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More than 3 billion people are affected by soil erosion, which is caused by the mismanagement and overuse of land.
In the past few years, the nonprofit Ecosystem Restoration Camps has launched 23 camps worldwide to educate volunteers and locals about healthy soil management.
Members of the group collaborate online. Many were inspired by a documentary about the transformation of China’s Loess Plateau from the 1990s to early 2000s.
The group is aiming to have 1 million people in its movement by 2030.
Volunteers around the world are banding together to restore one of the world’s most underappreciated resources: soil.
Ecosystem Restoration Camps, a Dutch nonprofit, has launched more than 20 camps on six continents to fight soil erosion, an environmental threat affecting nearly half the world’s population — 3.2 billion people.
Thousands of volunteers at these camps work with local communities to demonstrate how to restore dry dirt where nothing can grow.
Centuries of overuse and deforestation have led to “salinity, acidification, and loss of biodiversity” in the Earth’s soil, according to the United Nations — consequences that could render land unusable for agriculture. The UN reported that one soccer field’s worth of land is lost to soil erosion every five seconds.
As climate change raises temperatures and causes more violent weather events around the globe, soil has become especially critical to environmental sustainability. Healthy soil is more efficient at capturing carbon, supporting plants, wildlife, and insects, and lessening the impact of floods and droughts.
Helping lead the charge to restore the world’s soil is John D. Liu, a researcher and filmmaker who documented how 3,000 years of farming had degraded the landscape of China’s Loess Plateau.
Matthew Trumm, a Northern California environmentalist, got in touch with Liu in 2018. Days later, the deadly Camp Fire ripped through Trumm’s hometown of Paradise, burning more than 100,000 acres of land in the region and displacing tens of thousands of residents.
The disaster spurred Liu and Trumm to launch the first Ecosystem Restoration Camp in Butte County. More than 100 volunteers showed up to the first camp meeting.
“This is a tragedy, but also an opportunity,” Liu told Business Insider Today.
A growing network of volunteers, also inspired by Liu’s documentary, soon began collaborating online. Since then, more than 20 camps under the Ecosystem Restoration Camps umbrella have opened up around the world, in places like Egypt, Thailand, Bolivia, and Spain. At camps, experts teach methods of water retention, tree planting, and compost-making relevant to each region’s ecosystem.
“It brings volunteers, experts, and resources together like a flash mob,” Trumm said.
The group also encourages out-of-town visitors to attend, offering to teach soil restoration techniques they can bring back to their own communities. Anyone can register for training sessions at the camps, participating in community-led learning with hands on lessons every day.
The group has ambitious goals: According to its site, it wants 1 million people involved in the movement and 100 camps worldwide by 2030.
“We’re doing what we need to do to ensure that our children in future generations have a life,” Liu said. “That’s the purpose of this.”
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