Next time you are outside, step off the concrete and the asphalt and look down. What do you see? Look past whatever happens to be growing there, if anything is growing there. Is that dirt? Or is it soil? Let’s explore those questions.
Dirt. N The part of the earth’s surface consisting of humus and disintegrated rock.
Soil. H The living, dynamic ecosystem that nurtures healthy plants.
There seems to be quite a difference. One speaks of humus and disintegrated rock. The other speaks of an ecosystem that nurtures.
Soil is the very foundation of life. It is life. Soil is alive. One cup of healthy soil can contain more bacteria than there are people alive on the earth today. The is a number above 7 billion.
Soil is the starting point for health. Your health, my health, the health of everything on the plant is ultimately linked to the health of the soil. Unfortunately, for almost 100 years, the health of the soil has been declining.
At the end of World War II, industrialized farming became the norm. Large mechanized farms were subsidized by the federal government. As more and more acreage was transformed into huge mono-culture food factories, dependent on man-made synthetic chemicals to control pests and weeds and ultimately to provide basic nutrients for plant growth, we began to experience some unintended consequences.
Now research tells us that the soil in most of the agricultural land in the US is seriously depleted in the most basic elements that plants require to produce nutritious food. Data is in hand that reports that the nutritional value of our most basic foods has declined over the same period of time. The answer to these problems was to use more and more synthetic chemical additives to the soil and then to the highly processed food that was now the norm rather than the exception in our diets. Again, we are now aware that this too was having unanticipated effects on our bodies and our health.
Now, a growing awareness of the importance of healthy soil and how intimately it affects our own health is fueling a rising interest in organic living, not just organic gardening.
Next time you go outside, step off the sidewalk or the parking lot and look down. I hope that you see what is beneath your feet in a different way.