Making soil biodiversity accessible

Håkan Wallander, Professor in Soil Biology
Lund University, Sweden

I represented the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GBSI) during the Summer of Soil event in Järna in Sweden 2013, and attended the Living Soil Forum, which took place between the 22nd and 26th of July.  

During this week, a number of short (TED-talks) were given by invited speakers (I was one of them) in the mornings, and the participants worked with developing projects and ideas related to soil quality and soil biodiversity in the afternoons.  My aim was to introduce important research on soil biology and soil formation in a popular way, accessible to people outside the academia.  

The event was absolutely fantastic, and very well organized.  I was thrilled to meet so many enthusiastic people that cared about the quality of our soils and the organisms living there.  For some reason it had been difficult to get scientists to the meeting, while a mixture of teachers, farmers, entrepreneurs etc. were well represented.  I think we as scientists should spend more time popularizing our work and making it accessible to ordinary people.

I was inspired by many of the people I met at the meeting.  For instance, one woman grew food and feed in a 2000 square meter garden (picture to the right) and her idea was to live on what she could produce in this area, which is the share each person would have on the globe if equally divided.  Based on the fodder she produced she had calculated she could eat meat once a week.  School classes come regularly for visits and I can just imagine the discussions coming out of these visits.  I asked her to what extent she used her own urine to close the nutrient cycle, and we had a long discussion about this.

During the week I spread flyers about the activities going on in the GSBI and I also distributed my popular scientific book about soil (Jord – funderingar kring grunden för vår tillvaro, in Swedish) to those that were interested.  I can assure you that there is a lot of interest in what we are doing.