offset \ˈȯf-ˌset\ noun

a force or influence that makes an opposing force ineffective or less effective

Topsoil Loss Problems

So COP26, right? More greenwashing, more broken promises. Abby Martin of the Empire Files asked Nancy Pelosi about military being exempt from the climate change talks and got a ridiculously evasive answer. Even more ominously, the answer implied that the primary way military was going to be involved in fighting climate change was to enforce security when inevitable unrest due to migrations and conflicts over reducing resources erupts. So, of course it needs to be extra funded. Nobody batted an eyelash.

At this point it's really hard to stay composed looking at the world go to waste. Aside from putting the pressure, people should also offer solutions. All of the activist efforts start to look like an exhaust valve, a catharsis. The pressure is not doing much. I was optimistic about the Paris agreement, but was ultimately disappointed, as noted previously.

Aside from the world being agonizingly slow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the biodiversity loss promises also not being kept (seems like we're constantly going down because they weren't kept under control a decade ago either), there's another pressing issue that does not get enough attention - the ongoing soil erosion. For instance, where it's easiest to observe - the struggle to contain expanding deserts - there are concrete efforts undertaken, like the Great Green Wall, with varying levels of success. These efforts do, however, demonstrate that once we set our minds to things, we can do them. But there's a less obvious aspect of it, where we're going about our business as usual, which is overfarming and the related topsoil loss.

Topsoil is the upper layer of soil with the biggest amount of the organic matter where most of biological soil activity occurs. To put it simply: no topsoil, no food.


We're originally from a place that is a part of the Pannonian Plain. It's not a mountainous area and is fit for growing crops; especially the staple foods, which are the basis of agriculture. They like to say it's the granary of the country, although with all the import/export activities, it's just one piece of the larger puzzle of food security in the world. However, I've heard it said from the people working the land that there's only around a hundred years of crop harvesting left in the region and that's it. They're being optimistic. Back in 2014, that is seven years ago, FAO notified that we have around 60 years of topsoil left. Right now it's closer to 50.

One of the largest influencers on the modern world is dr. Norman Borlaug. He's not studied in history, but he should be. A Nobel laureate holding a peace prize received in 1970, also called "the father of green revolution", he is credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. Quite amazing. He was an agronomist that developed a strain of high-yield wheat that greatly improved food security. Especially in developing nations. Talk about singular achievement in saving the world. However, I am afraid that our farming practices are failing the civilization and high-yield crops won't be enough anymore if they have nowhere to grow.

So, erosion of topsoil obviously leads to worse crop yield and food scarcity, but that's only part of the problem. The soil loses its filtration properties and allows pollutants into groundwater, damaging water quality. Erosion increases sedimentation in waterways. Water and land wildlife habitats are destroyed, biodiversity takes a hard hit and the cascading system failure gains momentum bringing about undesirable changes in things we think are not affected, yet they are. Once these changes affect human communities and their ability to survive where they've lived for centuries, these populations will be forced to move, igniting new societal and economic pressures. Topsoil loss affects systems across the board. It's all interconnected.

The World Soil Day was conceived for raising awareness of such catastrophes. Greta Thunberg's campaign is raising climate change awareness, the biodiversity loss is not being stopped in the second decade in a row, but I am pretty sure that topsoil loss gets relegated to less pressing issues as humans suffer from present bias. There's food now, but one cannot see past 30 days, let alone 50 years. This is not talked about enough. As is our custom, we'll start wondering and hand wringing when the food shortage becomes a very real situation, but I'm very afraid it will be too late. Our approach to food growing and consumption practices have been slow to change and very reluctant to accommodate environment conservation and restoration efforts. The time to act should have been yesterday, but better late than never.