World Soil Day
Monty Don - 05 December 2013
What struck me at the recent Soil Association conference is the incredible amount of sheer hard work that is being done within the Soil Association and by its partners to look after our soil.
For me, their work translates as a real engagement with the soil; with the earth itself - not the idea of it - but the actual physical soil. This engagement is also what motivates me. So, for me, to have a Soil Association is a beautiful thing. It’s a profound thing. Soil is at the core of everything that goes on with their work, whether it be in schools, whether it be project based, whether it be raising money... it’s about the soil. Nothing could be more important.
Increasingly I’m coming to feel that, as I learn more, soil is the key central issue of conservation. The degradation of our soil is the biggest potential disaster facing us all and it should be at the core of our thinking. If we are to feed the world we must have good soil. As a soil scientist once said to me: we have reached 'peak soil' and we can’t produce any more. Currently, around 40% of the land mass of this earth is now being cultivated and because our soil is being used up, we’re losing it at a rate of about five times the rate that it is reproducing. Put simply: because we are using it, countries and corporations are buying more. We’re trying to consume our way out of overconsumption and it’s a disaster.
Something I find most heartening, however, is that, when I give talks and I travel around to see people, the people that want to do most are in their 20s. They see how important this issue is and they want to take part. What we must do as an organisation is to embrace that enthusiasm, accept it, open out to them. Particularly younger people, because it’s their world we have to look after. Not ours. We’ve made the mess but we haven’t even got time to clear it up. But what we can do is enable our children and our children’s children to have the tools with which to do what they can. And it all starts with the soil.
It’s really hard to be an organic farmer. It’s a struggle. And I have nothing but respect for the people who engage in that struggle every single day. It’s never easy, but does matters. If the Soil Association can support, encourage and inform people, if we can be the rock upon which that can be built, then it’s worth it. It is worth all of our time and all of the work. Above all keep the passion, share the passion because in the end that’s what matters.
So I ask you on this, World Soil Day, to join the Soil Association and help us spread the word about just how important our soil is: it is the lifeblood of our organisation, indeed the world.
Monty Don is President of the Soil Association.