The Universe of soils

Phil Gregory (UBC Physics & Astronomy
Event Date and Time: 
Mon, 2017-02-06 15:30 - 16:45
Hennings 318
Local Contact: 
Jaymie Matthews
Intended Audience: 
Our originally scheduled speaker, Dr. Sandstrom has contracted pneumonia and will be unable to visit us. We are working on rescheduling her visit to later in the spring, or in the fall. Phil Gregory has kindly stepped in with an intriguing talk on “The Hidden Universe of Soils", a marked departure from his normal research activities in astronomy and our normal topics in the Colloquium. Phil explains... "My interest in the subject started after reading in the Scientific American an announcement by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that the world, on average, has just 60 more years of agriculture left if we continue to degrade the soil at the current rate (ref: Scientific American, Dec. 5, 2014). Motivated by concerns for the future of my 14 grandchildren and one great granddaughter, I decided that I needed to investigate the subject to find out what if anything could be done about it. This took me on a two journey through conventional agriculture, soil biology, desertification, and animal grazing practices. I learned that in the last 30 years there has been an amazing revolution in our understanding of soil biology and nature's complexity. This offers a tremendous potential to deal with food security and climate change in a way that allows nature to do most of the work. Many currently accepted agricultural practices are being rendered invalid by the new research. If we put this new knowledge to work we can rapidly reverse soil degradation and return a lot of the excess climate warming CO2 in the atmosphere back into the soil. The really big challenge is to re-educate ourselves in the short time available. The French government recognizes this and at the Paris COP21 meeting proposed an agricultural initiative (known as "4 pour 1000") to increase soil carbon by 0.4% per year. As of Nov 2016, thirty three countries have agreed to participate with the notable exceptions of Canada and the US. There are a lot of interesting soil physics challenges."
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