It’s… Alive?

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Author: Terri Gordon | Published: February 21, 2017

It is everywhere, from forest floors to ocean beaches. It is the stuff under our feet, our sidewalks, our roads. It is the stuff we dig in as kids, the stuff we bulldoze to build houses, and yes, the medium we use to grow flowers, trees, and food.

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines “soil” as “ the upper layer of earth in which plants grow.”

Gardeners talk about “rich” or “good” soil, or loam, made up of humus, sand, and clay.

What those who study soil are realizing, however, is that soil is not just sand, clay, and water—it is also a complex matrix of fungi, bacteria, and a number of other microbes. It is a full-on microbiome all its own. In fact, the microbiome is what creates the soil carbon sponge that holds nutrients and water. Without the matrix of microbial life, rain doesn’t percolate; it simply runs off, and the soil lacks fertility. And when we stir up the earth’s microbiome, we destroy it. And we’ve been destroying it since the very dawn of agriculture. This is the message Didi Pershouse will bring to the Healthy Soils Symposium on Feb. 24 and 25 at Antioch College in Yellow Springs. In a pre-conference reading on Feb. 23, she will sign copies of her book, “The Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money, and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities” at Yellow Springs Library.

Pershouse hails from the state of Vermont, where she practices acupuncture and works, through her Center for Sustainable Medicine, with the Soil Carbon Coalition to study and educate others about those systems that govern human health and the health of Earth—especially where the health of the planet and the health of its inhabitants intersect—because, in truth, the health of one is tied inextricably to the health of the other.

Community Solutions in Yellow Springs, is sponsoring the symposium as part of its mission to “support small communities” and foster their resilience, their ability to weather storms—metaphorically and literally.

“The more we can grow our own food, in our own region, the more resilient we are,” explains Susan Jennings, executive director of Community Solutions. “The more we are able to keep our water clean, and where it belongs—as in, not running off, but really being absorbed into the soil—the more resilient we are. And healthy soils are at the center of that.

“The healthier our soils are, the healthier our food will be; and the more fertile the soil, the greater the output of food we’ll be able to have. And if we are able to cool the climate through carbon sequestration in the soil, then it makes, not just the region, but the planet itself more resilient.”

The symposium begins as a roundtable event on Friday with presenters and participants contributing questions and information in an informal effort to delineate the needs of and progress in the region, as well as a plan of response.


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