Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time for a soil convention!

The topsoil is one of the most fundamental assets we have, a natural capital. Soil formation is slow, to build up a cm takes centuries. To destroy it takes just a few years. Many civilizations have been ruined by their lack of care for the soil. It is high time that an international convention for protection of soils is signed and implemented. Not that I have any high expectations that such a convention will deliver so much. Changing the habits of a billion farmers is not easy, and changing the habit of cities and citizens to swallow fertile lands for infrastructure is also very hard. Nevertheless a soil convention would highlight the issues.

Not only soil eroision is problematic but also the transformation of soils into urban infrastructure, dams etc. Here global statistics are pretty wobbly, figures from 3 to 9 percent of land transformed to infrastructures appear. In fairly densly populated Denmark almost 20 percent of the land is used for human infrastructure.

Most of cities, houses and roads are built on arable land. In China approximately 600.000 hectares per year are transformed to human infrastructure. In Sweden 345.000 hectares are covered with roads, that corresponds to more than ten percent of the arable land (not all of it is of course built on arable land).

It is ironic that people are upset about land use for biofuel while they gladly drive their petrol driven cars on top of the ruined soil.
(Yes, I think that government subsidised bio fuels is dubious, no, I don't think it is ethical to take food from the poor and drive cars, yes, I think biofuels are a lot better than petrol if properly made, yes, I think high prices for agricultural products are good)

It is high time for a Soil Convention. Is UNEP the one taking the lead? Which country will suggest it?

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