Give us the dirt.

Transparency and solidarity around our lands, from the ground up: There is tremendous work being done to keep this planet of ours in one piece. And yet what we can’t see happening, we assume isn’t.

We wait, feet tapping, for dirt to perform spectacular feats. We whine and kick at it when we don’t get our miracles. But our soil, patiently awaiting our comprehension, would point out just how much is going on down there.

Each moment, an immeasurable energy stirs beneath the land that we ourselves crowd with the same constant bustling. We talk of worker bees and ant colonies but what of the microorganisms busily, invisibly, shaping our world against all odds? And of the agricultural and scientific communities doing the same? They work tirelessly under our noses, which we turn up in favor of simpler, sexier conversation.

But what are thriving, hidden worlds and scientific discovery if not exciting news? We don’t talk about these things. We’ve developed an appetite for what’s wrong, an attitude of “why bother”.

Nevertheless. Hundreds of thousands of coalitions chisel away at the social, economic and environmental challenges of our day. Over fifty organizations in the U.S. alone have their hearts set on saving soils. And few of these groups appear to hold just one focus. They recognize entanglements with countless environmental causes, spillovers into food sovereignty, environmental justice, cultural preservation. They address each and ask: what else? Who else?

Unless a protest erupts, it’s unlikely we’ll hear mention of any of these efforts in the news so long as there are new death counts and scandals to report on instead.

Our country is under fiery, watchful eyes from the world as it is held accountable for horrific crimes, outrageous politics and deeply-rooted injustices. As it should be. But if we’re going to pull back those curtains, let’s be sure to reveal the full picture, because through the current lens we see only a rotten, ruined society.

And like the soil and its underground networks, we’ve got a lot more going on than meets the eye. Or the press, at any rate.

Amidst the fog of social unrest, pandemic, and war — farmers, ranchers, agronomists, soil experts, native tribes, activists and researchers continue their work no matter the social, political or environmental climate. They trudge through the mud, clock in, experiment, fail, try again. We can do better than applaud them as unsung heroes: we can lend a hand, or a voice. Amplify their efforts.

When all the other dust settles, we’ll have them to thank that it had a place to settle on.

The fact is that our pantry is running out of things we can simply replenish. We’re low on land and short on time. The combination of pollution and overdevelopment is spiraling as we consume acreage at monstrous rates. Many are aware of this much, but few understand how irreplaceable our soil truly is. And why we all ought to care.

Soil is created through a process that can span millennia. It is at once thrilling and harrowing to imagine who farmed, ate from, built upon and stood over the same earth our own hands and feet dig into. We have stolen, smothered and infected that land. We forget that it feeds us.

Our role is laid out plainly: sustain the land we hope to be sustained by. When we pollute our soils with chemicals and household waste, we impair our water, we become ill, we have trouble breathing, our jobs become hazardous, our children suffer. When we work our soils to exhaustion we run out of arable land, our yields suffer, the climate shifts, our economy is bruised, we lose our farmers. No farms, no food. No dirt, no farms.

We can’t replace the ancient soils we’ve used up, but we can create better conditions for the dirt we’ve got.

As with our threatened communities, we need to help our threatened land not only survive, but thrive. One affects the other and both have systems working against them. Let’s educate ourselves. Demand justice, demand transparency.

Demand more dirt.

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