The 'Roving Microscope’ is a community-based initiative that is looking into soil and exploring more-than-human ecologies based in and around Bethnal Green Nature Reserve in Hackney. With many people in urban areas alienated from the land, growing food, and soil, general knowledge about and connection with local soils are often limited. The Roving Microscope tries to directly answer this situation by bringing people together to look at the soil in microscopic detail and see how it is alive. As Hari Byles of Roving Microscope says: “Soil is a living community that cares for us as we care for it” .
Healthy soils provide benefits which stretch in time and space beyond their current geographical location - through carbon capture, flooding prevention, water management, food production, supporting biodiversity, and so on. Soils should be viewed in a similar way to air and water, as something which it is in everyone’s interest to actively take care of. Humans can actively support the microbiome and structure of the soil by growing using agroecological methods, and building soils locally as opposed to importing soils extracted from ecosystems often under threat elsewhere. Work such as that of the Roving Microscope share with the political agroecology movement an ethos of soil care. In order to insert principles of agroecology within the hearts and minds of urban communities, work is needed to deepen people’s understanding of soil, the life it supports, and how to care for it.