Working through the layers of soil-ciety - by Silmarie Crespo-Vélez


“The quality of the soil depended on a whole host of living entities—millions of organisms living in every cubic centimetre of soil—whose work is necessary for the earth to breathe and to evolve as a living system.”


As I read Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges [which was part of the recommended readings of the program] it became clearer, that all of the systems: macro, meso, micro, bio, social, political, you name it... are mirror images of our current realities. And we need to care for every aspect of our soils, our lives, and our systems in order to keep living and not surviving.



As a girl who grew up and studied her whole life on an island, and who’s every experience has come from a local scale, the whole idea of the #2019YCLImmersion in Germany seemed very intimidating. When living in a small, diverse and warm environment, it creates a strong sense of belonging and with it a will to protect everything about that space. What better way to do so than by engaging in activities that help mitigate and adapt to climate change? So, it was for that same reason that I applied and finally took a huge leap towards the other Hemisphere (Sorry Mother Earth, Carbon offsets are in process).


In the Immersion we attended lectures and organisations which tackled this polemic in different scales. All the efforts were of importance, yet there was one activity that reignited ideas and passions that once passed through my head: the group project.


The group project consisted of prototyping an idea that tackled mitigation or adaptation of climate change (of course) into a solution that could be implemented in our respective cities using the UNLEASH Innovation Process of Design Thinking. There were projects based on 4 themes: Energy, Urban Mobility, Urban Planning, and Food and Agriculture.

Imagine giving birth to an idea between five people, sounds tricky right? Then imagine working with five people from 4 countries, who speak 4 different languages, who have different social, political, and academic backgrounds. Having this experience only gives you a minuscule taste of how international climate negotiations must be. And What a challenge! One of the hardest parts of the process was framing a project that could potentially impact and benefit cities like: 

  • Shanghai, in China

  • Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre, in Brazil

  • Bangalore, in India

  • Caguas, in Puerto Rico…

  • and possibly your city too!

When discussing problems, ideas, and views on agriculture with different perspectives your eyes, brain, and heart starts to open more. You recognise that your yearning for ecological cropping practices, accessible food for citizens, vast biodiversity, fair work and pay is the same yearning from another young leader that lives kilometres away. And your heart clutches when a teammate like Flavia says: “I remember the first time I saw a spinach seed working as an adult in a Community garden and thinking -Wow, I had never imagined a Spinach seed.”


Visit to Prinzessinnengarten, in Berlin, was part of the agenda of the immersion

After years of studying Agriculture, it is always shocking how true it is that many people don’t know where the food they buy from the Supermarket comes from. Even though it was exhausting and at times it felt like going around in circles (like many processes) everything came flowing through.


We finally came around with a problem to solve having elementary schools build climate change resilience and sustainable food awareness through networking and the gamification of gardening. 


Quality education is one of the most important factors in development (it is also number 4 in the SDG’s). Even though there are existing programs promoting school gardens and quality food in elementary schools, due to the lack of funding, positive incentives, and internal motivation, there is limited effectiveness and impact on the children’s development of a sustainable mindset and associated practices. Shokuiku, mandatory food education in Japanese schools is a unique success story of educating children to be conscious of making dietary choices thanks to its hands-on experience with food, but still it is not climate change focused.


Our proposed project enables the children to impart knowledge about food production through methodologies like the gamification of the farming process as well as real-life experience.  We aim to mitigate climate change by spreading awareness among the future

generations and within their social environment.


It was a tremendous experience, and I am very grateful for the companions and teammates who were part of the project: Ana, Rachel, Flavia and Manoj. Everyone had a key role, and treated each other with so much respect, kindness and constructive criticism that it felt incredible. I am also very thankful for the opportunity, support, and love the YCL’s organizers and their fellows gave throughout the whole Immersion. I aim to adapt the project in my city.  As Scharmer says: "there are many layers to the soil and society, and we must take part in each one to help preserve all of it".



About Silmarie: Silmarie is proudly from Puerto Rico and has a degree in agro-environmental sciences. As educating is one of her passions, she was an agriculture teacher in two elementary schools. She is currently working for an educational and business project focused on family farming and community supported agriculture (CSA) in the Bayamón Municipality at Puerto Rico. Silmarie was one of the participants of #YCL2019immersion, and you can reach her via her Linkedin.

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