McCarrison Society

Health Through Nutrition, A Birthright

Land degeneration and regeneration

Rinse and Repeat?

The world’s soils are rapidly deteriorating due to soil erosion, nutrient depletion, loss of soil organic carbon, soil sealing and other threats, but this trend can be reversed provided countries take the lead in promoting sustainable management practices and the use of appropriate technologies” Status of the Worlds Soil Resources FAO (Link below)

Failure to look after the land loss of fertility and erosion has resulted in the demise of multiple fertile landscapes as set out below vividly in words and images in the photo from a seminal work written by Conquest of the Land Through Seven Thousand Years by W C Lowdermilk.

Darwin and Howard – Importance of worms

But there is hope:

Land degeneration and Agriculture (Related Videos)(Link)

It is not rocket science” “Without water you cannot do anything“We now have food security; our children can go to school” “The burning 21st Issue for Africa is land restoration” “Restoring this degraded land is critical not only for Ethiopia but the whole region

What the Soil Does for Us - FAO summary

What can be achieved in five years with co-operation and simple technology by local farmers

Conquest of the Land Through Seven Thousand Years

By W. C. Lowdermilk (free copy Link)


The Hundred Dead Cities

Still further to the north in Syria, we came upon a region where erosion had done its worst in an area of more than a million acres of rolling limestone country between Hama, Aleppo, and Antioch. French archaeologists, Father Mattern and others, found in this manmade desert more than 100 dead cities, and called it “cent villes mortes,” or a “Hundred Dead Cities.” Butler of Princeton rediscovered this region a generation ago and aroused interest in the area. These were not cities as we know them, but villages and market towns. Here by field examination at Bare and Hirbet Haas we found that soils had been washed off to limestone bed rock to a depth of from 3 to 6 feet. The ruins of these towns were not buried as other ruins such as we saw elsewhere, but were left as stark skeletons in beautifully cut stone, standing high on bare rock. Measurements from doorsills to the foundation rock indicated that soils to a depth of 3 to 6 feet had been washed off and swept away in winter floods, leaving a region of ghost cities. Here erosion had done its worst. If the soils had remained, even though the cities were destroyed and the populations dispersed, the area might be repeopled again and cities rebuilt. But now that soils are gone, all is gone.

Ruins of one of the Hundred Dead Cities of Syria. From 3 to 6 feet of soil have been washed off most of the hillsides. This city will remain dead because the land around it can no longer support a city.

Another Example

The ruins of Timgad — an ancient Roman city built during the first century A.D. The few huts seen in the center background now house about 300 inhabitants, which is all the eroded land will support. Note that the eroded hills in the background are almost as desolate as the ruins of the city.
Status of the World’s Soil Resources. Technical Summary (Link)(The below is copied from the FAO web site as linked above for the convenience of readers in accordance with FAO terms. Copyright is retained by the FAO)
This document presents a summary of the first Status of the World’s Soil Resources report, the goal of which is to make clear the essential connections between human well-being and the soil. The report provides a benchmark against which our collective progress to conserve this essential resource can be measured. The report synthesizes the work of some 200 soil scientists from 60 countries. It provides a global perspective on the current state of the soil, its role in providing ecosystem services, and the threats to its continued contribution to these services. The specific threats considered in the report are soil erosion, compaction, acidification, contamination, sealing, salinization, waterlogging, nutrient imbalance (e.g. both nutrient deficiency and nutrient excess), and losses of soil organic carbon (SOC) and of biodiversity.”

Darwin and Howard – Importance of Worms (link)

As passionately argued by Howard, worms are a topic of likely under appreciated agricultural importance to; soil quality, disease resistance, yields and crop quality, with wider implications for the country side including mole hedgehog bird and badger population and health.  .  .  and crucially ultimately water retention so irrigation requirement, and control of erosion


Land degeneration and Agriculture

Agroecology in Ethiopia: Converting Desert into Hyper-Productive Land – A breathtaking and uplifting video of what is possible in just 5 years

It is not rocket science” “Without water you cannot do anything“We have food security our children can go to school” “The burning 21st Issue for Africa is land restoration” “Restoring this degraded land is critical not only for Ethiopia but the whole region

A breathtaking example of the changes that are possible in just 6 years in eroded Ethiopian terrain that forms a water shed of the Nile. Vegetation cover and simple dams return a year round stream; “Without water you cannot do anything”.  Families are again have food security are able to farm, feed their families, educate their children, and are not longer reliant on aid. “Restoring this degraded land is critical not only for Ethiopia but the whole region

On a very much large scale thousands of square kilometers a similar ‘miracle’ was achieved in China

Excerpts from Hope in a Changing Climate (…)

These fascinating and uplifting videos both highlights the effect of erosion and consequent land degradation, and the possibilities for reversal and the gains that accrue in terms of human dignity, economic gain, reduced downstream environmental consequences of erosion, carbon capture, and capacity for food provision do grater human health.

More videos on land regeneration including of desert (Link)

and a  wider selection here including fascinating footage of the Hunza in the late 1940s, and regenerative farming (Link)

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