Policy, Sadhguru writes, is the solution to the global soil extinction crisis. On 5th April, he spoke at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, alongside Indian Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey and representatives of SDG Lab/UNOG, WHO, and IUCN as part of his 100-day, 30,000 km journey to Save Soil.
Sadhguru: Most of the life on this planet cannot be seen with the naked eye – it is all microbial. There could be anywhere between 5–8 billion microorganisms in a handful of rich soil. It is this life which is the basis of who we are. Even in the evolutionary nature of how life evolved on this planet, it is this microbial infrastructure in the soil that has led to the evolution of larger, more sophisticated, and complex creatures, including you and me.
Microbial life in the soil finds sustenance from the organic content of plant litter and animal waste, which it uses to constantly produce nutrients and chemicals which are life-making in nature. The vegetation on the planet cannot absorb nourishment from the soil directly: it only happens as an exchange with microbial life. Plant life captures carbon from the atmosphere, converts it into carbon sugars, and trades very judiciously with the microbes for whatever it needs in terms of nitrogen, phosphorus, etc.
Once organic content is depleted from the soil, microbial life cannot survive. And without microbial activity, we cannot exist. But with the industrial scale of agriculture and development of irresponsible industrial habits, we are ensuring that all microbial life dies. Every responsible scientist is saying that by 2040 or 2045, we will be producing 40% less food than we are producing right now – and the global population will be over 9 billion! That’s not a world you would want to live in, nor a world to leave behind for the next generation, but that is exactly what we are doing.
In agricultural soil, the minimum organic content should be between 3–6%, but in large parts of the world, it is well below 1%. Across the world, not a single nation has a minimum of 3%. This means the microbial life is being starved to death. On an average, according to UNFAO, 27,000 species are going extinct per year. At this rate, between 25–40 years from now, this slide of biodiversity loss will go into a tumble and then there will simply be nothing we can do. While it is still in this slide, we can arrest it and push it back. The problem is in the agricultural land, and the solution is in agricultural land.
Conscious planet – Save Soil Movement
This aims to bring about a global policy that requires a minimum of 3–6% organic content in agricultural land. As part of this movement, I embarked on a crazy motorcycle journey across 27 countries, covering 30,000 km in 100 days, to meet with government leaders, influencers, and the general public, to raise awareness and recommend policy changes.
There has been a spectacular response in every nation. Just seven months ago, soil was not even in the conversation. Now, the word “soil” is reverberating everywhere. Since 21 March, over 3.9 billion people have been reached. Many UN agencies have joined the movement. 74 nations have already committed to saving soil and the remaining are looking at how they can implement it. I also addressed 193 nations at the COP15 (UNCCD) in Africa, where we suggested a three-pronged approach for all governments.
Three-pronged incentives for farmers
Right now, the simple way to turn this soil extinction around is to provide incentives for every farmer in the world to improve the organic content in agricultural soil. Set up a minimum average of 3% organic content and provide a first level of attractive incentive to aspire farmers to reach it. Industry and business can facilitate carbon credit systems as a second line of incentive for farmers. The third level of incentive is recognition in the marketplace – food products grown in soil with minimum 3–6% organic content should find a different shelf and they will naturally get a better price.
These three-pronged incentives to farmers will start rolling back the unfolding disaster of soil extinction.
Beyond awareness building
Without building awareness, we would not be noticed by administrations across the world. Now that we have gotten their attention, the work is of a totally different nature.
In the next few months, I’m traveling to over 20 nations because the next level of action needs to happen. By my estimation, within 12 to 18 months, we can push most nations towards making some kind of soil regeneration policy. We are setting up a group of 25–30 scientists who will hand-hold small countries to see that soil regeneration can be embedded into their policy and into action on the ground.
I am very confident that transformation will happen, but my concern is only about the pace. Without the support of individual people, the government cannot do anything. I want all of you to make this a big movement in the world. This is not about me; this is not about you. This is a generational responsibility that we must fulfill.