Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Dirt Is Life


National Geographic's Simon Worrall interviewed Paul Bogard, author of The Ground Beneath Us: From the Oldest Cities to the Last Wilderness, What Dirt Tells Us About Who We Are, and I culled the following little gems from that interview:

  • It’s estimated that children now spend less time outside than the average prisoner.
  • One of the first scientific discoveries I found was the hypothesis that human beings need to be exposed to the biota in the dirt, in the ground, especially when they’re kids, as a way of inoculating us to diseases that appear later in life. Kids these days are not being exposed to dirt because they’re not allowed to play outside. Their parents think dirt is dirty. But both the newest science and the oldest traditions tell us the same thing, which is that the ground is alive. The ground gives us life.
  • Soil sealing is one of the most shocking things I learned about. When we pave over the natural ground, we cut it off from the air and water that the life in the ground needs to stay alive. We essentially kill that ground. There is an argument that, if we pulled up the pavement and worked hard to rejuvenate that ground, we could bring it back. But the scientists I talked to said, when you pave it over, it’s the last crop, the last thing that’s going to grow there.
  • As a child I was enamored with the beauty of the green corn stalks, the black dirt, and what I thought was the natural topography. Coming back older and with a new understanding of the ground, it made me uncomfortable because Iowa is the most transformed state in the union. Some 97 percent of the natural ground has been altered, changed, or transformed. As one biologist said, “it’s an open air monoculture owned by monopolies.” So, instead of my romantic, childhood view of miles of corn stalks, the beauty of life growing, and the color green, I saw it as this monoculture where other life isn’t allowed to grow.

1 comment:

Buenzlihund said...

This is very true and a sad fact. Even more so that it seems to me despite all the so called efforts to "re-nature", it's not happening. Still more roads are paved, more houses built and even the farmers have soon every single one of their tiny fields surrounded by a paved road for easy access. Year after year I witness trees being felled along roadsides -for safety reasons they say, someone could run their car into a tree and get killed- and in the woods again for facilitated access to the remaining wood growing for heating and building... it IS scary. And all this 20 years after my school years where we all have been lectured back and forth about not dropping handkerchiefs into the forests and not to use plastic... well...
Last year we rented a place for our horses , half an acre. All dead. It was green of very litle grass, the rest some hardy inedible, pretty worthless plants that didn't help, but no birds, no bugs, no topsoil whatsoever. The horse dung would simply conservate as dropped in the field. No bugs, as I said. Not even composting worked. Now only 9 months later we have birds and the good busy bugs en masse, much more grass, thickly growing, almost 100% ground coverage much less weed, a hint of humus and a small collection of little ground covering flowering pioneer plants. And composting works great. We are no pros, just tried to make the best for our caspian horses -so hey have some grass to eat instead of poisonous plants to look at- and to keep or rather make the ground healthy by closely watching and listening. It's so important. And I am amazed at how little will help improve things. It's not the first time that we have encountered dead soil (even if it seems grass covered and lush) with no bug life at all and very reduced frequenting wildlife in the forms of birds and insects. I'm never sure if it's just me or if the environmentalists and farmers see it, feel it- too.