March 29, 2011
“The thin layer of topsoil that covers much of the earth’s land surface and is typically measured in inches is the foundation of civilization,” wrote Lester R. Brown, in his new widely-acclaimed new book, World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse.
“As long as soil erosion on cropland does not exceed new soil formation, all is well. But once it does, it leads to falling soil fertility and eventually to land abandonment. Sadly, soil formed on a geological time scale is being removed on a human time scale,” he ruefully noted.
“Losing productive topsoil means losing both organic matter in the soil and vegetation on the land, thus releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Today, roughly a third of the world’s cropland is losing topsoil at an excessive rate, thereby reducing the land’s inherent productivity,” he added.
The Amala Bharatam Campaign (ABC) that focuses not only on cleanliness but also on proper recycling and handling of organic and inorganic waste may have the perfect answer for this global crisis.
“The organic waste that we collect from our Amala Bharatam Campaigns is now being used to create compost on campus,” shared Adityan S. of the Amritapuri campus, a student of the Integrated M.Sc. (Physics and Mathematics) program.
“We use food waste, dry leaves and some cow dung to make the compost pile,” Adityan explained. “Dry leaves are piled on top of the food waste; cow dung is put at the very top. We try to maintain an optimum level of moisture at all times.”
“In about 90 days, rich compost is ready,” added classmates Goutham and Vikas Kumar Jha, who also participate whole-heartedly.
What do the students do with this compost?
“Amma often tells us to grow our own vegetables. That way, at least once a week, we can have a meal that is not laden with pesticide residue and other contaminants. So, obeying Amma’s words, we have started organic gardening on campus. We use the ABC compost for that.”
Using the ABC compost to supplement depleted top soils, the students are growing spinach and banana trees. They tend to these plants, watering them and removing the weeds, spending precious moments outside in the lap of Mother Nature.
As the fourth Sunday of March got underway, students from all Amrita campuses took to the streets to clean up their surroundings. The recyclable trash was bagged and the organic waste was transported back to the campuses for composting.
As the Amala Bharatam Campaign extends beyond the Amrita campus premises to many Indian cities, towns and villages, these Amrita students are at the forefront of a major revolution.
In August 2010, the United Nations shared an alarming finding. Desertification now affects 25 percent of the earth’s land area. And it threatens the livelihoods of more than 1 billion people – the families of farmers and herders in roughly 100 countries.
Will India, with Amala Bharatam and composting, be able to show us a way out from this global crisis?