Repairing the Soil Carbon Rift
Soil is important to life on Earth because nearly all the food we consume in some way can trace its roots (no pun intended) back to soil. Plants receive their energy and nutrients from the soil that they’re grown in. As the author points out, the Bible is quite literally true by saying “for soil thou art.”
Life on Earth depends on healthy soils. The soil under our feet is a living system – home to many fascinating plants and animals, whose invisible interactions ensure our well-being and that of the planet. Soils provide us with nutritious food and other products as well as with clean water and flourishing habitats for biodiversity. At the same time, soils can help slow the onset of climate change and make us more resilient to extreme climate events such as droughts and floods. Soils preserve our cultural heritage and are a key part of the landscapes that we all cherish. Simply put, healthy living soils keep us, and the world around us, alive. — European Commission’s Board for Soil Health and Food, as quoted by the author
Soil organic carbon / organic matter is a combination of the living plant roots in the soil, the recently dead plant / animal matter, and the late-stage decomposed dead matter (e.g. the living, the dead, and the very dead).
Since at least the 19th century, scientists have noticed rifts and disturbances in soil flows and cycles, accelerating especially after the Second World War. The shipping of produce from where it was grown has created a system by which nutrients captured by plants are not returned back into the soil they came from. Marx even mentions this in Capital Vol. 1.
The key to continuous productive agriculture is the cycling of nutrients back into the soil.
The soil carbon rift is when soil, after many years of farming, without replacing the organic matter in soil, becomes degraded, offsetting the carbon dioxide from the soil into the atmosphere, thus contributing to climate change. One third of the Earth’s soil has become degraded.
With the rise of mass agriculture, agricultural science came to believe that organic matter in soil was unimportant, and therefore stressed the nutrients of plants, thereby creating the fertilizer industry.
Soil organic matter is so critical to soil health because it improves essentially all soil biological, chemical, and physical properties.
Increasing soil health broadly could help stop global climate change, but it would require a massive, global, coordinated effort.
- Open document (Hedgedoc) at https://doc.anagora.org/20210427201247-repairing_the_soil_carbon_rift
- Video call (Jitsi) at https://meet.jit.si/20210427201247-repairing_the_soil_carbon_rift