In David R. Montgomery’s brilliant book,”Dirt, The Erosion of Civilizations”, he explains the effect of poor soil management on past civilizations and the likely effect on our own. Excerpts from the last page should be read by anyone worried about our future:
“As much as climare change, the demand for food will be a major driver of global environmental change throughout the coming decades. Over the past century, the effects of long-term soil erosion were masked by bringing new land under cultivation and developing fertilizers, pesticides, and crop verieties that compensate for declining soil productivity. Coupled with the inevitable end of fossil-fuel-derived fertilisers, the ongoing loss of cropland and soil poses the problem of feeding a growing population from a shrinking land base. Whereas the effects of soil erosion can be temporarily offset with fertilizers and in some cases irrigation, the long-term productivity of the land cannot be maintained in the face of reduced soil organic matter, depleted soil biota, and thinning soil that so far have characterized industrial agriculture.
“Many factors may contribute to ending a civilization, but an adequate supply of fertile soil is necessary to sustain one. Using up the soil and moving on to new land will not be a viable option for future generations. As odd as it may sound, civilization’s survival depends on treating soil as an investment, as a valuable inheritance rather than a commodity – as something other than dirt.”
Our government and most governments in the world are on 4-5 year contracts and are scared stiff of losing their jobs with all the perks and gold plated pensions.
This must be the reason that despite them being well aware of the disaster we face if we continue emitting greenhouse gasses and depleting the worlds resources at ever increasing rates, action is painfully slow and crucial years go by without the international agreements needed. In fact the world’s leaders are desperate to get back to fossil fueled economic growth as quickly as possible without considering policies that would greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels but might not increase living standards. They may be right, the public are not yet convinced that there is a problem worth making sacrifices for. We need to convince them.
This week the government climate change committee reported that if aviation growth is not slowed, the rest of us will need to reduce GHG emissions by 90% by 2050 instead of the 80% that was the previous target. A spokesman said on channel 4 news that a levy on air travel could be introduced to slow growth. When the presenter suggested this would be unpopular, he quickly said the levy would not be draconian, maybe £4-£10 on short haul and £20 transatlantic.
If the government thinks that would cause a significant reduction in aviation emission, they really are in denial. Draconian is what we need.