through many agricultural belts…

    really good way to erode large areas into permanent famine…
    decrease the population of the world…

    but the nwo can’t control the weather
    (can tHey?)

  3. Why doesn’t the government encourage sustainable farming with subsidies? The giant agrafarms along with Monsanto and Dupont are about to put the small farmer off the land. The Bush administration has been awol on issues affecting the American family.

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