Terrain, topsoil and Triage

CC-BY (VermEcology 2015)
Published: 30 July 2019
Last edited: 30 July 2019
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We all face consequences of natural Environment problems that become more serious and urgent. The analogy is a medical disaster. The solution is Environmental Triage.

Three main issues (in order of importance) are Extinction, Climate and  Pollution. Where is extinction most severe? Soil supports 98% of global biodiversity and is compromised by topsoil erosion rate at 2,000 tonnes per second (prevention: organic farming). Carbon dioxide is removed from the air by photosynthesis and storage in humus (solution: vermicomposting all organic "wastes" as natural fertilizer). Chemical poisons are mainly from agricultural fertilizers & biocides (solution, again, is organic farming and permaculture design). Soil provides 99% of human food (just 0.5% of calorific value comes from oceans); soil supports 98% of biodiversity and biomass; all rainwater is filtered by soil via earthworm burrows. Only industry-funded studies support chemical farming. The major deficit is lack of a Soil Ecology Institute.


Central America
East Asia
East Europe
East and South Africa
North Africa
North America
North Europe
North and Central Asia
South America
South Asia
Southeast Asia
West Asia, Middle East
West and Central Africa
West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Desert ecosystems
Forest ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Green roofs / Green walls
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Hot desert
Rangeland / Pasture
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate evergreen forest
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Tropical deciduous forest
Tropical evergreen forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Food security
Genetic diversity
Science and research
Other theme
Sustainable development goals
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation
SDG 8 – Decent work and economic growth
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Other targets
soil invertebrates
(almost all ignored by Aichi).
Business engagement approach
Indirect through consumers
Indirect through financial institutions


Odawara Shi, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan | Global


Realization that we depend upon topsoil for 99% of food and for filtering & storage of all rainwater requires a major change of focus from the atmosphere, rivers, forests and oceans onto the soil. This is brought into relief (literally!) by consideration of terrain and neglected topsoil. When these are tallied the actual surface area of Earth exposed to the Sun, air and rainfall is more than doubled. The sea remains level. Productivity and biodiversity on land are also raised. Perhaps most importantly, the organic carbon stored in topsoil is raised from current estimate of just 1,500 Gt to more than 8,500 Gt globally and all atmospheric carbon dioxide is processed via leaf litter through the intestines of earthworms in about 12-year cycles.

Organic farming and permaculture aim to conserve soil carbon, soil moisture and soil biodiversity whilst also providing a healthy abundance of food. Chemical farming that is heavily subsidized and allowed to freely pollute and poison people and other organisms is mainly supported only by venal, industry-funded studies. There is little or no independent research. 

Just one example: a recent scientific study shows chemical farming depletes earthworms by 80% on average compared to organic that has the same or higher yields. Self-destructive persistence with chemical farming makes neither economic nor ecological sense when there are better ways.

Contributed by

Rob Blakemore VermEcology, KPMNH