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soil issues
News stories about "soil issues," with punchlines: http://apocadocs.com/d.pl?soil+issues
Related Scary Tags:
topsoil depletion  ~ contamination  ~ food crisis  ~ water issues  ~ heavy metals  ~ overfishing  ~ carbon emissions  ~ corporate farming  ~ anthropogenic change  ~ holyshit  ~ peak oil  

Thu, Jan 8, 2015
from BBC:
Antibiotics: US discovery labelled 'game-changer' for medicine
The heyday of antibiotic discovery was in the 1950s and 1960s, but nothing found since 1987 has made it into doctor's hands. Since then microbes have become incredibly resistant. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis ignores nearly everything medicine can throw at it. Back to soil: The researchers, at the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, turned to the source of nearly all antibiotics - soil. This is teeming with microbes, but only 1 percent can be grown in the laboratory. The team created a "subterranean hotel" for bacteria. One bacterium was placed in each "room" and the whole device was buried in soil. It allowed the unique chemistry of soil to permeate the room, but kept the bacteria in place for study.... The lead scientist, Prof Kim Lewis, said: "So far 25 new antibiotics have been discovered using this method and teixobactin is the latest and most promising one.... Tests on teixobactin showed it was toxic to bacteria, but not mammalian tissues, and could clear a deadly dose of MRSA in tests on mice. ...

This would be so exciting if Big Ag wasn't trying to wipe out all soil bacteria everywhere, as a precondition for using the dead top-substrate as a medium to grow corn and soybeans. So much fewer weeds, right?


Wed, May 22, 2013
from New York Times:
Wells Dry, Fertile Plains Turn to Dust
... And when the groundwater runs out, it is gone for good. Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains. This is in many ways a slow-motion crisis -- decades in the making, imminent for some, years or decades away for others, hitting one farm but leaving an adjacent one untouched. But across the rolling plains and tarmac-flat farmland near the Kansas-Colorado border, the effects of depletion are evident everywhere. Highway bridges span arid stream beds. Most of the creeks and rivers that once veined the land have dried up as 60 years of pumping have pulled groundwater levels down by scores and even hundreds of feet.... In 2011 and 2012, the Kansas Geological Survey reports, the average water level in the state's portion of the aquifer dropped 4.25 feet -- nearly a third of the total decline since 1996. And that is merely the average. "I know my staff went out and re-measured a couple of wells because they couldn't believe it," said Lane Letourneau, a manager at the State Agriculture Department's water resources division. "There was a 30-foot decline."... "Looking at areas of Texas where the groundwater has really dropped, those towns are just a shell of what they once were," said Jim Butler, a hydrogeologist and senior scientist at the Kansas Geological Survey. ...

"Peak Water" was so 20th century.


Mon, Nov 28, 2011
from Associated Press:
A quarter of world's farmlands highly degraded, says UN
The United Nations has completed the first-ever global assessment of the state of the planet's land resources, finding in a report today that a quarter of all farmland is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world's growing population is to be fed. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that farmers will have to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world's expected nine billion-strong population. That amounts to 1 billion tonnes more wheat, rice and other cereals and 200 million more tons of cow and other livestock. But as it is, most available farmland is already being farmed, and in ways that actually decrease its productivity through practices that lead to soil erosion and wasting of water. ...



