As we celebrate the holidays and look forward to a New Year, we have many valuable natural resources in this country to enjoy. Our soils, water and air are second to none. We must continue to remind ourselves, in these turbulent times, how great a nation we are and how important our precious resources are to feeding the 7 billion and more people on this earth. As a country we export a third of our crops overseas, so many people depend on the United States for food.
A common way to think about the importance of soils is to use an apple to represent the plant Earth. If the apple is cut into four wedges, about three apple wedges or 75% of the earth is water located in oceans, lakes and streams. The remaining quarter of an apple slice represents the land area of the Earth. Now cut this quarter apple slice in half or 1/8 sections. About 1/8 of the earth’s land is found in swamps, deserts, mountainous areas, arctic and antarctic areas that are not suitable for human food production or human habitation. The remaining 1/8 apple slice represents a land suitable for human life.
Then cut the remaining 1/8 habitable apple piece lengthwise into four equal parts with four 1/32 apple sections. The first section 1/32 represents regions of the world where the soil is too rocky or of poor quality for any type of food production. The second piece 1/32 represents regions of the world too humid for food production. The third section represents the lands that have been developed by humans into cities, roads, parking lots, etc. Now carefully cut the skin off the last 1 / 32nd of the apple. This thin ribbon makes up about 3% of the Earth’s land mass and makes up the entire topsoil of the planet where food can be grown.
Every year, agricultural land is lost to development due to an annual growth rate of 1.1% of the human population. Almost a million acres of land in the United States is lost to land development every year or in five years, an area equal to that of the state of Massachusetts. Ohio currently had 13.6 million acres of farmland with 77,800 farms. About 7 million acres of farmland have been lost to development in Ohio since the 1950s.
About 44% of Ohio’s farmland is considered prime farmland, the fifth largest in the country. Ohio has lost more top-quality farmland to development than any other state except Texas. Best-in-class agricultural land is defined by “good soil quality, growing season and adequate moisture supply necessary to produce high and sustainable crop yields when processed and managed in accordance with acceptable farming methods. , including water management ”. Quality agricultural land does not erode, is not excessively flooded, and is not saturated with water for long periods of time. Ohio is a leading agricultural state, with food and agriculture being the No.1 industry.
Water is another precious resource. Only 3% of the water on earth is fresh water but only 0.3% is usable for human consumption. About 69% of fresh water resides in glaciers and more than 30% is underground. The 0.3% resides in the surface water of lakes, rivers and streams and is the main source of water for human daily use. Fortunately, this area constitutes about 22,300 cubic miles of fresh water.
The Midwest and Ohio have abundant water resources. The Great Lakes represent 22% of the planet’s fresh water in lakes. Just after the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, the Great Lakes are the second largest surface freshwater resource in the world and account for about 95% of the usable freshwater in the United States. The Great Lakes contain enough water to cover all of the lower 48 states to a depth of almost 10 feet.
Ohio is blessed with water resources, with Lake Erie providing drinking water to at least 11 million people. Lake Erie contains over 75% of all Great Lakes fish because it is shallow and all of the water that enters Lake Erie drains within 2 to 3 years. The western basin of Lake Erie has the highest level of sport fishing of any of the Great Lakes.
Finally, the air quality in the United States has greatly improved thanks to the Clean Air Act of 1990. From 1980 to 2020, gross domestic product increased by 173%, energy consumption increased by 19%. , kilometers traveled by vehicles increased by 85% and the United States saw a 46% increase in population growth; however, total air pollutant emissions fell 73%.