Save The Dirt

 
 
Dirt-525 
 
 
Dirt has a bad name.  We assign it to foul, perverted things. Icky nasty things we do not touch lest it taint us, infect us. We are a society bent on cleanliness; antiseptic-ness. We pride ourselves in our civilized approach to dirt.  Filth is what animals live in not we who are above such things. 
That dirt which lies beneath our feet, it is alive, that soil; a  mosaic of organic-ness which makes up much of our planet. We don’t think much of it but it’s there.  We walk on it, build our homes on it, plant our food in it. It’s what holds it all together and it’s more important than people realize.
 
Throughout history, civilizations have prospered or declined as a result of the availability and productivity of their soils.  Soil resources are critical to the environment as well as food production.

Soil is defined as a natural body consisting of layers that are primarily composed of minerals, mixed with organic matter. It is the loose covering of fine rock particles that covers the surface of the earth and is the end product of the influence of the climate, organisms, minerals and the passage of time.

When used in agriculture, it serves as the anchor and primary nutrient base for plants and soil resources that are crucial to the environment.  It absorbs rainwater and releases it later, helping to prevent floods and drought. It cleans the water acting like a sponge as the water percolates through it.

Soil is the most abundant ecosystem on Earth and is home to countless lifeforms; invertebrates, bacteria, fungi and algae.   It supports and plays a crucial role in all life on this planet.

 

Soil food web 

Good soil should contain a healthy mixture of soil-based organisms. These are the naturally occurring micro-organisms that release powerful enzymes responsible for keeping it free of molds, yeasts, fungi and other parasites which would otherwise make normal plant growth impossible. These organisms fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil and decompose organic compounds, including manure, plant residue, and pesticides; helping to prevent them from entering waterways and becoming pollutants.

The primary home of the vast soil food web is the topsoil. It’s the top layer of soil and contains most of the available nutrients. It’s where most of the biological activity takes place.

 

dirtFarmer_and_tractor_tilling_soil 
Scientists believe that 24 billion tons of topsoil are lost every year to erosion by wind, water and other causes including the way we feed the planet. Conventional agriculture encourages the depletion of topsoil because the soil must be plowed and replanted each year.  Many experts believe that our chemical dependencies are stripping the soil of its life-giving properties and turning it into unproductive, thus, lifeless dirt.  One inch of topsoil can take 500 years to form naturally. According to current trends, the world has about 60 years of topsoil left.
 
 

 Topsoil erosion occurs when the topsoil layer is blown or washed away. Without topsoil, little plant life is possible. This is a phenomenon known as the Aeolian processes.  This has happened before notably during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s when a period of severe dust storms greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the US and Canadian prairies.

On a dry grassland, the grass rooted into the soil can be the only thing keeping the soil stable. If too many animals are allowed to graze for too long, the grass can be stripped away and the soil will lose its anchoring roots. The area can become a desert. This is called desertification. Desertification and soil loss is a worldwide problem.

 
Dust storm blowing into Dodge City. The worst storm recorded was Black Sunday, April 15, 1935. Survivors talked of dust so thick it drifted like snow.

Dust storm blowing into Dodge City. The worst storm recorded was Black Sunday, April 15, 1935. Survivors talked of dust so thick it drifted like snow.

 

“According to the United Nations desertification is a creeping catastrophe. Already creating millions of environmental refugees worldwide every year, one third of the earth’s surface and the livelihoods of at least one billion people are threatened.” 

 By The Future World Project

 

A Turkana man herds livestock back from grazing grounds in Kenya, Africa where desertification in a problem.

A Turkana man herds livestock back from grazing grounds in Kenya, Africa where desertification in a problem.

 

This problem only deepens through time.  As our global population continues to swell and demand for food increases, our ability to feed the world will become more difficult and in time perhaps impossible. Once land is lost it’s hard to gain it back. I know dirt isn’t exciting, most of us don’t think of it beyond a few scientists and the odd nut like me, but we all can do something about it. It is our planet and we have to right to our existence because it’s down to that.   We need responsible and sustainable land stewardship not just here and there but everywhere.

A great place to start is at home, in our own yards.  The website Wikihow features an excellent article; How to Prevent Soil Erosion . It is focused on what the average person can do about soil erosion at home and in the community. It is on the small scale but a good start.

Beyond that I think we the people need to raise awareness about this problem and through societal and monetary pressure persuade the movers and shakers in this world that we care about our topsoil and the future of the food supply. And that steps must be taken to prevent further loss and to reverse bad farming and land management practices. We need to adapt sustainable farming practices that encourage the development of a healthy topsoil by rewarding those who regenerate the environment and produce food that supports a healthier society.     Most importantly we need to change the way we think about soil and how we use it. We must treasure it as the precious natural resource it is.

Future generations are counting on us… 

Have a fruitful day,

Nancy

.

 

 

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. 
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

 
 desertification in Niger soil dirt
 
 
 
 “The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
― Wendell Berry
 
community-garden-thanks-to-green-guerillas
 
 

References and Related Articles 

  

Woody Guthrie — This Land is Your Land Youtube

Health Benefits of Soil Based Organisms (positivehealth.com)   

Soil Food Web (soils.usda.gov) 

How to Prevent Soil Erosion  Wikihow.com.

We Are What We Eat: Topsoil erosion  YouTube  

Topsoil – 1948 Educational Documentary   

What if the world’s soil runs out?  Time.com  

Losing Ground: Re-thinking soil as a renewal resource (fewresources.org)  

Soil Food Web (soils.usda.gov) 

*

 

 
Advertisements

25 thoughts on “Save The Dirt

  1. Pingback: Dirty talk | Serendipity 13

  2. You wrote a really interesting and engaging post on what might be a dry (desert-ified?) subject. If more people had to have a role in their own food production, more people would realize what a treasure good dirt is. My garden started as yellow bull-tallow clay, with no drainage and no nutrients for vegetables. There was hardly an inch of topsoil. After that came the impenetrable clay. It is the miracle of all the life underground that we don’t see, that after only a couple of years of layering compost and autumn leaves on my veggie beds, i could easily put my arm in topsoil up to my wrist. After another couple of years i could get half my arm in the topsoil easily. All without digging and destroying soil structure. Hooray for all the dwellers in the dirt who toil so tirelessly to create that which we are all too ready to destroy .

    Like

  3. Love this post Nancy. You always manage to sum up ideas and thoughts so well. And get me thinking too. I like getting dirt under my fingernails…. just doesn’t look so nice! LOL! Have a great weekend!

    Like

    • Hey Cathy, thanks. It’s a boring subject but I was compelled to write about it. I too have dirt under my nails; can’t seem to get rid of it completely this time of year. 🙂 Have a great weekend yourself!

      Like

  4. I love dirt.. I live for dirt! I want to marry dirt and have it’s babies… Ok I love dirt! Today is the last day I am on this dirt…

    Like

  5. I love your writing Strawberryindigo, and I feel I just learned a good deal (I love learning). I had no idea how important dirt was beyond the three field rotation of the early Middle Ages and a bit of the Dustbowl, but did not know the extent. Dang. Here, here, for good dirt! 🙂

    Like

    • Hey Niaaeryn, Thanks. I have been meaning on writing this for a while, It is a subject dear to me but frankly it is a bit dry and heavy on the information. Here’s to good dirt too, we should have a toast. 😉

      Like

Join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s