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Sustainability News

ASU Sustainability News

February 20, 2013

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for life. It is added to fields to help farmers boost their crops and feed the growing number of humans on Earth.

Yet this critical rock is increasingly scarce. It is commonly overused in agricultural fields, which leads to polluted streams and lakes.  Without a change in attitudes of policy-makers, research ingenuity and sustainable strategies, this essential component to life on Earth may join oil on the "endangered species" list.

In an online article posted on ScienceNews Feb. 7, writer Roberta Kwok takes an in depth look at phosphorus – why we need it, how we waste it, and what we can do to reduce the demand for it, as well as find sustainable policies for our future.

In the article, James Elser, a professor in Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences and a Sustainability Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability, says it's time to draw attention to the problem.

"I call it the biggest problem you've never heard of," says Elser, an ecologist and co-organizer of the Sustainable Phosphorus Initiative at ASU.

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