The Asia Institute Seminar The Fight to preserve our soil and our future: “Culture is our greatest asset”
December 30, 2012
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The Asia Institute Seminar
The Fight to preserve our soil and our future: “Culture is our greatest asset”
December 20, 2012
With David Montgomery
Department of Earth and Space Sciences
University of Washington
Professor Montgomery, professor of geomorphology and topography at University of Washington and recipient of the MacArthur fellowship, has researched the impact of soil and water on civilizations over the last several thousand years. He has uncovered disturbing long-term implications of our current use of land that should cause everyone to stop and think. His book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations has garnered international attention for its succinct description of the value and fragility of soil, and argues that soil should be considered as a geostrategic resource. Once soil is gone, he suggests, it cannot be easily replaced, and the rate of the increase in the demand for food in the coming century will force us to consider the sustainability of agriculture to our lives.
Why is it that desertification and the loss of soil does not get the attention it deserves at high-level discussions concerning the environment?
Well, desertification does tend to be the forgotten issue. If we look at the areas of the world that are most venerable to climate change, there are three that immediately come to mind. One is coastal regions that are immediately impacted by rising sea levels. The second is the boreal regions where the frozen tundra that is now heating up and profoundly effecting the environment. That trend, combined with the melting of the icecaps will have deep implications for our climate. Both of these trends have received substantial attention. The third is the semi-arid regions around the world that get less attention but have the broadest impact for human settlements. Semi-arid regions are quite sensitive to climate shifts and also to even small changes in [more]