Sun, Apr 17, 2011
from Popular Science:
Study Finds Commonly Used Silver Nanoparticles Are Deadly to Microbes, Plants
Nanotech is looked upon by many as the next great enabling technology that will revolutionize (and is revolutionizing) everything from materials science to disease therapies to game-changing new energy technologies. But, according to a new study by Queen's University researchers, some commonly used nanoparticles found in everything from sunscreen to cosmetics to socks could be destroying soil systems, and by extension the very ecosystems upon which we rely for life. Among the millions of tons of nanoparticles manufactured annually, silver nanoparticles are a particular favorite as they work as antibacterial agents in surgical tools, water treatment, wound dressings, and in a variety of other roles. They've even been used in the cathodes of batteries.... The researchers had begun to wonder what the impact of nanoparticles were on the environment, and having received a chunk of Arctic soil as part of the International Polar Year they decided to experiment on this piece of uncontaminated earth. They first studied the sample to see what kind of microbe communities were living in the soil, and identified a certain beneficial and prevalent microbe that helps fix nitrogen to plants. Plants can't do this on their own and nitrogen is critical to their growth, so this particular microbe is essential to plant life. The researchers then added three different kinds of nanoparticles to the soil and let it sit for six months. When they re-examined it, they found that this microbe had largely been extinguished, and laboratory analysis showed that silver nanoparticles were the culprit. Given the high number of silver nanoparticles slipping into the environment on a daily basis, such findings are concerning. ...

Should there be a warning label that reads "Antithetical to life itself"?


Sun, Sep 26, 2010
from Wall Street Journal:
Farmland: The Next Boom?
The world has consumed more food than it has produced in nine of the past 10 years, Susan Payne, chief executive of agricultural investment firm Emergent Asset Management, told the World Agricultural Investment Conference in London this week. Population is rising fast; another billion mouths to feed will probably be added in just in the next 15 years.... We've already seen trouble. There were food riots in some countries two years ago. Wheat, coffee and sugar prices have rocketed this summer. Canaries in the coal mine? "We expect to see a resource war around 2020," says Ms. Payne.... Charmion McBride, head of agriculture for Insight Investment, says the amount of arable land per person on the planet has halved in about 40 years.... Famously, land has also proven a terrific hedge against inflation. It has boomed when prices skyrocketed--such as during the two world wars, and the 1970s. There is a serious risk that we will see a surge in inflation down the road: You could argue the governments need it. No wonder investors have been bidding up the prices of other inflation hedges, such as gold and inflation-protected bonds. Why not land? ...

Oddly, they missed an opportunity to mention "Peak Land."


Fri, Aug 6, 2010
from SciDev.net:
Chinese soil experts warn of massive threat to food security
If China's current rate of soil loss continues, a layer the size of Puerto Rico will be washed away in the next 50 years -- resulting in a 40 per cent decrease in food production, according to a study led by the country's Ministry of Water Resources, and science and engineering academies.... Scientists found that the total area of soil erosion has reached 1.61 million square kilometres nearly 17 per cent of total land cover. According to the study, many parts of the black soil in northeastern China -- the country's breadbasket -- have disappeared already, a trend that, if it continues, could put at risk food security for one million people.... "The most serious soil erosion exists in the slope land, especially in farmland," Lu Zongfan, a researcher at China's Institute of Soil and Water Conservation and consultant for the expedition, told SciDev.Net. ...

How hard can it be to simply clear more land?


Sat, Jul 3, 2010
from IRIN:
AFRICA: Help out small farmers, report urges
Small-holder farmers, who make up almost all of Africa's agriculture sector, need more support to reduce over-dependence on increasingly costly food imports, states a new report. Policymakers should "strengthen the competitiveness of small-holder farmers, thus avoiding a rural exodus that would put pressure on the cities and lead to more food imports", according to the 2010 technology and innovation report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.... Lack of organization is also a problem. "A small producer does not suffer due to size but due to isolation... If a hundred of you put your produce together you are much more likely to get a bigger market and better prices," said Oyelaran-Oyeyinka. Ethiopia recently launched a crop commodity exchange market to help farmers negotiate prices. ...

Let's ship 'em down some combines!


Tue, Mar 16, 2010
from Stanford, via EurekAlert:
The environmental and social impact of the 'livestock revolution'
Global meat production has tripled in the past three decades and could double its present level by 2050, according to a new report on the livestock industry by an international team of scientists and policy experts. The impact of this "livestock revolution" is likely to have significant consequences for human health, the environment and the global economy, the authors conclude.... # More than 1.7 billion animals are used in livestock production worldwide and occupy more than one-fourth of the Earth's land. # Production of animal feed consumes about one-third of total arable land. # Livestock production accounts for approximately 40 percent of the global agricultural gross domestic product. # The livestock sector, including feed production and transport, is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. ...

