Soil & Civilization – A Lost Relationship

The Soil For Humanity concept is based on the hope that everyone will develop a mutual respect for soil. We want our readers to join us on our journey as we explore subjects together on the importance of soil to everyone. We will discover an invisible world alive in our soil, how soil is important to our nourishment, what is healthy soil balance and what we all can do to perpetuate good earth for future generations. 

Soil & Civilization explores the importance of soil not just to a community, but also a civilization. Overuse of soil has historically demonstrated the very collapse of civilizations. In culture, civilization, livelihood and health, author Katsuyuki Minami makes valid observations. 

Minami explores soil from a holistic perspective. He looks at it culturally, philosophically, agriculturally, and historically. He discusses the productive cycle of nature, and when this cycle is interrupted, it causes the collapse of civilization. His research gives good examples.

Since soil is the basis for all human life, our only hope for a healthy world rests on re-establishing the harmony in the soil we have disrupted by our modern methods…. Degradation of the soil was a key factor in the collapse of various civilizations

Katsuyuki Minami

We see the earlier civilizations cultivated the land to produce abundance, which lead to a healthy population, which successfully flourished. Like ancient Greece for our first example, the land was fertile, people created cities, there were organized government, trade, and above all, the people were strong and healthy. The Olympiad is testimony to this culture’s vitality. 

In fact, the ancient Greek civilization first engaged fitness challenges through the Olympic games, which determine prowess in speed, agility, strength and power. Only a healthy society can produce great athletes. Their athletes were the essence of generations of healthy food and nourishment. This demonstrates the importance of fertile land’s role in the quest for greatness. A sick or week civilization cannot compete, undertake ventures requiring strength to build a city, and would not be able to achieve as a civilization.

Ideas & Impacts
By the mid-fifth century BC, the surface of Attica, Athens land, was largely deforested. Forests were prevented from regrowing by the constant grazing of goats and the unrelenting demand for firewood. Erosion depleted the mountain soils, deposited silt along the coastlines, and dried many springs. The result was declining agriculture and a chronic shortage of wood and other forest products. One of the most interesting statements of environmental change in ancient literature is Plato’s description of the deforestation and erosion of Attica in the Critias. He mentions that in his own day, one could see large beams in buildings from trees that had been cut from hillsides where he could find only low-growing plants, “food for bees”. The result was that the rains instead of being held by the forests, rushed into the sea, leaving former springs dry and carrying away the soil, so that what was left was like the bones of a man wasted by disease. I once took the road up Mount Parnes and saw the rocks, “the bones of the land”, laid bare by erosion, with a remnant forest that suggested what the whole mountain might have looked like before the devastation. Plato had some practical suggestions to avoid deforestation: goats, which damage trees and crops, should be watched by keepers; indiscriminate gathering of firewood should be forbidden, and its supply should be regulated by district foresters; and fire must not be allowed to spread. These positive regulations seem designed to prevent the deforestation he had observed in Attica. Aristotle further counseled that the resources of the landscape surrounding the city should be kept safe by “Inspectors of Forests” and “Wardens of the Country” provided with guardhouses and mess halls. Conservation was therefore part of Aristotle’s idea of the good city, as it was with Plato.

Reference: Plato’s dialogue: Critia on the impact of agriculture on Attica’s Forests.

What leads to decline? 

There is evidence that indicates the land yielded great produce, it was suitable for pastures, and animals, only to slowly transform this abundance to have the rich soil, and soft earth erode and fall away. 

Through population growth came increased crop production. The fertile soil became pillaged by erosion. When the soil resources were exhausted, it slowly led to ecosystem destruction. Even when a strong civilization relied on their colonies, they too became deprived. Depleted like the soil, when there was not enough, paving a road to decline. This suggests the progress of society is limited to the extent it can plunder soil resources from nature. 

Minami draws reference to the research of Montgomery (2007) in his studies of other civilizations like the Greeks, the Roman, Middle East, Meso-America and others around the globe, such as the Moai of Easter Island, who were found to have deforestation accompanied by eroding soil. Factors of rapid population growth, and wars were evident, but the great civilizations appear to be intricately linked to soil erosion leading towards collapse. 

In 1840 German Chemist Justus Von Liebig claimed that soil must have all its nutrients returned to it in order to sustain life. A constructive process existing in nature must be respected, and this is the fundamental basis for all living beings. 

Human beings live off the land, and they eat the soil, as all life sustaining plants come from soil, that give us life. Its for this purpose our humanity must respect soil and make great strides to protect it for the future generations. 

Our science has described it, our historical observations of great civilizations have reported it, and suddenly in our 21st Century, if we continue to ignore the importance of soil health to our own civilization, and learn from this message, we may travel the road of our ancestors.

Soil for humanity is monumental to everyone and everything. Our soil is a living breathing organism of live activity geared towards sustaining this planet. We’ve all been distracted with living our lives for such a long time that we did not come to realize the value of our soil. Join us on our journey building awareness and cultivating this natural relationship we have with our soil, that promotes life on Earth.

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