Our future is soil  

Did you know that soil is actually sand but sand comprised of organic matter? It's a complex symbiotic system of matter, minerals, gases, liquids and living organisms. It is the very foundation of life. Which is why it’s no surprise that unhealthy soil impacts us in so many ways, from our climate to our food and in turn our health.

Soil is not just 'dirt', healthy soil is teeming with life. 

Just one teaspoon of healthy soil contains as many microbes as the population of humans on earth. 

Over the past hundred years, we've done a great job undermining the fundamentals of life on this planet.

The root of our destructive relationship has been the dominant idea that we are separate from nature, one another, and the cosmos itself. But, we are waking up and beginning to see our interconnected relationship with all of life. Our behaviour is changing and it must because these systems do not depend on us. It's us who depend on them. Soil is one of the fundamental systems which is under attack. It is the giver of life, supporting 87% of all life and producing 95% of our food.

"The fate of our planet, from its ecosystems, natural resources, biodiversity, and people hinges on the state of its soils.” 

Our food and soil 

Research has shown that our food is nowhere near as good as 50 years ago. Looking at nutritional data from 1950 and 1999 in 43 different vegetables and fruits found "reliable declines" in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C. Average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent.

It's estimated that some vegetables have lost 57 percent of their zinc - an essential element for the immune system, male fertility and collagen production for your skin. And, you can't simply supplement your way out of this, as we've discussed in a previous article

One study concluded that you would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin C as our grandparents would have gotten from one. 

Healthy soil = nutrient dense food = healthy people. 

Our food and soil 

Research has shown that our food is nowhere near as good as 50 years ago. Looking at nutritional data from 1950 and 1999 in 43 different vegetables and fruits found "reliable declines" in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C. Average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent.

It's estimated that some vegetables have lost 57 percent of their zinc - an essential element for the immune system, male fertility and collagen production for your skin. And, you can't simply supplement your way out of this, as we've discussed in a previous article

One study concluded that you would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin C as our grandparents would have gotten from one. 

Healthy soil = nutrient dense food = healthy people. 

Our food and soil 

Research has shown that our food is nowhere near as good as 50 years ago. Looking at nutritional data from 1950 and 1999 in 43 different vegetables and fruits found "reliable declines" in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C. Average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent.

It's estimated that some vegetables have lost 57 percent of their zinc - an essential element for the immune system, male fertility and collagen production for your skin. And, you can't simply supplement your way out of this, as we've discussed in a previous article

One study concluded that you would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin C as our grandparents would have gotten from one. 

Healthy soil = nutrient dense food = healthy people. 

Soil and climate change

Water 

Soil also has stored in it 65% of our planet's freshwater. Rich soils ensure adequate levels of groundwater and are also integral to the health of tropical river systems. Ensuring healthy soil also prevents the dangerous cycles of floods and drought that afflict so many regions in the world. 

Water 

Soil also has stored in it 65% of our planet's freshwater. Rich soils ensure adequate levels of groundwater and are also integral to the health of tropical river systems. Ensuring healthy soil also prevents the dangerous cycles of floods and drought that afflict so many regions in the world. 

Air 

Soil also cleans our air. It absorbs pollutants while providing a home for the trees, plants, shrubs, and grasses that act as the planet's lungs. 

What's destroying our soil? 

Current farming practices - monocropping, synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, factory farm waste contaminants, and tilling practices are eroding the foundation of life.
We're losing 12 million hectares of healthy soil a year. To put this in perspective, England is 13 million hectares. The good news is that soil is becoming a central topic of conversation. Many organisations are lobbying governments combined with more public awareness. There are many well-proven methods for preventing the destruction of our soil. These include regenerative farming techniques - shifting towards reduced or even zero tillage has also been shown to reduce soil erosion by water. It preserves soil structure, retaining its microbes and mycelium. This makes soil particles more resistant to erosion, but it can enhance the infiltration of water, meaning less water runs off the slope to entrain soil particles in the first place. Other methods include sowing cover crops to avoid leaving expanses of soil bare, exposed, and vulnerable to soil erosion. Reintroducing at least 3-6% of organic content in the soil by enriching the soil through plant litter and animal waste. The removal of toxic pesticides and the reintroduction of biodiverse crops in place of monocrops. 

