Friday, May 15, 2015

The root of the problem

The Independent carried another environmental story that yet again signals that we are heading for an ecological catastrophe. 

The fertility of the world’s soil is reaching a peak that will threaten global food supplies this century unless more is done to preserve the long-term viability of existing farmland, according to a group of leading scientists. Soil erosion and degradation, combined with the loss of agricultural land to urban sprawl and a booming global population, is one of the most pressing issues facing human security in the 21st century, they said. The “green revolution” of the past half century, where intensive farming based on agro-chemicals managed to boost food production significantly, will not be able to sustain the growing population this century without greater emphasis on soil preservation and fertility, they said. “Our most productive soils have already been exploited and that demand for food production will continue to increase,” they said.

One of the key threats to future food security is the supply of artificial soil fertilisers, specifically phosphorus and potassium, which have to be mined from reserves held in rocks and minerals. The US reserve of phosphorus, for example, accounts for only 1 or 2 per cent of the world’s reserves, and it is due to be depleted within the next 20 or 30 years, Ronald Amundson, professor of environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley said. Many of the artificial nutrients added to soil, including nitrogen, become pollutants when washed away. They should be recycled.  “The nutrients lost can be captured, recycled and put back into the ground. We have the skill set to recycle a lot of nutrients, but the ultimate deciders are the people who create policy.” He said.

“It’s not a scientific problem. It’s a societal problem.” He said.

When will scientists such as Prof. Amundson begin to enagage in that societal change…which can only be the ending of the capitalist system and the establishment of a socialist society, we say. 

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