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topsoil depletion
News stories about "topsoil depletion," with punchlines: http://apocadocs.com/d.pl?topsoil+depletion
Related Scary Tags:
soil issues  ~ food crisis  ~ corporate farming  ~ toxic buildup  ~ herbicide runoff  ~ economic myopia  ~ bioremediation  ~ capitalist greed  ~ stupid humans  ~ climate impacts  ~ anthropogenic change  

Sat, Feb 9, 2013
from Lester Brown, via TreeHugger.com:
New Era of Food Scarcity Echoes Collapsed Civilizations
This new era is one of rising food prices and spreading hunger. On the demand side of the food equation, population growth, rising affluence, and the conversion of food into fuel for cars are combining to raise consumption by record amounts. On the supply side, extreme soil erosion, growing water shortages, and the earth's rising temperature are making it more difficult to expand production. Unless we can reverse such trends, food prices will continue to rise and hunger will continue to spread, eventually bringing down our social system. Can we reverse these trends in time? Or is food the weak link in our early twenty-first-century civilization, much as it was in so many of the earlier civilizations whose archeological sites we now study? ...

More than an "echo," I'm afraid the rising feedbacks will amplify themselves into a final, desperate, shrieking scream. That, or we could just start changing things, today.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012
from BusinessInsider:
Jeremy Grantham: We're Headed For An Economic Disaster Of Biblical Proportions
What Malthus did not foresee was the discovery of oil and other natural resources, which have (temporarily) supported this population explosion. Those resources are now getting used up... The story for metals, by the way, is the same as for oil: The low-hanging fruit has been picked. Despite the use of new technologies, the yield per ton of metal ores continues to drop.... The fact is that no compound growth is sustainable. If we maintain our desperate focus on growth, we will run out of everything and crash. We must substitute qualitative growth for quantitative growth. ...

Perhaps cataclysmic, or globally catastrophic. But not Biblical. Let's not exaggerate!


Sat, Jan 14, 2012
from Grist:
Lexicon of Sustainability: Biodiversity vs. monoculture
Industrial agriculture = monoculture. Small farms = biodiversity. Small, organic farms like Rick Knoll's are able to eliminate their reliance on petrochemical-based fertilizers and pesticides. The results are fewer pollutants, less environmental degradation, and cleaner air. And by using cover cropping and other soil fertilization principles they are able to sequester carbon and keep topsoil -- which is carbon heavy -- from being lost into the atmosphere (the latter also contributes to climate change). ...

Next you'll be telling me this approach is sustainable, for, like, years.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from Mother Jones:
USDA Scientist: Monsanto's Roundup Herbicide Damages Soil
The problem goes beyond the "superweed" phenomenon that I've written about recently: the fact that farmers are using so much Roundup, on so much acreage, that weeds are developing resistance to it, forcing farmers to resort to highly toxic "pesticide cocktails." What Roundup is doing aboveground may be a stroll through the meadow compared to its effect below. According to USDA scientist Robert Kremer, who spoke at a conference last week, Roundup may also be damaging soil--a sobering thought, given that it's applied to hundreds of millions of acres of prime farmland in the United States and South America. Here's a Reuters account of Kremer's presentation: The heavy use of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide appears to be causing harmful changes in soil and potentially hindering yields of the genetically modified crops that farmers are cultivating, a US government scientist said on Friday. Repeated use of the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup herbicide, impacts the root structure of plants, and 15 years of research indicates that the chemical could be causing fungal root disease, said Bob Kremer, a microbiologist with the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.... McNeill explains that glyphosate is a chelating agent, which means it clamps onto molecules that are valuable to a plant, like iron, calcium, manganese, and zinc.... The farmers' increased use of Roundup is actually harming their crops, according to McNeill, because it is killing micronutrients in the soil that they need, a development that has been documented in several scientific papers by the nation's leading experts in the field. ...

100,000,000 acres here, 100,000,000 acres there... pretty soon we're talking about real damage!


Sun, Mar 6, 2011
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Gloomy Malthus provides food for thought as world's appetite builds
At some point, argued Malthus, the demands of the human race will exceed agricultural capacity, sparking violence, population decline and radical social change. A highbrow version of the man with the "End is Nigh" sandwich board, Malthus banged his "impending catastrophe" drum until his death in 1834 - hence the "dismal" sobriquet.... The United Nations index of global food prices hit yet another record high in February - the eighth successive monthly increase. The respected UN index - which tracks prices of cereals, meat, dairy, oils and sugar - is now up 40 percent on a year ago and 5 percent above its June 2008 peak. The price of corn - a widespread staple crop - is now 95 percent higher than a year ago. While there were many factors behind the outbreak of dissent in Libya, soaring food prices were the catalyst. A wave of price-related resentment has swept across a number of North African nations and could yet cause a political eruption in the Gulf. Since before the days of Malthus, economists have tracked the natural swing and counter-swing of food prices, as production has responded with a lag to price signals and the vagaries of the weather. But maybe Malthus was right and that self-correcting cycle is now over. ...

Relax! We'll just make a bigger pie!


Tue, Oct 19, 2010
from NSF/NCAR, via EurekAlert:
Drought may threaten much of globe within decades
The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to results of a new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai. The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years. The drought may reach a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.... While regional climate projections are less certain than those for the globe as a whole, Dai's study indicates that most of the western two-thirds of the United States will be significantly drier by the 2030s.... "We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community," Dai says. "If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous." ...

Only this time, the great clouds of the dustbowl will be laced with unknown toxins from corporate farms.


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?


Mon, Jun 7, 2010
from TreeHugger:
Reforestation & Biochar: Two Geoengineering Methods That Won't Cause More Harm Than Good
Geoengineering has been a slow burning controversy for some time now, with some truly wacky ideas proposed, as well as some which take a more sober look at the prospect of intentionally tinkering with the climate to stop the effects of human activity disturbing it in the first place. Let's look at a couple of those geoengineering methods which won't cause more harm than good: Biochar and Reforestation/Afforestation.... Biochar is essential using charcoal made through pyrolysis of biomass and then burying it mixed in with the soil. It has a long history of use in Amazonia, where it's known as terra preta, for its benefits in making soil more fertile. In regards to long-term carbon storage potential, biochar can work on a millennial scale with, in most cases, no negative soil side effects. Some estimates show biochar having the potential to sequester one billion tons of CO2 each year. ...

That's no way to grow the economy!


Thu, Jan 14, 2010
from SolveClimate:
Return to Small Farms Could Help Alleviate Social and Environmental Crises
Indeed, Altieri shows that on a per-hectare basis, small farms are able to strongly out-produce large ones. It's not the first time this claim has been made. The quick counter is that agricultural labor is onerous and backbreaking, that no one wishes to do it, that freeing up farm labor by using mechanical devices and chemical inputs allows former farmers to move into the cities, raising productivity, contributing more effectively to national GDP, and so on. That's a reasonable claim, except for the fact that there's now more available labor in the world than the world knows what to do with, so much so that much of the global South, its former peasantry, lives in dilapidated shanties on the peripheries of urban cores. ...

Farm? I'd rather profit from credit default swaps.


Wed, Sep 2, 2009
from University of British Columbia, via EurekAlert:
Humans causing erosion comparable to world's largest rivers and glaciers
"Our initial goal was to investigate the scientific claim that rivers are less erosive than glaciers," says Michele Koppes, a professor of geography at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and lead author of the study. "But while exploring that, we found that many of the areas currently experiencing the highest rates of erosion are being caused by climate change and human activity such as modern agriculture," says Koppes, who conducted the study with David Montgomery of the University of Washington. In some cases, the researchers found large-scale farming eroded lowland agricultural fields at rates comparable to glaciers and rivers in the most tectonically active mountain belts. "This study shows that humans are playing a significant role in speeding erosion in low lying areas," says Koppes. "These low-altitude areas do not have the same rate of tectonic uplift, so the land is being denuded at an unsustainable rate." ...

Well, sure, unsustainable, but I'll be dead by then, right?


Thu, Apr 23, 2009
from Washington Post:
Dust Storms Escalate, Prompting Environmental Fears
The Colorado Rockies, including the headwaters of the Colorado River and the Rio Grande, have experienced 11 serious dust storms this year, a record for the six years researchers have been tracking them. More important, an increasing amount of airborne dust is blanketing the region, affecting how fast the snowpack melts, when local plants bloom and what quality of air residents are breathing. The dust storms are a harbinger of a broader phenomenon, researchers say, as global warming translates into less precipitation and a population boom intensifies the activities that are disturbing the dust in the first place. ...

Dust... The new invasive species.


Tue, Apr 21, 2009
from Discovery News:
World's Land Slipping in Quality
Nearly 25 percent of land around the world is in bad shape and getting worse, according to a new study, and human activities are to blame. It's the first study to directly measure the extent of human-induced global land degradation. The phenomenon describes a decline in the quality of soil and vegetation that the land can't recover from on its own.... One and a half billion people currently live in degraded areas. And as soils decline, people reach a point where they can't grow enough food to feed themselves. They move on, leaving the dead land behind....The scientists calculated that all of the vegetation that has been lost from the world's degraded land would have removed an extra billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere if it were still healthy and green. ...

Dead zones in the oceans... now dead lands, too!


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Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
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Tue, Feb 24, 2009
from AAAS:
Dwindling Resources of Soil, Water and Air Require 'CDC for Planet Earth'
In her plenary address to the 2009 AAAS Annual Meeting, Kieffer called for the creation of a "CDC for Planet Earth"--an organization that could respond to planetary threats such climate change with the same kind of coordination the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed during the SARS and bird flu outbreaks of the late 1990s.... Ocean acidification, spreading deserts, dry aquifers and degraded soils are stealth disasters, altering the planet in ways that "will undermine our survival and evolution into the civilized global society that we might become," warned Kieffer.... And for the first time in history, "societies of the whole planet are so interconnected that Planet Earth is essentially one island," where the stealth disasters of one region can become a crisis for the whole globe, she suggested. ...

It doesn't take a genius to figure this stuff out -- heck, we did!


Wed, Feb 18, 2009
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Manure could power two million homes
According to Defra, the UK produces more than 100 million tonnes of organic material per year that could be used to produce biogas, 90 million tonnes of which comes from manure and slurry. The National Farmers' Union has a target to have 1,000 on-farm anaerobic digestion (AD) plants by 2020, which will power farms and produce fertilisers as a by-product of the process. Speaking at the NFU conference in Birmingham today, Farming and Environment Minister Jane Kennedy is expected to say: "We're producing more organic waste in this country than we can handle, over 12 million tonnes of food waste a year -- and farmers know too well the challenges of managing manure and slurry. ...

That's 90,000,000 tonnes 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.


Wed, Oct 29, 2008
from BBC:
Earth on course for eco 'crunch'
The planet is headed for an ecological "credit crunch", according to a report issued by conservation groups. The document contends that our demands on natural resources overreach what the Earth can sustain by almost a third. The Living Planet Report is the work of WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network. It says that more than three quarters of the world's population lives in countries where consumption levels are outstripping environmental renewal. ...

Maybe it's time for about 2 billion of us to check out the exciting new planet Mars!


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!


Thu, Oct 2, 2008
from Geological Society of America:
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.... Top geomorphologist David R. Montgomery of the University of Washington says that "ongoing soil degradation and loss present a global economic crisis that, although less dramatic than climate change or a comet impact, could prove catastrophic nonetheless, given time." ...

This professor, to be very careful, uses clauses which, to the detriment of his message, separate his swing from his punch, grammatically, more or less.


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.


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....!


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!


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.


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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