Marine pollution takes many forms, from the millions of gallons of oil that run off our highways each year to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive gyre of floating plastic trash. But the most devastating pollutants are the nitrogen and phosphorus found in our fertilizer and sewage. When too much of either washes downstream, coastal waters become choked with heavily fertilized algae, which then dies and decomposes, consuming the oxygen in the water and asphyxiating animal life. This process, called eutrophication, has created at least 405 "dead zones" worldwide.
Human sewage is the top source of eutrophication in the developing world, but in the U.S., Europe and China, animal waste and fertilizer are the main culprits. Every year in the U.S. alone, some 10 billion chickens, 80 million cows and 149 million pigs produce 500 million tons of manure, much of which is sprayed on fields. Farmers also add another 55 million tons of synthetic fertilizer to their cropland, much of which washes back into the watershed. The result: The largest dead zone on Earth spreads from the mouth of the Mississippi. In the summer, when Midwestern agricultural runoff reaches its peak, it can grow to be the size of New Jersey.
Eutrophication is reversible. In the 1980s, for instance, the Black Sea contained the planet's largest dead zone. But when the Soviet Union disintegrated, farmers there could no longer gain access to synthetic fertilizer; by 1996 the dead zone had disappeared entirely.
Similar results can be achieved without societal collapse. Improved wastewater treatment and more restrictions on livestock-manure management will help. But the greatest gains can be had simply by abandoning plowing. Over the past two and a half decades, farmers have adopted "no-till" methods on 36 percent of U.S. cropland. They leave the stubble and root structure of last year's crops in place, plant new seeds using modern seed drills, and deposit fertilizer beneath the surface using fertilizer injectors.
In doing so, they reduce phosphorus runoff by about 40 percent, atmospheric nitrogen release by about half, and overall erosion by up to 98 percent—and achieve equal yields using just half the energy. "Still," says David R. Montgomery, the author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, "only about 5 percent of the world's farmland is worked with no-till methods. What happens on the rest may well shape the course of civilization."
If the fertilizer is injected into the ground, will it allow the pollutants to enter our aquifers and eventually totally contaminate them, or do the layers in the ground above the aquifers destroy the pollutants or convert them into harmless compounds?
Well there is always the eugenics argument. The planet can safely support 500 million people we just do away with 6 and a half billion people. Simple right? Now who gets to choose who gets to live and who gets to die? The answer is so simple its staring everyone in the face Spread out...everyone farm your own vegetables...raise your own oats...rotate your crops between three fields always leaving one fallow. Stop using oil horses are cheaper. quit being greedy and needing to have the biggest and the best. Stop being lazy we were meant to work for our food and struggle for survival. If you need improvements in your life improve yourself first. The safest house begins with a strong foundation. Stop building your life on SAND! I would rather live 50 years working honestly to eat and enjoy the little things than live a hundred to enjoy what destroys.
Garthog nailed it, the world is dying because people feel the need to get more out of their work than it's worth... that includes raping HUGE parcels of land for mono-cropping... we have over a billion acres of land in the U.S. there's no reason that there shouldn't be a law that you produce a good portion of your own food, deal with your wastes in a natural way, reduce the packaging you buy, shit, reduce all the crap, start loving each other and the earth and the benefits of working again... that doesn't mean we can't have things like internet or anything... ALL farms near water should be required to maintain a distance of say 200 ft from the water, use no till methods, and cover crops for the winter time, like alfalfa.... improve the soil, decrease runoff into the waters...reduce farming pollution by doing things properly, instead of using the power of oil to do things the lazy way, to get more than you worked for, honestly, arggg, we need a freaking Hobbit Ray Gun, that turns everyone into little happy gardeners who love to eat and actually live in the earth.....
.... and love it. Greedy assed modern humans.... we're reaping what we sow...
i don't eat animals and every piece of produce I consume is either locally grown and organic. I do not contribute to the destruction of this planet and I wish more people would get on board.
I would challenge you to come try farming shutterpod. Cover crops don't work everywhere. There just isn't enough of a growing season. While it may not be 200 feet I don't know of any farmer who farm right up to the edge of a waterway or any sort of water. There are usually grass buffers between the field and the water. Also, no till does not work everywhere and it doens't give equal yields to fields worked with normal cultivation practices. But please, come on out and try your idealistic methods of farming and see how long you make it. Its true no-till is cheaper, and as such if it worked so great everyone would be doing it, but the truth is it hurts yields. And how do you propose we feed the world without petrolium powered equipment? If you have the answer to that you could retire a millionaire.
As for the deadzone. I don't deny that some of the runoff is from farms. Thats how erosion works. However, I'd like to see how much of it comes from cities as well. How many lbs of fertilizer per acre do people put on their lawns. And then how much to they water them, which runs off to the curb and down the storm drain to the nearest river. How many golf courses do the same thing but have water hazards flowing through the middle of them? Farmers are trying to run a business and will only put on as much fertilizer as is absolutley needed. Mostly cause it costs so much. But people overfertilize their lawn every year. I'm not against taking some of the blame with farmers but I refuse to take all of it.
My grampa was a farmer, small time, he had 20 acres for more than 40 years that he planted beans, or corn, or wheat in, depending on the rotation... he had a huge home garden that I still dream about, he did the food, and gramma did the ornamentals, and I loved growing up there, it was a fantastic experience, and it's shaped my life... I farm my yard, I live on a 1/3 acre lot in a manufactured home, western Washington, i grow all kinds of stuff; this year I'm doing turnips, carrots, beets, asparagus, tomatoes, basil, sage, thyme, onions, chives, potatoes, radishes, artichokes, oregano, stevia... and lots of ornamentals too...
