If you took a poll to find out the biggest threat to the survival of mankind, it's doubtful that "soil" would be on the list. But at the Guardian, George Monbiot argues that the speed at which it's being degraded around the world makes all our other problems "trifles." Consider this math: The UN estimates that we need to add about 15 million acres of farmland a year to keep up with food demands; instead we're losing twice that amount every year through soil degradation. Soil is so basic to our survival that people tend to take it for granted and "treat it like, well, dirt," writes Monbiot. It's shaping up to be a catastrophic mistake.
"Landowners around the world are now engaged in an orgy of soil destruction so intense that, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the world on average has just 60 more years of growing crops." You'd think a stat like that would sound the alarms, but no. Innovative ideas such as no-till farming show promise but get little real support. "This is what topples civilizations," writes Monbiot. "War and pestilence might kill large numbers of people, but in most cases the population recovers. But lose the soil and everything goes with it." Click for his full column. (Read more dirt stories.)