Interview on June 20, 2016 with:
1) How can others join the Soil For Life campaign?
Soil For Life is in the early germination phase. We see the immense potential for soil sequestration and are exploring different forms that this campaign can take. For those local to the Boulder/Denver area, we are hosting a Soil For Life festival and day of learning. This will include music, community art, expert speakers, and hands-on projects. We will be documenting this day and harvesting the learnings in hopes of spreading the story of local soil solutions to other areas. Our philosophy is to start local, document the successes, and then spread to other communities organically and horizontally. We are also working at the level of global policy by exploring ways that we can partner soil scientists with UN policy makers to create funding mechanisms for soil sequestration.
2) If you’re working in a new community, how do you collaborate with people to connect with the Earth?
For me, the first step in community organizing is always to listen to others’ stories. In new communities, I want to know: what are peoples’ relationship with the land like? What was it like for them growing up? What are the historical forces in the community that have shaped how people relate to land? Given the harsh realities of ongoing colonialism, all of our relationships to land are complex and sometimes painful. However, there is great power and joy in reclaiming a healthy and just relationship to access and use of land. This is especially true in urban areas. I was so inspired living in Oakland by food justice activists who were reclaiming abandoned lots and growing food there. I believe that connecting to the earth is an instinctual and inherent skill that all humans possess.
3) What are the challenges in getting communities to adopt soil sequestration practices?
Many people do not yet know how powerful soil is in the carbon cycle and the food cycle. One of the critical next steps is broad education on how soil works, why it is important, and what people can do in their lives to support soil regeneration. So, lack of information is a big challenge. In addition, social inequity and systemic oppression plays a huge role in who has access to land and who does not. Many native american communities have seen their ancestors forcibly removed from land to make way for industrial agriculture. I believe that returning land stewardship to native people is a big part of the solution.
There is also a lack of federal and international policy to support soil health. All of our agriculture subsidies support industrial agriculture, mostly for wheat, corn, soy, dairy, and meat. Currently, the way that we grow food on an industrial scale absolutely depletes soil of its carbon and releases significant CO2 into the atmosphere via soil erosion and oxidation, as well as direct fossil fuel use because industrial agriculture is currently very mechanized. If we funded organic small scale agriculture instead of industrial agriculture, then that would be a huge step forward. Soil for Life will be successful when small farmers get support and funding for building and regenerating soil.