s featured in our February
issue, the UN General Assembly has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils (IYS 2015). In collaboration with national governments and the secretariat of the United Nation
Convention to Combat Desertification, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN is spearheading a global push
the soil health and implement soil-related sustainable agriculture projects.
Here in the United States, a group of scientists, environmental organizations, activists and concerned citizens have formed an alliance to push local and state governments to make revolutionary changes in land management and agriculture to create healthier soils while reducing dependency on fossil fuels worldwide. They are the Soil Not Oil Coalition.
We interviewed Miguel Robles, project director of the Biosafety Alliance and organizer of the Soil Not Oil Coalition, to learn more about the Coalition's goals and about the Fall 2015 Soil Not Oil International Conference taking place in Redmond, California.
BLC: Hi, Miguel! We are very pleased to have to opportunity to speak with you and learn more about the Coalition. Please tell us a little about the background of the Coalition.
Miguel: The Coalition was formed because 2015 is the International Year of Soils, and oil is one of the main problems contributing to poor soil conditions due to the widespread use of agricultural chemicals that deplete and degrade soils worldwide.
BLC: So together, you have created a letter to send to the UN that organizations and people are signing in support of this message. What is the main purpose of this letter?
Miguel: The letter is a political statement about the importance of changing the fossil fuel paradigm and acknowledging that the problem with soils is more than a result of climate change-it is directly related to our addiction to using fossil fuels in industrial agriculture. We want to launch an educational campaign with the UN to promote practical solutions to this problem. If they don't do enough outreach, the IYS won't have a large enough impact.
BLC: What type of solutions do you promote?
Miguel: When you hear about climate change in the news, it's all negative. They are not talking about remediation, about regenerative practices. They don't talk about the practical solutions that already exist. There are groups all around the world that are implementing low-tech solutions to regenerate their soils and land, in Africa, Latin America, the United States, all over. The Marin Carbon Project is one of them, as is the Rodale Institute, Instituto Terra ... We talk about activists who are doing good work. We have to rely on independent scientists and researchers who are not backed by corporate interests-all the communities worldwide that are working to diversify crops to support the ecosystems. We have so much to learn from all of these amazing people.
BLC: That's inspiring to hear, as we also believe in the power of regenerative agriculture and holistic land management to heal soils worldwide. Your 2015 fall conference, the Soil Not Oil International Conference in Richmond, California, has already amassed an impressive list of confirmed speakers, including Dr. Vandana Shiva, author of Water Wars, Biopiracy, Stolen Harvest, and Soil Not Oil. Can you tell us what the conference will cover and who should attend?
Miguel: This will be a multi-stage conference that will bring all kinds of people together such as farmers, activists, scientists, and community members to join the conversation. People from various backgrounds to propose different campaigns and projects and to see how we can all support each other. We are working to bring in people from multiple continents and if everything goes as we hope, we want to hold monthly presentations for people to present their projects to and speak with elected officials. We want to create a tour for people to testify about the work they are doing, why the soil problem exists, and how to change it. This is for the future of the planet.
BLC: We are very excited about this conference. Our director, Adam Sacks, will be speaking at the conference, too! Why did you choose California for the location?
Miguel: We want to plan sustainable solutions in California first, then elsewhere, that focus on the long-term protection of soils. We want to push the California legislature to set the precedent for other states. Urge them to implement practical solutions to bring more moisture into the environment and reverse desertification, which is a big issue in California. We will start in California, but it is simply a mirror of the global future.
BLC: Thank you so much for taking time to speak with us, Miguel. We look forward to the conference in September!
The Soil Not Oil International Conference is being held September 4 and 5 in Richmond, California. For more information, visit the Conference page.
To show your solidarity, sign Soil Not Oil's Letter to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.