The  living soil

The living soil

 

The science of sound

 

Did you know that fungi in the soil can be influenced by sound? Scientists recently discovered that playing ‘white noise’ to depleted soil increases healthy soil production by up to 20%. The ‘white sound’ mimics the movement of earthworms and other useful insects. 

How do fungi grow?

Until recently all we knew was that fungi primarily respond to environmental factors such as moisture, light, and nutrient availability. Factors such as humidity, temperature, pH level, and substrate composition are very influential on fungal growth. While fungi can detect environmental cues, they do so through chemical and physical signals rather than auditory stimuli. But sound is not something we associate with healthy soil, that is until now.

A few years ago a Swiss sound artist called  Marcus Maeder stuck a noise sensor into the ground. At the time he was working on his dissertation and was just curious ‘What does the soil sound like?’ And there was a lot of sound to discover. The soil is alive and full of screeching, scratching, and tons of other noises. Ecologists have long known that the earth is home to gazillions of organisms. In fact, in a small cup of earth, researchers have counted up to 100 million life forms.

Understanding that underground life is important because it creates ‘the living soil’.  “Soil helps to transform the nutrient elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that feed plants – for food, for forests, or to fill the air with oxygen, so we can all breathe,” says Steven Banwart, a soil, agriculture and water researcher at the University of Leeds in the UK, who co-wrote an overview of the functions of soil in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Worms, grubs, fungi, bacteria, and other decomposers are involved in every step. (source BBC article) 

Next time you start a compost heap, think about the millions of creatures that you will harbor.

The Living Soil 

“The living soil” refers to the complex ecosystem of organisms and processes that exist within the soil. Soil is not merely a medium for plants to grow in; it’s a dynamic environment teeming with life and essential for sustaining ecosystems. The living soil is home to bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms, insects, and other microorganisms.

These organisms all play critical roles in nutrient cycling, decomposition, soil structure formation, and plant health. Without them, there is no compost, simple as that.

The recent discovery that introducing extra ‘white sound’ to the soil speeds up the formation of compost could be of huge importance in the coming years. Currently, most of our healthy soil is already depleted.  Making only a small layer of high-quality topsoil takes decades. Shortening this process would be a welcome development.

Maintaining a ‘living soil’ is crucial for sustainable agriculture and functioning ecosystems.  Reducing chemical inputs, promoting crop diversity, and adding organic matter is vital if we want to continue to grow healthy crops.

Cyclical Living

Cyclical Living

cyclical living - Living With The Moon
All human life has its seasons and cycles, and no one’s personal chaos can be permanent. Winter, after all, gives way to spring and summer, though sometimes when branches stay dark and the earth cracks with ice, one thinks they will never come, that spring, and that summer, but they do, and always.

Truman Capote

 

 

In the dark days of winter, a new year begins. But January wasn’t always the start of the new year. At the dawn of modern timekeeping, the winter months were a largely undefined period. It was the waiting time until new life would be ‘reborn’ and a new cycle (year) was about the start. 

 The early calendars followed nature’s path

Humans have been marking time on calendars for at least 10,000 years, but the methods they used varied from the start. The Mesolithic people of Britain tracked the phases of the moon. Ancient Egyptians looked to the sun. And the Chinese and Babylonians combined both methods into a lunisolar calendar.

But what most ancient calendars had in common was the strong reliance on natural events. The Ancient New Year was always around the time of Easter and is connected to the first Full Moon after the Equinoxe (21st March when day equals night). The Jewish culture calls it Passover (passing from one year to the next). It is the time when nature awakes and is ‘reborn’ into a new cycle.

The modern calendar used in most of the world, though, evolved during the Roman Republic. It was attributed to Romulus, Rome’s founder and first king. But in reality, the early Roman calendar developed from other dating systems designed by the Babylonians, Etruscans, and ancient Greeks.

As Romans’ scientific knowledge and social structures changed over time, so did their calendar. The Romans tweaked their official calendar several times from the republic’s founding in 509 B.C. until its dissolution in 27 B.C.

