A Critical Physical Geography Perspective on Soil Degradation
Soils are being destroyed at alarming rates worldwide (or so it is often claimed), but the level of attention to such destruction tends to be feeble. The situation is little helped by conventional scientific and institutional views. Focusing on case studies, some of the ways are discussed whereby these conventional views contribute to creating more problems than solutions towards preventing negative human impacts on soils. Alternative explanations of soil degradation will be discussed to clarify the main causal factors, which is helpful towards formulating more effective action to counteract the problem. An ecosocialist perspective on Critical Physical Geography will be described and argued to be more appropriate to the task than what has so far been on offer, such as evaluating soil functions according to ecosystem services and, in practice, under-developing (and even dismantling) soil monitoring programmes. Such an approach entails critical attentiveness to capitalist relations at multiple scales and sensitivity to the specificity of local eco-social contexts. Unlike conventional approaches, the objective would be, not unlike past efforts like Science for the People, to promote ecologically sustainable egalitarian practices, rather than contributing to the reproduction of existing relations of domination or to the reduction of the rest of nature to a set of commodities.