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Tagged : soil

The eroding foundation of civilization

October 12th, 2010

(The article below has been adapted from Chapter 2, “Population Pressure: Land and Water,” in Lester R. Brown’s book Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009). Brown is the president of the Earth Policy Institute.)

Lester Brown

The thin layer of topsoil that covers the planet’s land surface is the foundation of civilization. This soil, typically 6 inches or so deep, was formed over long stretches of geological time as new soil formation exceeded the natural rate of erosion. But sometime within the last century, as human and livestock populations expanded, soil erosion began to exceed new soil formation over large areas.

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Let’s talk dirt: Organic additions, sweat can enrich the hardest soil

July 21st, 2010

By Harriet Blake Green Right Now Count yourself lucky if you live in a part of the country that has rich organic soil. Dirt in the Midwest and Mid Atlantic states tends to be easy to work with, while soil in warmer, drier Southwestern states requires some help. However, even if you live in an area with hard-to-work clay [...]

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Biochar: Panacea or peril?

July 19th, 2010

Biochar has emerged over the last couple years as a ray of hope on the otherwise bleak horizon of the planet’s environmental future. It has been hailed as a possible solution to climate change, world hunger, and rural poverty — though doubts are being raised in some quarters.
Last year, some of the world’s most eminent biochar experts gathered for a biochar conference at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst to discuss this ancient technology that is getting a new look by scientists, governments and investors. To the packed audience, this promising technology sounded like a panacea for a whole host of problems. Biochar, the speakers said, could soak up large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, supercharge soil fertility to feed the world’s hungry, promote jobs and economic opportunities for farmers, safely get rid of animal and plant waste, heat buildings greenly, and slash the kind of fertilizer use that is creating vast dead zones in coastal waters from nitrogen runoff.

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Thinking Twice About Using Crop Waste for Biofuels

July 18th, 2008

By John DeFore

Conservation minded farmers might naturally assume it’s wise to get the most out of what’s available; if post-harvest waste material can be used in biofuel production, it seems to make financial and ecological use to sell it.

Not necessarily, according to a scientist at Washington State University who is urging farmers in her region to leave the waste where it falls.

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