The first Roman Calendar counted 10 months and paid homage to what counted in early Roman society: agriculture and religious ritual. The 304-day calendar year began in March (Martius), named after the Roman god Mars. Traditionally the new year marked the start of the  ‘marching season – where soldiers were sent to conquer new land –  and ended in December, which was the end of the harvest time in temperate Rome, followed by an uncertain ‘winter period’ where people lived off the harvest and partied until the beginning of the new year.

The initial calendar included six 30-day months and four 31-day months. The first four months were named after gods like Juno (June); the last six were consecutively numbered in Latin, giving rise to month names such as September (the seventh month, named after the Latin word for seven, septem). When the harvest ended, so did the calendar; the winter months were simply unnamed.

Rome’s lunar calendar

The 10-month calendar didn’t last long, though. In the seventh century B.C., around the reign of Rome’s second king, Numa Pompilius, the calendar received a lunar makeover. The revision involved adding 50 days and borrowing a day from each of the 10 existing months to create two new, 28-day-long winter months: Ianuarius (honoring the god Janus) and Februarius (honoring Februa,  a Roman purification festival).

The new calendar was anything but perfect. Since Romans believed odd numbers were auspicious, they attempted to divide the year into odd-numbered months; the only exception was February, which was at the end of the year and considered unlucky. There was another issue: The calendar relied on the moon, not the sun. Since the moon’s cycle is 29.5 days, the calendar regularly fell out of sync with the seasons it was intended to mark. In an attempt to clear up the confusion, Romans observed an extra month called ‘Mercedonius’, every two or three years. This was the beginning of the later regularly employed leap year. But it wasn’t applied consistently, and various rulers added to the confusion by renaming months.

“The situation was made worse because the calendar was not a publicly available document,”writes historian Robert A. Hatch. “It was guarded by the priests whose job it was to make it work and determine the dates of religious holidays, festivals, and the days when business could and could not be conducted.”

Following the sun and changing the yearly start date

Finally, in 45 B.C., Julius Ceasar demanded a reformed version that became known as the Julian calendar. He had spent some time in Egypt and was fascinated by the Egyptian sun model. It was not surprising that he relied on the Egyptian Sosigenes of Alexandria, an astronomer, and mathematician to design his new calendar. Sosigenes proposed a 365-day calendar with a leap year every four years. Though he had overestimated the length of the year by about 11 minutes, the calendar was now mostly in sync with the sun. He also changed the starting date from the variable Full Moon after the Equinox to January 1st, a rigid man-made date. Although easy to manage, the calendar lost the link to nature’s growing season and we have followed this blueprint ever since.

Aside from a few tweaks by other Roman rulers, the Julian calendar remained largely the same until 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII adjusted the calendar to more accurately reflect the amount of time it takes for the Earth to travel around the sun. The old calendar had been 365.25 days long; the new calendar was 365.2425 days long. The new calendar also shifted the dates, which had drifted by about two weeks, back in sync with seasonal shifts and was named The Gregorian Calendar.

The first day of January, named after Janus, the god of time, transitions, and beginnings, was chosen as the new start of the year. The most persuasive reason why January 1 was chosen as the new start of the year was that on this date the new consuls, the republic’s executive branch, took office and it marked the start date of a new political regime. Now binding in Rome, it took a long time for this official start of the year to catch on with the wider population. They still celebrated the ‘start of the growing season’ in spring. 

Primstave, the calendar of the Vikings

One calendar which is very interesting is the Viking Calendar, called Primstave. Its word comes from the Latin word ‘prima, meaning first’, and the Norwegian word ‘stav’ meaning stick. In Old Norse prim also meant New Moon. This calendar, like the Babylonian Calendar, followed the Metonic cycle, when the path of the sun and the moon align. The stick (literally a piece of wood with markings) had 2 sides, a summer and a winter side. Summer started on April 14 and winter on the 14th of October, just after the harvest. In the Scandinavian north, farmers had to be very economical with the sunlight and the summer season was full of activity and growing action. However, the winter stick was more of a time to relax during the dark winter months. Together with the date of Midwinter, the 14th of January – marking the coldest period of the year – these 3 dates were the official days for sacrifice and pagan festivals. 