Gosh -- that's almost, almost enough to make me go vegetarian.


Mon, Mar 1, 2010
from Stanford, via EurekAlert:
Discovery in legumes could reduce fertilizer use, aid environment: Stanford researchers
"We have discovered a new biological process, by which leguminous plants control behavior of symbiotic bacteria," said molecular biologist Sharon Long. "These plants have a specialized protein processing system that generates specific protein signals. These were hitherto unknown, but it turns out they are critical to cause nitrogen fixation."... This special ability allows legumes to flourish in nitrogen-poor soils, whereas other plants require applications of manufactured nitrogen fertilizer to grow well. But even legumes can't flourish without the right symbiotic bacteria.... Costs aside, the production of chemical fertilizer also adds to the problem of global warming, both by way of the fossil fuels used in production of chemical fertilizer and through the impact of leftover fertilizer that degrades into nitrous oxide, a highly potent greenhouse gas. With the planet's ever-growing population, Long said there is going to be increased need to keep productivity going on lands that are starting to become marginal because of drought, temperature or salinity problems, among others. ...

Maybe we can "fix" this after all.


Wed, Feb 10, 2010
from AFP:
Climate change impact of soil underestimated: study
Finnish researchers called for a revision of climate change estimates Monday after their findings showed emissions from soil would contribute more to climate warming than previously thought. "A Finnish research group has proved that the present standard measurements underestimate the effect of climate warming on emissions from the soil," the Finnish Environment Institute said in a statement. "The error is serious enough to require revisions in climate change estimates," it said, adding that all climate models used soil emission estimates based on measurements received using an erroneous method.... This showed "carbon dioxide emissions from the soil will be up to 50 percent higher than those suggested by the present mainstream method," if the mean global temperature rose by the previously forecasted five degrees Celsius before the end of the century, and if the carbon flow to soil did not increase. The institute said a 100 to 200 percent increase of forest biomass was needed to offset the increasing carbon emissions from soil, whereas previous estimates called for a 70 to 80 percent increase. ...

Why don't you eggheads find some good news for a change?


Sat, Nov 7, 2009
from Los Angeles Times:
Are store-bought soils safe for growing vegetables?
In September I wrote about an unsettling incident in which I'd found high levels of lead in the chard I'd grown in a backyard planter box filled with store-bought soil. According to the head of the lab that did the testing, I shouldn't have eaten more than one-quarter pound of the leaves a day or I'd risk lead poisoning.... I decided to do some testing... The findings: None of the soils contained toxic levels of lead, zinc or arsenic. The bad news: All contained at least some contaminants... ...

At least we can depend on our store-bought food being safe.


Sat, Oct 17, 2009
from Tel Aviv University via ScienceDaily:
Thermometer For The Earth
According to climate change experts, our planet has a fever -- melting glaciers are just one stark sign of the radical changes we can expect. But global warming's effects on farming and water resources is still a mystery. A new Tel Aviv University invention, a real-time "Optical Soil Dipstick" (OSD), may help solve the mystery and provide a new diagnostic tool for assessing the health of our planet...his soil dipstick will help scientists, urban planners and farmers understand the changing health of the soil, as well as its agricultural potential and other associated concerns. ...

Would this be considered oral or rectal?


Fri, May 8, 2009
from Syracuse Post-Standard:
Syracuse's community gardens are tainted with lead and arsenic
A dedicated band of gardeners have been tilling Syracuse's soil as a way of building community and providing fresh fruits and vegetables to their families. But the plots they have been eating from and others they have been working to develop are contaminated with toxic metals. In at least some cases, Syracuse city workers were likely the ones who laid down the polluted dirt. A recent study of six local community gardens by scientists at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry showed that all but one of the plots contained elevated levels of lead, according to preliminary results. Samples from one garden in development -- the Isabella Street Community Garden -- exceeded health standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The normal level of lead in soil is between 40 and 50 parts per million. The Syracuse gardens have lead levels that range from 46 to 820 parts per million. Moreover, arsenic levels in all of the plots except for one were off the charts, said ESF professor Venera Jouraeva, who led the study. ...

