Earth’s name should remind us of its thin layer of soil that provides 95% of our food, but how much do we know about the soil? It’s one more thing most of us take for granted. I certainly found no pictures of good old plain soil in my files and found myself wishing I’d taken a picture of a giant molehill I noticed a day or two ago.
Scientists compare our soil to a living skin, vulnerable to rough treatment, chemicals and erosion. And rough treatment is often what it gets.
UK readers may be feeling outraged that one of our beautiful, meandering rivers, Hereford’s River Lugg, has been reshaped by landowner(s) who almost certainly knew of their legal duty to protect it. A site of special scientific interest, the river and its “riverbanks, gravels and beds of water crowfoot are home to crayfish, otters and salmon, lampreys and dragonflies and a host of rare river wildlife” to quote The Wildlife Trust.
Trees that cascaded branches over the river have been removed, the banks straightened and flattened and river gravels have been scraped away by a 16 tonne bulldozer. Without nature’s trees and gentle curves to protect it, the soil on the riverbank will erode into the river, taking chemical fertilisers and pesticides with it.
If you read the Wildlife Trust article I’ve linked to, your day will not improve.
So should we who love nature write about threats to it, especially at this time when we need good cheer to bring us through the winter? If so, who am I to lecture anyone about soil management (or anything else)?
Instead, to celebrate our soil, I decided to share pictures of living things that are closer to the earth than we are. It might be fancy, but in their expressions I read some of what I wanted to say. The duck might actually be putting it more sternly than I’d have dared to.
And as a thank you for staying with me this far, still on my soil theme, I’m adding a couple of pictures from woodland. The first shows one of the fairy bridges I sometimes mention in the background. After the leaves drop, the path is laid bare; in summer’s dappled shade, it all feels more mystical. On a wet autumn day, the path’s soil is a slippery mud bath, but as it dries it becomes flat and innocent-seeming.
I wonder if any of you noticed that the guardian tree that grows near the start of the path has eyes. Is that type of expression a step too far?
Whether or not trees have eyes may be contentious, but we’d all agree they have roots. Roots that know the soil better than we ever will; that share resources unlocked by the billions of chain-forming living things mostly unknown to mankind that we could find in every bucket of rich, live woodland soil. Now that’s mystical.
For more about World Soil Day, and a molehill complete with mole, visit the United Nations website.