Here are a couple of books that gardeners and lovers of nature will surely enjoy. Living Earth, by Peter Farb, was published in l959 but remains an excellent introduction into teeming and complex life found in soil.
Readers will learn, perhaps for the first time about springtails and mites, two of the most common organisms in forest soils and their presence by thousands in each square foot of soil. They will learn about shrews which Farb calls the “fiercest animal on the globe” and about the ability and willingness of these mammals to take on and triumph over animals many times their size. They will learn about the force called imbibition which enables a seedling to push its way through an asphalt road. I remember seeing mountain ash trees one to two meters high that were growing on an abandoned stretch of highway. The book offers valuable learning on almost every page and is another educational resource for people of all ages.
Secrets of the Soil, edited by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, includes a chapter called “Microcosmos” which is about the “farmer’s unpaid workers” which range from microbes to clearly visible organisms. The reader will learn about organisms that collect nitrogen from air, ones that make important chemical changes, others that are scavengers, and even ones that parasitize other microbes. To the thoughtful individual it will raise the question of immense damage we may do by adding pesticides and other pollutants to the soil.
Another chapter in the same book is called “Biomass Can Do It.” This chapter raises the interesting possibility that composted human sewage can return wasteland to productivity and achieve the same purpose with marginal lands that are infertile. It entertains the promising possibility that by living with Nature and cooperating with it we might be able to raise adequate quantities of food to sustain society and reduce fuel use simultaneously.
Unnecessary waste results from 25,000 calories of energy (plant food) being needed to grow 1,000 calories of beef protein. A good portion of the meat we eat putrefies in the human gut. By reducing meat intake, human health would be improved and fossil fuel use decreased.
A new idea of wealth emerges which is simply that the health and integrity of the planet is the real wealth of life and that by living in cooperation with the innate order of the Earth we would be head and shoulders above the world of competition.
Actually, natural history and ecology provide a wealth of knowledge which corroborates the wisdom of life within Nature’s bounds that was established before our Johnny-come-lately species adopted the view that we are God’s gift to the world. We would not be able to exist if it were not for the hundred quadrillion or thereabouts, of bacterial cells that inhabit our bodies, along with ten quadrillion animal cells that shape our being. As microbiologist, Lynn Margulis, states, “The life forms that recycle the substances of our bodies are primarily bacterial.” We are being kept ignorant of the truth that the life exterminating chemicals poured into the world by our industries are weakening and sickening the most fundamental structures of our bodies – for the sake of profit. When governments, to please industry, establish “tolerances” of so many parts per million (ppm), or parts per billion (ppb), they imply that tiny quantities of pesticides and poisons are harmless. This is not true.
Basically an Earth-centered worldview is the natural outcome of study in which a basic knowledge of natural history provides innate awareness of membership in the family of life. Life is supported by Earth, and returns to Earth upon death. Being aware of the amazing miracle of being, and knowing the source of that being, removes much of the sense of meaninglessness that threatens many people wary of trivial pursuits of our times. To realize that we are cousins to all other living things is no little accomplishment. It is also an understanding that power structures choose to deny.