Earth Day / Year of Soils

I like to define biology as the history of the earth and all its life — past, present, and future. To understand biology is to understand that all life is linked to the earth from which it came; it is to understand that the stream of life, flowing out of the dim past into the uncertain future, is in reality a unified force, though composed of an infinite number and variety of separate lives.” ~ Rachel Carson

So today is “Earth Day” and this 2015 is the “International Year of Soils”…

I wonder whether we have allowed everything sacred to become banal and superficial by giving it pretentious names, ranking them as if they lacked that position on their own

Yes, I’m presenting a workshop on soils today. And I’m anxious and a bit scared but feel more like a humble warrior who is sharing what she can: awareness and gentle caring for what has always been sacred to me.: I didn’t know about pompous names and titles, I was raised to be healthily skeptical towards any reverence or “big true” . I have no gods or goddesses in my life. The sacred comes from basic, yet truly wonderful things like trees, soil and life in general…what’s sacred to me may be hidden in a handshake I’ll never forget, a pair of eyes showing deep understanding, an incredible quote carrying all the meaning of human life.

secrets of healthy soils

I don’t want to “celebrate” Earth Day or even this “International Year of Soils”….I want to think and feel that the Earth, this planet and all its wonders are where we come from, are all what we have. I want to think and feel that no technology or wishful thinking will “save us” and if they do, it would be a terrible mistake to think we can survive a day without all the interconnections we have that go back to this planet and its diversity of life.

Studying the soil for my workshop today, I found myself trapped for hours in readings, videos and experiments with a thirst for more and a sense of wonder that transported me back to my early years and I would spend hours lying on the ground, cheek touching the soil, looking through leaves of grass, sticks and clovers, or submerged in a field of daisies or hugging that incredible ombu tree of my childhood.

My name “Silvia” means “creature from the woods” and I feel the call to honour it.

Today and every day I celebrate being born in this mighty planet with its few centimetres of soil which manage to produce 95% of the food we eat, and is the substance where trees and other plants (producing the air we breathe and the food we eat) thanks to the incredible “work” of millions of organisms, some of which we have no idea they exist.

Today and every day I grieve for my planet, my only home. And I also grieve for its mighty soil which has been degrading and polluting since the industrial revolution and even more after the infamous “green revolution” that would “end hunger”.

Today and every day of my life, I promise to do whatever is in my hands to cherish what’s left, grieve what’s gone and support what could be.

This workshop has (as well) other meanings to me: I tend to learn more when I “teach” and share the small pieces I know with others. It is also happening in one of the most “dangerous” Surrey neighbourhoods, where I happen to work every day: Surrey and delta have experienced more deadly shootings than ever in the last 45 days and people are scared, unhappy and outraged.

My workshop may seem disconnected, but it also carries a deep message: we are here, we are not scared, and we want more beauty, community connections and good people around…

Facing all the challenges we have ahead and all the present ones so many want to ignore: migrants running away from broken places and dying in the sea; the homeless and the jobless; wars and hunger everywhere; brothers and sisters against each other; species going extinct, climate changing and melting ice…please do not forget Edmund Burke’s quote:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”


May your day provide the strength needed to celebrate, grieve and care


Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience.

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” ~ Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

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