Last Sunday was World Soil Day. How did you celebrate it? I know, it hit me too. The truth is, we live it every day, without knowing it. The most urgent things are not lacking on our plates.
Perhaps that is the point though; our plates would remain almost empty without this strip of dark, rich and invigorating earth that nature shapes at the rate of one centimeter every 300 years. So, stuck between the Amazon Prime order and my latest set of Snapchat selfies, I ventured out into the backyard, put my bare hand down, and pinched some topsoil.
There were more germs in my hand than there are humans on earth. Almost enough to pull the spirit out of the slippery divide of the politics of division. I usually take the floor for granted.
Unfortunately, I am not the only one in this regard. With the thousands of cohabiting species being bulldozed from the cliff to extinction, the topsoil will soon be gone too. “We are losing thirty football pitches of soil every minute, mainly because of intensive agriculture,” according to Volkert Engelsman of the International Federation for Organic Agriculture. The United Nations reports that the topsoil of the world may be a thing of the past 60 years from now. As the hourglass lacks sand, our soils also change.
As with so many of our self-taught ecological disasters, the threat of this has been brewing for over a century, when we found a new way to harness our love affair with carbon to increase yields. agricultural. Our amber waves of grains owe their abundance to a couple of skilled German chemists who, in 1909, discovered a process for synthesizing ammonia from carbon – in the form of natural gas.
Along with the huge silos of corn, soybeans and wheat, has occurred the massive and decidedly voracious population explosion. Between 1900 and 2000, the number of other land travelers increased from 1.6 billion to 6 billion.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. We come back to the plot: the humus, so essential and linked to life that a farmer joked, “the answer is the soil, what is the question?” One question is: where does the food come from to feed the starving masses when it becomes economically impossible to siphon off more carbon? And one could ask a related question and evoke the same answer: how to sequester all the excess carbon in the atmosphere?
The answer is a return to healthy soil.
And it is science’s deep understanding of soils combined with indigenous practices that can regenerate otherwise dead dirt. This transition does not occur consistently. We need only look to COP26, another exercise in collective atrophy or more exactly a reenactment of the Canterbury Tales Pardon tale: pay and be forgiven for your sins linked to global warming.
The return to natural soil fertility was on the agenda of COP26. Frenchman Philippe Mauguin, CEO of INRAE, gave a well-researched, even impassioned speech, but the resulting action was a polite applause. All in line with Greta Thunberg’s frank vision: “Green economy. Blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah.
In their defense, I can only imagine that the pitiful stick figures who attend these eco cocktails have to endure a degree of embarrassment and frustration themselves. There was, however, a sideline conversation at COP26 that contained significant content: Svein Tore Holsether, CEO of Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara International, told a reporter: “I’m afraid we have a food crisis. He pointed to the tripling of the prices of natural gas used to produce ammonia. The cost of production fell from $ 110 per tonne to $ 1,000. Crop yields will plummet without this soil “heroine”.
Eventually we will come back to our senses. The dial is moving and we are approaching an economic tipping point. We will go to our gardens and lift a handful of soil to the heavens in awe, “you know, it’s been too long.”
After years of globetrotting, Broadman finds himself writing from his perch on the Palouse and loving the view. His guidance notes are available on US Renew News: https://www.usrenews.org.