Pena: World Soils Day

THERE is a day of commemoration for almost all important global environmental concerns. Among the most popular are Earth Day every 22nd of April, World Environment Day every June 5, World Wildlife Day every March 03, International Day of Forests every March 21, World Water Day every March 22 and World Ocean's Day every June 8.

It was only last week that I learned that there is a World Soils Day (WSD) every 5th of December! It is held annually to focus attention on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.

We really should take care of the soil. We grow our food in it. Our farmers get their livelihood from it. We build our houses, schools and churches on it. It provides shelter to millions, or perhaps billions of insects, bacteria, and all sorts of living things which are necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

An international day to celebrate soil was recommended by the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) in 2002. Under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has supported the formal establishment of WSD as a global awareness raising platform.

The FAO Conference unanimously endorsed WSD in June 2013 and requested its official adoption at the 68th UN General Assembly. In December 2013, the UN General Assembly responded by designating December 5, 2014 as the first official WSD. Why December 5? The date was chosen because it is the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, who officially sanctioned the event.

According to the Soil Science Society of America, soil provides ecosystem services critical for life: soil acts as a water filter and a growing medium; provides habitat for billions of organisms, contributing to biodiversity; and supplies most of the antibiotics used to fight diseases. Humans use soil as a holding facility for solid waste and filter for wastewater. Finally, soil is the basis of our nation's agroecosystems which provide us with feed, fiber, food and fuel.

But the soil has a life of its own. It can be abused and devoid of nutrients if used unsustainably. It is poisoned by herbicides and chemical fertilizers. It is washed away due to deforestation. Thus, it also needs rest. No wonder in the bible, the Lord commanded the Israelites to give the soil a rest.

In Leviticus 25: 3-5, it says: "For six years you may sow your field and prune your vineyard and gather its crops. But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land -- a Sabbath to the LORD. You are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard. You are not to reap the after growth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your untended vines. The land must have a year of complete rest."


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