So what is the big deal about soil? We plant flowers in it, we let our dogs dig in it, if you’re a baseball player, you spit in it. In fact, last year, soil even had its own year. 2015 International Year of Soils was designed to educate the general public about the importance of something that, unless you’re a farmer, you have probably been ignoring your entire life.
Here are just a few of the interesting facts about soil that were shared with an international audience last year. How many of them do you know?
- Soil is considered a non-renewable resource. No rapid reproducer, just one lowly centimeter of soil can take thousands of years to form. This timeframe alone indicates that we really need to take better care of it.
- My life, your life, my dog’s life, everyone’s life is dependent on the health of the soil, since food production, fuel, and medicinal products all stem from the soil. So what happens when our soil is contaminated? Or it just simply disappears due to uncontrolled erosion? I think you know the answer to that question.
- 33% of the soil on this planet is considered moderately to severely degraded. What does that mean for you and me? It means that while those of us that are a bit older will likely be fine, the next generation and those that follow will likely suffer the ill effects of this generation’s blatant disregard for one of our planet’s most valuable resources.
- Soils hold ¼ of our planet’s biodiversity. Yep, there’s billions of microorganisms, fungi, and protozoans in the soil, along with our insect and worm friends – and we don’t want to kill them off. We’ve all seen the effects of chemical fertilizers on the bee population. When we allow the earth’s soil to become degraded and contaminated, we’re also helping to kill some of the most beneficial life forms known to man.
- The health of the soil is directly related to the health of your food. Remember, 95% of the food consumed daily comes from the soil. What is, or isn’t in the soil directly affects anyone who eats; that’s you and I. In developing countries, over two billion people suffer from nutrient deficiencies directly related to the lack of nutrients in the soil. When we talk about nutrient-dense food we mean food that is grown in healthy soil, in order to provide essential nutrients such as Vitamin A, Iron, Zinc, and Iodine.
Ok, soil IS a big deal. So what can we do to protect it?
There are numerous ways. If you’re a farmer, you can use cover crops to reduce erosion, and most importantly, practice sustainable soil management. For the consumer, buying less and eating more of what you do buy will help to reduce food waste. Buying local can also significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Just think how much energy is used to ship food 3,000 miles across country, versus a five minute drive (or better yet, walk) to your local farmers market.
So next time you simply dismiss the soil beneath your feet, think about its role in the sustainability of our planet, and treat it with the respect it deserves. Your life depends on it.
Did you know when you donate to HMI you are helping to create healthy food for your family and healthy soil?
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