The term Earth is used for our planet as well as the soil that sustains us. We are firmly rooted in the mindset that the two are one, but the frightening truth is that we have created quite a bit of dirt across the planet. Dirt cannot sustain life. Large swaths of the planet have been rendered unable to provide us with the rich abundance and wealth of life that nature intended. Much of the disturbance is of our own unique creation. We also suffer from several generations of chronic soil abuse. Sanctity of the planet and the soil itself, which provides for our sustenance are easily neglected or ignored in our fast-paced modern world. Substances that had never been part of the planet’s make-up over the millions of years of it’s existence are routinely spilled, spewed and dumped across the planet with little regard for their consequences. Several effects of these man-made creations are, toxicity, carcinogenicity and teratogenicity. Granted, a few substances that have been with us throughout our development as a species have had toxicity issues, but for the most part humans learned to avoid these substances or at least moderate their consumption of them over millenea. The unique place we find ourselves in today is that the various and sundry poisons that we come in contact with daily have never been in this unique mix or at these particular concentrations before. Cancers of virtually all types are on the rise. In the USA, 36 children each day learn that they have Cancer. There are untold numbers of children who face life long health issues because of teratogens that their mothers were exposed to that were contained in every day items that have been deemed safe, or more likely, have never been tested. This terrible poisoning of our planet must stop if our species is to have a decent chance of survival on Earth.
The surface of our planet, uniquely covered as it is in soil, provides a great sink for carbon, water, nutrients, life supporting conditions and energetic forces. Some places, especially natural ones, have “good vibes” or are recognized for their power to heal. They act as vast catchments for water, energy, carbon, nutrients and genetic diversity as well. The challenge that we face today is that none of the “untouched” parts of the planet remain pristine. Our reach to defile them has outstripped our ability to understand the scope or nature of our impact on these, often far away, essential places.
We have all heard the misnomers which have tried to describe the current state of affairs. Some called part of the problem “The Greenhouse Effect”, stressing the fact that carbon in the atmosphere acts as a giant window, keeping heat in and from that idea sprung the name for the presumed complex of interactions that would result if we continued to burn the fossilized carbon that we know as coal, oil and gas; “Global Warming”. Those of us that thought more deeply about the effects of modern energy and resource use realized as far back as the seventies that a more realistic assessment of what might happen was more appropriately called “Climate Destabilization”. Whatever you might call it, the words we use have been used in one of two ways to the same effect. In some of us, fear of the inevitable freezes a people into inaction or a blaze’ attitude about the prospects for change, “What can I do?” You know the feeling I am sure. For some, and I think it is a very large number of folks, the fact that scientists go through stages on their way to understanding observed affects, constantly honing in on certainty, leaves them dazed and confused, suspicious or in absolute denial of the fact that some truths can only be understood as perceptions change. In either of these cases, the person will, most likely, not change behaviors that have negative effects on the planet and find it equally illogical to develop habits that have positive effects on the quality of life on the planet either.
What is hopeful today, is that a growing number of people are taking a third path. This new way of seeing the various “problems” with environmental destabilization take into account the truth of basic math. Even the tiniest quantity, or qualitative change, multiplied by millions of people doing it, result in big changes in the way we treat the planet. What we often forget, when making change though, is that you can’t get something for nothing. It is long past the time for tiny changes in the way we treat Mother Earth. The costs of inaction are greater than ever and the chickens of our own ignorance are coming home to roost. We need drastic change to preserve ecosystems that are currently in a state of flux.
The processes that are destroying Earth, both the planet and the soil need to be understood by everyone. Many great minds have attempted to educate the public about this. The difficult thing about most humans is that they don’t understand the breadth of their inherent ability to change the world.
Today, I stood on an eighteen inch wide strip of dirt less than twenty feet long. For over fifty years it had been just beyond the driveway, the beginning of a wonderful back yard. Several years ago it had been soil. Above this particular strip of land, there was a large birch tree, but over half of it is now dead, cut off from the living soil by soil compaction. Looking down, I saw that the strip of dirt had been compacted by a single tire track, driven over by a two ton machine hundreds of times. The tree had grown there over a period of thirty to fifty years and though mature, this tree had been nowhere near death. The car tires compact the soil, acting like an invisible tourniquet strangling the tree. The soil that had supported all that life, for so long, expressing itself sixty feet in the air. Only one person drove just a foot and a half off the blacktop, for their own convenience and it lead to half a tree dying. The earth needs to be treated with respect, or it will not support life. This was an obvious example. I’m not a tree surgeon, but I would expect the cost of removal of this standing dead wood in the hundreds of dollars. If this birch tree were in the middle of nowhere, it would still serve as a home for critters and eventually nourish the soil, but here it is guaranteed to threaten the home, the garage and the neighbor’s fence at least. Neglecting it further will only have higher costs in the future. This microcosm reflects what is happening worldwide at a slow but rapidly increasing pace.