The start of the New Year was marked by the first Full Moon after the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. From then onwards the year was counted in 7 days increments (just like our weeks – counting a quarter of a moon cycle). Because the Primstav followed the solar as well as the lunar year, its dates and seasons did not grow too much out of sync with the seasons. This enabled an orderly yearly rhythmic cycle, one that could be reused from the year before, and gave the Nordic people ‘certainty’ of what lay in store in the months ahead. The markings on the Primstav show when to celebrate rituals,  the best times for planting and harvesting, and general life guidance and advice. 

With the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar, the Primstav and other Lunisolar Calendars slowly faded away, but unofficially it kept going well into the 19th  century. 

What can we learn from these natural calendars?

Since the 20th century, most of the world has now adopted the Gregorian Calendar, which purely follows the path of the sun. It is less connected to the natural world and we start to think about our lives in a linear fashion. It all starts with a beginning (birth) and an end (death). There is no connection left to the cyclic nature of life. Coming to think of it – everything is cyclic. The path of the earth around the sun (in fact all other planets rotate around the sun), provides the endlessly repeating cycle of day and night. The moon cycle (the moon rotating around the earth) or the Methonic cycle – a combination of both.  Then there is nature’s cycle of growing, harvest, and rebirth. There is not one linear feature in nature. It beggars the question of why would we be the ‘only linear occurrence in nature’? 

The lesson here is literally ‘What goes around comes around’. It is a very different way of thinking. If we thought we would come back in any shape or form, we surely would look much more after nature and its wildlife. We would treasure it and not deplete it as much as we do at the moment. We would seek harmony and not abuse. Let’s treat this planet with the respect it deserves by co-existing in harmony with all other creatures on this planet. And who knows where and when ‘our new cycle’ starts to emerge? 

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The Soil Revolution part 5 – The lack of Biodiversity

The Soil Revolution part 5 – The lack of Biodiversity

photo by Jimmy Chan

Since 1970 the number of species and animals declined by a staggering 69%. Some regions fare better than others, but it is clear that it is not an endless pool of resources. Loss of habitat and pollution are the main culprits right now. But if we don’t get climate change under control and limit to the barrier of 1.5 degrees C. warming, this problem will grow exponentially. 

These figures are taken from the World Economic Forum data. It is telling that this data is released by a group that is interested in economics and not by an organization that champions climate change. A loss of diversity will also have a big impact on business. The bad news is that we have come a long way in this decline. In India, for example, birds are literally falling out of the sky due to pollution!  This is just one appalling example of how bad air quality can get. Pollution in our seas is not much better. Corals, crustaceans, sharks, and sea turtles are all battling with massive declines. But we can (just about) still turn it around. One of the first U-turns should start with the soil and is called Regenerative Agriculture. 

Regenerative versus conventual agriculture

Since the 1st World War and the introduction of pesticides and fertilizers the soil structure has suffered a great deal. Before these ‘great inventions’ food was not harvested and in fact, all leftovers were put back onto the compost heap where it turned back into high-quality soil. This process went hand in hand with the seasons and one growing cycle prepared the soil for the next season. A teaspoon of healthy soil contains up to 6 billion microorganisms including fungi, insects, and microbes. All work together to turn last year’s waste into the new soil, so desperately needed for the growing cycle ahead.

Pesticides destroy these organisms, turning the soil into dust. Artificial fertilizers have to fill in and mimic the life-giving quality of the now-dead microbes.  Once the crop is growing, another cycle of pesticides gets rid of yet more microbes until hardly any are left and more fertilizer is needed for the next crop. And so the cycle of doom continues. These microorganisms are further food for worms and larger insects, which all suffer in turn as they struggle to find food.  Once the worms die, species further up the food chain follow their fate. If we are keen to protect the songbirds and bees, we need to start with the reparation of the soil as this is the beginning and end of the cycle. 

Conventional Agriculture is mostly interested in profit, taking from the earth without putting anything back. This can only work for a short period of time and we are now reaching the beginning of the end.  There is a great difference between arable land (where all plants are the same) and wildlife (where growing goes on as nature intended, preserving all kinds of species and letting them exist in harmony).

