The muck beneath our feet could be our destruction, or our salvation.
Most of us don’t have Dec. 5 marked on our calendars as World Soil Day, but maybe we should. In 1939, Congress sent the soil scientist W.C. Lowdermilk on a fact-finding mission to Western Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa to gauge how worried it should be by the Dust Bowl. He reported that, throughout history, whenever a society ruined its soil, it collapsed.
As geologist David Montgomery, author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, puts it, “The fundamental condition for sustaining a civilization is sustaining the soil.” If we continue to squander our soil, we are screwed:
If, on the other hand, we invest our energy studying and nurturing soil, they could act as a massive trap for carbon emissions, sponging greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. That also makes soil more fertile.
The key is to use whatever tools we can to improve soils and minimize the land we cultivate, according to the soil scientists Mary and Bob Scholes. Soil could be the source of apocalypse or renewal. What are the chances we’ll take the right steps? Thinking about it is enough to make me soil myself.