A picture of the Dust Bowl
The Earth is running out of soil. Great? You always hear about global warming and acid rain and pollution, but never anything about the poor soil conditions of the planet. A new study compiled by Dr. David Montgomery at the University of Washington says that current farming practices are causing soil to erode faster than more soil can be produced.
Plowed land, Montgomery discovered, erodes at a bit over one millimeter every year, while the world only creates about 0.2 millimeters annually. He also calculated that soil at an average thickness will be completely depleted within several thousand years. This amount of time corresponds horrifyingly well with how long many of the great civilizations, including the ancient Mayans, have lasted. And at the rate with which we plow and farm the soil, this number may be smaller for our current civilization.
Do not despair however, as there is a cure to this ailment. No-till agriculture is a process in which a specialized drill inserts seeds into the ground without destroying the top layer of soil. The problem with this is that only about sixteen percent of United States farmers use this method of agriculture. Worldwide, the percentage is even smaller (only 5%), probably because poorer farmers cannot afford to purchase the equipment. Yet, if we continue on at the rate we are going, we may all be gone within a few thousand years because of lack of food. Thus all of our accomplishments will literally be “dead as dirt.”