So you might be asking yourself what prompted me to write about "It's The End of the World as We Know It". I happened to hear the R.E.M. song of that title (released in 1987) that I have always liked on the radio this morning, which got me thinking about a few things. There is a recurring lyric in the song "The world serves its own needs..." Interesting and true if you think about it.
I obviously have a passion for soil and water (and the environment). It's what I do and what my career has been based on. December has been a fairly busy month for soil and water issues. December 5 was World Soil Day. The FAO joined the International Union of Soil Sciences in celebrating this day and also released the first Global Soil Partnership report, The State of the Art Report on Global and Regional Soil Information: Where are we? Where to go?, which presents the status of global and regional soil information, analyzes user needs, highlights the ongoing global and regional soil information initiatives, and provides recommendations for future joint initiatives. This is a downloadable document that can be found here: http://www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership/home/en/ (look in the box for Latest News on that page).
On December 14, Time Magazine on-line ran an article in its "World" section entitled What if the World's Soil Runs Out? The article was actually an interview with Dr. John Crawford from the University of Sydney. I encourage you to give this article a read when you have a chance, which provides a sobering vision of where we are headed with our soil and related resources. http://world.time.com/2012/12/14/what-if-the-worlds-soil-runs-out/ Crawford estimates that given current rates of soil degradation that we have about 60 years of topsoil left. If that figure didn't catch your attention, he also remarked that under a "business as usual scenario, degraded soil will mean that we will produce 30% less food over the next 20-50 years", which given we have a growing population and rising need for food and fiber with less land available to accomplish this will not bode well. He also brings up the strong connection to water availability in degraded soils slong with impacts due to climate change and food security. Crawford talks about what can be done, and one thing he mentions is that we need to recognize that we have a global problem and it needs to be treated as such.
This brought me back to the FAO and the Global Soil Partnership and the fact stated very well on the website: "Soil is a finite natural resource. On a human time-scale it is non-renewable [emphasis added]. However, despite the essential role that soil plays in the life of people, there is increasing degradation of soil resources due to inappropriate practices, burgeoning population pressures and inadequate governance over this essential resource."
What is the Global Soil Partnership?
"Soils are often perceived as a second-tier priority and no international governance body to support coordinated global action on their management exists. A unified and authoritative voice for soil management is needed to better coordinate efforts and pool limited resources. For these reasons, FAO and a group of partners have launched the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) to improve global governance of the world’s soil resources in order to guarantee healthy, productive soils for a food secure world -- and to work together to sustain other essential ecosystem services on which our livelihoods and societies depend." http://www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership/highlights/detail/en/c/157597/
“Because it’s everywhere, we tend to overlook the fact that soil is a limited natural resource”