Why should we care about soil?
“Soil is our planet’s epidermis. It’s only about a meter thick, on average, but it plays an absolutely crucial life-support role that we often take for granted.” – Dr. Donald Sparks, University of Delaware, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
I don’t typically think about soil in this context. Instead, the mention of the word evokes remembrance of the distinct fragrance of moist earth. I love the smell of it. I also recall a familiar sound: a shovel breaking into the ground during planting season; the scraping of metal against silt, clay, and rock. If you’re a gardener, you know what I am talking about.
Do you recite a prayer, as I do, when digging? I pray that my efforts reveal a healthy soil, with worms wiggling away in the disrupted ground, and burrowing further into its rich brown to black colored mass. In those moments I give in to the urge of removing my garden gloves and touching the soil, testing its texture for the plants it is about to nourish.
This connection to the soil and the need to care for its health is more critical when considering the importance of soil from a global perspective. Dr. Spark’s analogy of soil as the outer layer of the earth’s “skin” explains how soil serves a protective function against a variety of environmental disturbances. It purifies our water, absorbs and stores carbon that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, and provides nutrients to help plants grow.
Most importantly, without soil there would be no food. The relationship of soil to food production and global hunger engages scientists, governments, factory farmers, NGOs, environmentalists, and others in the rhetoric about climate change policies and agricultural practices.
From environmental health to global hunger, individuals should care about soil fertility and quality. An exploration into the subject empowers us as citizens and gives us tools for our own practices on a micro level.