Erosion: where did my landscape run off to?
Updated: Aug 3
Erosion is quite rapidly unraveling the foundation of our planet.
Lowdermilk (1939) discussed many ancient civilization from the Middle East to Africa. Through his travels, he observed how erosion had been the downfall of communities. Ultimately, this was a result of human impact through manipulation of water or landscape.
In Lebanon, the ancient forests were cut down on the slopes and transformed into farmland. Trees provide root structure, protecting vulnerable soils from runoff.
Once the trees were removed, the fine particles were swept down the hill and into the valleys and waterways.
In China, the Yellow River was manipulated through the construction of dikes. By preventing the water from flowing naturally, it caused a great deal of build up and ultimately disastrous and deadly flooding when the river broke through, which created even more erosion.
The current agricultural practices consist of more technological advances, but still contain the same drive and desire to separate and tame nature instead of seeing it as a component of ourselves and necessary for our species’ survival. Yield has become the dominant deciding factor and justification for choices (Kirschenmann, 2005).
Forests are still being cut down for lumber, hillsides left bare, and waterways manipulated for human desires.
In the Pacific Northwest, deforestation is commonplace because of our timber industry. Runoff and soil erosion occurs rapidly due to the substantial amount of precipitation which occurs throughout the year.
The situation is more dire today due to the continued exploitive practices in modern agriculture, along with an increased need for food production because of unchecked human population growth. Fresh water, soil, fossil fuels, and species diversity are dwindling rapidly (Ackerman-Leist, 2013). While there is a push towards sustainability, clarity of the term is desperately need and consistency across the board for all agencies and farmers. The focus of farming must shift from short-term gains to long-term impacts (Weil, 1990).
What can we do to prevent erosion? It's very simple.
Put more plants in the ground. Let them take root and restore soil structure.
Ackerman-Leist, P. (2013). Rebuilding the foodshed: how to create local, sustainable, and secure food systems. Santa Rosa, Calif. : White River Junction, Vt: Post Carbon Institute ; Chelsea Green Pub.
Kirschenmann, F. (2005). Spirituality in Agriculture. Prepared for The Concord School of Philosophy, Concord, MA, October 8, 2005. 10 pages.
Lowdermilk, W. C. (1939). Conquest of the Land Through Seven Thousand Years (SCS MP-32). Washington D.C.: U. S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/CAT31293292
Weil, R. R. (1990). Defining and using the concept of sustainable agriculture. J. Agri. Edu.,19(2), 126-130.