What Is the Relationship Between Soil and Human Beings?
When most people think of soil, they think of dirt. However, the soil is much more than dirt. Soil is a complex system with many components that are inextricably linked to human life.
Soil covers only 10% of the earth, meaning the relationship between soil and human beings is delicate. In fact, without soil, human beings would not exist. But what is it that soil and people have in common?
Let’s explore the relationship between soil and human beings to understand why it’s so important.
The Soil Ecosystem
Soil isn’t just something on the ground. It’s a delicate ecosystem that contains living organisms like bacteria and fungi. Soil is home to various minerals and organic matter. It also contains precious resources such as water and oxygen.
All of these elements play an essential role in sustaining life on Earth. Without healthy soil ecosystems, many things would be negatively impacted.
For instance, plants would not have access to the nutrients they need to grow. Animals would be unable to find food or shelter. More importantly, humans wouldn’t have clean air or water without healthy soil.
The Role of Soil in Agriculture
One of the primary ways that humans rely on soil is for agriculture. Healthy soils provide essential nutrients for crops. It helps them retain moisture that makes survival during drought conditions possible.
Soil also prevents erosion by binding with plant roots and keeping the ground intact. Without healthy soils, it would be challenging to grow food crops. Nutrient-rich dirt is vital to manage livestock production at the necessary scale to keep up with population growth and demand.
Soil’s Impact on Climate Change
Another way that humans rely on soil is through its role in climate change mitigation efforts. In fact, the health of our soil systems may be the most critical factor in determining how much carbon dioxide will be absorbed from the atmosphere in the coming decades.
Soils play a critical role in mitigating climate change by storing carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon sequestered in the soil can remain there for thousands of years. That’s if it’s not disturbed by tillage or erosion — transforming it into one of our best defenses against rising CO2 levels.
Simply put, healthy soils can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is a primary driver of climate change, so healthy soil is essential to survival. Finally, soils keep our air clean by removing environmental pollutants such as heavy metals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Soil Quality and Human Health
Healthy soils act as natural filters for contaminants. Elements like lead, arsenic, or other heavy metals could make their way into our food or water supply. If not managed adequately through remediation efforts such as phytoremediation or bioremediation processes involving using plants or bacteria to remove toxins from contaminated sites.
Additionally, healthy soils are integral to our mental health because they provide a place to interact with nature. The relationship between soil and human beings helps us gain a sense of grounding. This happens through activities like gardening or farming, which often have a calming emotional and physical effect on us.
The Responsibilities of Human Beings
It’s clear that humans rely heavily on the health of our soils—but what can we do to ensure that they remain healthy? One way is by engaging in sustainable farming practices. This can include efforts like crop rotation or cover cropping.
We have to find agricultural practices that don’t negatively alter the landscape. Plowing fields and planting monocultures of genetically modified crops can damage our soil.
Using sustainable farming methods reduces erosion and increases fertility over time. Additionally, reducing tillage operations and avoiding chemical fertilizers can help prevent further damage to fragile soils.
Overuse of chemicals and pesticides is a major contributor to worldwide soil degradation. Farmers use them to kill weeds and insects. But they also damage soil health by killing off beneficial microbes and making plants more susceptible to disease.
When we add too much fertilizer to the soil, we make it acidic. Fertilizer does more harm than good if you use too much of it.
Especially when applied in one hefty dose rather than spread out over time. When fertilizer builds up in the soil over time, it can cause anaerobic conditions where bacteria release hydrogen sulfide gas. This is the last thing that is needed for healthy soil.
Being responsible also means limiting the amount of land we clear out for farming. We’ve burned forests and other vegetation with slash-and-burn techniques that release carbon into the atmosphere. Continuing to do things as we are will only damage our soil further.
Finally, we must take steps to protect existing soils from development activities such as construction projects which can have devastating impacts on delicate ecosystems if not done responsibly.
How Can You Help?
At an individual level, there are a few ways we can ensure the health of our soils. You can start by planting native plants and trees. This will help enrich the soil.
You can also work to reduce fertilizer use on lawns and gardens. If you must use fertilizer, use organic instead — manure, compost, or blood meal works perfectly. It will provide nutrients slowly over time, so you don’t waste any by overusing them at once.
This helps build soil structure. Add organic matter like decomposing plant material that feeds worms which aerates the soil as they dig tunnels through it. Lastly, have your soil tested to ensure there are no contaminants that can cause harm to you or the nearby water supply.
Let’s Protect & Save Our Soil!
As you can see, there is an intimate relationship between soil and human beings. We cannot ignore it if we want to ensure our survival as a species. Both now and in the future.
Therefore, we must learn how to care for our soils so that they may continue to provide us with life-giving benefits such as food security, climate change mitigation efforts, clean air & water quality, mental & physical well-being—the list goes on!
By taking steps today to protect our soils from degradation due to unsustainable practices, we will be laying the groundwork for generations of sustainable living far into the future! Contact us to learn more today if you want help with being more environmentally conscious!