“The magic of soil is to turn death into life.” – Mr. Jaggi Vasudev
Sternies, as spring is springing around us and you feel tempted by the colors of the blossoming flowers, the thrill of eating on patios surrounded by plastic or (occasionally) real leaves, the deliciousness of freshly squeezed orange juice coming out of a wholesome orange, and fulfilling bike rides around Central Park to enjoy the smell of the green grass, you may want to think about the ultimate enabler of all that happiness, i.e., the soil.
WHY DO I CARE ABOUT SOIL?
It’s easy to forget about soil in New York because we can hardly spot it. However, we interact with it in our every meal and every sip of water. 95% of our food comes from the precious topsoil. Soil is absorbing pollutants before they enter our bodies and giving life to the lungs of the earth, our green plant and tree friends. Soil is made up of sand and organic matter (we all know this, duh!). But did you know that the water stored in soil represents about 65% of fresh water? It is the largest water soak in the planet and an organic water purifier.
Soil is the basis of our lives no matter where we are or where we are from and needs our urgent help.
WHY DOES SOIL NEED HELP?
Agriculture, deforestation, and other factors have degraded and eroded topsoil at alarming rates. Globally, 52% of agricultural land is already degraded. The planet is in crisis. If current rates of soil degradation continue, this would be the end of life as we know it.
Our entire planet is struggling with several crises at the moment. We have become used to listening about the food crisis, the water crisis, the loss of biodiversity, climate change, loss of livelihood in agriculture, ensuing conflicts and mass migrations.
There is a common thread running through all this, i.e., if humanity takes good care of Earth’s soil, it will go a long way in helping out with other lofty challenges facing us and our children.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
The Stern School of Business has already taken admirable steps in this direction. A lot of our faculty, staff and students are associated with the Sustainable Business and Innovation Stern Specialization where we try to think about energy and environment, social impact investing, social enterprise and sustainable food business, social entrepreneurship and sustainable development while also thinking for everyone.
When policymakers and businesses come together, unthinkable successes can be achieved. Let me tell you a success story: In the mid-1970s, scientists warned that manufactured chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs in everyday products like aerosols, refrigerators and air-conditioners were harming the ozone layer. In 1985, a hole was confirmed in the ozone layer over Antarctica and was rapidly increasing in size. The future could have been bleak with skin cancers, dying plants and damaged ecosystems worldwide. In 1987, countries came together – eventually 197 in total – and agreed to stop using CFCs and similar ozone-depleting chemicals by signing the Montreal Protocol. This policy has led to the phasing out of 99% of ozone-depleting chemicals. Today the ozone layer is recovering and at current estimates, the hole will close completely around the middle of this century.
This model needs to be repeated urgently. Thankfully, this is what the Save Soil Movement is trying to recreate through the Conscious Planet effort (three cheers if you have already heard about it!).
The Save Soil movement started with the support of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), aims to inspire 3.5 billion people (60% of the world’s electorate) to support policy redirections to revitalize and bring back the topsoil. The movement was launched by Mr. Jaggi Vasudev (also known as Sadhguru), a global leader and visionary with a proven track record for over 30 years of operating multiple large scale environmental initiatives. Prominent leaders who have joined Save Soil including Dr. Jane Goodall, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Marc Benioff, Mark Wahlberg, Rosario Dawson, Deepak Chopra and multiple Heads of States, among others. Save Soil aims to build momentum ahead of UNCCD’s COP15 in Côte d’Ivoire in May 2022, appealing to the leaders convened to act decisively in addressing this crisis.
The movement aims to institute soil revitalization strategies, namely securing soil quality by raising the minimum requirement of organic content in soil to 3-6%. @SadhguruJV is on a 100-day, 30,000 km, lone motorcycle journey from London to the Cauvery basin in India to create awareness and gather support to #SaveSoil.
At the same time, Conscious Planet is establishing the Soil Health Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with numerous countries across the globe by getting buy-ins from Heads of States to create policies ensuring the restoration of organic content in the topsoil through agricultural and monetary incentives, carbon credits and other local instruments for farmers and people involved in agribusiness.
To support the movement, you can action on three things by amplifying the #SaveSoil content to ensure political leaders have enough incentive to prioritize the increase of organic content to 3-6% in soils:
HOW SHOULD COMPANIES THINK ABOUT SOIL REJUVENATION?
Numerous surveys show that strong ESG propositions helps companies attract and retain quality employees, enhancing employee motivation. Post the COVID-19 pandemic, investors are also paying close attention to how businesses are managing their ESG risks. Long-term business value creation is now strongly linked to corporate sustainability. A prime example is how Google has increased its positive perception by being carbon neutral since 2007 and aiming to be carbon free by 2030.
One more way companies can think about tapping into this new wave of ESG awareness is to align themselves to some of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals. The Save Soil Movement addresses 12 of the 17 global UN Sustainable Development Goals.
WHAT DO WE STAND TO GAIN IF WE QUICKLY INCREASE SOIL’S ORGANIC CONTENT?
The benefits of preserving and nurturing our topsoil are enormous, not just for our health and well-being but also for businesses and the economy.
How is NYU thinking about sustainability?
Our University is also aligned towards promoting and achieving its sustainability goals by implementing strategies that span every area of university life. It also aims to have graduates across all schools understand issues surrounding sustainability and how their work can contribute to a more sustainable world. Learn more about the @NYUGreen effort here.
Students graduating this May can also take the Green Grad Pledge and commit to sustainability in their lives beyond NYU.
As Sternies, we are taught to set agendas for ourselves for the next two years, five years, ten years. While most of us are trying to figure out through uncountable case studies as to what kind of leaders we want to be tomorrow and which values should govern our thought processes, let’s also think about how we can promote sustainability in our decisions, in our companies, in our families and in our communities.
In our plans for future, I hope we never forget that we will always need nutritious food, clean air and thirst-quenching water to live our lives to the fullest and ensure a world where our kids can still feel the thrill of blossoming flowers, freshly squeezed juices and eating on the patio surrounded by swinging green vines.
Let’s nurture the soil, let’s care for the planet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Snigdha is an NYU Stern MBA Langone Student and joined the school in Spring’ 2022. Currently working as a Security and Privacy Control Test Engineer at Google, her experience ranges across the three lines of defense in telecommunications, banking and technology industries. Previously a National Debater, she is a trained Indian Classical Vocalist and landed in New York in 2014 to pursue a Master’s in Electrical Engineering from NYU.