Are we doing enough in this International Year of Soils?

We are now over half way through this year which has been designated the ‘International Year of Soils’ by the UN. A quick google will discover that, actually, there are quite a lot of events happening around the world to highlight the issues surrounding soil – principally revolving around the risks of degradation. However, these events mostly rely on people coming along by choice and are likely to be (almost) exclusively preaching to the converted. Similarly, readers of this blog will probably have more of an interest in the broader subject matter, if not soils directly, and so will have visited this post by choice. The question is, how do we target and reach those who do not think about soils and who do not think about environmental issues more broadly?  We need to be more radical in our approach and critically we need to make the subject accessible and of real interest to children and young people.

One of the principal aims of the year was to get people talking about soils and to improve understanding. So, here are a few soil facts to kick start your conversations around the dinner table:

  • Soil stores 0.01% of the total water on Earth.
  • One gramme of soil could hold as many as 5000-7000 bacteria species.
  • It can take 500 years to create an inch of topsoil.
  • A tablespoon of soil contains more organisms than there are people on the planet.
  • 15 tonnes of soil can pass through an earthworm each year.
  • 10% of the Earth’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in soil.

Talk to your friends and family about soils. Try and start the bigger conversation which is what we really need. I don’t think that this kind of informality of the year of soils has been encouraged enough.

If you feel like a attending a more formal event here are some soil events taking place in the UK this year:

4th July-26th August – ‘Soil Culture’ at the Create Centre, Bristol  –  www.ccanw.co.uk/create

3rd September – 2nd October – ‘Soil, the Earth’s Tender Skin exhibition’ at Summerhall, Ediburgh www.cifalscotland.org/index.php/programmes/61-forthcoming-programmes/314-soil-the-earth-s-tender-skin

8th September – 9th September – ‘International Permaculture Convergence’, London www.ipcuk.events/conference

14th October – ‘Soil – meeting the challenges of a changing landscape’, Howberry Park Conference Centre, Wallingford, Oxfordshirewww.timohare-associates.com/conference.php

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