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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

March 12, 2004
Vol. 1, No. 218




Sister Rita Larivee Spring is in the air

Sister Rita Larivee, SSA, NCR associate publisher

Spring is in the air in the northern hemisphere, which for many of us means gardening, lawn care, yard work and a host of other activities for spending time outside. So it was while viewing a recent television special that I heard the phrase: "My soil brothers and sisters around the world."

I don't usually think of myself as being connected to others by way of soil, but the notion strikes me as quite true. Life as we know it on this planet would cease to exist without soil. There's not a region around the world that does not need to care for its farmlands and pastures.

So, while performing a quick Internet search, I discovered some interesting facts about soil, with the additional disturbing truth that we are in serious danger of losing one of the bedrocks of life.

Other Today's Takes by Rita Larivee
March 11, 04 Can you hear me now?
March 10, 04 Fighting for the corporate soul
March 9, 04 What's worse than ignorance?
March 8, 04 Disposable words
Jan. 30, 04 Integral reality
Jan. 29, 04 The spiral of existence
Jan. 28, 04 Eight groups of consciousness
Jan. 27, 04 Not new solutions, new questions
June 25, 03 Use closed sessions with caution
June 23, 03 Baseball's best kept secret
May 19, 03 Celebrating spring rites of passage
Each year, the world loses millions of hectares (2.47 acres/hectare) of farmland to severe soil degradation. If soil was an endlessly abundant resource, this would not be a problem. But soil is lost at a rate of 16 and 300 times faster than it can be replaced, depending on the region. (Sustainable Development Information Service of the World Resources Institute, Washington, DC) And, it can take anywhere from 200 to 1,000 years to form 1 inch of topsoil under normal agricultural conditions.

But not all the news is bad, soil-friendly farming practices are spreading worldwide, and there are global efforts at managing the information we have for improving soil productivity.

Yet, it's clear that what was once readily and abundantly available for our use must now be carefully managed and protected. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the availability of land in developing countries will be cut in half by 2010 and will shrink further by 2050.

On average, around the world, 10 pounds of farmable soil is lost for every pound of food eaten. Luckily, for us, there are groups monitoring these statistics worldwide and implementing soil control programs for future generations.

But whichever way we look at it, we indeed are soil brothers and sisters as part of one global family and the health of that family is no longer independent of the health of the soil we stand on every day. Yet, as informed citizens of the planet earth, it may be to our advantage to tread more lightly in our use of it.

In whichever hemisphere we happen to live, springtime is a moment of new life and a time for new roots to grow. The human family deserves no less. Happy spring!

Rita Larivee is NCR associate publisher. She can be reached at

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