No, not a typo. Just in case you’re short of things to worry about, you can add soil to the list. George Monbiot last month in The Guardian:
We’re treating soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mistake, as our lives depend on it
… Landowners around the world are now engaged in an orgy of soil destruction so intense that, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world on average has just 60 more years of growing crops. Even in Britain, which is spared the tropical downpours that so quickly strip exposed soil from the land, Farmers Weekly reports, we have “only 100 harvests left”.
To keep up with global food demand, the UN estimates, 6m hectares (14.8m acres) of new farmland will be needed every year. Instead, 12m hectares a year are lost through soil degradation. We wreck it, then move on, trashing rainforests and other precious habitats as we go. Soil is an almost magical substance, a living system that transforms the materials it encounters, making them available to plants. That handful the Vedic master showed his disciples contains more micro-organisms than all the people who have ever lived on Earth. Yet we treat it like, well, dirt. …
A few years back I reviewed Tim Flannery’s Here on Earth: An Argument for Hope, which is also very good at documenting the dangers of the rapid environmental degradation that we are engaging in.
The government’s deregulation bill, which has now almost completed its passage through parliament, will force regulators – including those charged with protecting the fabric of the land – to “have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth”. But short-term growth at the expense of public protection compromises long-term survival. This “unambiguously pro-business agenda” is deregulating us to death. …
Of course our government is doing exactly the same, with its attack on the RMA.
This is what topples civilisations. War and pestilence might kill large numbers of people, but in most cases the population recovers. But lose the soil and everything goes with it.
Now, globalisation ensures that this disaster is reproduced everywhere. In its early stages, globalisation enhances resilience: people are no longer dependent on the vagaries of local production. But as it proceeds, spreading the same destructive processes to all corners of the Earth, it undermines resilience, as it threatens to bring down systems everywhere.
Most people understand the need to manage the environment sustainably. Even the political right should be able to grasp that there is no economy without the environment. And yet we carry on down our destructive road.
Obviously we need to vote for parties and local governments that take environmental issues seriously, not those that ignore or deny the problems. But we don’t have to just sit and wait for governments, we can all act locally. In this respect the Transition Town movement is a fantastic initiative. Get in touch with your own local transition organisation and get involved. There are plenty of great people and resources out there to learn from.