I wondered why my carrots seem soooo heavy...


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Sun, Apr 19, 2009
from Nature:
Asian nations unite to fight dust storms
The dust-storm season in northeast Asia is expected to hit its peak next week, and this week three of the countries hardest hit met in Beijing to coordinate their response. The storms coat cars, bury railways and facilities, and destroy crops, with the thick dust often bringing visibility down to the hundreds-of-metres range. Whipped up to heights of up to 8 kilometres, dust sometimes makes it as far as the United States. The dust originates from the Takla Makan Desert, the Gobi Desert and other arid regions of northern China and Mongolia. It is a natural phenomenon, but accelerating desertification, caused by soil degradation and overgrazing, has made it worse. ...

The grapes of global wrath.


Sat, Apr 18, 2009
from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council via ScienceDaily:
Changing Climate May Lead To Devastating Loss Of Phosphorus From Soil
Crop growth, drinking water and recreational water sports could all be adversely affected if predicted changes in rainfall patterns over the coming years prove true, according to research published in April in Biology and Fertility of Soils. Scientists from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded North Wyke Research have found for the first time that the rate at which a dried soil is rewetted impacts on the amount of phosphorus lost from the soil into surface water and subsequently into the surrounding environment. Dr Martin Blackwell who is one of the project leaders said:..."This is really worrying because high phosphorus concentrations in surface waters can lead to harmful algal blooms which can be toxic, cause lack of oxygen during their decay and disrupt food webs. This can also affect the quality of water for drinking and result in the closure of recreational water sport facilities." ...

I can't LIVE without my recreational water sports!


Thu, Feb 12, 2009
from New York Times:
Big Science Role Is Seen in Global Warming Cure
WASHINGTON -- Steven Chu, the new secretary of energy, said Wednesday that solving the world�s energy and environment problems would require Nobel-level breakthroughs in three areas: electric batteries, solar power and the development of new crops that can be turned into fuel....Dr. Chu said a "revolution" in science and technology would be required if the world is to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and curb the emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. Solar technology, he said, will have to get five times better than it is today, and scientists will need to find new types of plants that require little energy to grow and that can be converted to clean and cheap alternatives to fossil fuels. ...

Big science... hallelujah!


Sat, Jan 24, 2009
from The Sacramento Bee:
Federal raid heightens concerns about fake organic fertilizer
Federal agents this week searched a major producer of fertilizer for California's organic farmers, widening concern about the use of synthetic chemicals in the industry. The raid Thursday targeted Port Organic Products Ltd. of Bakersfield. Industry sources estimate the company produced up to half of the liquid fertilizer used on the state's organic farms in recent years. The Bee reported in December on a state investigation that caught another large organic fertilizer maker spiking its product with synthetic nitrogen, which is cheap, difficult to detect – and banned from organic farms. Since then, the organic industry and state officials have taken several steps to catch violators in California, which produces nearly 60 percent of the U.S. harvest of organic fruits, nuts and vegetables... As Thursday's raid indicates, work remains to improve a patchwork regulatory system that presumes manufacturers tell the truth about their products. On Thursday at the Eco-Farm Conference in Monterey, frustrated farmers and fertilizer makers alike called for stronger oversight. ...

Fake fertilizer is full of shit!


Thu, Jan 22, 2009
from University of Leeds, via EurekAlert:
Industrialization of China increases fragility of global food supply
Global grain markets are facing [a] breaking point according to new research by the University of Leeds into the agricultural stability of China. Experts predict that if China's recent urbanisation trends continue, and the country imports just 5 percent more of its grain, the entire world's grain export would be swallowed whole. The knock-on effect on the food supply -- and on prices -- to developing nations could be huge. ...

