Soil is a non-renewable resource, i.e. in case of loss or degradation, it cannot be restored within a period comparable to the duration of human life. The condition of the soil affects the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, our health and the health of all life on Earth. Without healthy soil, we cannot grow food. Indeed, it is estimated that 95 percent of what we eat is directly or indirectly produced on soils.
Healthy federal lands are a key factor in food security and the key to our sustainable future. They help support food production, help mitigate and adapt to climate change, they participate in the process of filtering water, increase resistance to floods and droughts, and much, much more. But there is an invisible threat that puts at risk both the soil and all that they can give.
Land contamination causes a chain reaction. It affects soil biodiversity, reduces the reserves of soil organic matter and its filtering ability. Due to land contamination, soil moisture and groundwater are contaminated, and the balance of nutrients in the soil is disturbed. Common land pollutants include heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, and new pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products.
Land pollution is damaging to the environment and entails negative consequences for all life forms that it encounters. Unsustainable agricultural practices that reduce soil organic matter can contribute to the transfer of pollutants to the food chain. So, for example, pollutants from contaminated soil can get into groundwater; then they accumulate in the tissues of plants and are transmitted to pasture animals, birds and, finally, to the people who eat these plants and animals. Contaminants in soil, groundwater and the food chain can cause a range of diseases and increased mortality in humans; it can be both acute consequences of a short-term nature – for example, various types of intoxications or diarrhea – and chronic diseases, including cancer.
In addition to the environmental impact, soil pollution is associated with high economic costs due to reduced yield and quality of crops. Preventing land pollution should be a priority throughout the world. The vast majority of pollutants are the result of human activities, so we are directly responsible for changing the situation, ensuring a reduction in pollution and a safe future for our planet.
Effects of land pollution on humans
The value of federal lands, their productive capacity and their contribution to food security and the maintenance of key ecosystem services must be recognized. Here are just a few reasons why land pollution cannot be underestimated.
- Land pollution affects everything around us. The food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe – our health and the health of all life on the planet depends on the health of the land. The nutrient content in plant tissues is directly related to their content in the soil and its ability to exchange nutrients and water with plant roots;
- Land pollution is invisible. Today, one-third of the world’s soils are moderately or severely degraded due to erosion, loss of soil organic carbon, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution. It takes about a thousand years to form one centimeter of the upper soil layer; this means that in our life we will not be able to increase the soil layer. Despite all this, the extent of soil pollution continues to grow. The current rate of soil degradation threatens the ability of future generations to meet their most urgent needs;
- Land pollution affects its filtering ability. For contaminants, soils act as a filter and buffer. But the ability of soils to cope with the pressure of pollutants is not unlimited. If the protective potential of soils is exhausted, pollutants will begin to penetrate (and already penetrate) into the environment, in particular, into the food chain;
- Land pollution affects food security, reducing crop yields and crop quality. Safe, nutritious and quality food can only be produced on healthy soils. Without healthy soil, we cannot produce enough food and build a world without hunger;
- Land pollution may result from the use of inappropriate agricultural practices. Irrational farming methods reduce the soil organic matter reserves, undermining their ability to decompose organic pollutants. This increases the risk of contaminants entering the environment. In many countries, intensive crop production depletes soils, which jeopardizes the possibility of maintaining production in these areas in the future. Therefore, the sustainability of agricultural production methods has become a prerequisite for reversing the trend towards soil degradation and ensuring global food security for present and future generations;
- Land pollution can threaten our health. A significant part of antibiotics widely used in agriculture and health care enters the environment. These antibiotics can penetrate the soil and spread in the environment. As a result, bacteria resistant to antimicrobials appear, which reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics. About 700 thousand deaths annually are caused by just such bacteria. If we do not cope with this problem, then by 2050 these bacteria will kill more people than cancer.
According to forecasts, by 2050 the world’s population will exceed 9 billion people. Therefore, current and future food security depends on our ability to increase productivity and food quality using the federal lands that we have now. Land pollution negatively affects all of us and is considered one of the main threats to the functioning of soils around the world.
Healthy soil is a precious non-renewable resource threatened by increasingly destructive human behavior. We are responsible for the condition of the soils that provide us with food, water and clean air, and today we must take steps to ensure that our lands are healthy in the interests of a sustainable future and food security. Let’s solve the problem of soil pollution!
Land pollution control
To prevent potential harm from land pollution:
- It is necessary to use pesticides and fertilizers in quantities in which they do not harm the soil;
- Solid waste that cannot be recycled must be properly disposed of;
- It should not be allowed to release wastewater containing highly hazardous substances into the soil;
- It is necessary to raise public awareness of land pollution.
Land pollution seriously affects the ecosystem and is a threat to the lives of people and other living things. Everyone should feel responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of federal lands. Montana legislature bills are currently focused on ensuring a healthy future and the preservation of federal lands.