Celebrating Soil Congress with an Appeal to Save our Soils!
The clock is ticking. Across the world, every minute of every day and night fertile soil the size of 30 football fields is lost – a fact made abundantly clear by a ticker on a huge screen standing in front of the Royal Tropical Institute during the congress Celebrating Soil! Celebrating Life! that was organized by Eosta/Nature&More in Amsterdam. The numerous prominent speakers from all over the world left us in no doubt that we have to take urgent action if we are to preserve soil that constitutes the very foundation of all agriculture. The Amsterdam Declaration appeals to people to protect soils as a vital issue. We were all impressed by how cultural, spiritual and religious considerations were integrated into the event and how they made their contribution to the aim of Celebrating Soil! A Facebook campaign was launched to involve the public and within a few days there were 30,000 Likes. Per Like, the Nature&More Foundation makes available five euros to save our soils.
Experts have calculated that every year 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil are lost, which equates to an economic loss of 1.5 trillion euros. The consequences are devastating: if soil degradation continues at this rate, in 60 years agriculture will no longer be possible. This development has to be stopped in order to ensure food for the world and to slow down climate change. Representatives from trade, politics and cultural life in general all made this point. The speakers included the environmental activist Vandana Shiva, the founder of Sekem, Ibrahim Abouleish, Northface founder Dough Tompkins, the founder of Alnatura, Götz Rehn, the founder of Eosta, Volkert Engelsman, former ministers of agriculture from Germany and Bhutan, Renate Künast and Pema Gyamtsho, IFOAM President Andre Leu, a representative of the FAO, Hans Herren from the Millenium Institute, USA, Anna Blythe Lappé from the Small Planet Institute, USA, and many more.
The range of the contributions was most impressive. The songs of Angaangaq Angakkorssuaq, shaman and elder from Greenland, the words of Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp and the Dakota chieftain Looking Horse and Miha Pogačnik’s music interpretations added a spiritual dimension to the international conference “Celebrating Soil! Celebrating Life!“ held in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam. Although there was a lot of bad news, a sense of hope shone through. “We believe that, despite everything, we can heal our world,” explained the wife of Looking Horse. The words and ceremonies of around 500 attendees on 26 and 27 June gave the campaign “Save Our Soils” a voice.
The Amsterdam Declaration appeals to governments everywhere in the world
That is the aim of the Amsterdam Declaration, which was published at the end of the first day of the conference. The decisions that will preserve fertile soils for future generations have to be taken today. This is why Joszi Smeets from the Youth Food movement appealed to the participants to campaign now against the erosion and loss of soils in order to ensure healthy soils and food security in the future.
In the Declaration – backed by 200 “Save Our Soils” campaign partners – on one page not only the shocking facts are presented but also responses, possible solutions and our obligations. So we read: “Decision makers, governments and representatives of business and civil society have to recognise that organic agriculture is the best way of preserving biodiversity, rescuing the climate and ensuring food security.” One of the attendees, the former Minister of Agriculture Renate Künast, emphasised: “It’s time for the issue of soil to be on the global agenda.” Vandana Shiva said: “Living soil and healthy seeds are the origin of our society.”
Handing over the Amsterdam Declaration, the 20-year-old Nyakallo Makgoba pleaded: “Please take care of the Earth! Take responsibility as you pass it on to us and we in turn will do the same! Please look after our soils!“
Guerrilla plant campaign
Outside the conference hall, a symbolic action on the part of the participants for the benefit of future generations: making their point with guerilla gardening, Vandana Shiva, managing director Volkert Engelsman, Götz Rehn, Sarah Wiener, Ibrahim Abouleish and other prominent campaigners planted basil in a small area of land where paving slabs had been taken up. Volkert Engelsman (Picture) who, together with the FAO and IFOAM, created the ”Save Our Soils” campaign expressed his hope and confidence: “Farmers who take care of their soil are the doctors of the future. But consumers are ultimately the people with power – things can really change only if they decide in future to buy sustainably grown products.” And he added: “What gives me hope is the fact that young opinion formers support organic and sustainable farming. So it’s up to us as the lead generation to take responsibility now.”
The “Save Our Soils” campaign (rettetunsereboeden.de) was devised by Eosta/ Nature&More and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to focus attention on the importance of healthy soils. The campaign is supported by many celebrities, including Julia Roberts, the Dalai Lama and the former Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The “Save Our Soils“ fund was launched in February 2015 and has already collected 200,000 euros to help farmers worldwide in their efforts to maintain fertile, healthy soils and to practise organic agriculture.
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