Global soils underpin life but future looks ‘bleak’, warns UN report - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15141002
Soil is the basis for all life on this planet, yet humans treat soil as if it were expendable waste. It's not waste, it's the most precious thing we have. It produces the food we live on, it can store all the excess carbon in the atmosphere, it produces clean water, it guarantees the biodiversity we need to survive on this planet.

Yet, most people, including environmentalists, are completely ignorant about the role of soil for our survival. Since they ignore the role of soil and its interdependence with the climate and all life on the planet, they propose geo-engineering projects that are to safe the planet, but which in reality will deteriorate the planet even further.

I have been repeating this for over 30 years, yet people are so absorbed in their personal obsessions that they are incapable of understanding the simple truth of it. I really don't think there is any hope for humanity.

Global soils underpin life but future looks ‘bleak’, warns UN report

It takes thousands of years for soils to form, meaning protection is needed urgently, say scientists

Global soils are the source of all life on land but their future looks “bleak” without action to halt degradation,according to the authors of a UN report.

A quarter of all the animal species on Earth live beneath our feet and provide the nutrients for all food. Soils also store as much carbon as all plants above ground and are therefore critical in tackling the climate emergency. But there also are major gaps in knowledge, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) report, which is the first on the global state of biodiversity in soils.

The report was compiled by 300 scientists, who describe the worsening state of soils as at least as important as the climate crisis and destruction of the natural world above ground. Crucially, it takes thousands of years for soils to form, meaning urgent protection and restoration of the soils that remain is needed.

The scientists describe soils as like the skin of the living world, vital but thin and fragile, and easily damaged by intensive farming, forest destruction, pollution and global heating.

Soil organisms play a crucial role in our everyday life by working to sustain life on Earth,” said Ronald Vargas, of the FAO and the secretary of the Global Soil Partnership.

Prof Richard Bardgett, of the University of Manchester, who was a lead author of the report, said: “There is a vast reservoir of biodiversity living in the soil that is out of sight and is generally out of mind. But few things matter more to humans because we rely on the soil to produce food. There’s now pretty strong evidence that a large proportion of the Earth’s surface has been degraded as a result of human activities.”

Since the Industrial Revolution, about 135bn tonnes of soil has been lost from farmland, according to Prof Rattan Lal, the 2020 winner of the World Food prize.

People should be worried, said Bardgett. “If things carry on as they are, the outlook is bleak, unquestionably. But I think it’s not too late to introduce measures now.”

Prof Nico Eisenhauer, of Leipzig University, another lead author of the report, said: “It is a major issue that we are dependent on this thin layer that is sometimes just a couple of centimetres, sometimes several metres, but a very vulnerable, living skin.”

Soils simultaneously produce food, store carbon and purify water, he said, so they are “at least as important” as the climate and above-ground biodiversity crises.If you’re losing the top soil through bad treatment and then erosion, then it takes thousands of years until the soil is produced again.”

Microbial species are essential for turning waste into nutrients, but Eisenhauer said an estimated 99% of them had yet to be studied by scientists. He also said that, by number, four out of every five animals on Earth are tiny soil worms called nematodes, yet only a tiny fraction of these species have been recorded.

In a foreword to the report, Qu Dongyu, the FAO head, and Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the head of the UN convention on biological diversity, said: “Our wellbeing and the livelihoods of human societies are highly dependent on biodiversity [but while] there is increasing attention on the importance of above-ground biodiversity, less attention is being paid to the biodiversity beneath our feet.

The main causes of damage to soils are intensive agriculture, with excessive use of fertilisers, pesticides and antibiotics killing soil organisms and leaving it prone to erosion. The destruction of forests and natural habitats to create farmland also degrades soil, particularly affecting the symbiotic fungi that are important in helping trees and plants grow. Rising global temperatures, with increasing droughts and wildfires, are another factor, but scientists remain uncertain about how all the different drivers interact.

The most important action is to protect existing healthy soils from damage, the scientists said, while degraded soils can be restored by growing a diverse range of plants. Inoculating barren soil with healthy earth may also help it recover.

“Certainly there’s hope that we can make soils healthy again,” said Eisenhauer. “I think a lot depends on what we eat. Do we need to eat these massive amounts of cheap meat, for example? Can we rely more on plant-derived calories? I think this is a massive factor.” More than 80% of the world’s farmland is used to raise and feed cattle and other livestock, but these provide only 18% of all calories consumed.

In 2014 the FAO’s Maria-Helena Semedo said that if the rate of degradation continued then all of the world’s topsoil could be gone within 60 years.

While much remains to be discovered about soil biodiversity and how to help it thrive, Eisenhauer said the new report collating for the first time what is known was important. “Raising awareness is a first critical step, bringing soil more into the public and political discussions. Most of the decisions about, for example, protected areas are not based on soils.”
#15141007
Soil is the basis for all life on this planet

Actually, it isn't. It's the basis for all life on land (beyond microbes and simple fungi or lichens), but life was flourishing in the sea for billions of years before soils first appeared.

Besides, once human civilisation collapses (which is looking increasingly likely, as I'm sure you'll agree), it will take only a few millennia for the soils to be replenished by natural biological processes. Of course, our own species will be fucked in the interim, but we'll have brought it on ourselves. Maybe we'll learn something from the whole experience. But probably not. Lol. :)
#15141012
@Potemkin, if you get a broader view of soil, you'll understand that it is a repository of life. Thus, the seabed serves the same function as soil on land. The difference is that water is thicker than air and can contain more life than the air.

