Earth’s Spheres

Earth is a super unique planet. What makes it really stand out is its SPHERES aka its subsystems that allow it to operate in the way that it does.

Here are the four spheres & their respective focuses:

  1. Atmosphere – Air
  2. Hydrosphere – Water
  3. Geo-/Lith – osphere – Earth
  4. Biosphere – Life

Solar energy from the sun is what drives energy through all of these spheres.

The biosphere is the main subsystem, with all of the other spheres working together to maintain the biosphere.

The hydrosphere is what really sets Earth apart from other planets – especially LIQUID water. Water can go through all the different phases on Earth (solid, liquid, gas).

Earth is JUST RIGHT. It has the perfect mass for our atmosphere type, as it protects us from harmful UV and stabilizes temperature. It also has a perfect magnetosphere and electric field – just enough to protect us from dangerous solar wind.

Earth is amazzzzing and all of these spheres are at constant work to make our home habitable. Yay for Earth!

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

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Climate History

Global Change was one of my favorite courses in college. One of the very first topics covered was Climate History. Climate change deniers often say that the Earth has always changed – and they are right! Actually, when climate change deniers say this, they are proving themselves wrong. They should probably clarify that they believe humans don’t cause climate change. They’re wrong about that, but that’s a story for another day.

The Earth is a living being, always changing and reforming itself.

The Earth is also old. We don’t know much about its history. We just approximate. So, here’s science’s guess at what the Earth’s climate has been like:

*BYA = Billions of Years Ago *MYA = Millions of Years Ago

  1. Precambrian – 4.6-2.5 BYA
    • NO LIFE existed at this time. It was just super hot and full of radioactivity.
  2. Late Precambrian – 2.5-0.5 BYA
    • Period of glaciation and cool down. There is ice at the south pole.
  3. Paleozoic – 570-100 MYA
    • Time of Pangea. Plants! More oxygen.
  4. Late Cretaceous – 100 MYA
    • Dinosaurs exist. No ice caps, so lots of water.
  5. Late Cenozoic – 100-1.7 MYA
    • Lots of changes! 50-80% of all living things die due to a predicted wild wind storm, global fire, massive tsunami, and drought. All potentially due to an asteroid impact. Asteroid is thought to have happened due to evidence of asteroid dust and iridium. The planets starts to cool.
  6. Pleistocene – 1.7-0.01 MYA
    • Series of ice ages where it cools, then warms. Ice sheets and a continent over the North Pole.
  7. Holocene – 10,000 YA- today
    • Earth slowly warming. Oscillation between warm and cold, due to many many factors. Little ice ages, then industrial revolution, and Great Warming.

Earth changes whether we like it or not. I’m not really worried about Earth. It’s gonna be around a looong time. I’m worried about humans. Whether or not we cause the changes to climate, we still have the responsibility to address those changes and come up with solutions to our survival based on those changes.

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Trash Talk

The wrapper goes in the garbage, the food scraps go on the curb, and the poop goes down the toilet.

The modern day, domesticated human does not have to come to terms with their waste most days.

Our garbage is out of sight. Once it gets hauled away in that stinky truck, it’s not our problem.

“Just throw it out”. That’s what we say. It’s sooo easy!

Look, I’m not trying to say we should altogether stop making trash. I’m not so naive.

Instead, I’d like to use this thought and post to take some time to reflect on our ancestors and how they dealt with their waste.

I wonder what their perspective was on waste. Was “waste” even much of a concept for them?

Or, was it an area of renewal and opportunity?

They probably didn’t waste much. They used as much of their environment as they could, likely.

For us, though, our environment is manufactured. It is not natural.

Right now, for instance. I am surrounded by screens, a candle, pencil holder, a closet full of ‘junk’, a planner, and a giant water glass.

Our ancestors didn’t have so many THINGS. I don’t think waste was much of their concern.

How can we live more like our ancestors? I often imagine my body operating in a primitive world. I encourage you to do the same!

That’s all for now.

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

Recommended resource: https://www.roadrunnerwm.com/blog/history-of-garbage

Soil v. Soil?

What if I told you that the bagged soil you’re buying from the store is not actually SOIL?

Well, it’s the truth. Here’s how it works.

