Soil has been depleted, exhausted and eroded throughout history, and has been the ultimate cause of the collapse of almost every civilization that has come before us, as documented in David Montgomery's fascinating book, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. But one of the beautiful and hopeful things about this depressing history is that soil restoration can take place anywhere. It can be done one abandoned field at a time.
An example comes from Judith Schwartz's book, Cows Save the Planet And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth. The Loess Plateau in China, an area the size of Belgium on the Yellow River, was restored in only ten years. It was an almost barren desert swept frequently with dust storms, and considered by many to be the "most eroded place on earth."
Now the place is a "thriving agricultural region with the poverty rate lowered by half," writes Schwartz. The local farmers "built terraces, reforested sloping land (where a good deal of erosion tends to happen) and shifted to perennial crops that have deeper roots."
Somewhere along the way, the Chinese government figured out that it would cost them less money in the long run to restore the soil than it was already costing them to deal with the constant problems from all the area's topsoil eroding into the river. But of course, when they restored the soil, other problems were naturally solved too, like the poverty level of the inhabitants.
As Montgomery points out, the most fundamental resource of all terrestrial life is soil. Ignore it and we suffer. Take care of it and we all benefit.
Would you like to see large areas of the earth's soil restored? There is something you can do to help make it happen. Read more about it here: How to Stop Grasslands From Turning Into Deserts.