The soil, the raw Earth, the meat of our world that lays atop the bones… here is the vitality that underlays all life.
I recently watched the documentary “The Symphony of Soil” which I will further embed below because it so impressed on me once again the importance – and the mystifying complexity – of the ground beneath our feet.
Soils formed in a hundred different ways, all with their own chemical composition, and all with their own life. One facet of our massively complicated global ecosystem, each tiny portion so intimately vital to the other. Mycelial networks stretching hundreds of miles, bumping into other networks, forming this intricate dance like a natural Internet, the first Internet, transmitting details of weather patterns and other ecological “news” all through their spread. It is an overwhelming idea, a transcendent, beautiful idea –
And our system of global agriculture and capital is destroying it.
We have in the last few centuries undergone a startling revolution as a species – the Industrial Revolution. The roots of this revolution were planted at the “dawn of civilization,” when humankind first learned to conquer the land around them and agriculture was born – but now, millennia later, in these twilight days, we are reaping what was sown.
Industrial agriculture, designed to maximize output, has proven that more is not always better. Indeed, this among the many things that give the lie to capitalist notions of market value equating to the most efficient practices. For example, the market demand for meat means that much productive land is directed toward cattle, which means huge amounts of feed must be grown for those cattle – plants that could be used to feed huge numbers of people in areas that have little arable land. This process also uses vast amounts of the remaining clean water on the planet, causing further issues as industrial factories pollute water at an alarming rate. How could this system be efficient? How can we argue that it is efficient, when so many people starve? The sad irony, of course, is that so much food is grown in certain wealthy areas of the world that much of it is thrown away, and in most cases not even returned to the soil as compost, but locked in landfills where it turns into methane, exacerbating the problem of climate change. Indeed, instead of natural composting, multi-culture planting techniques, and sustainable irrigation and tilling practices, we really on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which destroy the vital mycelial networks and insect populations that keep land naturally fertile and productive. These chemicals then wash into the watersheds, effecting not only all land downstream but the oceans as well, and from the oceans to the atmosphere of the planet itself.
These are vast problems. The Earth upon which we are all dependent is dying – and our culture of consumption, our ancient ideologies of dominance and submission, are killing it. Science, hailed by many as the saving grace of humanity, should not be directed towards sustaining an unsustainable system, but instead should be directed toward finding ways that we can live more in harmony with the existing natural ecosystem. Sadly, because our cultures are so now deeply entangled with these oppressive ideologies, this is a difficult task – but we have, as a species, solved difficult problems before.
We must work towards a worldwide awaking, centered on being conscious of our place, our natural role on this planet. We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to ideals of supremacy, but humility. We cannot allow ourselves to destroy our natural birthright, but instead enhance it and find our place in it. We must not erode, but build; not shatter, but uplift. Only in this manner will we be able to sustain ourselves as an organism – the ultimate goal of all life.