Earth Wants Her Carbon Back

On World Soil Day, recognizing the powerful climate solutions under our feet

December 5, 2019

1:05 pm

World Soil Day (WSD) is December 5 every year. On this day, we recognize soil as the literal footing for our planet’s natural systems and its essential role for human health through food, water, and energy security.

“Despite all our achievements we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains”  

Quote attributed to the Farm equipment association of Minnesota and South Dakota

Soil is a living, breathing community of organic material and living organisms that develop over centuries through repeated seasons of growth, harvest, decay and recovery. For growing food, the ideal soil is dark and crumbly, full of nutrients, home to nematodes and fungi, able to hold moisture, and carbon rich.

For other ecosystems, ideal soil is sandy, or gritty, or silty, but always carbon rich. Over 100,000 kinds of healthy soil reflect the conditions and requirements of each place, according to the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) website, the global union of soil scientists.

What happens when soil is depleted, removed, or displaced? For people in the United States and parts of Canada, the “Dust Bowl” phenomenon of the 1930s provides a vivid, well-documented example of soil erosion leading to human suffering. Unable to grow crops after vicious wind storms scoured degraded soil from the American plains, hundreds of thousands of families had no other choice than to leave their land and seek a new life in California. The haunting photos of documentary photographer Dorothea Lange captured and humanized the hardships of the “Okies.” Today, we could also call these people climate refugees, part of the growing global displacement of people caused by climate change.

World Soil Day - December 5 2019

Now with only 100 years separating us from this story, this year’s World Soil Day is being recognized with the #StopSoilErosion campaign of "Stop soil erosion, Save our future." The idea is to “raise awareness on the importance of sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the increasing challenges in soil management and, raise the profile of healthy soil by encouraging everyone to proactively improve soil health.

It’s not a new message:

Six years ago, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development released the 13th edition of its annual review with a warning: Wake up Before it is Too Late: Make Agriculture Truly Sustainable Now for Food Security in a Changing Climate.
Four years ago on World Soil Day, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report warning that the world had only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues.

But there are solutions. Reversing soil decline is possible. Soil that has been lost can be recreated. “Regenerative agriculture” describes farming and grazing practices that restore degraded soil, improve biodiversity and increase carbon capture to create long-lasting environmental benefits, such as positively impacting climate change. The same general principles can work everywhere, customized to meet the needs of people, animals, and the natural world in that place. The solutions are truly bottom up!

Earlier this year at the Earth’s Call concert, The Carbon Underground President and Co-Founder Larry Kopald explained how restoring soil can help reverse climate change by locking carbon underground in healthy soil, one square meter at a time.

Watch the 7-minute video.  

In a sign that these concepts are breaking through with widespread support. Whole Food Markets named regenerative agriculture as the top 2020 food trend to watch.

This World Soil Day, take a few minutes to thank the soil under your feet and consider how you can help give Earth her carbon back.

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