Dirt. The word conjures up many connotations. “He’s as old as dirt.” Dirt is ancient, it’s been around since the beginning of time. To “get the dirt” on someone – to know their secrets, the things they are hiding. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” When we die, we return to the soil as all living things do. Even though most of us don’t think about it a lot, it’s necessary to our survival.
In his book Dirt The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, William Bryant Logan talks about Moses and the burning bush. “God tells Moses, “Take off your shoes, because the ground where you are standing is holy ground.” He is asking Moses to experience in his own body what the burning bush experiences: a living connection between heaven and earth, the life that stretches out like taffy between our father the sun and our mother the earth. If you do not believe this, take off your shoes and stand in the grass or in the sand or in the dirt.”
The problem of soil conservation is not new by any means. Our country was founded on agriculture and 50 years after the Revolution the soil was failing. Even in the 19th century debates raged between “improvers” and those who simply moved on to new territories in the west when the fertility of their soil was exhausted. Steven Stoll, author of Larding the Lean Earth, chronicles the beginnings of the conservation movement. He says “If I have a single point to make with this book, it is that farming matters…I want the reader to see cultivation as a crucial force in the environment and farmers as the most important conservationist thinkers in the United States before the 1950s.
Today it’s more important than ever to remember the connection between soil and our very being. Besides providing nourishment to plants vital to food and fiber production, soil absorbs rainwater, preventing floods and holds it preventing drought, it cleans the water as it percolates, it provides a habit for many organisms. As always, the future is in the hands of our children. Many children today have no basis for connecting the food they eat to the dirt under their feet. To them, food comes from the grocery store and dirt is something to be washed away.
Conservation districts throughout the country are trying to remedy this situation with a unique educational experience called the Soil Tunnel Trailer. It’s like a traveling museum where children and adults can view 3D exhibits with hands-on and virtual experiences that teach the importance of our soil. You will have the opportunity to take advantage of this fantastic project from the Miami County Conservation District at the library’s upcoming Green Fair, Saturday, April 16, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Meanwhile, we have some great books on soil for the young reader such as Digging on Dirt by Rena Korb,Super Soils by Christine Petersen and The Dirt on Dirt by Paulette Bourgeois. There’s also the movie version of William Bryant Logan’s book, Dirt! the movie with Jamie Lee Curtis.