Make soil!

posted in: for eaters | 0

Written by MakeSoil founder Josh Whiton. MakeSoil is a nonprofit online platform that matches ‘Soil Makers’ (people who compost)
with nearby ‘Soil Supporters’ (people who contribute scraps).

Photo credit Markus Spieske, Unsplash

Start millions of gardens of every size and shape, right now, everywhere.

This means you and me. No waiting for the government or anyone else to do this for us. If you can grow one plant in a pot on your balcony, grow one. If you can grow 10, grow 10. But the idea is for every single person to grow something (edible). The time devoted can be as little as 10 minutes a week, or many delightful hours.

This begins immediately to decentralize the food system, reminds us of where food really comes from and how it is created, and begins bringing each of us back into a symbiotic relationship with Earth and its many other life forms.

It doesn’t mean growing all of your food, but neither does it mean growing none of your food. It is time to be somewhere (anywhere!) in-between those two extremes.

Remember, you won’t be doing it alone as part of some isolationist compound or apocalyptic future, you’re doing it alongside billions of other people in a friendly and distributed manner, specifically so we don’t end up with an isolationist society or apocalyptic future.

Photo credit Edward Howell, Unsplash

Make soil!

But what will the plants in those gardens eat? In what will they put down their roots? Ah, in new, living soil that we will create.

Soil is a storehouse of energy and nutrients in a stable, odorless form, ready and waiting to be turned into food. Even more, soil provides a home to countless microbes, the biodiversity of which helps protect the food supply and generally boosts the health and life of the Biosphere.

Why make soil together in our own neighborhoods? For one, because we must have the hands-on experience of regenerating the Biosphere directly. As we do, we begin to see ourselves differently: no longer just a consumer, not even just a producer, but a regenerator. It sounds obvious, but making new, living Earth is a very satisfying thing for an Earthling to do!

The other reason we make it together, in our own neighborhoods, is because that’s exactly where the raw materials for new soil happen to be.

Photo credit Markus Spieske, Unsplash

Make soil… out of what?

We must make soil out of the organic matter left over from the food that has fed us and other bits of nature that we have used. And we combine those with bits of Earth that are dying such as fallen leaves, sawdust, and cut grass.

Organic matter means food scraps, soiled paper, yard stuff. Pretty much anything that isn’t plastic, styrofoam, metal, or glass. Stuff that is essentially the remains of plants or animals, everything from banana peels and coffee grounds to used paper towels and coffee filters.

Contrary to common perception, this stuff turns out to not be garbage or waste or something to get rid of at all; it turns out to be nutrients and energy.

It doesn’t look that way to most of us because we were desensitized to its true nature starting in childhood with every toss into the garbage can. So now it just looks like life-less, inconsequential matter to be mindlessly gotten rid of, when it is actually the key to our liberation.

Today this misunderstood matter leaves our neighborhoods in one of two ways. Firstly, most of it, in most places, leaves as trash. You know the drill — first it goes into big plastic bags and then gets picked up by a big truck that gets 3 mpg and dumped in a landfill that no one wants to live near. Once there, it will turn into methane and CO2 and float up into the atmosphere, where it exacerbates many global problems and further imbalances the Biosphere.

Yet for all of the high-minded environmentalism and idealistic patriotism, for all of our professed love of The Planet, Earth, Mother Earth, Gaia, Our Country, or whatever it is we profess to love… many times a day, most people, in most places, take that supposedly beloved Planet-Mother-Earth-Gaia-Country, and toss or scrape it into the waste bin. We treat the planet like garbage. Literally.

Photo credit Lucas van Oort, Unsplash

The Earth does not belong in a trash can.

The other way organic matter leaves our neighborhoods is through municipal compost programs. These programs are a good attempt at doing something better than making trash but they will not bring about the transformation we now require. Not only do they also require giant fuel-burning trucks to go up and down each city street, they also keep up the illusion that taking care of the Biosphere is someone else’s responsibility.

We must leave behind the box and bin culture, where stuff arrives in a box on our doorstep and leaves in a bin by the curb. In the box and bin culture we never learn how the planet works or our part in it, which is the only real way out of this mess.

So again, step one is that we stop needlessly making garbage and stop relying on programs to take away the waste that isn’t actually waste. Step one is keeping all the energy and nourishment stored in that organic matter from leaving our neighborhoods.

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