I had a teacher in horticulture school who told us that we’d get an automatic grade reduction if we ever referred to soil as dirt. To a horticulturist, soil is pretty much everything. Healthy soil is a self-sustaining system, and it does about 90 percent of your job for you. It turns out that healthy soil is vitally important to the health of the whole plant as well: the carbon cycle keeps the earth’s chemistry in balance and, if managed correctly, could help alleviate global warming. As a kind of tutorial on the subject, take a look at this very brief YouTube video about the vital role the soil plays in carbon sequestration. The way the soil captures and recycles carbon from the atmosphere, helping to alleviate warming, is an important piece of the environmental puzzle, and one that’s rarely mentioned.
A lengthier tutorial on the subject introduces the idea of “ecosystem services.” The ecosystem that surrounds us provides us with vital services, things we couldn’t live without: It cleans the air, filters the water, and regulates temperature. Oh, and it gives us all our food as well.
Speaking of food, next time you bite into a juicy peach, think about that role of pollinating insects in supplying us with food. A healthy, sustainable ecosystem has lots of pollinators. Mark Bittman has made a fascinating video about the role of pollinators (and native plants) in agriculture and sustainable ways to encourage native insects.