More than half of the world’s agricultural soil is already degraded, and scientists and UN agencies agree that the remaining soil will only take us 40 to 50 years.
Yet despite the threat it poses to biodiversity, climate and global food security, soil health receives less attention than other looming environmental crises. That’s why yogi, mystic and visionary Sadhguru embarked on a 100-day, 30,000-kilometer (about 18,641-mile) motorcycle journey to save the soil.
“Everyone knows the problem. Everyone usually knows what the solution is, but they’re all waiting for some idiot to come and ring the cat,” the 64-year-old said at a conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, on the 37th day of his trip. “So here I am.”
A 24 year journey
Sadhguru accelerated on his motorbike odyssey from Trafalgar Square, London, on March 20, but his journey to save soil really began 24 years ago in Tamil Nadu, India, as Jyoti Jankowski, who makes volunteering with Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation since 2004 and the Conscious Planet/Save Soil Movement since August 2021, EcoWatch said. In 1998, visiting UN officials warned that nearly 60% of Tamil Nadu could become desert by 2025, according to an Isha Foundation website.
“He was a bit shocked by that number,” Jankowski said. “And he walked around and looked and he said, ‘No, it’s going to be sooner than that. So he started thinking about what we could do about it and that’s, I think, where it all started.
The movement initially focused on increasing vegetation to shade the land from the sun. It started with grassroots efforts to reforest the Velliangiri Hills of Tamil Nadu that stood behind the Isha Yoga Center. It later expanded into the statewide GreenHands project, which mobilized volunteers and farmers with the aim of covering 33% of Tamil Nadu with vegetation. Finally, Sadhguru went national with the 2017 Rally for Rivers, which won the support of 162 million people in India. This focus on rivers evolved into the Cauvery Calling movement to help the struggling South Indian river by enabling 5.2 million farmers to plant 2.42 billion trees in its basin over a period of 12 years.
Rivers and soil are connected, Jankowski explained, because the water that feeds these rivers is filtered through the soil. Soil health is also linked to the health of the planet because soil stores three times the carbon dioxide of living plants and therefore helps fight the climate crisis, according to the Save Soil website.
The Conscious Planet to Save Soil movement takes up Sadhguru’s long-standing concerns for the well-being of the literal earth beneath our feet on a global scale with three main goals:
- Raising awareness of the threat to the world’s soils.
- Mobilize 60% of the world’s voters – or about 3.5 billion people – to push for policy measures that would support the ground.
- Convince 193 nations to develop a policy ensuring that all soils have an organic content of at least three to six percent.
life on the road
To pursue these goals, Sadhguru decided to travel from the UK to India by motorbike, stopping in 26 countries. The itinerary crossed Europe and the Middle East, with a stopover in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification . It is currently in India and will complete the journey at its southern tip in Coimbatore on June 21. Sadhguru has flown from London to The Hague and from Muscat, Oman to Jamnagar, India, and has also flown from Baku, Azerbaijan to Amman, Jordan. , as well as to and from COP15 and the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Otherwise, he rode his bike, sometimes for 12 to 14 hours straight.
Justin Aubuchon, who has volunteered with the Isha Foundation for the past decade and accompanied Sadhguru for part of the trip as a member of the AV team, told EcoWatch what life on the road was like.
The daily routine varied. Sometimes the team would spend three or four days in a city for events and Sadhguru would just cycle to and from the apparitions. Other days meant waking up around 6 a.m., driving to a border crossing, waiting three to four hours to cross, then cycling another three to four hours to your destination. Aubuchon said days like this were exhausting in the car, let alone on the bike.
“I couldn’t even imagine what he was going through,” he said.
Sadhguru also persisted in a variety of road conditions, from the steep cobbled streets of Rome to the dusty, bumpy two-lane roads in Romania and Georgia. He rode through winds strong enough to warn truckers, snow in Switzerland and torrential rain entering Rome that flooded the roads. However, Sadhguru was not interested in arriving late.
“[I]It was just amazing what he set out to get that message across,” Aubuchon said.
However, while Sadhguru was the only one riding the bike, he was not alone in his efforts. Sometimes there were as many as 40-45 people helping with the logistics of the trip, from organizing events to preparing food. A kitchen crew even drove along with their trailer to be ready to serve a meal when the rest of the crew arrived at their destination. Aubuchon said there was a great sense of purpose and camaraderie among all the volunteers.
“I saw it and continue to see it as one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life,” Aubuchon said.
part of a movement
This sense of purpose was not limited to the volunteers organizing the trip, but extended to the public and the people Sadhguru spoke to along the way. This is something Aubuchon noticed when he recorded video footage of events.
“I was blown away by, no matter what city we were in, what country, what language they spoke, it was almost universal, how receptive people were to that message and how open and excited about it,” he said. .
He remembers in particular a meeting between Sadhguru and the German actress and influencer Toni Garrn in Berlin.
“[S]he said something like she had never been part of anything, any kind of movement before, but she feels part of it now,” he recalled.
Of course, the goal of the Save Soil movement is to encourage this kind of participation, and the mission will extend beyond Sadhguru’s journey.
Jankowski said people often ask him what they can do to improve soil health. His answer ?[J]it is our voices that he needs. And if you can create a big enough voice, it will get noticed and it will have an impact,” she said.
People inspired by the movement have taken the initiative to make their voices heard in different ways. Volunteers in Canada lit up Niagara Falls, the CN Tower and Montreal’s Olympic Stadium with the green and blue colors of Save Soil. and a British schoolboy wrote a letter on the matter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and received a response.
This encouragement to spread the word in unique and creative ways has made the movement very optimistic at a time of great anxiety about what we can do as individuals against environmental degradation, Jankowski said. Aubuchon observed that many of the events he filmed had a “very festive atmosphere”. They would begin with musical performances from the host culture and end with the Save Soil anthem and dance.
This message of hope was evident when Sadhguru met schoolchildren planting trees outside Baku, Azerbaijan. It’s an area that is currently experiencing desertification, but was once very green, Aubuchon said.
“[H]We have spoken several times about [how] it would be easy for you to get it back, put it back in a green place,” Aubuchon said.
The next big Save Soil event is a walkathon held in over 60 cities across the Americas on June 18-19.
The organizers chose Father’s Day weekend in particular, Jankowski told EcoWatch, “to say that as a generation, as parents, this is something that we should give to our children and to their children”.