30% of farmland can no longer grow food
By Stephen Leahy
(First published in the Earth Island Journal Spring 2008)
A harsh winter wind blew last night, and this morning the thin snow cover has turned into a rich chocolate brown. The dirt covering the snow comes from cornfields near my home that were ploughed following the harvest, a common practice in southern Ontario and in the corn-growing regions of the US Midwest.
A handful of this dirty snow melts quickly, leaving a thin, fine-grained wet mess. It doesn’t look like much, but the mucky sludge in my hand is the prerequisite for life on the planet.
“We are overlooking soil as the foundation of all life on Earth,” says Andres Arnalds, assistant director of the Icelandic Soil Conservation Service. Arnalds is an eloquent spokesperson for the unheralded emergency of soil erosion, a problem that is reducing global food production and water availability, and is responsible for an estimated 30 percent of the greenhouse gases emissions.
“Land degradation and desertification may be regarded as the silent crisis of the world, a genuine threat to the future of humankind.”