Save Our Soil

Unless we are a farmer or a gardener, few of us consciously think about soil. And yet, it is soil that sustains life on earth. Scientists study biodiversity on land and in the water, but not as many look that closely at soil and what it harbours. Soil is home to more than 1/4 of our planet’s biodiversity, but we only know 1 per cent of this universe. 

December 5 is World Soil Day–an international day to celebrate Soil. This day was first recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002; it was supported by the FAO and endorsed by the UN General Assembly in June 2013. The day means to raise global awareness about the importance of healthy soil and advocate for the sustainable management of soil resources. It is marked on December 5 was chosen because it corresponds with the official birthday of the late H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand, who was one of the main proponents of this initiative.

There are more living creatures in a single teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on Earth.

This year’s World Soil Day theme is Keep Soil Alive, Protect Soil Biodiversity. Now, more than ever before, soil biodiversity is under pressure due to unsustainable soil management that affects life belowground. This theme focuses attention on the workers belowground–from tiny bacteria to agile millipedes and slimy earthworms–all of which contribute to processes that are indispensable to life on Earth.

It is a reminder that unless people around the world proactively engage in improving soil health, soon, the fertility of soil will continue to be adversely affected at an alarming rate, threatening global food supplies and food safety.

Here is my small contribution to this day.  Giving soil a voice!

The Soil’s Lament

I am soil. Ever thought about me?

Always underfoot, you think I’m here for free.

In your fields and gardens, roads and lawns

On mountains in deserts, in cities and towns.

I can be living, feeling, strong and healthy like you

But I can also get sick, and sometimes tired too.

Then I get weaker, unable to nurture life to grow.

How can that happen, would you like to know?

Year after year, season after season

You plant me with the same crops with the reason

That the more you put in, the more you will get.

But that’s just where you will lose the bet.

In such a hurry you are, to sow and reap

Have you ever thought that I’d like time to breathe?

Ever considered that I too need to recuperate

From trying to deliver at such an unnatural rate?

Give me a break, give me a rest. Be kind to me, I’ll give you my best.

The unending cycle will sap all my strength

Suck the minerals and nutrients out from my depth

One fine day I’ll just run out of steam

Then those bountiful harvests will be just a dream.

And then you will pump me with every artificial aid

Chemicals, fertilizers, all the tricks of the trade.

Hoping the fruit I then bear will be so fast and good.

But could you thrive on pills alone, and no natural food?

Give me a break, give me a rest. Be kind to me, I’ll give you my best.

Or will you drug me with pesticides and insecticides

To destroy the “enemies”– the aphids, thrips and mites.

You don’t realize that with every deadly dose

My allies too are dying, not just my foes.  

You strip me of my protective cover

Tear away trees, shrubs, grasses, every small flower

That keep me secure with a protective cloak

From the fury of rains and the winds that blow.

You leave me exposed, vulnerable, and bare

To be blown, swept and washed away, here and there.

Or you clad me in an armour of concrete and stone

So I can no longer breathe, nor give my friends a home.

Give me a break, give me a rest. Be kind to me, I’ll give you my best.

Cover me again with a mantle of green

Let my own special magic do the job you’re so keen

To assign to the factories, the labs and the vans

And potions from bottles and boxes, sprays and cans.

Let the humus, leaf litter and the biomass,

The lichen, the algae, the roots and grass,

The bugs, the beetles, the worms and snails

Do the job they’ve always done, and that never fails.

It’s these millions of dwellers that give me life

That in turn I bestow on all plant life.

Let my friends and foes do all they might

If I’m strong and healthy, it’ll be all right.

Give me a break, give me a rest. Be kind to me, I’ll give you my best.

–Mamata

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