We are unhealthy, and so is our soil

Some say that ‘we come from soil, and when we die, we go back into it’. But considering that every minute the USA loses two farm acres to development, it seems that all our development is leaving us with little room for things other than ‘growth’ (NY Times).


But we aren’t here to talk about where we go when we die, instead we want to focus on ‘living’. We will all agree that in order to live, we all need fuel. This comes in the form of food. Once the food is consumed, it travels a long path into our gut. Here, in this moist and dark place, we find an array of bacteria that helps break down and extract vital nutrients from our food. These nutrients are then used as building blocks to keep regenerating our body and keeping it healthy.

A good question to ask at this point might be – where does the food get its nutrients? The best answer to that question is – soil. Yes, the dark and moist land is also filled with a variety of bacteria. In fact, a handful of forest soil can contain up to 10 billion bacteria, about a million plump yeasts and fungi, and tens of thousands of other creatures (FAO). That’s immense! And it seems a lot similar to our gut, since all that bacteria helps break down organic matter and turn it into nutrients that keep the soil alive and healthy.

So, not only do we come from soil, and we are what we eat, but our soil and environment is starting to look a lot like a reflection of us. This similarity goes even further when we look at what’s been happening to our own health as that of the environment worsens.

In the past few years the way we cultivate our food and treat our land has worsened. Our focus has shifted from producing nutritional food, to producing lots of good-looking food with a quick turn around.

Governments subsidize our farmers to grow food like corn, which have small roots. The problem is that with small roots plants aren’t able to soak up all the wonderful nutrients found deep in the soil. And since the turnaround must be quick, the same acre of land gets sown with same crops year after year. Without enough break to regenerate the nutrients, farmers rely on fertilizers (which are gathered from far corners of the world) to bring back health to the land. However, no amount of fertilizer can give enough nutritional value to the plant since the absorption rate and the plant’s nature of taking in nutrients relies much on time and soil quality.

So what do farmers do? They keep stuffing their sick and dried up soil with more antibiotics (fertilizers) and water it down with more water, which usually runs off as lack of carbon and nutrients in the soil leave it unable to absorb all this ‘medicine’. So all the food that we end up consuming has less and less vitamins and minerals with each passing year.

In fact, a 2004 study published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that many of the 43 examined vegetables and fruits had lower amounts of vitamins than their counterparts about 70 years ago (Scientific American). We are talking about vitamins like: protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

May we remind our readers that in our black and mystique universe, our planet is the only living home we have. It is a bubble that provides us with oxygen, water and other chemicals that keep us alive. Since it’s a closed circle, and our soil is running low on carbon and nitrogen, most of it ends up in the atmosphere causing climate change.

So how do we put all this carbon back into the soil? Through our friendly green plants. We all know that they use a technique called photosynthesis to capture carbon dioxide and use it as energy to grow. (Psychology Today) In return, they release oxygen, which we happily inhale. To make sure that the fragile and vital balance of our bubble doesn’t explode, we must pay careful attention not to tilt the scale into any one direction.

But lately, focusing too much on producing more, our governments, farmers and retailers have put more weight on making and printing more green paper than actually planting and taking care of the living ‘green’ around us. As the world around us opts for more development, we can’t forget that just like our soil, we too need not just antibiotics, but real health, rest and good nutrition to have a happy life.

We are too sick and broken, and without proper maintenance and care, our antibiotics won’t heal us. If anything, they will just keep us working longer on the little energy and health we got, until our body and environment breaks down under all this pressure, and then it may be too late to do anything else.

So let’s take a step back and evaluate what are the REALLY important things in our life. Is it making quick turnaround with money and growing more food, or is it investing in sustainability and real health? The decision is ours. And everyday we make a choice about the kind of future we want to create for ourselves.

By Hokuma Karimova

1. Becker, Elizabeth. October 4, 2012. “2 Farm Acres Lost per Minute, Study Says”.  New York Times. Accessed from: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/04/us/2-farm-acres-lost-per-minute-study-says.html

2. Newark, Esther. April 27, 2011. “Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious”? Scientific American. Accessed from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/soil-depletion-and-nutrition-loss/

3. SD Dimensions. February 1998. “Soil and Microbial Biodiversity”.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed from: http://www.fao.org/sd/epdirect/epre0045.htm

4. Marano, Daniel. January 2014. “Rich Dirt, Poor Dirt”. Psychology Today. More information on: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/authors/daniel-marano