To start, we must first acknowledge there are little to no regulations on labelling soil. There are many bagged soil brands that include no listed ingredients whatsoever. No two bags of soil are the same. So, this post is more general than specific.

Natural soil, which is found, yep NATURALLY, from the ground, also varies in contents. Some soil contains lots of sand, others is more like clay. The type of soil on site depends on the environment.

Natural soil also contains minerals from rocks. More specifically, the minerals ARE what makes soil, soil. This is key, in that bagged soil usually lacks these minerals.

Bagged soil is usually a mix of peat, compost, and perlite. Bagged soil therefore lacks many essential nutrients that natural soil offers. This is why most gardens (indoor and outdoor) “require” fertilization. The bagged soil does not sustain nor offer the adequate amount of minerals and nutrients that the plants require overtime.

Okay. Short post today. But important subject, especially for gardeners!

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

Biogeo-wha? Biogeochemical Processes & Why You Need to Care

Biogeochemical processes are essential to sustainability because they work as regulatory cycles for the Earth – think homeostasis. Biogeochemical processes are systems like the water, Nitrogen, Carbon, and Phosphorous cycles, etc.

The elements that are involved in these processes provide resources that humans, and other organisms, use for living.

Understanding these cycles is important when thinking about sustainability because when we alter the state of a cycle, such as with using pesticides or emitting an excess of carbon, we are disturbing the flow of the cycle.

In other words, the balance of the cycle will be offset. The process is no longer able to be successful in renewing resources, or elements.

Understanding how the cycles move will be beneficial in figuring out exactly what activities are causing effects and how. By studying, we will also have an idea of what signs to look for when a cycle is being disturbed, such as a lack of precipitation, algal blooms or excess heat.

If we fail to understand how the cycles work then when they begin to change due to our behaviors, we will have no idea how to fix the problems or change our actions. We need to be able to understand them enough to develop a mutual relationship with them, instead of acting like a predator on our own homeland.

If we know the process of the elements, we can find potential intervention points in them to help replenish what we take. For example, we could develop a means of replacing the role plants play in the water, oxygen and carbon cycles. Or, we could develop a new, sustainable, safe and cost-effective way to grow plants for our rapidly growing population in order to reduce our reliance on fertilizers that disrupt the phosphorous and nitrogen cycle.

These cycles are what regulate our habitat and provide us our basic human needs: water, food and air, and even provide us with life by making up our DNA. It is our responsibility to understand and protect the biogeochemical processes.

Hope you have a newfound appreciation of the magic, oop I mean biogeochemical processes!

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

Does Industry Create Solutions or Problems?

In order to satiate the hunger of a growing consumer population in the United States, farming turns to technology to produce high yields of food through industrial agriculture. As the name suggests, the beginning of this new agriculture style is linked to the industrial revolution.

This new, convenient method is an achievement for humanity, but experts explain that industrial agriculture contributes to numerous forms of environmental degradation and human health issues (2002).

Due to the various stakeholders including farmers, consumers, manufacturers, government, etc., the issue has a vague problem definition depending on perspective. For example, a consumer may love the low prices on goods, but rural communities might be devasted as their town deteriorates (2002).

Similarly, industrial agriculture is unique because one region might experience water contamination, another might be concerned with declining agriculture jobs, and another could be considering the environmental costs of transporting food.

Endless viewpoints exist.

Additionally, there is an undefined solution because of the multiple components to be addressed, such as water use, quality, and the economic effect.

For instance, one proposed solution is genetically engineering food in a lab, but there is concern for harmful GMOs. Solutions just create more problems in other arenas.

Not only are solutions unclear but there is no endpoint in sight because even if we implement sustainable practices, we will continue to evolve them as our world never ceases to progressively change.

We cannot overthrow our system and promptly experiment other methods momentarily because our lives depend on food to sustain our own bodies, making the effects irreversible.

As an example, when using soil for production, it takes anywhere from 20 to 1,000 years for a centimeter of soil to form (2002). Given all that is to be considered with industrial agriculture, there is an ambiguous time limit, making this wicked problem one of urgency.

The fragile state of natural resources is declining rapidly. We must find solutions quickly before the turmoil of hunger, economic instability and ecological hardship strikes.

This problem is significant to me personally because I have loved eating from a very early age. My favorite food used to be a juicy Italian beef with mozzarella cheese, but when a friend told me about the environmental impact, I immediately felt in my gut that eating conventional meat was no longer an option.

