Thanks to the amazing work of David Attenborough, the public have finally woken up to the plastic crisis. We finally understand the dangers of plastic to marine animals and our own health. The banning of straws and the increasing pressure to reduce single-use packaging are, hopefully, the start of a widespread cultural shift away from the daily use of throwaway plastics.
So far, so yay!
And yet, there is another environmental crisis facing humanity. It’s arguably of even greater significance than the dangers posed by plastics. And it’s happening right beneath our feet.
The thin layer of top soil that covers the Earth is under threat. Research from the United Nations shows that a third of all soil on our planet is ‘severely degraded’. In the UK alone we are just 30 or 40 years from our soil becoming infertile. This is a terrible state of affairs. You might think of soil as just dirt, but it’s actually a multi-layered, highly complex ecosystem – and all life on this planet depends upon it. It’s the basis for the thousands of food chains that make up life as we know it. Without it, we couldn’t grow crops or breathe in the oxygen released by plants and trees. If we allow our soils to keep degrading the way they are now, humanity – along with all other life on this little rock orbiting the sun – will face extinction pretty sharpish.
But don’t despair. We can solve this problem and the time to take action is now. Here are three things you can do to help the soil today :
- Eat Organic: One of the main drivers of soil degradation is the way we farm. In the last 70 years farming has evolved almost beyond recognition, thanks to the growth of agribusiness. The rise of the mega farm and the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers have been disastrous for soil health. So one of the first things you can do, if you can afford it, is to support organic and biodynamic farmers. You can do this by choosing an organic option, whenever you can, in the supermarket or you can sign up for a local farmer’s fruit and veg box scheme.
- Compost: The soil health situation is worse on farmland than in domestic gardens, but much garden soil is unhealthy too, because compost hasn’t been added, chemicals have been applied or it simply hasn’t been tended carefully enough. Healthy soil needs looking after. If you have a garden, you can easily create your own compost bin, using leftover fruit and veg peelings and scraps. Indeed, autumn-winter is the best time to do this, as the soil is resting after the growing season. You can help rejuvenate it in time for the next one by adding compost – and other nutrient-sources, such as fallen leaves and garden debris.
- Ditch the weed killer: Chemical weed killers are devastating to soil health. Don’t believe us, listen to the scientists at The Soil Association. They say that the common weed killer glyphosate is potentially carcinogenic to humans and toxic to many of the microbes essential to soil health. You don’t need it. There are lots of ways you can work in harmony with nature to control weeds.
- Add biochar: For good soil health it’s essential to create a favourable environment for the mycorrhizal fungi and other micro-organisms that increase plant root mass and so allow them to take up more water and nutrients. The application of the eco-friendly charcoal known as ‘biochar’ is an easy way to do this. The best thing is you only need to add it to your soil once, because it changes soil structure for the long-term. Here at Sacred Earth we’ve just launched our Biochar Soil Booster, which is a combination of sustainably-made biochar (hand-made on our Sussex woodlands) with our unique recipe of comfrey tea, seaweed and biodynamic compost preparations. Designed to improve soil fertility and water retention, and so improve plant health and crop yields, it can be bought here.