Posts tagged sustainability

Why should we care about soil?

“Soil is our planet’s epidermis. It’s only about a meter thick, on average, but it plays an absolutely crucial life-support role that we often take for granted.”Dr. Donald Sparks, University of Delaware, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

I don’t typically think about soil in this context. Instead, the mention of the word evokes remembrance of the distinct fragrance of moist earth. I love the smell of it. I also recall a familiar sound: a shovel breaking into the ground during planting season; the scraping of metal against silt, clay, and rock. If you’re a gardener, you know what I am talking about.

Do you recite a prayer, as I do, when digging? I pray that my efforts reveal a healthy soil, with worms wiggling away in the disrupted ground, and burrowing further into its rich brown to black colored mass. In those moments I give in to the urge of removing my garden gloves and touching the soil, testing its texture for the plants it is about to nourish.

This connection to the soil and the need to care for its health is more critical when considering the importance of soil from a global perspective. Dr. Spark’s analogy of soil as the outer layer of the earth’s “skin” explains how soil serves a protective function against a variety of environmental disturbances. It purifies our water, absorbs and stores carbon that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, and provides nutrients to help plants grow.

Most importantly, without soil there would be no food. The relationship of soil to food production and global hunger engages scientists, governments, factory farmers, NGOs, environmentalists, and others in the rhetoric about climate change policies and agricultural practices.

From environmental health to global hunger, individuals should care about soil fertility and quality. An exploration into the subject empowers us as citizens and gives us tools for our own practices on a micro level.

Straw wattles - aka straw worms, bio-logs, straw noodles, or straw tubes – are tubes of dried rice straw. Configurations of wattles were laid across Noguchi Plaza, creating a juxtaposition of natural material objects against a canvas of manmade constructs.

Straw wattles – aka straw worms, bio-logs, straw noodles, or straw tubes – are tubes of dried rice straw. Configurations of wattles were laid across Noguchi Plaza, creating a juxtaposition of natural material objects against a canvas of manmade constructs.

Ojama – or a momentary interruption – is an exploration of space, time, and experience of the natural world. In this case a straw wattle is used as a medium to examine how we respond to nature’s interruption of the manufactured environment. The art installation featured in this piece took place at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) plaza in Little Tokyo (Los Angeles) from May to July 2011.

March 22nd was World Water Day, an annual celebration designated in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly in celebration and awareness of water around the globe. My social media page flickered as facts and opinions about water were posted and shared. I read, for what seemed like hours, about water consumption, water poverty, drought and flood conditions, environmental justice and so much more, filling my brain with information and drawing connections to my own behavior as a concerned citizen of this planet. World Water Day raised public awareness about global water issues.

So now what? Awareness is good as long as it is well informed and results in farsighted strategies. As designers of gardens and public spaces, our work has relevance from a water perspective.

  • How do we focus our work for the challenges ahead?
  • What questions should we ask when beginning our design process?
  • Who do we call upon for input so that our inquiries remain well informed and at the edge?

Our expertise is discovering and revealing the essence of place. We are designers, not scientists. We cannot, after all, create water out of air. Or can we? Now that is a fun idea to explore for the landscape!