Why Soil Health?: Earth Day, Global Soil Week and the International Year of Soil

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In 1969, the macro view the world was able to see of our planet for the first time in a photo taken by Apollo 8 astronauts (later to be called “Earthrise”) was one of the main inspirations of the modern environmental movement.  Giving form to what was previously just a concept—that we are all just floating on a “blue marble” in an infinite universe—this photo of our Earth, giant, beautiful and vulnerable, gave people a concrete image of what we need to protect. A year later, Earth Day was born. 

We are now experiencing a new vision of environmental protection. If the last half century of the environmental movement was inspired by long lens, the next 50 years might very well be inspired by a microscope.  We continue to learn astonishing things about the earth beneath our feet, and given the fragile state of our planet, and perhaps our very existence, discovering the mysteries of soil may be the key to a sustainable future.

Dubbed the “International Year of Soil” by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2015’s events crescendo this April 19th-23rd with Global Soil Week, an international collaboration organized by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability.

The recent soil-awareness zeitgeist does not stop there.  Countless articles on soil have already flowed through media in the past year including (but certainly not limited to):  how strains of antibiotics are created from soil bacteria; how seasonal microbes in the soil help your gut when you eat seasonally;  a recent The New York Times piece on the growing popularity of soil health management practices for farmers; National Geographic’s top five things you should know about soil; Farming First’s 15 ways soil is getting healthier; and Food Tank’s tireless efforts to give us the facts about the importance of soil.

In the past few years some amazing books, including (but not limited to) Kristin Ohlson’s The Soil Will Save Us and Courtney White’s Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country have announced the importance of soil, not only as a precious natural resource but also a huge potential sink for atmospheric carbon; perhaps a method for preventing climate change.

The world is once again acknowledging the fact that the earth beneath our feet is a vital non-renewable natural resource that needs to be cared for.  Organizations like the Global Soil Partnership, the Soil Renaissance, Save Our Soils and others are in the vanguard educating the world about the importance of soil. We’re having a soil revolution! 

And a revolution is in order. While our conventional agriculture practices are great at producing food, they are not much good at conserving the soil. Combined with other soil-harming human interactions, here’s the state of things:

Our health is inextricably linked to the health of our soil. Without soil we wouldn’t be alive. If you liked what you read and want to help us support SOIL HEALTH we hope you will take the EARTH DAY EVERYDAY PLEDGEWant to dig deeper? Understand what "healthy soil" is made of, read our guide on how to compost in just 5 easy steps, and learn how to build an affordable backyard compost system in less than an hour.

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Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson  

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