Thursday, February 26, 2015

2015: International Year of Soils, February: Soils Support Urban Life

Stephanie Rukowicz

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly established December 5th as World Soil Day and declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. This action by the UN is meant to draw attention to the important role soils play in all of our lives.

For many of us in Philadelphia County, it is easy to forget about where our food comes from, trucked in from farms around the region, brought in by train from across the country, and flown in from exotic countries around the world. This food is grown somewhere, and the health of the soil is closely tied to the health of our food--both the quality and quantity.

Excerpt from FAO's soil infographic

Excerpt from FAO's soil infographic
According to the UN's announcement, "one-third of our soils have already degraded. If the current trend continues, the global amount of arable and productive land per person in 2050 will be a quarter of what it was in 1960. The world will have over 9 billion people in 2050, 2 billion more than today. And food production will have to grow by 60 percent to feed a larger population that will also be eating better."

In addition to the role soils play in feeding us, forests require them to grow, we use them for clothing, fuel and shelter, they play a role in water quality and management, and soils also play a major role in mitigating climate change. This video, put together by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), provides an easy-to-understand overview of the role of soils in our lives.

Here in the United States, the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with the SSSA, and will be highlighting a different theme each month. See the table below for monthly themes. Each month is linked to information on resources and activities for that month's theme.
January - Soils Sustain LifeJuly - Soils are Living
February - Soils Support Urban LifeAugust - Soils Support Health
March - Soils Support AgricultureSeptember - Soils Protect the Natural Environment
April - Soils Clean and Capture WaterOctober - Soils and the Products We Use
May - Soils Support Buildings/InfrastructureNovember - Soils and Climate
June - Soils Support RecreationDecember - Soils, Culture, and People

Excerpt from FAO's soil infographic
Lets honor the International Year of Soils by educating ourselves and others about the importance of soils in our lives, and how to preserve and use soils sustainably. What action steps can we take in the our urban environment to help our soils? Here are a few ideas listed by SSSA in their video for February: Soils Support Urban Life:
  • Install rain gardens
  • Compost food scraps
  • Adding finished compost to your soil
  • Grow your own vegetables

Interested in learning more? Here are a handful of links to get you started:

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