Message from the Land and Soil

Hi there! My first name is Land, my surname is Soil.

Thank you for visiting with me today. I know you know a lot about me, but somehow, we’ve never really met or talked. So let me introduce myself very briefly.

As I said my surname is soil. I am only about six inches tall, on average, from the tip of my head, the topsoil, to the soles of my feet - the bedrock that is beneath me. That’s a short distance to your extinction, if you don’t take good care of me.

With the help of termites and all the other organisms living in the soil that you don’t see but feed me to keep me healthy, I am doing my best to feed you, and to provide clean, adequate and healthy water. If you take good care of me, I promise to be there for you and your children, for generations to come.

But I am afraid that my family and I are losing the battle. A large part of my family is now on the road to extinction. It only takes a short time to destroy us, while our development and maturity so that we can produce and reproduce takes a very, very long time.

You see, every year, between 28-75 billion tons of soil is being eroded. This means that you, as an individual, are losing about 4-10 tons of soil, every year. Fertile land is being lost through human action and weather-related events, such as flush floods and drought. Put another way, every second, 24 football pitches of fertile land become unproductive due to desertification and drought alone!

What’s more troubling for me and my family is the level of ignorance among the majority of the human race. For example, very few people know that only about 3.3% of the entire Earth is productive land. Very few people value us. Worse, most people assume that the drier members of my family – the drylands that make up nearly 34% of the Earth – are wastelands; land of no value. And yet, a lot of the foods you eat today originated from these fragile soils. In fact, these dry areas make up 44% of all the systems that are cultivated, and half of the world’s wildlife lives there!

But I am delighted that I met you today because I can share with you some secrets that will help us all.

Remember, if we – land or soil – are destroyed, you will bear the consequences in future. Today’s adults will soon be gone, and they may take us with them if urgent action is not taken. If we are gone by the time you have your family, how you will feed yourselves and your children? Where will you find clean and adequate running water?

So here are two important secrets for you. First, remember that your parents are not the only ones who own us, even if they hold a title deed. You are also a shareholder of the land because as a matter of fact, you have only loaned it to them for use, plus we were bequeathed to them, in full health, by their parents. So you have a right to hold them accountable for how they are using the land. If you don’t, you will only have yourself to blame in future.

Second, you have a secret weapon that you can now use to call them to action. Last June (2012), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the world leaders agreed to strive to achieve a land that is free of degradation – they called it a ‘land-degradation neutral world’.

What is their aspiration? To get to a point where degrading land is not more than the land they are restoring – because you see, every time we serve you without being taken good care of ourselves, we grow weak. But if they can avoid mismanaging us, and if they can intervene in time whenever it happens, we can maintain our health or be restored back to full health quickly. Today, more than 2 billion hectares of land is in ill-health, but it can be restored to full health, possibly by 2030, if there is political will.

It takes very little to be land-degradation neutral. Just three commitments. The commitment to avoid any further land and soil degradation. The commitment to restore degraded land for re-use. And third, whenever degrading land or soil becomes unavoidable, making the commitment to restore an equal amount of already degraded land or soil, ideally, in the same ecosystem and in the same timeframe. It is that simple and the costs are minimal if we start now. The cost of doing it later will be much, much higher. And you will be paying the price.

Just in case you are tempted to think that you are not part of the problem, let me point out that you may be eating or drinking stuff that was imported from such a place. Considering that 167 countries have declared that they suffer from desertification, could it be that the production of your food and water led to a decline in my health?

What will it take you to change? To change how you view me – as dirt? To change your attitude towards me? What will it take to make you an active and vocal supporter of a world where healthy land is priced as part of the good life. Where we – land and soil – are cared for and well fed, so that you too can enjoy the best life?

What will it take? Will you be my advocate today? Will you speak on my behalf? Will you tell the world that you care about my health today because it matters for you? Will you?

I sure hope so!

Your daily dinner table guest,

Land Soil

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