So once again, the invisible hand would price the poor into starvation.


Thu, Jan 15, 2009
from Cleantech Blog:
Peak Phosphorus?
First there was 'Peak Oil', then there was talk of 'Peak Water', but 'Peak Phosphorus' may trump them all as a sustainability issue without rival. Fact: Phosphorus is a non-renewable resource for which there is no substitute.... The timing for Peak phosphorus may be 50 years out, or a hundred and fifty years, but as with peak oil, it's not a question of if, but when. There has already been considerable volatility in Phosphorus markets in the past year, possibly related more to volatility in the energy market and this has trickled through into food prices. ...

So, what -- will we have phosphorus speculation soon? Phosphorus default swaps, anyone?


Sat, Nov 15, 2008
from Toronto Sun:
Got a spare Earth anywhere?
If the world continues to pillage and plunder Earth's natural resources at the rate we are now, by 2030 we will need two planets to support us. If everyone on Earth consumed the equivalent resources of Canadians, it would take three Earths to meet the demand. Since the late 1980s, we have been in overshoot -- meaning our ecological footprint has exceeded Earth's biocapacity to sustain our rate of consumption -- by about 30 percent.... Deforestation and land conversions in the tropics, dams, diversions, climate change, pollution and over-fishing are killing species off, the reverberations of which are felt along the food chain. ...

I don't think NASA is ready to terraform Mars just yet.


Tue, Oct 28, 2008
from University of Georgia, via EurekAlert:
Study helps clarify role of soil microbes in global warming feedback
Current models of global climate change predict warmer temperatures will increase the rate that bacteria and other microbes decompose soil organic matter, a scenario that pumps even more heat-trapping carbon into the atmosphere. But a new study led by a University of Georgia researcher shows that while the rate of decomposition increases for a brief period in response to warmer temperatures, elevated levels of decomposition don't persist. "There is about two and a half times more carbon in the soil than there is in the atmosphere, and the concern right now is that a lot of that carbon is going to end up in the atmosphere," said lead author Mark Bradford, assistant professor in the UGA Odum School of Ecology. "What our finding suggests is that a positive feedback between warming and a loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere is likely to occur but will be less than currently predicted." ...

So maybe we don't declare war on microbes.


Mon, Oct 13, 2008
from Toledo Blade:
Climate change called certain and most predictions are bad
Agriculture could become more difficult, with crop yields harder to maintain because of drier soils and more insects -- and too much rain at the wrong times.... The frequency of thunderstorms could be doubled, yet soil is expected to be drier and more prone to drought because of the increased rate of evaporation.... Expect more sneezing from pollen and ragweed, plus a variety of other health issues from more mushroom spores, mold, and poison ivy, he said. Portions of North America are now being affected by dust clouds emanating as far away as Africa's expanding deserts. ...

More poison ivy? Now it's really getting serious.


Sun, Oct 5, 2008
from Geological Society of America via ScienceDaily:
Topsoil's Limited Turnover: A Crisis In Time
...Records show that topsoil erosion, accelerated by human civilization and conventional agricultural practices, has outpaced long-term soil production. Earth's continents are losing prime agricultural soils even as population growth and increased demand for biofuels claim more from this basic resource. ...

What a shame if topsoil plays out, but thank goodness we'll always have drive-thru windows!


Tue, Aug 19, 2008
from Indiana University, via EurekAlert:
Chronic lead poisoning from urban soils
While acute lead poisoning from toys and direct ingestion of interior paint has received more publicity, these cases account for only a portion of children with lead poisoning. Many health officials are increasingly concerned with chronic lead poisoning, which occurs at lower levels of lead in the blood and are harder to diagnose. Babies and young children may develop chronic lead poisoning when playing in dirt yards or playgrounds or in areas with blowing dry soil tainted with the lead, which is ubiquitous in older urban areas.... As their neurons develop, the nervous system tries to use lead in place of calcium and the child's neural systems fail to form correctly. This impairs neural function leading to irreversibly decreased IQ and increased attention deficient issues. ...