We all can act with our dollar, and therefore this subject is representative of the beginning of my direct involvement in practicing sustainability.

We will discuss wicked problems in more detail in a future post. Stay tuned!

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

Hendrickson, M. K., & James, H. S. (2005). The Ethics of Constrained Choice: How the Industrialization of Agriculture Impacts Farming and Farmer Behavior. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 18(3), 269–291. doi: 10.1007/s10806-005-0631-5

Horrigan, L., Lawrence, R. S., & Walker, P. (2002). How sustainable agriculture can address the environmental and human health harms of industrial agriculture. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110(5), 445–456. doi: 10.1289/ehp.02110445

Human Heart, Cosmic Heart – A Book Review

Dr. Thomas Cowan gets my heart.

That statement is true on, apparently, many different levels.

If you don’t know Dr. Thomas Cowan, I HIGHLY suggest you check out his books, ESPECIALLY this one.

Human Heart, Cosmic Heart takes the reader through multitudes of scenarios to get a deep, holistic understanding to truly comprehend just what the heck is happening in beneath our chest’s skin.

Dr. Cowan starts off by getting personal. He debunks common, blindly followed, information on how the heart works.

He takes us through the interworkings of how the blood moves, how the heart moves, WHY the blood moves, WHY the heart moves. These why’s are often left out in traditional teaching.

I truly feel like I am a cell in my own body when reading this book.

But, Dr. Cowan goes beyond basic anatomy and physiology. He connects the heart to gold, to money, to love, to water, to Earth, and to the universe.

If I could keep reading one book over and over, it’d be this one. I always catch something new.

This is an especially good read if you or someone you know is struggling with heart issues. This is the book for you.

Hope you like it!!! I sure do.

Okay.

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

Why Sustainable Living is Hard

Don’t waste. Don’t use so much energy. Stop creating. Reduce, reduce, reduce.

While I am all for putting an immediate stop on pollution and overall environmental deterioration, I also believe that sometimes the way we talk about these subjects can be a little uninspiring.

Who really wants to do LESS production? Or to STOP using things? I think abundance is a living being’s right (yes, not a just human right).

Sustainable living is hard because it is hard to not use plastic when it is ubiquitous. Sustainable living is hard because I kinda need to drive my car to work. It’s hard to find a home that operates on 100% renewable electricity. Heck, it’s hard to make renewable energy sustainable!

Sustainable living is hard because there are deeply embedded systems within the physical and cultural make up of society that make it hard.

Desiring abundance is, I think, natural. Of course, though, there are limits to growth that we must obey. That is also what makes sustainable living hard.

We have not yet reached our limit to the point where it affects all of our day to day lives in a very matter of fact, significant matter.

Although, when we look closely, high prices for basic necessities like food, water, and heat, can tell us that something is not quite right.

I was having a conversation with my little sister the other day. She is taking an Environmental Ethics course in college. She was preaching to the choir (me) about all of the problems in agriculture. She told me: “Tiff. I used to think you were crazy and I never really understood why you cared so much about all of these problems. But now, I see it. Now, all I can think is why doesn’t everyone else care???”.

Sustainable living is hard because we don’t see it. These problems are hidden. The way we raise animals, create energy, grow crops, produce machinery, put our waste, and treat the world at large is out of sight, and out of mind.

Yes, it’s hard. But it is NOT impossible. When more people like my sister wake up and smell the coal ash fumes and swine manure reservoirs, sustainable living will become easy because society will make it that way. Little by little.

Okay!

That’s all for now.

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

What If – Delivery Edition

There’s probably no one in America who hasn’t gotten a box delivered to their home.

Getting stuff delivered to your door is easy peezy lemon squeezy nowadays.

This is all good and well, but boy do you accumulate a ton of boxes!

So… WHAT IF delivery services provided a take-back service for boxes or other packaging? They could even offer a small, I’m talking ten- cent, discount for doing so.

Not only would this reduce waste in our *recycling* bins but will also prevent the need for further extraction, production, and transportation of said packaging and cardboard.

I could see this idea working tremendously well for companies like Amazon or Fedex – as it would boost their social image AND save them a bit of work and money as far as sourcing packaging materials.

Alrighty! That’s all for now.

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany