'Soils define culture. Throughout history soil has defined human societies perhaps more strongly than any other single environmental variable. Its fertility defines our food, our population and our economy. Its colours define…
'Soils define culture. Throughout history soil has defined human societies perhaps more strongly than any other single environmental variable. Its fertility defines our food, our population and our economy. Its colours define our art. Its organisms may define our health. Yet, the importance of soils in regulating human society is frequently overlooked'
In the UK, widespread cultural perception of what we think of soil is so often reduced to mundane and repulsive language that sits alongside pessimism, gloom, depression, poverty and filth. The word 'dirt' first appeared in the fifteenth century meaning "smutty, morally unclean". By reducing the Earth's principle life-sustaining substance to dirt instead of vitality we have carved a difficult path for the future of soil on Earth. The ramifications of our capitalistic abuse to soil is having devastating consequences to our connection with landscapes, our foods, our health and how we treat one another. Access to green spaces is a privilege and 54% of the human population lives in urban areas so most of us have little to no functional interactions with soil apart from the potted plants in our homes.
What happens if we find new ways to engage with, celebrate and harness the wonder of soil that changes the course of our relationship with it? What if we start using positive terminologies and metaphors to celebrate the life-giving functions of soil? How can we cultivate sensitivity and acquire local knowledge about our soils? What can we learn from soil ecosystems so that we can individually thrive, in communities that collectively thrive, in landscapes that thrive?
I am interested in comparing self-organising systems (humans and soil ecosystems) finding, or not, a symbiosis through deep listening, conversation, play, and forming interspecies narratives through co-creation. The challenge of course is not creating an interpretation of soil biota that projects our humanness on to them, which would prevent us from understanding these organisms on their terms.