The worlds biggest environmental problem that no-one talks about!

(Southern Iceland, when people settled they cut all the trees down and created massive issues with soil erosion. Now most of the island is classified as a desert and barely anything grows.)

Over time, the public seems to catch on to environmental issues, the government slowly introduces legislation and attitudes change.

However, there is one issue that never seems to be at the forefront of climate change discussions. The often neglected discussion around soil erosion and desertification absolutely mystifies me. With the expansion of the worlds deserts, the loss of good agricultural soil and the increase in carbon in the atmosphere, I would have liked to think that this would become a bigger topic of conversation.

The reason for my interest in this topic, comes from my passion for soil. Sounds boring... but its actually not.. well not to me! Although it looks boring there is so much going on in soil all underneath our feet. Soil is one of the most important habitats for life on earth, as millions of organisms making their homes there. The organisms that make soil there home can range from newts worms and frogs to microbes that facilitate the transference of nutrients to plant roots.

Even if this still sounds boring to some, no one can deny the importance of soil in our lives. Most life on earth including ourselves depends on soil, indirectly or directly. Soil is essential for our food our foods food, water filtration and the focus of this blog post the storing of carbon.

It is estimated that around 1600 GTC of carbon is stored in the worlds soils that has accumulated over millennia through the decomposition of plant and animal life. This carbon is trapped within our soil creating healthy organic matter for plants and trees to grown in and for micro organisms to make their homes.

The problem is however, over the last 150 years we have lost half of the worlds topsoil, which is used to grow all of our food. This is mainly down to deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices. In our quest to produce a surplus of unnecessary food we put a huge amount of strain on our soil. This is one of the biggest environmental crises that we face and its relatively ignored. The destruction of soil and the advancement of deserts all over the world also leads to the displacement of animals and people, droughts famine and migration.

Oh great another blog post where its all doom and gloom, but it actually inst. Although this is one of the biggest crises I feel that we face, its also a massive opportunity if we take it. Re-vegetation of deserts is possible using appropriate planting techniques, feeding the world is possible with sustainable agriculture. It is possible if we re-vegetated the worlds deserts, that we could take current levels of atmospheric carbon back to pre-industrial levels through carbon sequestration in the soil (basically take carbon our the air and put it in the soil). This would also enable many displaced communities and communities that are often plagued by environmental crisis's to have a more stable life.

For us in the UK, this may seem like a unimportant issue but it actually isn't. Currently large upland areas of Wales, Scotland and England have large issues with soil erosion. That's not to mention the huge drop is soil carbon that can be seen in the agricultural counties like Shropshire, where tilling and unsustainable agricultural practices have led to a huge drop in the amount of carbon found in top soils (I know this from my own field research and analysis). On top of this, as a country we have a very low tree coverage with only 13% of our island covered in trees compared with 47% in France. We are also one of the biggest importers of timber in the world after China and 50% of our food comes from abroad.

This puts us in a good position with lots of opportunities for inciting change and making a difference, but, before this happens soil really needs to become a conversation point. Just as the recent media attention around plastic pollution has insisted change I think its about time that the health of the worlds soils became a conversation too.

Please comment and share this post to raise awareness of this issue!


For more information the Soil association website has good resources!




4 comments

  1. Thank you for bringing attention to this! And thank you for not making it a 'doom and gloom' post as you said. Yes, we are terrible for taking care of our planet, and we've done it wrong in the past- but it doesn't mean it's too late to change. It's not until you stop and think about it that you realise how much of our lives rely on soil. Thanks for sharing x

    Rachel | rachelemmablog.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thank you! Yes I know there is so much micro fauna and flora in there as well that we don't even think about...
      No I hate those doom and gloom posts we need solutions not a long list of problems!

      Thank you xx

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  2. Very nice to bring awareness about this topic :) Next to all the issues you raised, there's also one thing I discovered recently: The direct benefit of the soil for our health... I mean by walking on the ground, the grounding therapy. I fully believe this. For example, look how healthier the animals are, as opposed to us... Here's something about http://www.groundtherapycenter.com/

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    1. Thank you! Yes I'm very passionate about issues like this, as I often feel they get over looked :) That's sounds really interesting I will definitely check it out! :)

      :) xx

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