Soil conservationist Bill Keith of the NRCS figures anyone can help restore this living Earth—starting with a step outdoors, a mix of kitchen compost and grass clippings, maybe a sprinkle of earth worms out of a rainy gutter.
He was showing me how to do a soil test in a particular pasture, while speaking of our national homeland in general—its soils and waters and wildlife.
“Urban sprawl has quietly taken a tremendous amount of farmland,” he said.
Not only does chronic, unplanned development turn useful fields and forests into asphalt and cosmetic lawns that contribute nothing to the web of life, the topsoil in these suburbs rarely gets restored for future generations.
Neither does the soil of industrial “factory farms” out west that rely on inorganic fertilizers and other chemicals. Not only can heavy dump-loads of these chemicals destroy or ignore what Keith calls “the soil food web—healthy bacteria, earthworms and fungi,” they can create further problems for water quality, beneficial insects and other species.
“These things are not separate,” Keith pointed out, gesturing across the pasture and creek. “To improve the soil is to improve the water and the native species.”
He added, “I wish that everyone realized that most things in nature are in a cycle … a system where there is a lot of dependence on other things. Man is the only species arrogant enough to think we are above the system.”
Getting back into the living system, contributing to it instead of degrading it, is connective, happy work any citizen can undertake.
It matters, Keith perceives, not just because the nation’s life-force of topsoil and farmlands have been vanishing at rapid rates political leaders utterly ignore, and ground-level citizens are going to have to restore the resilience and food security of our homeland.
But doing so also blessedly gets people out of the confining, delusional boxes of indoor life, where devised info-from-afar programs the brain to follow madmen, facts become optional, and truths we dislike are depicted as “attacks” and “enemies.” When reality becomes the enemy, is fakery one’s friend?
“We live in our little boxes,” Keith said, “and get politicized in such a way that part of our population can’t tell credible science from pseudoscience.”
It’s a situation warned of by political scholars from long ago, including Thomas Jefferson, who realized that an oblivious, easily-misled populace (that’d be us)—particularly one unrooted in the soil—is a nation’s greatest weakness.
Throw in bloated money-loving leaders unhinged from reality—persons who’ve never stooped toward the humble earth except to adjust a golf ball—plus unstable food supplies, disregard toward those who grow them, and widespread loss of topsoil—and that nation is already decaying at the ground floor.
Luckily the ground floor is accessible to us ordinary folk, and almost anyone can start restoring its resilience. Keith recommends reviving soil with humus, live benefactors like red clover, or the richly-productive hobby of vermiculture. Even the resident of the tiniest apartment or room can save kitchen scraps for a compost.
This brings up another benefit of digging into reality, as opposed to running away.
Each day’s torrent of piped-in bad news—climate change, species extinctions, warmongering by big-weapons billionaires who want the world’s peace treaties torn up—may convince a person that nothing can be done to stop our planet from going down.
Flip over to religious broadcasting or “liberty” radio—much of it funded by big-oil/big-weapons interests and their political coalitions—and another kind of fatalism ensues. “It’s all in the Bible, friend. God is destroying this Earth, just like it says; better get right with God!”
Why these religious broadcasters think an actual Bible-reader would blame God for the planet’s destruction is a stumper. We are doing it ourselves—and for no god other than the old-time Baal of money. That’s the only god we want to get “right” with. Certain money-crazed religious leaders know that, first-hand.
All the more reason to ignore these kinds of untethered fatalism—pseudo-religious or secular. Surely it would benefit our sanity—and the ravaged planet—if we just returned to ground level and got to work, humbly, trying to set things right.
Contact Liza Field at email@example.com.