With the rise of the environmentalist movement in the 1960s and afterward, it has become common to speak of conserving natural resources such as trees or fossil fuels. Yet long before humans recognized the need to make responsible use of things taken from the ground, they learned to conserve the ground itself—that is, the soil. This was a hard-won lesson: failure to conserve soil has turned many a fertile farmland into temporary dust bowl or even permanent desert. Techniques such as crop rotation aid in conservation efforts, but communities continue to face hazards associated with the soil. There is, for instance, the matter of leaching, the movement of dissolved substances through the soil, which, on the one hand, can benefit it but, on the other hand, can rob it of valuable nutrients. Issues of soil contamination also raise concerns that affect not just farmers but the population as a whole.

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