Sustainability is a term used globally by many environmentalists to make others learn about the significance of coming together and turning the world into a better place. UNDP has established the term SDG goals, comprising 17 goals, which could provide a better shelter, education, necessity and a safer environment for all. SDG goals are to be achieved by 2030, in which 2015-2030 is the duration for changes. However, many goals and targets are still far from achievable as lots of trials and tribulations are present in this world, almost filled with corruption, injustice, political issues and more. Such contradictions in terms of thoughts and powers among people, has led to issues like air pollution, gender inequality, unsustainable deforestation, soil quality degradation, sexual assault and more. The worst is, the world appears to be an unsafe place to reside as natural components are being exploited, animals and plants are going extinct, seafood is no longer safe to be consumed as we are literally putting plastics on our plates. Shockingly, plastics are present in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. According to a research conducted in 2019, an average American eats, drinks and breathes more than 74 000 microplastics yearly.
Plastics are found in the food we consume. Source: Olio
In terms of soil, what have humans done? Mere damage!
That is what we would think of based on the headlines depicted on the news, papers and more. The good thing is, there is a lot of research going on to recover the damaged soil, to preserve and conserve the quality of soil and to promote sustainable agriculture, reforestation and more. Slash and burn technique is no longer being supported as it leads to soil pollution, haze and more.
Indonesia and Malaysia being the greatest palm oil producers in the world, have taken measures to comply with the governmental and national pledge to be more sustainable. However, there are still some irresponsible parties who set fire on soil and deforest lands for other illegal activities. Fire set on peat land, that is basically a land rich in carbon, takes a longer time to be extinguished and worse, the fire can get deep into the land, not giving us a trace of how deep the fire has invaded into the soil, killing all lives.
According to the article ‘Peatland on fire again as burning season starts in Indonesia’ published on the 16th of March 2021, fires last year burned 296,942 hectares (733,800 acres) of land, an 81% drop from the 1.65 million hectares (4.07 million acres) burned in 2019 with the help of cloud seeding. From the article, it was mentioned that, to date, 28 companies have been filed lawsuits by the ministries and have won an estimated 1.37 billion dollars from the judgements. From here, it is clear that a strong law is needed to be established and followed by all parties to evade future calamity.
Indonesia’s peatland fire. Source: Unearthed
In 2020, forest fires was a common news worldwide. Furthermore, the apparition of global pandemic, COVID-19 was another shocking headline. None of these could have come to the limelight if only humans treated mother nature well and never took anything for granted. Natural phenomenon is inevitable but man-made damages can be fixed with proper knowledge, by being a minimalist, evading illegal hunting and logging, being sustainable and more. I strongly believe that nobody is too small for a change and nobody is too small for a better world. Malala Yousafzai’s famous quote that goes “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world” explains that with education, everything is possible. With education and knowledge, the world can be a better place, also, the natural components can be well-protected from damage and exploitation. Sustainability will be known as a tool to recover the damages done by our ancestors or the current generations and will be used as a foundation in every sector.
Soil, the carbon sink of the world, is now degrading at a rate that alarms the residents of the Earth. A predicted 24 billion tons of carbon dioxide is being released to the atmosphere, heating up the “Blue Marble” annually, leading to climate change. Climate change is certainly a phenomenon that requires more attention and concern from humans to mitigate or zero the detrimental effects. Negligence towards climate change would only cause humans to face the music. Global destruction and agony will dominate all parts of the world if man is avoiding the fact that climate change is real.
Climate change is real. Source: ITU
Soil, an inorganic component, beds the Earth crusts and enables the germination of new lives, caters habitat for microfauna and microflora, provides a regulated climate and possesses a lot more functions. Soil can never be taken for granted by any human race as it is one of the best gifts endowed to planet Earth. With soil, life is possible.
Soil is the source of lives. Source: University of Cambridge
Soil regulates and maintains the temperature of the atmosphere. The enormous amount of carbon released to the atmosphere from many activities are absorbed by the soil, water bodies and the trees. These are the carbon sinks that are keeping the temperature regulated. Contemplating what humans have done to the soil is just too hard to digest. Soil has been devalued and treated heartlessly with machineries, chemicals, toxicity and more. Ploughing, land bombing, landscape-making have weakened the soil ecosystem and caused soil erosions, landslides and others. When the soil quality is degraded, the soil loses its bond and initial strength, thus allowing the water or the wind to carry those soil aggregates away, loosening the soil structure further. Soil profile that is composed of several soil horizons diminishes its property and structure in the name of mismanagement, that it can no longer sustain lives and turn barren. This is when soil is said to have lost its fertility and can no longer yield.
