Since the industrial revolution, we’ve been dealing with the consequences of land degradation in our society.
To effectively stop land degradation, we need to approach the matter from all angles by establishing responsible farming techniques - reducing deforestation, funding conscientious development projects, changing how we approach our food, and revisioning domestic household practices.
The past century of rampant development and economic growth has resulted in financial prosperity but at the price of sabotaging our environment. After experiencing the risks that come with land degradation, we’ve begun to adapt to the necessary changes that need to take place to respect the integrity of our lands and to move towards building a more sustainable future.
After a global analysis of the negative long-term effects that land degradation has on the economy and the environment, the USDA is urging legislation and practice that will directly combat the harm that this ecological issue is responsible for.
Industrial Scale Land Degradation
There is no culprit more guilty of land degradation in the United States and the world than the industrial complex. The rise of advanced technologies that drive economic growth have come with a price - the health of our environment.
While economic stability is vital for our society, the lack of conscientious industrialization has been causing damage to our lands that will be felt for generations to come. Luckily, due to government regulation and the rise of values towards living a sustainable lifestyle, we’ve come around to adopting practices that are ecologically sound, which aim at stopping land degradation.
Let’s explore some of the industrial changes that have occurred to curb land degradation.
The farming industry has seen an explosion of growth within the last century. Whether it’s new technologies that make harvests more efficient, the use of chemicals to fight off pests, or the overall physical expansion of land use for farming.
These new practices arrived with the honest intentions of producing a better yield but have proven to do so with adverse effects. At the end of the day, if we are farming in a way that brings short-term prosperity, which is correlated with long-term consequences that result in environmental disasters and potential food shortages - we need to rethink how we approach growing our food.
We’ve found that many of the sustainable farming techniques that we’ve been using for about as long as we’ve been growing food, seem to still be the best approaches to avoiding soil degradation.
To prevent soil infertility and ensure that our lands stay healthy for growing food in the long run, many farmers are utilizing the following practices for their crops:
- Crop rotation
- Buffer strips
- Contour farming
- Organic Farming
Since successfully adopting these environmentally friendly farming practices, we’ve seen a positive response in the mitigation and even reversal of soil degradation.
A major contributor to land degradation has been the mass development of our cities, towns, and nationwide infrastructure.
There is perhaps no greater way to sabotage the health of our lands and local environments than to invasively pour concrete on every surface we can find and build unsustainable buildings.
In recent years, as sustainable living has become a mainstream trend and people all around the world have begun adopting environmental values, we’ve seen a major shift in how development projects are being approached.
A key ideology of sustainable urbanization is to approach development by minimizing invasiveness towards the local environment and leave as small of a footprint as possible. This means creating infrastructure that blends in and complements its natural surroundings and avoids environmental disturbance at all costs.
Here’s how sustainable development can be approached to stop land degradation.
By keeping as much soil on the ground as possible during development, we can secure the fertility of the land and create an outlet for future soil use.
Many buildings are being designed to mitigate environmental harm and promote positive ecological benefits. We can see these sustainable practices play out by:
- Utilizing renewable energy
- Increasing water efficiency
- Improving waste management
- Environmentally friendly design and architecture
- Wide use of local plants and greenery
With the constant increase of the global population, designing our buildings to be more green seems to be a highly useful strategy towards stopping land degradation in urban areas.
Without much care and consideration, we’ve designed highways, roads, and bridges in a way that suits us but not necessarily our surrounding environment. This has led to land degradation that could have easily been avoided.
To promote conscientious infrastructure that aids the fight against land degradation, the following tactics are most useful.
- Location planning - we’ve paved over so many natural habitats such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands which have disrupted or destroyed ecosystems. One of the best ways to combat this is to survey the land for environmental impact prior to development and then to rethink and restrategize how to approach the infrastructure project.
- Wildlife bridges - these ethical, environmentally friendly bridges do not only enable safe passage for wildlife but are also a great means of avoiding unnecessary land degradation. By building wildlife bridges we secure an area of natural land that stays fertile and blends in with its surroundings.
While our infrastructure is a necessity that we can’t live without, the level of land degradation that it causes is all a matter of how we approach its design.
The principles of forestation are all about preserving the land that is already there and leaving it just as it is. This straightforward approach is a major contributor to preventing land degradation and is as simple as it is effective.
The growing rise in value for our natural lands and the beauty they offer us all has led to a massive movement in preventing land degradation. It’s also one of the main reasons that we have so many protected lands that are completely free of development.
A great way to continue sustainable land degradation is to establish more of the following protected areas:
- National Parks
- Wilderness Areas
- National Monuments
- Nature Reserves
- Protected Landscapes
- Public Parks
By setting up these protected natural areas, we directly combat land degradation and encourage the instillment of environmental values.
While there have been many successful efforts to boost forestation, there is still a lot that rivals this practice and is contributing to further land degradation.
To prevent further land degradation, we can implement the following pro-forestation practices in our society:
- Prevent unnecessary logging
- Abolish clear-cutting forests
- Reduced use of paper/paper goods
- Support sustainable organizations
- Bring awareness to the issue
- Plant more trees
- Support forestation policies
Preventing deforestation can feel like an uphill battle but with so much of the world taking notice of the importance of this issue, there are many things we can all take part in to prevent further land degradation.
Domestic Land Degradation
While the largest scale of land degradation is to blame on industrial growth and development, we as everyday people play a role in contributing to the problem.
It’s easy to forget that we are a critical link in the chain of environmental impacts. Even if the impact that we as individuals contribute is minuscule, on the grand scale of things when weighing out an entire national or global population, the possibility for preventative damage is monumental.
It’s this reality check that reminds us that we can all take part in preventing land degradation and be part of the sustainable future.
To stop land degradation in your day-to-day life, you can try implementing some of these practices to mitigate the harm being done.
The food we eat and the food we buy are major contributors to land degradation. Much like the poor farming practices we discussed earlier, when we purchase food that was farmed in this unsustainable manner, we are directly supporting institutions that are contributing to land degradation.
Even if you feel like you are too small to stand up to Big Agro., implementing dietary changes in your life is sending them a big message and is a direct stance against land degradation.
To aid the cause against this harmful practice make some of the following changes in your grocery shopping and diet:
- Buy organic foods
- Limit your consumption of meat & animal products
- Buy free-range/grass-fed beef
- Eat more plant-based foods
- Eat a variety of foods
Adopting some of the following food choices and approaches can amount to making a huge difference in our environmental fight to stop land degradation.
The way in which we set up our homes adds up to be a big boost for promoting positive environmental impacts and preventing the effects of land degradation.
Whether you are building a new home, remodeling your current one, or simply revisioning the way your home is set up right now, a focus on sustainable design will contribute to stopping land degradation.
Try these tactics out at home to aid the cause:
- Set up a home garden - by having a garden at home, you are keeping the soil on your property fertile while at the same time lessening your reliance on industrial farming for your food.
- Tanbark lawn - our green grass lawns increase our consumption of water and keep the soil beneath in a less fertile state- rather than letting rainwater naturally absorb into tanbark - which will nourish and fertilize your soil.
- Gravel driveways - a gravel driveway keeps rainwater from flowing into drainage systems and instead enables the water to be absorbed into the soil beneath.
Even if you don’t have the funds to completely remodel your home as a green building, there is a lot of cost-efficient strategies worth implementing to prevent land degradation.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker