"The future rests on the soil beneath our feet", is the title of an excellent and disturbing article in the September 2008 issue of the National Geographic. The article should be required reading and pictorial viewing for everyone on this universe.
One of pictures is of northern China's Loess Plateau where collapsing terraced fields contribute to one of the world's highest erosion rates. In Wisconsin and other grain growing mid-country states, giant machines weighing up to 15 tons compressmash wet soil into nigh impenetrable slabs--a process called compaction which may eventually destroy their own livelihood's.
In Europe, soil compaction is thought to negatively affect 130,000 square miles of farmland and compaction is estimated to cost Midwestern farmers in the U.S, over $100million dollars in lost revenue every year.
The National Geographic article details dozens of the methods of conservation and water retention used worldwide including "no till", tree seeding, artificially created water control basins, terracing, an ancient soil system called terra preta, testing of new crop varieties, rotation, plowing in different patterns to prevent earth concrete like compaction, plus programs similar to CREP as practiced by many farmers in Peoria County.
"Even as humankind is ratcheting up its demands on soil, we are destroying it faster than ever before". While soil saving practices are commonplace in most parts of the world, other lands are and have been degraded by erosion, pesticides and fertilizers.
"Dirt Poor" - Haiti has lost its soil and the means to feed itself - is another article in this months National Geographic. This poorest country in the Western Hemisphere will be in constant conflict unless changes are made in managing it's most valuable resource - it's soil. Rice makes up 20% of the typical Haitian's diet, and that percentage is growing. In 1981 Haiti imported 18,000 tons of rice. Now the country imports more than 400,000 tons of rice annually. Haitians say the earth is tired. Less than 4% of their forests remain and in many places soil has eroded down to the bedrock. The article asks "what do you do with no food? The answer, you go hungry and so do your children". When people are hungry they die or they rebell.
With over 8.3 billion mouths to feed by 2030, a short 21 years from now, we may find more wars being fought over food than over any other resource. The two most basic primal needs are water and food. Shortages of either will result in more bloodshed than the world has ever seen. We can live without oil, gas, minerals, love and faith but we cannot live without adequate supplies of food and drinkable water.
I encourage you to read more about the coming shortage of the basic needs of mankind and less about Brittany Spears or even Barack Obama. Starving people will make most of our excesses and circuses irrelevant in civilizations survival.
Their are solutions and many dedicated and hardworking people are involved. Without our support, they may not succeed.