Healthy soil for a healthy climate
“We stand, in most places on earth, only six inches from desolation, for that is the thickness of the top soil level upon which the entire life of the planet depends.”
When R. Neil Sampson wrote these words in 1981, climate change was barely on the radar screen. Today, we understand that soil health is key to protecting our climate.
2,300 gigatons of carbon are stored in the top three meters of the Earth’s soil. That’s more than the total amount in the atmosphere plus all of the vegetation on Earth.
When we disrupt the soil through farming or development, carbon is released into the atmosphere.
It’s a big problem, but it is also an opportunity. We can mitigate climate change by regenerating our soil,
making it healthier and using it to recapture carbon.
Farmers can keep soils active and healthy by reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers made from fossil fuels. They can also use agricultural practices that protect and increase soil health such as no -till agriculture, cover cropping, and applications of compost.
Commun ities can protect soil by building more compactly, avoiding the conversion of green fields to pavement or other hard surfaces. And we can all make food purchases that support farmers and ranchers who work to preserve soil health, even as we reduce our own use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
It’s important to keep pushing the frontiers of green energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels; but if we treat our soil right, it can be a critical part of a healthy climate as well.