When I was a young adult, I participated in several activities that were extremely rare. My ex, Stacy and I decided on home birth for the health and safety of our three children. At the time that our eldest was born, only one percent of children in Wisconsin were born outside the hospital. By the time our last child was born, less than ten years later, over five percent of live births occurred in the home. As far as I can determine, this growing trend has still not achieved double digits, but as more people learn the truth about allopathic “medicine” and the culture that exists in hospitals, more and more women choose home birth as a safe option for their children.
As far back as I can remember, home school was at least as valid as public school. I learned more outside the confines of the brick and mortar “schools”, with their required attendance, waiting in lines, getting everyone “on the same page”, bullies, schedules, bad lunches and woefully outdated texts, than I ever did in public school. It was natural for me to want to spare my own children the aggravation and indoctrination that takes place in these holding pens for our youth. When we started home schooling our children it, again, put us in that one percent group. Now, our eldest has aged out of the compulsory grades and is a fine and contributing part of society. The numbers have changed. Nearly double digit growth each year has led to an astonishing rise in the number of children that are home schooled. Often the tiniest change signals the beginning of a trend.
So too, when we started buying raw ingredients in bulk, preparing healthy food at home, sprouting, making and eating live foods, eating less meat, shopping locally and buying organic foods, we were at the forefront of a growing movement to help restore the planet, our own health and drive petrochemical inputs out of agriculture. Look where that trend is headed. As far back as the sixties and seventies there have been people out on the fringes of society who carefully thought out their relationship to food. Now the growing tide of people who undertake this complex exercise has grown to a true groundswell of public opinion.
Even the study, understanding and use of vitamins and herbs to help maintain health has grown in our culture. When we first joined Shacklee, I was but a child. Back then, I couldn’t stop researching things like: What nutrients get depleted when an organism is under different types of stress? What vitamins are absorbed better when used in combination with other vitamins or minerals? How and why did government scientists establish the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) This line of research led logically to studying herbs, natural “medicine”, and “alternative” healing modalities, inevitably leading back to what went wrong with our current “health care” system.
This “voyage of discovery” and it’s organic growth helped me to begin to understand nature, our part in it and the necessity of being an active and observant agent of positive change. For nearly ten years, I invested my tax returns in wholesale trees and gave them away to anyone hopeful enough to let me plant them. Many of those trees today tower over many acres in the Great Lakes Watershed. A small group of friends and I were able to plant about sixty thousand trees.
The last five years or so we have organized as a State of Wisconsin not-for-profit, and planted another sixty thousand trees. Up ’til now I have felt that all our labor and staff needed to be volunteer, but the critical nature of protecting Earth, both the planet and soil, demands that I work to plant trees full time. To restore some semblance of order to the destabilized climate, we need to make serious and lasting changes. Millions of acres need to be reforested for permaculture and native forest cover to help store carbon if we are to tip the balance away from cataclysm. We desperately need to end the age of chemical agriculture. Who among us realizes that Anhydrous Ammonia, the hugely lucrative and highly toxic “fertilizer”, used by many farmers is a by-product of highly dangerous chemical manufacture and that is a necessary ingredient in “Meth” production? I am coming back to the Soil and Earth saving message.
Our culture has taken an untenable hold of “civilization”, we have rested our very way of life on a foundation of “cheap” energy and resources. We subsidize energy production at every turn, from mining to transport storage to end use. We underwrite production with human health and safety waivers for dangerous behavior that threatens the public, and find ways to subsidize exploration, land leases and from oil field development to the gas pump. We allow averaging for heavy polluters, utter lack of, or poor enforcement of limits that we do set, and fines that are cheaper to pay than compliance. What kind of stewards have we become?
Quixotically, we tilt at common sense and decorum, savaging our home, Starship Earth and denying the fact that amongst the planet’s creatures, we are one. We are subject to the effects of pollution, despoilment and disruption of the environment. Costs of production and the lure of profit make us stupid in our relations with both the soil and the planet generally.
Earth needs to be exalted, understood, empathized with and enriched by the ways we humans interact with her. When we take steps to do these things, the bounty of the living planet becomes available to us. A tiny handful of dry peas can yield many meals of sweet and nutrient dense food. Many more calories can be created than are spent turning the soil, composting, weeding and caring for your plants. If your soils, the air, and the water that the plants consume are clean and pure, so will be your food. Ironically, we often are not presented that choice.
The most basic of building blocks for life as we know it are nutrients, we cannot base a healthy life on poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, soap or anhydrous ammonia. We all take from the vast food web and we must also give back. People seem to be fascinated with the idea of becoming “worm food”, but it seems that less than one in one hundred realizes that once embalmed and planted in a box in a box, most decomposers will find you a difficult to find, acrid substance not worthy of colonizing or exploiting for food.
That leaves our time alive to do our duty to the soils of our great land. Imagine for just one day, how many square feet of territory we cover. Then, realize that if you cover these many acres with a petrochemically powered machine, we are leaving an invisible shroud of toxins in our wake. Decide for yourself what kind of give back to the earth you can afford and send a donation in that amount to ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc. We are available at Paypal for online contributions at account: firstname.lastname@example.org donations are spent planting trees across Northeast Wisconsin.