At 50 years old, Nathalie Masse, a French psychologist, has undertaken a heroic journey of cycling halfway across the world, all to draw attention to the urgent crisis facing agricultural soils worldwide, and the international Save Soil movement.
“I decided to embark on this project which is called ‘Wheels for Soil’ to help raise awareness on the issue of soil extinction, and garner support on social media, as well as unearthing sustainable practices by visiting farms, fairs, and organizations.” – Nathalie
Not war, wild animals, or dangerous terrains could stop 50-year-old Nathalie embarking on her first venture of this kind, as she left her hometown of Toulon, France on June 21st, 2022. 7 months later, she has cycled through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, UAE, Oman, and India – her 10th and the last country of her journey.
Nathalie, a child psychologist by profession, was inspired by Sadhguru and his 30,000 km lone motorcycle journey last year to launch the Save Soil movement. “I didn’t do this just for joy, leisure, or holiday. It was very difficult and at the same time, it was amazing. I had so many beautiful encounters in every country. The energy of the people helped me go through my journey”, said Natalie upon her arrival at the Isha Yoga Centre, Coimbatore on Sunday, 29th January 2023, the final destination of her ‘Wheels For Soil’ journey.
Worldwide, 52 percent of agricultural land is affected by land and soil degradation (ELD Initiative, 2015). Soil degradation negatively impacts 3.2 billion people worldwide (UNCCD, 2019). 90% of the Earth’s topsoil is likely to be at risk by 2050 (FAO, 2022). The Save Soil movement calls for policies across the globe to ensure a minimum of 3-6% of organic matter is present in agricultural soils so that they are healthy and thriving, and keep the global food crisis at bay.
Raising awareness about soil degradation on every occasion along her route, Nathalie met with the UN resident coordinator in Serbia (Francoise Jacob) and Turkey (Alvaro Rodriguez), who expressed strong support towards her initiative, as well as the President of the region of Mantua, Italy. She has held countless interventions in schools, universities, and exhibitions. When hearing about her journey, the executive secretary of the international “4per1000” initiative, Dr. Paul Luu, shared a video during the “4p1000” forum at COP27.
“It’s been a journey of fostering connections between all kinds of people I’ve chanced to come across, for the Save Soil message to be heard by our political leaders so they may enshrine protective laws and revitalizing practices, such as 3 – 6% organic matter in agricultural soil”.
Sharing her experiences on the road, Natalie said that traversing through the mountainous roads in Italy and Slovenia was quite challenging. She even recalls having an encounter with a wolf in the night. She said that cycling under the scorching sun would become tiresome and draining. “Sometimes when I couldn’t cycle, I would stop and try to find something in nature to give me energy. This is what cyclists do, they manage day by day. That’s part of the adventure and gradually I became more comfortable on the road. I had my camping gear so I’d ask people if I could put up my tent in their garden. I remember, one day, whilst in Italy, it was around seven o’clock and I couldn’t find a place. The next town was far away and I didn’t feel I had the strength to make it so I stopped at a restaurant and ended up staying there on their floor. Once I slept in a fire station, and like that I always found solutions”, said Natalie who has traveled 8000 km in different terrains and weather conditions”.
A yoga practitioner for the last 2 years, Natalie owes her intensity and high energy to yoga at the age of 50. “Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been riding a bicycle, and I had dreams of traveling around the world, though I never thought I would actually do it. I didn’t believe I was capable; had it not been for the Save Soil movement I wouldn’t have achieved this.”
She believes “raising awareness and raising people’s consciousness about their connection to the soil” is very important. “As a child psychologist, I see so many children and adults suffering from anxiety and other disorders which are directly connected with soil and nature. That’s when it struck me how important this project is. I don’t want to leave a dying legacy for future generations to come”.
Save Soil, backed by 9 UN agencies and the World Food Program, is a response to the soil degradation crisis – a global people’s movement to support governments in establishing concrete policies for soil health.
Save Soil is supported by thousands of leaders and celebrities including the Dalai Lama, Jane Goodall, Trevor Noah, Joe Rogen, Mark Wahlberg and Didier Drogba.
8 nations have signed MoUs with Save Soil.
3.91 billion people have been reached by Save Soil.
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