“Land is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals”. – Aldo Leopold
Sadhguru, a prominent Indian spiritual leader and founder of the Isha Foundation is currently on a road journey from London to India. While his 100-day motorcycle adventure is still in progress, the 30,000-kilometer, 27-nation, three-continent journey was started with the intent to “Save Soil”. The trip is part of his #SaveSoil campaign, which urges governments to prioritize soil regeneration and stop soil pollution.
As per a UN report, global soils are the basis of all life on land, but their future is “bleak” unless action is taken to stop soil degradation.
What is Soil Degradation?
According to a United Nations report, a third of the world’s soil is deteriorated, with more than 90% of it potentially destroyed by 2050. The report was written by 300 scientists, who consider the deterioration of soils to be at least as serious as the climate catastrophe and the devastation of the natural world above ground. Importantly, soil formation takes thousands of years, thus requiring immediate protection and repair of the remaining soils.
Soils are like the skin of the living world, crucial but thin and fragile, and easily destroyed by intense farming, forest destruction, industrial pollution, and global warming.
How Soil Biodiversity helps human health
Biodiversity is critical to the existence of our survival and well-being. Under our feet, a quarter of all animal species on the planet reside and produce the nutrients for our food.
Soils also store as much carbon as all plants above ground, making them crucial in the fight against climate change.
Many medications and vaccines have emerged from soil organisms since the early 1900s, ranging from well-known antibiotics like penicillin to bleomycin, which is used to treat cancer, and amphotericin, which is used to treat fungal infections. Soil biodiversity has a significant potential to give novel treatments to combat illnesses caused by resistant microbes, which are on the rise.
According to Prof Rattan Lal, the 2020 World Food Prize winner, about 135 billion tonnes of soil have been lost from farmland since the Industrial Revolution.
It’s not just the ground below our feet
Our soils are crucial to the planet’s life-support system, not only because they provide us with almost all of our food directly or indirectly but also because the soil is an important part of the carbon, water, and nutrient cycles, which help creatures of all sizes survive.
As per a report by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), human-induced degradation affects 34% (1,660 million hectares) of agricultural land. The use of inorganic fertilizers to improve yields has had major negative effects on soil health and has contributed to run-off and drainage-related freshwater contamination.
What has caused Soil degradation?
Intensive agriculture: Excessive use of fertilizers, pesticides, and antibiotics have ended up killing soil organisms – resulting in leaving the soil vulnerable to erosion. The removal of forests and natural ecosystems to make way for farming has destroyed soil, especially the symbiotic fungus that aid in the growth of trees and plants.
Another factor is global warming, which is accompanied by an increase in droughts and wildfires, which are contributing to the loss of soil. Around the world, 52% of agricultural land has already been degraded.
The solution is Sustainable Farming – Saving the food ecosystem
Extreme heat can harm crops and farmworkers, as well as increase soil evaporation and plant transpiration – raising agricultural water demands. There’s some good news here, too: Agricultural productivity is predicted to rise in areas that are currently cool, but fall in areas that are hotter and drier, especially when droughts are increasing due to climate change.
Sustainable farming techniques can serve as an effective climate solution as well. According to the FAO, agri-food systems account for 31% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Regenerative agriculture, for example, can reduce the use of diesel-fueled machinery and the use of soil- and water-polluting pesticides while increasing the carbon deposited in cultivated soils.
Soil degradation as a result of Industrial processes
Historically, industrial processes such as mining and manufacturing have been major sources of soil pollution. Accidents/unplanned industrial events, abandoned industrial sites, historical long-term industrial pollution, and mismanaged waste disposal sites greatly contribute to soil pollution.
FAO lists the main sources of soil contamination from industrial sources as – 1) mining and quarrying; 2) manufacturing; 3) energy generation; 4) construction facilities; and 5) transportation.
The extraction of coal, gold, uranium, wolfram/tungsten, tin, platinoids, and polymetallic sulfides generates the most severe incidents of soil pollution, according to FAO and ITPS (2015a).
Some of the most environmentally harmful processes involve the manufacturing of agrochemicals, lead-acid battery recycling, textile manufacturing, leather manufacturing, chemical & pharmaceutical manufacturing, food manufacturing, and plastic manufacturing.
Reduce industrial pollution with Eugenie – Implement path-breaking pioneer in AI-driven sustainability
Soil degradation is a complex problem that includes agricultural, industrial, as well as armed conflicts. Addressing all the factors would probably require corporations from diverse sections of society. However, making use of technology to reduce industrial pollution through waste reduction and operational efficiency is something all businesses would be required to do – either due to regulatory requirements or because of the pressure from stakeholders.
With Eugenie, a lot of industrial companies have already started their sustainability journey.
Recently, Mexico’s second-largest gold mining company was able to reduce its carbon footprint with Eugenie by almost 12%.
The reason for Eugenie’s remarkable success with industries lies in an essential factor – you don’t need to cut down on your economic profits at the cost of environmental sustainability.
In addition, deploying Eugenie’s solutions is super-easy with most of our clients starting to get actionable insights within a couple of days of deployment.
A borrowed present to a horrid future
Nature’s resources are depleting, but still, how are nearly 8 billion people surviving on earth today? Firstly, not everyone has enough access to food, soil, shelter, drinking water, and clean air. Secondly, at the current rate of consumption, the human race is living on borrowed resources. When we exploit our planet’s natural resources (soil pollution) beyond its capacity to replenish itself, we are essentially borrowing from our future generations – our children.
The onus for ensuring a safe and prosperous future for our next generation lies on us. We must reduce industrial pollution and decrease individual consumption.
It is a mistake to believe that we can treat one area of our environment without also addressing the rest of it because no part of the ecosystem functions in isolation. No solution is complete until we realize that life is a single complicated phenomenon that is all-encompassing. Soil is the foundation platform upon which life emerges in numerous ways. We have the opportunity of healing life if we fix the soil.
If you wish to see a glimpse of our solution, register for a 15-minute demo call at https://eugenie.ai/contact-us/