December 5th was designated as international World Soil Day by the UN General Assembly in 2013. The date was chosen because 12/5 was the birthday of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who first sanctioned the event.
Globally, on this day, we take time to recognize the vital importance of Earth’s soil. Largely taken for granted and degraded by human activities, the soil is what gives life to almost everything else. In the past century, this complex web of interconnected bio-chemical alchemy was made simple by the cultural and economic powers that be. “It’s just dirt.”
Fortunately, we are now reawakening to the ancient knowledge that the Earth, through its thin skin of topsoil, is alive. And not just alive, but life-giving in its immense diversity and complexity. When degraded to “just dirt,” the stone of the Earth does little for us. Left alone, the world’s greatest geo-chemists will re-transform the sands, silts, and clays back into a functioning soil ecosystem. Bacteria and fungi will use their digestive enzymes to nurture life back into existence, to re-create the soil food web and the ability of earth to grow green plants, clean water, and sequester carbon. Humans, if we’re smart and a wee bit selfish, can hasten this process by employing soil regenerating practices, rather than degrading ones.
Soil is the core of who we are. As author Tom Robbins puts it:
“Although the surface of our planet is two-thirds water, we call it the Earth. We say we are earthlings, not waterlings. Our blood is closer to seawater than our bones to soil, but that’s no matter. The sea is the cradle we all rocked out of, but it’s to dust that we go. From the time that water invented us, we began to seek out dirt. The further we separate ourselves from the dirt, the further we separate ourselves from ourselves. Alienation is a disease of the unsoiled.”