There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the groundRumi
What is your favourite part of nature? Your favourite form of wildlife? What do they eat? How do they grow? Where do they live? How do they reproduce? There is one fundamental element of life on Earth that answers all of those questions and is often overlooked, but all life is dependent on it in some way. It gives us clean water, eats up all the greenhouse gases it can from the atmosphere, provides all the food we consume and creates the foundation for everything around us. Soil.
In amongst the chaos this year brought with it, it also nudged me towards a lot of independent learning, and for that I am grateful. It started back in April; uni ended early, everyone was shut inside and suddenly ads for online education platforms were popping up all over the place – just for reference, I’ve used Future Learn extensively this year and think it’s absolutely brilliant. I started off with some courses that were directly linked to the degree I’m doing such as Sustainable Development and Science Writing, but gradually branched out into other topics (hence why I now have a sex educator qualification?!). One of the courses that got swept into my radar was Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet run by Lancaster University. We had briefly covered the importance of soil during my first year at university, primarily on a field trip to Dartmoor where we looked at soil erosion and investigated the vitality of peat for storing carbon. But until I sat down and consciously learned via this online course, I hadn’t realised how much I take ‘the world beneath our feet’ for granted. Even as an aspiring conservationist, I did not appreciate its importance, which is crazy. We just don’t see it, we see everything above it. But that world above ground would not be living without the soil it is rooted in.
Right off the back of my newfound fascination with the subject, Ian Somerhalder and Nikki Reed started promoting a show they were working on with Netflix called Kiss The Ground. I was so excited about its release, not just because Ian and Nikki are both from my favourite vampire stories (yup) but because of their relentless passion and work for the environment. The fact that such a mainstream resource, fronted by a-list celebrities about SOIL was being released was such a good sign.
The main take-home message from the documentary is that we are currently in a vicious cycle where soil is eroding, so farmers feel the need to use more and more chemicals, which causes the soil to erode. Though the documentary is more of an introduction to the subject, Kiss The Ground is perfect for a basic overview. I also tend to find that watching a documentary is always a great way to take in new information, especially if you’re going in with little to no prior knowledge. Listening to people talk to me with fervour always cements new information in my crowded brain. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Wilding by Isabella Tree – it is absolutely packed full of valuable information, much of it centred around soil health. But my real love for the Knepp Estate was ignited when I saw her speak in-person; it just reiterated everything from the book in a completely different way.
This quote speaks to me! Whenever I can, I take my shoes off. During the summer, I probably spend more time barefoot than wearing socks and shoes. As soon as I imagine how the earth would feel if it could permeate the soles of my boots, I can’t think about anything else and just have to get them off. Putting them back on after running my toes through sun-soaked grass or squelching my feet in mud and mulch, it always feels so constricting – like there is a physical barrier between me and nature. I remember having this feeling as a child, but I think it really became a ‘thing’ back in 2017 when I first discovered tree meditation, which I recently wrote a blog post about. That really sticks out to me as a special moment of realising that I was just a part of nature myself, and it never fails to bring me back to Earth and remind me of the importance of the ground we walk on. If you’ve never tried it, the next time you’re out on a walk, why not? It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or windy or rainy. You’ll be back home soon where you can shower the dirt off and remove yourself from nature again like we do most of the time. Give yourself a minute with the world around you, because it’s that connection that makes people care and want to make a difference. You’re missing out on that incredible feeling.
Speaking of making a difference, after watching Kiss The Ground I waded through the extensive information on their website and discovered that you can become a ‘Soil Advocate’ through their own learning programme. The course is designed to equip people with in-depth knowledge about the key solutions of soil regeneration and how to apply those to real life. It’s open to anyone anywhere who wants to be a part of the regenerative agriculture movement by giving you the confidence to advocate for the cause. Doesn’t that sound great?! With that being said, my next online learning venture will be with none other than Kiss The Ground themselves. Woohoo!
If you want to learn more about anything mentioned in this blog post, I would highly recommend checking out the Permaculture Voices podcast, particularly the episode linked below: ‘A Look at Agriculture, Horticulture, Permaculture: Why Agriculture Can Never Be Sustainable, and a Permaculture Solution with Toby Hemenway‘. Toby touches on so many important aspects of this movement and hopefully his knowledge will be accessible through podcast form for those of you who prefer not to read chunky academic writing!
Get out there and appreciate the earth today. Whether it’s the little flowerbed outside your front door, the scruffy patch surrounding the tree planted on the pavement or even a peat bog if you’re lucky enough to live in Dartmoor! Breathe it in, recognise it for the life it gives and pledge to treat it with more respect from here on in 🙂