Everyone knows we need clean air and water, but we don’t think as much about the soil beneath our feet—and that’s a big mistake. Soil is literally the foundation of all civilizations, of life itself even; we grow 95 percent of the food we eat in the soil. Healthy soils are also crucial for maintaining clean water supplies and mitigating climate change. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once noted, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.”
That’s bad news—because our soils are not in great health. The United States is losing 10 billion tons of fertile soil every year, exponentially faster than nature can replenish it. This is particularly alarming when you consider the role U.S. farms play in feeding the world’s growing population. Overall, we’ll need a substantial increase in agriculture production by 2050 if we’re to feed the 10 billion people who will be inhabiting the planet.