I dont beleeve led is making us stoopid.
do you.


Tue, Aug 19, 2008
from National Geographic:
Our Good Earth
"...This year food shortages, caused in part by the diminishing quantity and quality of the world's soil ... have led to riots in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. By 2030, when today's toddlers have toddlers of their own, 8.3 billion people will walk the Earth; to feed them, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, farmers will have to grow almost 30 percent more grain than they do now. Connoisseurs of human fecklessness will appreciate that even as humankind is ratchetting up its demands on soil, we are destroying it faster than ever before. "Taking the long view, we are running out of dirt," says David R. Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington in Seattle." ...

We are, in truth, doing ourselves dirt.


Thu, Jun 19, 2008
from Afriquenligne (France):
Research institute warns of African land degradation
Lagos, Nigeria - The survival of more than 250 million people living in the dry lands of the developing countries is being threatened by chronic land degradation, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) said in a statement made available to PANA here Thursday. "Dry lands cover about 41 percent of the earth's surface. The poor people in the dry lands depend mainly on rain-fed agriculture and natural range lands for their survival. Their livelihoods are at risk due to land degradation, which is exacerbated by increasing population growth that is putting considerable pressure on fragile land resources," ICRISAT said. ...

The way we've treated the soil
truly is degrading.


You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy):
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
We've been quipping this stuff for more than 30 months! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Sun, May 25, 2008
from Ventura County Star:
Poor soil lowers world's production of food
"...Soils around the world are deteriorating with about one-fifth of the world's cropland considered degraded in some manner. The poor quality has cut production by about one-sixth, according to a World Resources Institute study. Some scientists consider it a slow-motion disaster." ...

Ooooooh.... nooooooo.... saaaaay... itttt... aaaaaain't.... soooooo....!


Fri, May 16, 2008
from Science Daily (US):
Soils Contain Huge Amounts Of Ancient Carbon: When Does This Carbon Enter The Atmosphere?
"As the planet is warming up, this carbon is being released from the soil into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, but there are in fact two types of carbon -- 'new' carbon, which has recently entered the soil through vegetation, and 'old' carbon, which has been locked up in the soil for years... The implications of knowing this are very important and it will enable us to determine for the first time what the consequences of changes in land use might be for climate change... As more CO2 is released from the soil, the temperature is going to increase further -- it could almost be a runaway reaction." ...

We've been waging war on soil for a century. Guess we didn't realize we were losing.


Sun, Apr 27, 2008
from Boston Globe:
The future of dirt
"THE EARTH'S UNCERTAIN oil reserves and dwindling freshwater supply may get all the attention, but modern society is also overtaxing the ground itself. At the same time that a growing population and the newfound appetites of the global middle class are straining our food supply, governments all over the world are also pushing for more ethanol-generating energy crops. To support all that production on a limited amount of arable land, scientists and farmers have long focused on technical improvements such as plant breeding, bioengineering, and creating new fertilizers and pesticides. But some are now asking a different question: What if we could create better dirt? ...

Improving dirt will really make Haitians happy as sometimes that's all they have to eat!


Sat, Apr 12, 2008
from Jamai Cascio (Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies):
The Big Picture: Resource Collapse
We (the human we) have pushed the limits of many of the resources our civilization has come to depend upon. Oil is the most talked-about example, but from topsoil to fisheries, water to wheat, many of the resources underpinning life and society as we know it face significant threat. In many cases, this threat comes from simple over-consumption; in others, it comes from ecosystem damage (often, but not always, made worse by over-consumption). ...

What a challenge, "ethics" and "emerging technologies" -- since most any technologies that makes money get promoted.


Thu, Apr 3, 2008
from US News and World Report:
Land Once Preserved Now Being Farmed
"Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. government, in an attempt to reduce the environmental fallout from large-scale farming, has been paying farmers to set aside less-than-ideal land for conservation. The results have been overwhelmingly positive: Soil erosion has been reduced; chemical and fertilizer runoff has eased; habitats for game birds and endangered species have been created and enlarged. The pushback to climate change has been equally noteworthy: In 2007, the lands trapped 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, making the Conservation Reserve Program the most effective government-funded defense against greenhouse gases on private lands....But dark clouds are forming on the protected fields. Historically, farmers have been eager to participate in the program, and many still are. But as prices for crops have soared, a growing number of farmers have opted to put conservation land back into production. The trend is expected to accelerate -- to the grave concern of many observers who caution that years of steady environmental progress could be halted, or even reversed, as buffers and habitats are converted into farmland...to feed the global demand for biofuels. ...

There's clearly only one solution to this and all related problems: Kill your car!


Tue, Feb 26, 2008
from The Gazette:
Colorado's getting dustier
"The amount of dust blowing into Colorado from the west has increased 500 percent since humans settled the region, a dust bowl effect that could impact snowpack and human health, a study has found. A team of researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder analyzed soil samples at two remote lakes high in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, and found dust levels five to seven times higher than at any time in the past 5,000 years. ...

This dust bowl will make The Grapes of Wrath look like a cooking show.


Fri, Feb 22, 2008
from American Chemical Society:
Translation: Earthworms and transmission of toxins
"Earthworms are an important link in transporting environmental contaminants from soil to other organisms in terrestrial food webs. Large molecules (>0.95 nm), such as PBDEs, are thought to not readily cross membranes, and thus do not accumulate in organisms. However, earthworms have been shown to accumulate contaminants of considerable size (8), including significant bioaccumulation from sludge-amended soils with mean biota-soil accumulation factors (BSAFs) of 4-8 for BDE-47, -99, and -100 (7). Similarly, studies of the aquatic worm, Lumbriculus variegatus, in PBDE-spiked sediments gave BSAFs of 3 for BDE-47 and -99 (9)." ...

Translation: "Worms were thought not to gather toxins from human-sewage sludge. However, that idea was wrong, even though we sell human-sewage sludge to farmers these days."
What that implies: every early bird who gets the worm also gets concentrated toxins. It's as if the "prime soil predator" was concentrating toxins, not unlike bats (for prime air predator) and killer whales (prime ocean predator), concentrating toxins.


Thu, Feb 21, 2008
from Environmental Science and Technology:
Worms bear sludge load
"Pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) end up in the tons of solid sludge left behind by wastewater treatment processes. Those so-called biosolids are often repackaged and sold as fertilizers for both industrial and small-scale agriculture. In a new survey, published in ES&T (DOI: 10.1021/es702304c), researchers show for the first time that those compounds can turn up in earthworms ... Bioaccumulation of PPCPs by worms is not entirely a surprise, according to Stockholm University's Cynthia De Wit, who points to her own work looking at PBDEs and other persistent compounds in earthworms. However, the new research underscores that worms could serve as monitoring organisms, she says. Because the worms seem to concentrate compounds that may be present at undetectable levels in the soils, they can be "a sort of sentinel, or magnifying glass of what's in the soil," she adds." ...

From canaries in the coal mine to earthworms in the soil, other species bear too much of a load.


Sat, Feb 9, 2008
from National Geographic:
Human Activities Triggering "Global Soil Change"
"Earth's climate and biodiversity aren't the only things being dramatically affected by humans—the world's soils are also shifting beneath our feet, a new report says....This new era will be defined by the pervasiveness of human environmental impacts, including changes to Earth's soils and surface geology...Earth's soils already show a reduced capacity to support biodiversity and agricultural production." ...

This is especially problematic given that some people -- in Haiti, for example -- are literally eating soil because they can't afford food.


Thu, Jan 31, 2008
from Discover:
Unsustainable Soil Use Can Cause Civilizations to Collapse
"Earth is running out of soil. At least that's the conclusion of a new study supporting the long-held belief that current farming practices are causing soil to erode more quickly than new soil can be produced." ...

We'll run out of soil even faster if the poor have to resort to eating it.


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