Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Soil Conservation

I remember my final year exam during my degree module Global Environmental Resources. I sat in the icy crypt of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral (also known as Paddy’s Wigwam, on account of its shape and catholic flavour), and expectantly turned the page. There was the most succinct question I ever faced in my academic career, plus I was quite chuffed because I could answer it…

“Which is more important, the OIL crisis, or the SOIL crisis? Discuss.”

It put me in mind of those urban myths about Philosophy papers which ask “Is there a God?” to wit, one wag just as briefly answered “No.” Well, I felt I should answer mine with one simple fact:

“As a global average, it takes 1mm of soil 10 years to accumulate.”

Whilst I could have rested my case there, I didn’t, but I think you get the point.  

The soils in the farm on the left are depleted and mismanagement of the land (from industrial chemical agriculture) is contributing to erosion. The soils in the farm on the right are well-managed, with healthy trees and plants securing and fortifying the soil. This farm is an organic farm using no chemicals. As a result, soil health is excellent and plant diversity and yields are higher.

The following documentaries are about soil degradation, issues and strategies which play a part in loss of soil quantity and quality, and its conservation. The first: A Cry For Mercy (Fjallkonan hropar a vaegd) explores the impacts of sheep farming in Iceland, parts of which in the Middle Ages, were lush and fertile agricultural lands instead of the contemporary Moonscape; and the second documentary Green Gold is about Dr John D. Liu's  journey in regenerating the productivity of soil in several different countries.

Earth turns to Gold in the hands of the Wise- Rumi
Seek not to feed the plants, but to feed the soil- Bill Mollison

By South Utsire

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