Although yields are initially higher in extensively farmed fields, the way we are going there soon (30-50 years from now) may not be enough soil left in the world to feed the whole population. Soil is precious and can’t be created overnight. In fact, a thin layer of topsoil takes decades to establish. Even if we started now to eradicate all use of pesticides and fertilizers we would still have a shortage of top-quality soil. It is a topic not much talked about, yet it touches our very existence. 

A regenerative agricultural system embraces a much more holistic approach. Rudolf Steiner warned over a hundred years ago that pesticides will destroy the soil and so he founded Biodynamic farming where cultivation of the soil has top priority. Special soil preparations are added to the land to enhance productivity. As they only contain natural ingredients (like chamomille, yarrow, nettle, dung, etc) the microorganisms in the soil are not destroyed, but actively fed. The quantities are also not vast. For example, 50-60 liters of water with 250-300g horn manure added will fertilize a hectare of farmland. 

Harvested biodynamic produce is very healthy and although the quantities may be slightly less, it is stronger (there is less waste and rot) and tastes a lot better. And of course, it is much healthier as there is no chemical pollution involved. Pesticides are not only harmful to wildlife but are passed on from the farm to the plate, especially if the produce is not thoroughly washed. Organic or biodynamic produce must also be washed, not to get rid of toxins, but rather to get rid of little flies and wildlife which enjoy these foods as much as we do. 

How does the future of farming look like? 

It depends on the consumers. Do we reject mass production and instead look out for organic and biodynamic farmed food or do we predominantly buy mass-produced food? One issue that always comes up is price. But that is sadly very shortsighted. With energy and fertilizer prices rising exponentially, there will soon be a tipping point where organic food may be even cheaper. In fact, we have almost reached this point. My organic fruit and veg box sourced directly from the farm costs already less than if I was to source the same quantity (often far more inferior in taste and size) at the local supermarket. With soil eradication moving on at this speed, organic plots of land will become highly sought after. So it is an interesting space to watch. Let’s hope we keep enough healthy soil alive in the process. 

Grow your own: Another sticking point is that organic farming is more labor-intensive. Weeding needs to be done by hand, as ‘weed’ and ‘crop’ grow next to each other. As plants often cross-fertilize, some organic farmers only weed, when the other plants (in this case weeds) threaten to take over the resources of their intended crop.  Agricultural and recreational spaces are not clearly separated but can be enjoyed together. This is the old-fashioned way of farming and you can grow like this in your garden. In fact, the new trend is vertical gardening. Hanging many pots on wireframes means a small garden can produce a fair amount of food, whilst you can still enjoy a field of wildflowers or a natural lawn. The soil should still be produced in a  compost heap and refreshed in the pots after each growing season.

 If you want to read the series ‘Welcome to the Soil Revolution’ from the beginning – please click below to join Part 1.

Part 1   Where are we now?  

 

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Recession-proof living

Recession-proof living

Jam and chutneys“Happiness is like jam – you can’t spread even a little without getting some on yourself” 

Since the 2nd World War, the world on the whole has been on an upward trend. Bigger, better, faster – certainly the last few decades – was the motto.  But now the momentum is slowly turning to go slow, community and nature. It has been coming for a while, but the Covid epidemic accelerated this process.

There is so much fear attached to the word ‘recession’. If you are not 100% sure what the term means – it is the economy shrinking for the last 2 consecutive quarters. The economy follows like nature cycle behavior. The economic winter (recession) is therefore an inevitable season and the preparation for new shoots to come.

Instead of fretting, let’s look a the good points a recession can bring:

  • We are forced to stop and think about what we really need and get rid of all that is surplus anyway.
  • We get more efficient with natural resources – food, energy to name a few.
  • Material possession gets less important and intangible qualities such as love, friendship, happiness, and nature come to the front. You can enjoy it a lot –  even with very little money.
  • Goods actually get cheaper and if you have looked after your pennies and have some savings,  now is the time to make big purchases. But go for quality rather than quantity.
  • It forces you to invite change into your life – a change of job, scenery, change of mind, and heart.

Economically speaking we are about to enter the phase of winter. The time to save, reflect and reorganize.

The ‘Biodynamic lifestyle’ is actually very compatible with this life phase.

