Almost all other issues are superficial by comparison to soil loss. So why don’t we talk about it?
according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world, on average, has just 60 more years of growing crops. Even in Britain, which is spared the tropical downpours that so quickly strip exposed soil from the land, Farmers’ Weekly reports that we have “only 100 harvests left”.
To keep up with global food demand, the UN estimates, 6 million hectares of new farmland will be needed every year. Instead, 12 million hectares a year are lost through soil degradation.
A paper just published in the journal Anthropocene analyses the undisturbed sediments in an 11th century French lake. It shows that the intensification of farming over the last century has increased the rate of soil erosion 60-fold.
This is what topples civilisations. War and pestilence might kill large numbers of people, but in most cases the population recovers. But lose the soil and everything else goes with it.