Media CenterWhy Soil Is The Superhero of the Planet

Photo by Oscar Leiva/Silverlight for CRS

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If there is a supervillain of the world's environment today, it's climate change. As more and more people struggle to adapt, there's a hero that could reverse and mitigate this villain's effects - soil. Between its ability to hold carbon and support life, soil is like the superhero of our global ecosystem.

But like any superhero, soil has a weakness that threatens to end all of the good work it does for our ecosystem - land degradation. Not only does it threaten our soil, but it works hand-in-hand with climate change, continuing a vicious cycle.

What do we mean when we say, "land degradation"? Essentially, it is a negative trend in the land's condition that eventually leads to a loss in the soil's ability to produce food or house organisms, stripping away its value to humanity. Because of the importance of soil, land degradation is like our superhero's archnemesis.

Why Soil Is The Superhero of the Planet
Simón Leonidas Pérez holds organic fertilizer that he will use to help his cocoa plants thrive. He learned how to make the compost through a CRS initiative to establish agro-forestry systems in El Salvador. Photo by Oscar Leiva/Sliverlight for CRS

  • Our soil holds more than three times the amount of carbon as our atmosphere and 22 percent of the carbon that humans emit every year
  • Soil naturally filters water and makes it less toxic by the time it reaches our rivers, lakes and oceans
  • Healthier soil is more likely to produce more food, even as the weather becomes more and more unpredictable due to climate change
  • Thousands of organisms call our soil home, from animals like gophers and earthworms, to algae and bacteria that is invisible to the naked eye

Why Land Degradation Is Soil's Kryptonite

  • When land degradation makes soil completely unusable, that soil releases carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change
  • It's currently causing us to lose soil at 10 times the rate that it is forming
  • It's reducing soil fertility, which means our farmers are getting fewer crops out of their farmland
  • Land degradation increases the chances of wildfires, like the ones we are seeing in California and across Australia


We can reverse land degradation and help soil get back to its full potential through regenerative agriculture and climate smart agriculture. They repair vital farmland with simple techniques and help farmers both adapt to climate change and lessen their impact on the environment. By growing green manure crops and cover crops, rotating and reducing tillage of crops and maintaining good ground cover, farmers across the world can do their part to help fight against land degradation.

It is also vital that our government continues to fund work that saves our life-giving soil.

Feel free to share these facts or contact [email protected] to talk to one of our agriculture and climate experts, such as Lori Pearson.

Tags: Agriculture

Public Relations Strategist

Brittany Wichtendahl
December 1, 2016

Brittany Wichtendahl is a public relations strategist for Catholic Relief Services, out of Baltimore. Drafting press releases for secular and Catholic news media, Brittany also crafts pitches to help publicize CRS's work. She writes op-eds for placement in national print publications, and monitors news outlets for stories related to CRS and CRS programming.

Brittany is a graduate of...More