The value of soil is rather lower than money to the human race, that unsustainable agriculture is not a big deal for as long as the farmer sees money in his hands. Some big companies are willing to exploit children for slavery, exploit land from the poorer countries to establish unsustainable business such as huge mining, fast-fashion industries, agriculture and more that has led to terrible land pollution and dire air pollution.
This is the work of the rich and powerful people, whereby the poor are let to suffocate and survive the damages caused by them. In fact, this is relatable as to why the undeveloped or developing countries are facing land pollution, water shortages and more. Such countries even make up the world's most polluted countries, cities and so on by being the producers of resources and goods to the affluent and branded companies in the developed countries.
Undeveloped and developing countries are more vulnerable from pollution from the act of catering the needs of the developed countries. Source: Quartz
People from poorer countries tend to lack knowledge on what the term ‘sustainability’ means, and are not well-educated due to financial burdens or lack of facilities, which leads to soil degradation due to improper management of soil. Not only the uneducated farmers who are contributing to the damage of soil, but the ravenous farmers too. Some unaccountable people illegally operate and transform the landscape with no legal letters or permission from the government.
Deforestation, a global issue that has endangered millions of animals and plant species worldwide, is intensifying and worrying. Deforestation occurs for many purposes such as mining, landscaping, agricultural activities and more. Animal ranching is found to have contributed to one of the worst deforestation activities worldwide, in which the Amazon rainforest has fallen into the target loop. Amazon rainforest, the lungs of the Earth has been deforested merely for animal ranching and to establish agricultural land for the purpose of animal feeds and more.
Deforestation is largely done to provide space for animal ranching.
Source: Bihar Livestock Development Agency
Uncontrolled deforestation will only lead to soil degradation. Worse, is when pesticides and fertilisers are used in improper ways that could lead not only to the quality degradation of soil, but to eutrophication in water bodies. Excessive artificial nutrients that get into nearby water bodies would turn clear, oligotrophic water bodies into contaminated water bodies with algal bloom called eutrophic water. Eutrophication will further reduce the concentration of oxygen and doom the survival of organisms, leading to a huge ecosystem collapse in the system. From here, it is clear that soil pollution is connected to other natural components of the Earth such as the hydrosphere, atmosphere and more. The Earth is a natural system with five main components that work in a chain. If any one system is disturbed, the others will be affected naturally and could lead to a great damage to humankind and the entire system, in the long run.
Chemical fertilizer reduces the quality of soil.
Source: Environmental Pollution Centers
In this technological era where the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and more are being focused for a better lifestyle, the agricultural sector is certainly growing better, more systematic and informed. The question here, is everyone able to follow up with such technological advances and facilities? The rural areas are still facing weak Internet connections. Technology is hard to attain with small capitals or low-knowledge as there is always room for scamming and more by the middle persons.
The Internet and great machinery can certainly transform the agricultural sector into a more sustainable sector if every farmer is to work hand in hand and focus on the provision of organic and safe food for their consumers without jeopardising consumers’ health for their income purpose. Next, farmers should attain knowledge and be mindful of how they can develop to be organic food manufacturers and get certified for a better market value and demands. This way, the soil quality is conserved as organically-produced food increases and involves less to no chemicals. For instance, Malaysian farmers could get MyOrganic or MyGap certification to get the trust of their consumers and grow better in the market. This way, their sales increase while the quality of the soil is maintained.
Next, big mining should not be permitted. Mining activities may be granted permission upon further inspection of the sites and assessing on the risks. Land bombing and so on should be replaced with a better technique. Underground mining is better in terms of open land mining, however, safety issues should be focused.
Moreover, another way to conserve soil quality is certainly to reduce our carbon footprint. Veganism is a term that is hovering in the air, for such a community has risen to make a change for the sake of animals and the environment. Being a vegan or vegetarian can certainly reduce one's carbon footprint and save the world from climate change, soil pollution and more.
An estimated 1.4 billion cows are taken care of, for the meat and dairy industry. These cows are contributing to a whole lot of carbon and methane gas emission that is warming up the world. Methane gas is about twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to the ability to trap heat. Next, a great deal of deforestation is done to grow animal feeds such as grains, soy and more. Such massive production of grains can actually feed the entire world and end poverty with lesser cost, and carbon footprint if only it was not for these animals. Fact is such, because animals require multiple times more food than humans do, as their daily requirement, which puts the animal sector as the top three most polluting industries in the world as a gigantic greenhouse gas bubble is formed due to this particular industry. Animal ranching has led to soil pollution due to poor maintenance and accumulation of animal manure on sites that are rich with antibiotics, hormones, nitrogen, ammonia and more. These manure further release the greenhouse gases into the air and seeps into the soil through penetration. Further down, the groundwater will be affected by the chemicals present in the manure and lead to water toxicity where our drinking water is no longer safe to be consumed without further purification. Here, the quality of soil, air and water are put to stake.