ancient seafloors
May 26, 2020 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Eaters Of The Earth - "Phosphate rock allowed farmers to stop using manure fertilizer, kicking us into the modern era of agriculture. But those who live near the mining industry’s epicenter fear its huge towers of radioactive sludge will pour into their backyards." posted by the man of twists and turns (11 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thanks for posting - the impact of the world's dependence on phosphate has been something I've loosely followed over time (its on and off been a big deal in NZ as we've imported significant amounts of it and still do I understand). See also Nauru: An Island Country Destroyed by Phosphate Mining and the Western Sahara phosphate mines with the largest conveyor belt in the world (about 61 miles long) quite visible on Google maps (on the satellite view the line from Bou Craa to the coast in the north-west)
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:07 PM on May 26 [6 favorites]


Either we start reusing human excreta as fertilizer over the next century or agriculture collapses. We know where the phosphorus is and aren't finding new mineable sources.

We can capture phosphorus by mining magnesium and mineralizing phosphorus in sewage (at fairly high financial and energy costs) into struvite, which is also unsustainable but on a much longer timeline, or we stop using water-borne sanitation systems.

In the short-term you'll see rising urine reuse, since 80% of phosphorus is in urine.
posted by head full of air at 1:16 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing this is one of the Polk County, FL facilities. Very stark.

Canada digs up ancient seafloor in the huge potash operations in SK.
posted by scruss at 1:59 PM on May 26


> We know where the phosphorus is and aren't finding new mineable sources

"We know where the X is and that there can't be any giant deposits we don't know about" is pretty much the story of every kind of nonrenewable resource at this point, right? It's been pretty clear for a long time now that there aren't any more Saudi Arabias waiting around to produce petroleum, for example. You'd think people would have learned to recognize that and to stop acting like supplies are inexhaustible, but you'd be wrong.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 2:11 PM on May 26


again, it's not that we don't know that supplies are finite, it's that those who control resource extraction don't give a fuck about anything except profits and anyone except themselves. Stop saying it's a "people" problem when it's rampant capitalism.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:31 PM on May 26 [7 favorites]


Yes, NZ is thoroughly (blog post from my wife) involved in this. It's a dangerous rabbit hole to follow too far tho' from this end. Many Kilograms are lost per hectare every year and we just keep buying more (and practicing genocide along the way). And yes peak phosphate is about 2036 - no pic but when I visited the London Design Museum in 2010 there was a periodic table with a years in each box - Phospate was 2036.

And we are SO wasteful with the use of phosphate - the primary management tool NZ farmers are more or less forced into using has the two main phosphate suppliers as 'partners'. Understandably there has been very little reduction in loss of P to rivers and much of our country is now polluted - also some contains phosphate Cadmium which is accumulating to toxic levels on some farms
posted by unearthed at 3:03 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Nice Article! I made a Map that included the Countries with a Large Percentage (over 30%) of Tile Drain Agriculture --Ghost Wetlands like the Kankakee Marshes. These lands used to be very jealous of nitrate and phosphate, now they spill it out into local and regional rivers. These areas receive the fertilizer, and much of it just washes down the tile drain, into Lake Erie and Drinking Water supply, and then down to the Gulf of Mexico.

When it gets to the Gulf, it forms a Dead Zone that keeps us from eating more local seafood.

Fun Fact! Yazoo City and Donaldsonville are #1 and #2 ranked "Worst Cities" in the US. You can view the ammonia releases and complaints at alerts.skytruth.org.
posted by eustatic at 5:50 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Scruss, zoom out on your link and you see a bunch more similar visual areas in that area...
posted by Windopaene at 6:09 PM on May 26


I'm guessing this is one of the Polk County, FL facilities. Very stark.

I took an Environmental Geology class when I was at the University of South Florida. We visited one of those mines -- it looked like the moon. Of course the official tour included a "restored" area with grass and flowers and lakes and herons, but our professor told us (that it's they it's basically an outdoor zoo they built, lacking in natural biodiversity. And that the real damage isn't even the mine itself, but runoff from the fertilizer.
posted by Foosnark at 5:32 AM on May 27


"Quorum sensing" - the microbials know the way.
posted by Mesaverdian at 6:45 PM on May 27


it's not that we don't know that supplies are finite, it's that those who control resource extraction don't give a fuck about anything except profits and anyone except themselves. Stop saying it's a "people" problem when it's rampant capitalism.

You listen to the max capitalism people and it's like they are personally offended if 100% resource exploitation isn't happening everywhere all the time.
posted by Mitheral at 10:25 AM on June 1


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