Sustainable soils, sustainable communities: Promoting the environmental and social sustainability of human-soil interactions in Iowa
Few environmental factors play as significant a role in shaping ecological and social communities as soil. Soil performs a number of functions that are critical to humanity. The incredible capacity of soil to support life does not make it immune to abuse. Although agriculture is often cited as the primary culprit, the degradation of soils is not limited to farmers. Urban populations also contribute to soil degradation through ignorance and tacit support of unsustainable soil management practices. If unsustainable soil management practices are to be stopped, then both rural and urban populations must take action to better understand and interact with soil. This thesis examines two strategies that have the potential to improve the sustainability of human interactions with soil. One strategy is implementing rye cover crops in corn/soybean cropping systems. The other strategy involves teaching urban youth about the role that soils play in personal and environmental health.