We're the only residents on the whole block with a tiny pond that attracts frogs and birds, we have a couple goldfish in it, and rescue pacific chorus frog tadpoles from puddles that dry up too quickly....
I grew up in central Ohio, and know quite a bit about farming habits there; the rivers are little more than mudflows, and the reservoirs, well, I wouldn't eat anything out of them.... private ponds for fish for dinner only...
Why do we need to feed the world? The people who live in places that can't support them.... well.... maybe they shouldn't be having so many kids, maybe they should be learning how to take care of themselves.... what'd they do before the industrial use of petroleum?? Artificially supporting a society can't last... there aren't enough resources for infinite growth... some people are going to die because of their circumstances, and it's up to each generation to do what they can to survive....
Gargantuan monoculture farms were created by farmers who wanted to 'get ahead'.... and in their getting, for 200 years or more, they've destroyed the land which could support them naturally, so long as society didn't get greedy and throw everything out of whack...
One of the only creatures on Earth that can either adapt to their environment and fit in with the ecosystem through their superior intelligence and problem solving....or that can manipulate and change the environment to suit them, and to hell with the rest....
I know which I prefer better....
@shutterpod: Tell that to the 50 million Americans living in cities like New York. It isn't the "greedy" farmers who demand that the local grocery store has cheap, convenient food available at any season of the year. This problem is not caused by farmers, but by people who like to live somewhat near where they work. Of course everyone could live out in the country and grow their own food, but then they'd have to spend way more resources on gasoline to get back and forth to work! I wonder which would be worse for the environment.
Its easy to talk about tilling your own land and providing for yourself when at the end of the day if your yields are bad, you can go down to the local grocery store and buy food for your family, however, when your not in a place blessed to have the surplus of foods that we have here poor yields equals starvation, not only for you but, for your children. That is a situation I am unwilling to risk.
And to say that people should not have children based on our perception of the future we want to build for Mother Earth is arrogance and shows a lack of empathy. Our generation in the United States have the privilege to have as few or as many children as we see fit and I believe that is a right we as humans should have in the modern era and not fear malnutrition and starvation in our children due to poor yields.
Specialization created civilization, doctors heal, farmers grow, smiths smith and lawyers debate law. Without it we would be subject to the whims of nature, I understand that is not a negative idea for some, but the idea of not coming home because a bear ate me, or dying of diarrhea because their are no doctors does not appeal to my modern sensibilities. I for one believe that while it is a novel idea to see everyone doing their part and giving back to the system at large in some way, there should be farmers on massive farms growing food so that scientists, artists, businessmen, lawyers, doctors, engineers, janitors, teachers, politicians, fry cooks, and whatever else profession someone may choose can focus on their discipline and become better at it while farmers focus on theirs.
we need to start trying to become like shutterpod,farming for oursleves has anybody even thought of what will happen 30-50 years from now when petro reascourses are gone?
first there will be panic.People will want to save buy as much as the can befor it is out.Next there will be starvation.not everyone knows how to farm and hunt and many people WILL go hungry.thirdly there will be a Holocaust. billions will die because there is not enough land to go around only 1-3 billon can live in surviveable places.
Im not trying to be a doomsayer but if we live like we are now this may be our future and the worst is i havent added the possibility of war over oil leading to WWIII beacuase of oil shortages or the fact that we will have huge deadzones or that people will be having local wars over who gets to settle where.
This is why we need to make renweable reasources wide spread and pratice more economic ways of life and though this won't be exacly like the way of life we have now it will be better than the way of life before oil was discoverd to be useful.So stock up on you seed survival guides and booksso that when the oil crisis come you'll be ready
The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is the modern day version of the giant Kraken told to gullible land dwellers. I have been through that area many times and we never had a problem with our sea strainers.
I can tell you there is massive volcanic activity off the coast of Alaska and three active volcanoes under the Arctic ice cap.
One volcano can spew far more chemicals than six billion people flushing their toilets, and fertilizing their lawn / garden.
really, there have always been volcanoes, if they spewed so much we would all be dead, your comments are pure ignorance, you sound like you work for fox news
@drchuck1 -The oceans are salty for a reason (volcanoes). I challenge you to go out and find this "Great Pacific Garbage Patch". Some say it is the size of Texas. Claim this new land in the name of drchuck1. I've been there many times and it ain't there.
Runoff is a major problem, however I wouldn't blame agriculture. Yes farms occasionally produce runoff, but fertilizer costs them money. Ag tech is has allowed farmers to use precision farming. Through gps equipment and soil testing, farmers are able to map yields in specific areas. Meaning, they would only fertilize in spots showing lower yields. Also, as a farm friend told me, the farm gets more money per square yard (government subsidies) by planting runoff buffer grass than the crops themselves.
I would say a bigger contributor to the problem is private citizens, golf courses, and worst of all combined sewage treatment plants. These treatment plants after having reached maximum capacity due to rain simply lets the overflow into streams.
I think the garbage patch is just symbolizing of the amount of garbage being dumped each year (via estimates). There is floating garbage patches out their but by driving around in the ocean randomly trying to fine it would take you probably your whole life without a keen idea of the GPS location(s).
Garden ponds will create a peaceful welcoming atmosphere.