Ways you can make a difference from your home 

1. Grow your ownIn your own back garden, on a windowsill or on a shared allotment, growing your own is the most environmentally-friendly way to get your food. Growing different vegetables and plants in your garden will help recycle nutrients back into the soil, with the added benefit of reconnecting you with where food comes from.

2. CompostOrganic matter is the parts of soil that originate from plants or animals. It's an essential ingredient in healthy soils, helping it hold onto nutrients and water.An easy way to boost soil organic matter is to apply compost - this will ‘feed’ your soil with a diversity of nutrients and microorganisms.

3. Grow soil saving plantsAnother way of saving soil at home is to plant flowers and plants that are beneficial to soil health. There are plenty of species you can plant in your garden or shared outdoor space that will be beneficial to your soil.

Regenerative farming and the future of soil

Regenerative farming not only protects our soil and produces far higher quality food, which is more nutrient-dense.

The "green manure" and cover cropping systems of Brazil and Paraguay are good examples, with over 3 million farmers now implementing this strategy across 25 M hectares of land. In Africa, the Farmer-managed Natural Regeneration of Trees network (FMNR) has now spread to 24 Mha of previously barren land across 10 nations. In Central America, the maize-mucunamaise-mucuna crop rotation system has spread to 25,000 farmers across 3 nations. This large-scale deployment has occurred organically with very little government support. With small incentives in place, these and other agroecological practices could scale dramatically.

In 2018, the government of Andhra Pradesh, India, launched a plan to transition 8 million hectares of land from conventional agriculture methodology to Zero-Budget Natural Farming by 2024—India's first 100% natural farming state, meaning they will eliminate the use of synthetic chemical agriculture. Organisers highlight the positive externalities of regenerative agriculture methodologies: climate-resilient systems which will help transform and protect local food systems and the long-term well-being of farmers.

In 2015 France "4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate," an initiative to mitigate and eventually reverse climate change. The initiative launched at the Climate Summit in Paris, calls for countries to increase soil carbon worldwide by 0.4% per year. So far, 26 countries and more than 50 organisations have formally signed on to the Initiative. Change is happening but still much more is needed.

If you want to learn more or get involved, below are great starting points.

investinginregenerativeagriculture.com

farmersfootprint.us

consciousplanet.org

Regenerative farming not only protects our soil and produces far higher quality food, which is more nutrient-dense.

The "green manure" and cover cropping systems of Brazil and Paraguay are good examples, with over 3 million farmers now implementing this strategy across 25 M hectares of land. In Africa, the Farmer-managed Natural Regeneration of Trees network (FMNR) has now spread to 24 Mha of previously barren land across 10 nations. In Central America, the maize-mucunamaise-mucuna crop rotation system has spread to 25,000 farmers across 3 nations. This large-scale deployment has occurred organically with very little government support. With small incentives in place, these and other agroecological practices could scale dramatically.

In 2018, the government of Andhra Pradesh, India, launched a plan to transition 8 million hectares of land from conventional agriculture methodology to Zero-Budget Natural Farming by 2024—India's first 100% natural farming state, meaning they will eliminate the use of synthetic chemical agriculture. Organisers highlight the positive externalities of regenerative agriculture methodologies: climate-resilient systems which will help transform and protect local food systems and the long-term well-being of farmers.

In 2015 France "4 per 1000: Soils for Food Security and Climate," an initiative to mitigate and eventually reverse climate change. The initiative launched at the Climate Summit in Paris, calls for countries to increase soil carbon worldwide by 0.4% per year. So far, 26 countries and more than 50 organisations have formally signed on to the Initiative. Change is happening but still much more is needed.

If you want to learn more or get involved, below are great starting points.

investinginregenerativeagriculture.com

farmersfootprint.us

consciousplanet.org

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