Why Getting Dirty Can Help Save the World

I owe soil an apology.2015 Year of Soil 2

For many years I only considered soil as dirt, mud, insignificant, yuck! If you were like me, the only time you thought about soil was when you were washing it off your boots after a hike in the woods or perhaps you cursed it as you removed weeds from your garden. I have walked all over soil, literally and philosophically. Now I know better, and I want to share why.

Directly or indirectly, soil provides the nutrition for the majority of our food – upon which our nutrition depends. Simply stated, soil is our food’s food! The bad news is that experts estimate that we only have about 60 years of topsoil left!

What’s the Big Deal?

Soil is very much alive. And, it is complex – there are more organisms in a handful of soil than there are people on the earth! Soil breaths and absorbs carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor. It plays many roles – from providing food and medicine to absorbing rainwater to serving as the foundation for roads and buildings. Without healthy soil, we would not have access to healthy food. Human life could not exist.

Our Soil is in Trouble = We are in Trouble

As a non-renewable resource, it is scary to think that “33% of land is moderately to highly degraded due to the erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution of soils.”

Today, we are destroying our soil. Approximately every minute “30 football fields of soil are lost, mostly due to irresponsible, unsustainable farming techniques” and as a result, “we are losing 10 million hectares of farmland every year.” Soil is so critical to life that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has marked 2015 as the International Year of Soils with the tagline Healthy Soils for a Healthy IYS_logos_01Life. Even Julia Roberts and the Dalai Lama have pledged their support to raise awareness on the importance of healthy soil through the Save our Soils campaign! It makes sense that our precious soil is in the spotlight because if we don’t change our attitude and treatment, we will face serious consequences.

Organic to the Rescue

Soil is a precious resource that we can help preserve through organic farming practices! As Save our Soils eloquently states, “Organic growers restore degraded soils, prevent erosion, make soils resistant to droughts and floods, stimulate biodiversity, mitigate climate change by increasing soil organic carbon and enhance pest and disease resistance of crops.” It’s quite simple, an organic farmer relies on soil as one of his or her key resources, thereby compelling an organic farmer to care for and maintain the soil naturally. Soil is treated as a major input for yield in organic farming – healthy soil is the only option for success. As Save our Soils highlights, organic soil is good for our climate, health, biodiversity, and fresh water.

How Can You Get Dirty and Help?

So perhaps (hopefully!) after reading the facts, you are like me – realizing that soil is more than just dirt, and you want to roll up your sleeves and help. Here are some ideas to get your hands dirty:

  1. Support Organic: Soil is another reason why you should choose to support organic food and manage this precious resource.
  2. Compost: Capture the nutrients in your food scrap by composting them and returning those nutrients to soil. You improve your garden’s nutrition while reducing your volume of trash.
  3. Sharing any one of these key important messages with others:
    • Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production.
    • Soils are the foundation for vegetation which is cultivated or managed for feed, fiber, fuel, and medicinal products.
    • Soils support our planet’s biodiversity and they host a quarter of the total.
    • Soils help to combat and adapt to climate change by playing a key role in the carbon cycle.
    • Soils store and filter water, improving our resilience to floods and droughts.
    • Soil is a non-renewable resource; its preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future.

Let us know if you are ready to get dirty and help save our environment, society, and health.

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