Call it dirt or soil, we’re losing it
My high school science teacher taught me one thing I’ll never forget: dirt and soil are not one in the same. Dirt implies some kind of useless, gross substance lurking in corners of old buildings. Soil on the other, is this rich material that sustains life. But no matter what you want to call it, we are losing it.
I know, it seems like a strange thing to lose, but the fact is that for every unit of food we consume (grown using conventional U.S. agricultural methods), six times that amount of topsoil is lost. By the U.S. Food and Drug administration that’s roughly 12,000 pounds of topsoil a year. Highly inefficient. And definitely not sustainable.
The march issue of Ode magazine features an interesting article about the loss of our soil. It focuses on John Jeavons, author of How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. He also runs a non-profit, Ecology Action and according to the article, “his philosophy in general is that civilization needs to scale down, localize, put more elbow grease and less fossil fuel into the food chain.” Sounds reasonable to me.
Check out the full article here. It’s an interesting picture of how we can farm and garden so that we generate as much topsoil as we use. One thing is for sure, composting is key. The article points out that roughly 25% of our municipal waste is food and yard trimmings, material that could be broken down and used to re-plenish our strained agricultural system.
The good news, however, is that more and more of us are growing our own food in small backyards, on rooftops, and through CSAs. Just look at Michelle and Barack’s front lawn. We are supporting more farmer’s markets than ever and digging up our lawns to grow tomatoes. Seed sales increased 19% last year in the U.S.
So it’s not all bad news, we just need to remember, as taught in grade school, that soil is more than just dirt.
photo credit: flickr/ I vow to you