If humanity does perish, humans won't be able to learn anything from the experience.

Even a simple virus is capable of adapting to its host so as to guarantee its survival. Are humans less intelligent than viruses? That's a bit of a comedown for the "crown of creation", isn't it.
#15141014
Atlantis wrote:@Potemkin, if you get a broader view of soil, you'll understand that it is a repository of life. Thus, the seabed serves the same function as soil on land. The difference is that water is thicker than air and can contain more life than the air.

Yes, I know. I was deliberately being annoyingly pedantic. :)

If humanity does perish, humans won't be able to learn anything from the experience.

Even a simple virus is capable of adapting to its host so as to guarantee its survival. Are humans less intelligent than viruses? That's a bit of a comedown for the "crown of creation", isn't it.

Actually, in this case being hyper-intelligent can be detrimental to long-term survival. It allows us to do stupid things in very clever ways. Such as 'fishing' by dredging the sea floor, leaving nothing but a wasteland behind, or degrading the topsoil that we depend upon for our long-term survival for short-term profit. Viruses are completely unintelligent, so their adaptations through natural selection tend not to do stupid things in a clever way.
#15141028
Potemkin wrote:Actually, in this case being hyper-intelligent can be detrimental to long-term survival. It allows us to do stupid things in very clever ways. Such as 'fishing' by dredging the sea floor, leaving nothing but a wasteland behind, or degrading the topsoil that we depend upon for our long-term survival for short-term profit.


Since antiquity, the difference between being smart and being wise has been well known. Smartness is typically associated with people who are good at exploiting others and/or Nature for their own narrow interests, while wisdom always involves a sense of selflessness.

Viruses are completely unintelligent, so their adaptations through natural selection tend not to do stupid things in a clever way.


If we go by what I said above, viruses have wisdom because they don't care about the profit of the individual virus, but as a species, they are very smart and good at survival strategies.
#15141050
Atlantis wrote:Since antiquity, the difference between being smart and being wise has been well known. Smartness is typically associated with people who are good at exploiting others and/or Nature for their own narrow interests, while wisdom always involves a sense of selflessness.

The ancient Chinese thinkers used to refer to people who "have the Dao", and those who do not have it. Acting only in one's own narrow self-interest was known as "Yangism" in ancient China, and Daoism seems to have originated from within Yangism, when one of the Yangists (probably Zhuangzi) realised how self-defeating that attitude truly is. The Book of Zhuangzi even describes the moment this insight occurred to him, in chapter 20, when he went hunting in Tiao-ling. :)

If we go by what I said above, viruses have wisdom because they don't care about the profit of the individual virus, but as a species, they are very smart and good at survival strategies.

Precisely. They have the Dao.... ;)
#15141240
AFAIK wrote:There was a time when plant life dominated the Earth and oxygen was so abundant it could be considered a pollutant.

Never forget.

The biggest mass extinction in the history of life on Earth was caused by the Great Oxygenation Catastrophe about two billion years ago.

Yet now, most life depends on oxygen and cannot survive without it. Life adapts, and will always adapt. Whether we will survive or not is more doubtful. Our species will likely survive the coming environmental and resource crisis, but our modern technological-industrial civilisation will probably not survive.
#15141243
If any example is needed for soil protection and preservation its the Zimbabwean clusterfuck. Although I would say the biggest issue is not so much climate change or lack of skills but accommodating more global mouths to feed and over production on what land is used and a reduction in fertile land due to building on it. How can that be addressed when the need to eat and live is paramount? Unless of course you are prepared to sacrifice other things like producing what you need rather than the look of it and the desire for profits? Food wastage seems to have greater consequences than initially preceived. :hmm:
#15141384
Half of Europe's fruit and veg is grown in greenhouses in Almeria, which is barren wasteland outside. Singapore has started commercial production of lab grown meat despite having no land to farm. I say we don't need soil and are better off without it.
#15141436
AFAIK wrote:Once we use up all the good soil we'll dig new soil out of the oceans and then the moon.


We are not talking about dead soil here. We are talking about biologically active soil, which means the two foot of fertile top soil. That soil accumulates over millions of years by innumerable plants and animals. We literally live on the waste of previous generations. Nobody can live on the toxic waste produced by this generation.

Your comment proves that even people who pretend to take an interest in climate change or environmental issues don't have a clue what they are talking about. That's really more depressing than the Trumptards because you will invariably push geo-engineering projects that further degrade the planet.
#15141455
Atlantis wrote:We are not talking about dead soil here. We are talking about biologically active soil, which means the two foot of fertile top soil. That soil accumulates over millions of years by innumerable plants and animals.

Only a few thousand years, actually. Over millions of years, it becomes compressed and heated and becomes sedimentary rock or (under the right conditions) coal.

We literally live on the waste of previous generations. Nobody can live on the toxic waste produced by this generation.

Capitalism means that short-term profits are necessarily prioritised over long-term needs. The profit motive and the supply-and-demand curves of the capitalist marketplace make this inevitable.

Your comment proves that even people who pretend to take an interest in climate change or environmental issues don't have a clue what they are talking about. That's really more depressing than the Trumptards because you will invariably push geo-engineering projects that further degrade the planet.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: most people are idiots who understand nothing. :|
#15141471
Rancid wrote:@Potemkin could there ever be so much oxygen that the entire earth ignites into a ball of fire?

Yes. Beyond a certain oxygen level, trees and plants would spontaneously ignite. Even as it is, wildfires are a serious problem on Earth.
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