Forget about climate change for now. Soil erosion is a major contributor to such talk. One of the most ubiquitous problems that affects the United States and the rest of the world, look no farther than the edge of your plate. What food you see there, unless you purchased locally from a sustainable farm, is the cause of one of the greatest threats to national food security; soil erosion.
No this is not hype, nor a scare tactic to get you to buy local organic produce, (you should do that by pure self interest because you will look so hip carrying a bag of produce bought straight from real farmers). The topic of soil erosion needs to be brought to light in order for the solutions to start multiplying (A fancy way of saying, at least a few somebodies are going to do something). The more people that know America’s flip-flopping policies for soil erosion, its causes and ultimate impacts, the more likely people will begin to help prevent soil erosion by through supporting alternative methods with pure purchasing power plus a little work in their own garden.
Why soil erosion is bad. Very bad.
Let’s get started with the basics. All good food things come from fertile soil. Fertile soil isn’t an accident; it is part of a circular process that requires nutrients or replenishment, similar to that of the living body’s daily needs but on a slower, seasonal scale. What comes out of the ground, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans are full of vitamins and minerals because the plant took these elements from the soil. When the soil is depleted or eroded the food likewise becomes vapid and/or impossible to grow. What do we as short-term thinkers do? – move on to the next fertile land for a good conquering. That’s the way things are now. Not how they were, or how they can be.
Soil depletion and erosion at the rates they are occurring are unnatural. It comes down to human mismanagement. The worst part is we know it, science knows it, the government knows it, agro business knows it, farmers know it. When soil erosion occurs there are a series of chain consequences that when compounded can alter the physical characteristics of a region and even change the weather patterns, but the immediate problem that we are more likely to care about is- a lack of food production. So why are we shooting ourselves, albeit slowly, in the foot?
Let’s go back in history for a bit to understand this present stupidity.
The 1920s was a time when scientists in the US first identified what was happening on the ground. Farming practices were leading to soil erosion. The news spread quick and the by the 1930s when the Dust Bowl compounded the problem by displacing tons of valuable topsoil, the U.S. Soil Conservation took the lead and mitigated soil erosion by financing simple low-tech solutions such as contour terracing, mini sediment dams, shelter belts and small farm ponds. How awesome is that?! It worked too. The problem was identified and simple innovative solutions were set up.
So what the bleep happened?
People had babies. And more crying babies, such as yourself or your parents. America’s population kept expanding. Rather than keeping farming within farmers, the job slowly expanded into large businesses with huge tracts of land to feed people through a more “streamlined” controlled and widely distributed operation. Soil erosion controls were quickly dismissed. Larger farm equipment for large scale farming couldn’t terrace the hills like labor could and basically neglected perfectly good low tech solutions in favor of assuredly more sophisticated and highly technical machinery. This movement was dominant in the 1970s, where the government that once sponsored sustainable land management practices, turned a blind eye (at minimum) and let a new era of detrimental, short term business farming reign. This is where we still are today. What is different is a growing so-called “green” minority that tend to give a shit where and how their food is grown. BOO-YAH!
Clearly, looking back this wasn’t the only possibility to handle a growing food demand. Yet IT WAS the quickest, easiest and most profitable for a relatively few major landholders/agribusinesses. Although small farmers who practice sustainable food production techniques are something of an endangered species today, they are the key in reclaiming a reliable source of food for the nation. Large farms can still change their ways, but it will cost them A LOT of money and time to convert their land and growing techniques. Frankly, its not in their business interest until consumers demand a change with no exceptions. It is not a good idea to wait for big business to change, especially when the real change is meant to be from small micro-mini food sites that serve a local population. Think you need a parcel of land to participate? Nope! Any front or backyard can yield a surplus of food, for you your family, neighbors and friends. Ok, the work required may be unreasonable for the typical person to want to engage in. Yet it is at least comforting to know that if everyone converted their lawn into a garden, sustainable food wouldn’t be a problem. Composting at home would (and does) provide the replenishing nutrients for the soils.
In the meantime, you can help prevent soil erosion by buying food produced by growers who replenish their soils is one of the greatest ways you can “go green.”