If the entire land area of the planet were to be compressed into a single hectare (10 000 m²), 3 400 m² would be desert and ice. Only 1 000 m² would be suitable for planting crops.
Although the quantity of fertile soil is in fact quite limited, we generally pay little attention to this resource. And yet it is the basis for producing 90 per cent of our food, it cleans and stores water, and helps to reduce the effects of climate change.
But this resource upon which our lives depend is being stretched more and more to its limits. As the world population continues to grow, the amount of arable land available per person drops. Since 1960 this has more than halved. At present it is slightly more than 2 000 m², or about a third the size of a football field. At the same time, the heavy usage of the available land is leading to soil degradation. This means that the soil is losing its ability to support food production and to fulfill important ecological and climate functions. Once soil has been lost, it is essentially lost for good: it takes 1 000 years for a mere five cm of soil to form.
But we use the land not just for crops, but also for pasture and forests. Thus, when we eat meat or use paper, we are also always indirectly consuming land. Germans for example are using more land than we have a right to statistically—1.2 hectares per person annually. This is a global problem. And a very concrete problem that we must face in Germany as well.
The installation ONE HECTARE provides a glimpse into functions of the soil and how it is used worldwide. It sheds light on the dilemma of overuse and scarcity, and it shows how we are nevertheless squandering large amounts of this resource. In addition, it asks how land may be distributed more equally and sketches some ways that this precious resource may be used more sustainably.
Photo credit: CC IOM Haiti@Flickr.com