Seattleite David Montgomery has won a MacArthur Genius fellowship for his work in geomorphology, a study of geophysical forces and how soil and rivers, the landscape have been altered over time.
Joan Dye Gussow writes about loss of land in her book, This Organic Life: “Although the lands that feed us are disappearing everywhere, the paving of California takes on special significance because of its unique Mediterranean climate. You can’t grow oranges in Iowa.” She goes on to say that “some of California’s most productive land is no longer threatened because it has been entombed. The beautiful Santa Clara Valley was once producer of nearly 50 percent of the world’s prunes, apricots, and cherries. Aaron Sachs tells us it took only four decades to transform this Valley of Heart’s Delight, with its 132,000 acres of flowering trees, into Silicon Valley.”
Since reading Gussow’s book I’ve been more thoughtful about soil conservation, so David Montgomery’s MacArthur fellowship caught my eye. One of his books, Dirt, is on my list to read. Montgomery is among a growing group of scientist advocates who are telling us that we need to pay attention to the dirt on this planet. We need it to grow our food, literally to survive, and we’re covering it up at an alarming rate, thousands of acres every day.
And then I noticed that another recipient was an urban farmer from Milwaukee. Here’s a link to a NY Times article, An Urban Farmer is Rewarded for his Dream, which tells more about Will Allen and the important work he’s doing. Plenty going on in Seattle too with urban farming; and there’s the work Fritz Haeg is doing to promote edible landscapes. He’s an advocate for replacing all or at least some of our lawns with edibles. Haeg’s book, Edible Estates, is another good one for the perennial book list.
Worthwhile enterprises to think about and small actions to take: growing some food of our own, giving over more urban land to growing food, and acknowledging what loss of soil means on a global scale to farming and survival. We should have bumper stickers, Save the Dirt!
Below are links to past Mixed Greens postings which relate to soil, seed, urban farming & edible landscapes – all small actions contributing to living more sustainably and perhaps another form of genius right in our own backyards.