Urban Soil Summit Review – Part 2

It’s time for more details from the Urban Soil Summit, following Part 1 of our review of the event. Day 2 was just as mind-blowing as Day 1, but the focus was on ideas that could be labeled as fringe or even controversial. Still, all the speakers were enlightening and we came away with more inspiration to share.

The day also proved to be more emotional than the day before. It all started with Finian Makepeace of Kiss the Ground. He’s been leading a group of gardeners in the transformational lawn-to-garden project at the Venice Beach Arts Plaza. They’re taking out the lawn and putting in a food forest and demonstration garden which will be used for educational purposes forevermore.

How soil works

How soil works

While explaining how soil microbes work and how our modern day agricultural (and urban) practices destroy the soil, he paused to tell us a story…a dream he had that changed his life and brought his purpose into focus.

He dreamt that he was an old man in a village. His granddaughter (in the dream) woke him up and took him out of the village to look upon a desolate town with no life, no vegetation. The town was dead, the soil was dead, and nothing but dust and trash drifted through the air. Finian choked up as he told the rest of the dream.

The town had clearly been a place that once thrived, but all that was gone. “My granddaughter looked up at me and said, ‘Why didn’t you do anything?'”

Not a dry eye in the house, ladies and gentlemen.

Many of us feel this urgency to stop the environmental devastation of our planet, so those of us in the audience could relate. Finian has made it his life’s work to educate people about the importance of preserving our topsoil, and stewarding our land to keep it alive and vital for generations to come. We hope to do that here as well.

The takeaway: learn how to save our soil and share it with everyone you know.

Allan Savory proposes that we can claim our desertified grasslands back with a natural approach.

Allan Savory proposes that we can claim our desertified grasslands back with a natural approach.

Next up, Allan Savory from the Savory Institute shared his philosophy of Holistic Land Management. He specifically addressed the problem of desertification of our planet’s grasslands. He gave example after example of how people are attempting to reverse desertification all over the world with no success. It’s hard to explain all the details here, but check out Allan’s 20 minute TED talk to get the whole story.

It’s inspiring as all get out, knowing that there is a way to fix what seems like an insurmountable problem. It’s a bit controversial, but his plan involves using livestock (yes, folks, livestock actually can play a healing role in our planet’s survival if we partner with them correctly) to transform land so that it can absorb effective rainfall, regenerate native grasses for cover (nature abhors bare soil, remember), and involve locals in an economic and social component to unite communities together with purpose and a means to earn money.

Holistic Land Management is not the same as rotational grazing.

Holistic Land Management is not the same as rotational grazing

The dire conditions of our planet’s soil were highlighted in his talk. Over one third of our worlds grasslands have succumbed to desertification. Allan believes that scientific opinion does not, will not move ahead of public opinion. They are one and the same. It is up to us to push science forward. Allen said, “It’s time to stop rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic…If you care enough, you’ll do whatever you need to do…Apathy is not an option.”

The Takeaway: let’s stop doing what’s easy, and let’s instead do what’s right for the planet. Use your voice to make this happen.

Did you know: Los Angeles sheds 300 million gallons of water from city streets on a dry day? That’s a day without rain. Paul Herzog of Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens program spoke briefly about how we need to use CPR: Conservation, Permeability & Retention in our landscapes to keep water where it falls, rather than running down the gutters unfiltered to the ocean.

Brock Dolman of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

Brock Dolman of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

The last speaker of the day was hard to keep up with, he was so full of energy and enthusiasm. Brock Dolman of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Sonoma County, CA. His lecture was so eloquent and smooth, yet rapid-fire with juicy nuggets of information, we couldn’t possibly write it all down.

He’s calls this place Planet Water, because that’s what Earth is: mostly water. He spoke of carbon cycles, “fossil fools,” and how we need to do some serious Ego-system restoration to change our mentality from fear into abundance. His motto: Slow it, Spread it, Sink it!

What we need to design our gardens to deal with our storm water

How we need to design our gardens to deal with our storm water

Brock also has a TED talk you can watch to get a more complete picture of what he’s saying.

So there’s some food for thought for the week. Enjoy all these resources and dive deep if you can. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

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