Composting for a Greener Campus and a Greener World
Students find a way to respond to global warming
After viewing “Inconvenient Truth,” the movie made by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore to educate the world about global warming, students at Amritapuri wanted to take some meaningful action. When the campus Green Friends engaged Mr. Peter Ash, a professional farmer from the US, with 40 years of farming experience to present a workshop on organic gardening, 90 of them signed up to attend a 3-hour session spread over 3 days. Assisting Mr. Ash was Ms. Maria, from the ashram’s ecology department, which offers education on environmental issues and promotes organic products.
The workshop began with a history of agriculture as Mr. Ash narrated how farming had become more and more mechanized and commercial and how food had become less and less nutritious. A video about the tragedy that occurred in Kasargod district of Kerala when endosulphin was sprayed on cashew plants, caused a noticeable stir of alarm and concern. The children in Kasargod had developed mental disorders and skin diseases, because this pesticide when washed by rain, had mixed with river water, thereby contaminating drinking water. Incidentally only 10% of the pests had been killed by using the pesticide.
On the second day, the students learned the basics of organic gardening followed by practical sessions on composting and seed bed preparation on the third day. Outdoors, the students were first asked to smell the hard red clay soil. Mr. Ash then contrasted this with the sweet-smelling, life-filled composted soil that he had brought along. A compost heap was prepared. Students gathered dead leaves and grass, cardboard and brown paper, food waste and fresh cow dung, then dug holes, adding layers upon layers to the heap.
Cow dung mixed with water was spread on top, just like icing on a cake
On all three days, delicious organic snacks were provided by Ms. Maria. The workshop concluded as students learned to transform unforgiving ground where plants struggle to survive into fertile soil where trees thrive and benefit the earth’s atmosphere and society’s need for wholesome food. Students had understood that the answer to many of the world’s ecological problems like global warming, air, water and soil pollution, natural disasters, is perhaps organic farming. In addition to the compost heap, they had also prepared two compost beds, to be planted when they are ready.
January 17, 2009