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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: TRACE GAS EXCHANGES IN MIDWEST CROPPING SYSTEMS Title: A Case for Ethical Arguments on the Inherent Value of Soil

Author
item Sauer, Thomas

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 10, 2005
Publication Date: November 10, 2005
Citation: Sauer, T.J. 2005. A case for ethical arguments on the inherent value of soil [Abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts. Madison, Wisconsin. CD-ROM.

Technical Abstract: Traditional soil science curriculums provide comprehensive instruction on soil physical, chemical, and biological properties and processes. By contrast, there is generally limited discussion of the soil as a natural, vital component of the earth's terrestrial ecosystems. While it is commonly accepted that other natural resources like forests and wildlife have aesthetic or intrinsic value, the soil does not enjoy such status, even among many soil scientists. Outside of academia the status of soil is often entirely utilitarian. Land is valued solely on an economic standard determined by the value of the commodities it can produce or the structures it can support. This utilitarian view has dire consequences for soil stewardship as, for example, there is no incentive to control erosion unless or until it directly impacts the economic value of the land. I will argue that soil scientists have a responsibility to educate our students and to encourage landowners to appreciate the inherent value of soil. Examples from ancient cultures show a profound respect for soil as the acknowledged source of human sustenance. This reverence for soil has persisted in ethical and theological writings on nature through the centuries. A brief review of current teachings from different faith traditions illustrates that respect for soil as a component of Creation pervades ethical and theological teachings. Strategies for introducing balanced, non-dogmatic, ethical perspectives on the inherent value of soil and arguments for soil stewardship for classroom and public presentations will be discussed.

Last Modified: 10/1/2014
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