Permaculture: Healthy Soil for Healthy Living

We all love the earth and the wonderful things it has given us, but it's time to educate ourselves a little more about how we can efficiently take care of and restore the soil which produces so much for us.

July 23, 2015
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While you’re savoring that sweet and succulent nectarine do you ever think about where it came from? What farm it grew and flourished on, who harvested it, and how long it took to grow? I’m sure we’re all at least vaguely aware of the GMO, organic, and pesticide discussion, and have at least a passing thought as to what exactly has happened to our food we’re indulging in.

But let me ask you – have you ever thought about the soil? What type of soil your food grew in, what its condition is, and whether its health benefits are affecting the visibly perfect food you’re munching?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has declared 2015 as the “Year of Soils” just so people like you and me can get the 411 on healthy soils.

The top points:

-Healthy soils are the foundation for healthy food

-Soils support our planet’s biodiversity; 1/4 of biodiversity to be exact

-Soils help to fight and adapt to climate change

-Soils store and filter water, improving our resilience to floods and droughts

-Soil is a NON-RENEWABLE resource; it’s preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future

(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

A pressing issue that ecologists are discovering is the challenge to rebuild topsoil. Topsoil is a non-renewable resource so the more chemicals and pesticides we transmit the weaker and less efficient it becomes.

Let’s take an example. Say you color your hair every six weeks. You color it red, brown, blond, and any other color that strikes your fancy. After a certain period of time, your hair is going to become brittle, be riddled with split ends, and eventually break off. The beauty of hair is that typically it will grow back.

This is not the case with soil. The more fertilizers we add to perk up the dirt the more its natural elements are neutralized, and once this occurs it’s terribly hard to revive.

Soil is instrumental in carbon flow as that’s what plants live and breathe. Ever since we were little we’ve learned in science class how important it is to diversify where you plant your crops from year to year. However, even with crop rotations, farmers are starting to stumble upon soil that is unyielding no matter what method they try.

Dr. Christine Jones is a soil ecologist who has spent years studying the link between carbon and healthy topsoil. She explains that all of the fertilizer and pesticide use has interrupted the carbon cycle. Farmers start out with the best intentions, but all of these chemicals are breaking down the billions of microorganisms that are crucial to soil.

But there is an even bigger issue that’s resulting from man-made fertilizer; plants have easy access to food, and therefore they no longer need to exude carbon (Christine Jones).

So, now that we know the problems what can we do to fix it?

Permaculture – it’s the latest buzzword for preserving soil.

Permaculture is a creative design process based on whole-systems thinking using ethics and design principles. It helps us to mimic the patterns and relationships we can find in nature and can be applied to all aspects of human habitation, from agriculture to ecological building, from appropriate technology to education and even economics (Permaculture Principles).

I know we all love the earth and the wonderful things it has given us, but we just need to educate ourselves a little more about how we can efficiently take care of and restore the soil which produces so much for us.

The earth is such a precious gift, and we need to take advantage of it. Bring your concrete jungles to life with potted flowers and plants, take your children out into the wild, and experience the rain. First-hand experience will harvest a greater appreciation, in turn making you care more.

When using renewable resources remember its value, not only to us but to the entire ecosystem.

We’re not the only consumers of the environment. Look at the caterpillar or the apple orchard. Everything is interconnected, and one careless move causes a chain effect. Not only should you value the diversity of the environment, but you should also make a conscious effort to utilize all the moving parts. Whether it’s from utilizing an entire broccoli plant to leaving a slug in its habitat. Not everything is going to be aesthetically pleasing, but it’s important to consider more than your immediate comfort.

When you have healthy soil, you have healthy food. If you’re growing vegetation in polluted soil, the finished product is going to be tainted as well. Healthy soil equals healthy living, and of course we want this to be accessible for our future generations. So take time to think about what you’re digging into and how you’re nourishing it. Spread the word, and our world will reap the benefits.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Staff Writer