Earthworms Matter

Now that I'm aware that the true bottom line of sustainability is soil fertility (duh), I see stories and information all around. I enjoy particularly the attention the New York Times gives to agrarian matters these days. It seems especially strong proof that the distance is closing between urban and rural interests. We all want to thrive. And we all want earthworms, whether we know it yet or not.

In The Hidden World of Soil Under Our Feet, published in the Times Sunday Review, Jim Robbins describes the recently launched Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. From the story:

The focus is on the life that resides in the soil — the microbes, fungi, nematodes, mites and even gophers that make up a complex web of interrelationships.
A teaspoon of soil may have billions of microbes divided among 5,000 different types, thousands of species of fungi and protozoa, nematodes, mites and a couple of termite species. How these and other pieces all fit together is still largely a mystery.
“There’s a teeming organization below ground, a factory, with soil animals and microbes, each with their own role,” said Diana H. Wall, a professor of biology at Colorado State University who has studied soil biodiversity in Antarctica and Kansas over the last two decades and who is the scientific chairwoman of the soil biodiversity initiative. “A leaf falls, and earthworms and termites are constantly ripping and tearing it apart, and microbes and fungi pass the nutrients on to plants.”

We need diversity in soil as in life, crops, cities, communities. And we need those earthworms.

Bonus: also from this week's Sunday New York Times: Tasty, and Subversive, Too—an entertaining list of ways guerilla "fruitists" are planting orchards in urban southern California. Two examples:

Fallen Fruit, which also comprises Matias Viegener and David Allen Burns, has become well known among art and culinary cognoscenti here and across social media. One of the group’s first activities was mapping publicly accessible fruit trees in Silver Lake and other Los Angeles neighborhoods, including private trees with succulent fruit tantalizingly draped over public rights of way.
To kick off the opening of the fruit park here, which consists of 27 trees planted on the site and 60 more distributed to residents, the group held one of their ritual public “fruit jams,” in which participants gather around a portable stove to make never-before-seen concoctions from whatever surplus fruit is available....
Though Fallen Fruit is rooted in Los Angeles, the group is also part of a growing fruit-activist movement, midwifed by pioneers like TreePeople in Los Angeles, which has given away some 200,000 trees, including thousands of fruit trees, since 1983. Newer arrivals include “urban space hackers” like the Guerrilla Grafters in San Francisco, who surreptitiously graft fruit tree branches onto purely ornamental trees. Another is the San Francisco Garden Registry, which tracks urban farmers online and, like a fruit dating service, helps them meet and share their surplus harvests.

Imagine the earthworms behind—beneath—all that.

Rona RobertsComment