At what looks like a particularly bleak phase in our planet’s life, barely emerging from a pandemic that has killed millions and devastated life, limb, and livelihood; a war that is manifesting horrors beyond human imagination; racial and communal strife and senseless violence; political and economic unrest in every corner of the globe; and the threat of and impact of climate change looming large, you would imagine that a cause like saving soil would not find many takers.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
On March 21, in a high-voltage send-off in London, 65-year-old Indian yogi, mystic, and spiritual leader Sadhguru embarked on a lone motorcycle journey covering 30,000 km across 27 nations as part of his ‘Conscious Planet - #SaveSoil’ initiative, a global race against time to inspire and activate 3.5 billion people (60% of the world’s electorate of 5.26 billion) to support policy redirections to safeguard, nurture and sustain soils and ensure a basic minimum of 3-6% organic content is maintained in them across the globe.
His route will take him through the chilly, icy winters and rain of Europe, to the scorching summers of the Middle East, into the monsoons of India, through the Netherlands, France including Paris, Germany, Italy, Prague amongst others, to reach New Delhi on June 5 and onward for another 2-3 weeks to culminate in Southern India.
“No matter how sophisticated our technologies are, there is simply no alternative to soil, neither here nor anywhere else in the known universe. The disastrous consequences of soil extinction are well beyond what we will be able to withstand. This is why, as a generation, we must take action now to restore our world’s soil.”
He’d said, on the eve of his historic mission, which is supported by a galaxy of global leaders such as renowned conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, His Holiness Dalai Lama, and Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Matthew Hayden, Chris Gayle, Juhi Chawla, and Sanjeev Sanyal, amongst others.
It is the third week of Sadhguru’s 100-day journey and there appears to be a groundswell of support, song, dance, seminars, and spontaneity involving a dazzling assemblage of political, environmental, social, cultural, business and spiritual leaders and ordinary citizens, wherever he goes.
It is as if weary to their bones by the relentlessness of the gloom and doom news cycle, people are thrilled to embrace a cause that champions hope, positive action, and a commitment to our collective future.
It is as if they realise the universal truth of our shared humanity: that we are created from soil and will return to it one day. And that, beyond borders and boundaries –we have a collective responsibility to each other and the planet.
By any standards, the cause is compelling:
According to almost every environmental authority, the planet’s biggest existential threat is not climate change, water scarcity, global pandemics, or even the outbreak of a nuclear war, but that the very basis of life and the source of our existence- the world’s soil is getting extinct at an alarming rate, due to unsustainable agricultural practices, unabated deforestation, and runaway urbanisation.
The data is chilling: The UNFAO believes that 52% of the world’s agricultural soil has already been degraded, resulting in a massive drop in the nutritional quality of the foods we consume (a 60% drop in India’s vegetables alone).
The WEF believes that food production could fall by 30% in 20 years if soil extinction is not prevented and according to the UNCCD, if left unchecked 90% of earth’s soil could be degraded by 2050, leading to mass migrations, conflicts, civil wars, loss of livelihoods, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, and generations of severe malnutrition and under-nutritioned people.
From Maria Helena Semedo, deputy director general of FAO, to Dr Naoko Yamamoto, assistant director general, WHO, to Bishow Parajuli, country head, India WFP, to soil microbiologist Dr Elaine Ingham, the experts have been issuing dire warnings that if not addressed on a war footing, soil extinction could lead to unimaginable tragedy and disaster for current and future generations across the world proving to be not just an ecological challenge but an existential threat to all life forms on the planet.
As expected, there is striking consensus amongst authorities on the advantages of soil regeneration too: it would alleviate poverty levels by raising the incomes of the world’s poorest who rely on agriculture by 75% according to the World Bank, and significantly decrease the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, increase crop production by up to 20-40% and raise water reserves by 37 trillion litres according to the IUCN.
This championing of larger causes that lie beyond the pale of spirituality is not new for Sadhguru.
As far back as 1990, when he said he began planting trees in what he calls “the most difficult terrain – the minds of people.” in an eco-drive aimed at greening the Velliangiri Hills, around his ashram in Coimbatore, to Project GreenHands, a state-wide campaign involving millions of volunteers across Tamil Nadu in the first decade of 2000s, to his Rally for Rivers in 2017, which saw him drive 9300 kilometres from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas, activating 162 million people said to be the largest ecological campaign in the world which has resulted in a national policy change on how India treats its rivers, to Cauvery Calling which works on the ground with farmers in the Cauvery Basin, Save Soil is one more initiative in his three-decade commitment to nature and our generation’s interaction with it.
‘Soil extinction is not just another ecological challenge. It is an existential threat. If we do the right things now, we can significantly turn this situation around and regenerate the soil in the next 15-25 years.’
He’d tweeted this week, even as he met a galaxy of scientists, UN officials, environmentalists and ordinary citizens. “If we are committed to nourishing our planet and future generations, we must nourish the very source of Life. Time to come together to #SaveSoil. Let Us Make It Happen.”
On 12 June, the Save Soil campaign and Sadhguru are expected to reach Mumbai, where a resounding welcome involving some of the city’s foremost thought leaders, including film stars, sportsmen, corporate statesman and society leaders is being planned. (Courtesy: https://www.hindustantimes.com/)