Working in the National Health Service, I appreciate that health is complex.
It’s not a question of health being there or not. It is more like a 3-dimensional ballon: It can be fully blown up, lacking a bit of oomph and shrivel, or be altogether flat. To play and have fun we need a nicely blown up ballon, right?!
The WHO reminds us health is more than the absence of disease: A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Wow, that’s a tall order!
I add to that ecological wellbeing. Without ecologically sound foundations, none of the other aspects are achievable.
So, hand on heart:
Are you well? Are you healthy?
Are your family members?
Are our societies?
What’s that got to do with soil? Bear with me… You were curious about the “about”, right?
I live parallel lives (striving for integration – One Health!)
Working in neurological rehabilitation, I see people with severe brain injuries achieve remarkable things. Others, with sometimes less severe injuries can struggle. What enables or disables them, is often the quality of their social communities. The relationships they invested in pre- and post injury can have a huge impact on their long-term health.
The conditions we create as a society plays an equally important part, leaving some at an advantage and others at a disadvantage.
The same is true in soils. The dynamic relationships between different elements of the (soil) ecosystem and plants determine if soils, plants, and ultimately those feeding on plants, are healthy.
To give space to my other passion, connecting with food production and richer landscapes, I took sometimes shorter, sometimes longer breaks from my NHS work. I started volunteering on farms. One of my favourite jobs that I often found myself drawn to was composting.
I was curious to meet all these different compost characters, and woohoo, some were very pungently characterful – not pleasant but at least occasionally intriguing, others sad and neglected, sulking to themselves, with not much going on, others springy, spongy, vibrant or just the reliably, trustworthy kind, others not quite sure what they wanted to become.
Now I am learning with the help of a community and a microscope, what’s really going on with these characters, and how I can help them be vibrant. Systematically, not just at random. Compost is a potent habitat and multiplier for key soil microbes.
I am on a journey as a soil health coach, learning widely from pioneers in regenerative agriculture and my own observations, and embarking on an MSc in Agroecology.
Towards a whole-some understanding
Science is catching up with how nature has been operating all along. Neuroscience is discovering that microbiology has a huge impact on our brain and overall health. The microbiome reasearch for humans and the soil biome research is converging.
Bacteria are not our enemies. Neither are fungi. If we get afflicted by some disease-causing organism, we have to question our underlying health, and the condition of our own health-supporting communities.
We are learning that it is all connected, we are connected through biology, and are part of nature.
As a counter-point to ecological collapse I want to see beautiful landscapes, rich in life and water, producing nourishing foods, so we need fewer people like me working with people who had strokes as a result of the unhealthy conditions we created collectively.
Cheers then – to good health! And please check whether your compost may need a drink, too.