The director of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Professor Stephen Carpenter has decried the wanted use of artificial fertilizers like phosphorus and nitrogen as going beyond the “planetary boundaries” set to make our Earth inhabitable.
“We’re running up to and beyond the biophysical boundaries that enable human civilization as we know it to exist,” says Carpenter.
The Earth was a much better place to live during the Holocene period, because civilization improved the lot of man and the period was conducive to refined development in social, political and religious aspects. “Everything important to civilisation,” Carpenter contends, took place prior to 1914. “The development of agriculture, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and the Industrial Revolution” were some of the best thing that happened to our world – until about 100 years ago when the activities of man began to destroy the earth.
Prof. Carpenter and his team of researchers examined the problems and impact of carbon-driven global warming and how it affects sea level rise and biodiversity loss among others; and they came up with a discovery that “We’ve (people) changed nitrogen and phosphorus cycles vastly more than any other element. (The increase) is on the order of 200 to 300 percent. In contrast, carbon has only been increased 10 to 20 percent and look at all the uproar that has caused in the climate.”
The researchers stated that the use of artificial phosphorus and nitrogen to boost agriculture in the US is unnecessary because the land is already blessed with rich nutrients beneficial for bumpa harvests; he added that the excessive use of these elements in a land already rich with them has an impact on the Earth and pushing the inhabitability of the earth beyond “planetary boundaries.”
Since phosphorus and nitrogen do not have even distribution in the soil, it is richer in the United States than in places like Africa, hence the problem Africans face with growing food without artificial fertilizers. “We’ve got certain parts of the world that are overpolluted with nitrogen and phosphorus, and others where people don’t even have enough to grow the food they need,” he says.
He advised industrial farmers to cut down on the wanton use of phosphorus and nitrogen because it is upsetting the ecosystem. “It might be possible for human civilization to live outside Holocene conditions, but it’s never been tried before,” Carpenter says. “We know civilization can make it in Holocene conditions, so it seems wise to try to maintain them.”