Sunday, November 10, 2013

Soil denial

Cultivated boxwoods at Villa Lante, near Viterbo, Italy

Just after I wrote the recent posts on soils, the following article about soil degradation was posted on science news. I think it makes all the points I've been trying to make about soil quite effectively. The most important point, perhaps, is the widespread ignorance regarding this subject. Human beings are positively cavalier about their treatment of soil; and the soils we use for agriculture are only a fraction of the problem. All of the soils in suburban environments are being subjected to the same—or worse—indignities that agricultural soils are, and there are few to no controls being exercised.

No one educates children or the public on these matters, so we live in a culture of soil ignorance—in which no one really knows what soils do or why we need to preserve them—and soil denial, in which people think you can do anything you want to soils without creating long-term problems. Imagine a world, two hundred years from now, where trees won't grow properly anywhere in settled areas; where flowering plants struggle to survive and the green landscape we enjoy today is a thing of the past.

We can manage fertilizers; but bacteria are a far subtler proposition. Bacteria are best left to manage themselves; we need to become aware of them and help preserve and create environments that foster their growth and well being, not exterminate them wholesale.

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