  • It pushes you to be conscious of the environment and its natural rhythms
  • it urges you to produce less waste and recycle whenever possible
  • It is a very economically efficient way of life where you rely more on what you can produce instead of what you can consume.

Now that times are getting tougher and the environment is close to breaking point, this way of life makes real sense. So why are we not all living like this?

preserving food  Producing takes skill and time. Once you take the time to learn the skill again, you will get faster and better and you will just love making your own homemade products. There is nothing nicer than bringing your homemade jam or chutney to friends. It is a thoughtful and useful present. As food prices rise you want to use up any bought food.  Here are a few recipes for you to try

Winter Chutney: 

Ingredients:  300g carrots, 400g apples, 300g onions, 200g tomatoes, 2 red peppers, 400g red wine vinegar or apple vinegar, 2 tbsp (tablespoon) sultanas, 1 tsp (teaspoon) salt, 1 tsp pepper, ½ tsp of cinnamon powder, a pinch of cayenne pepper, 500g jam sugar.

1)  Wash fruit and vegetables, chop, peel, deseed and dice them into small pieces and put all ingredients into a large, very clean pan. Bring to boil and cook gently for about 1 hour, stirring regularly. When vegetables have the desired consistency, pour the hot mixture into clean glass jars and seal immediately with cling film. Leave to cool. The chutneys last for a couple of months unopened.

Strawberry Jam: 

Ingredients: 1kg strawberries, 1kg jam sugar, 1 small unwaxed lemon, a small pinch of pepper

Wash strawberries remove stalks and cut them into small pieces. Rinse lemon and grate the rind finely. Put the strawberries, grated rind, pepper, and sugar in a clean pot and boil for about 4-5 minutes. Pour straightaway into clean (wash out with boiling water) jars, cover with cling film and tightly close the lids. Makes around 8-9 jars, depending on size. The best time to do this is of course in June but you can use this recipe for similar fruit jams, for example, plum jam – but I would substitute the pepper with a pinch of cinnamon. 

 Home-made cleaning products: 

Living in a biodynamic home and garden,  you will be surrounded by more diversity than most other gardens that use pesticides. The upshot is that you will attract lots of wildlife into your garden. In our garden – in the middle of London- we have earthworms, butterflies, spiders, cats, bees, many bird species, squirrels and even foxes can be seen on a daily basis.  But sometimes all these lovely creatures can become a bit much – especially when you have moths invading your clothes cupboards and eating your most loved garments. It can be a dilemma if you don’t want to use pesticides. So here is a recipe for my own super-effective and totally organic moth deterrent. And as a bonus it makes the carpet and furniture look great, too.

Here is my home-made recipe that protects your clothes from moth or other insect infestation:
Get a large empty spray bottle (the ones you would mist your flowers with) and fill it with a mixture of 2/4 washing-up liquid (I use a lavender-infused liquid soap – you can dilute it slightly with some water),  1/4 99% IPA (alcohol) and 1/4 of white vinegar. Shake it well and mist it on your furniture, carpets, and even clothes. I also use this mixture on garden plants that have infestations like aphids.

Here is an article about home-made cleaning products 

Don’t throw food away before you do this:
Here is one of my favorite tips to rehydrate vegetables and salads that have gone a bit limp. Fill a bowl of cold water and add a small capful of white vinegar (in fact any vinegar will do, but go for a cheap one here as the results are the same). Chop your salad, and vegetables up and immerse them in the water.  Leave them in the bowl for around 30 minutes and you will have crisp, ready-to-eat salads and vegetables on your plate.

These are just a few examples of the many ways you can save and help the environment.  Initially, it does take a bit of effort and experimenting. But over time these recipes are quick to make and once you get used to the taste of homemade produce there is no going back!

Remember: YOU alone are the master of your own destiny. Join our community below for more information.

 An Introduction to LWTM

Here is a link where you can download all our free resources to start building your new holistic life 

Hippocrates and the start of holistic medicine

Hippocrates and the start of holistic medicine

Hippocrates

Most of you will be familiar with the ‘Hippocratic Oath’.  A practice where young doctors swear before to uphold an ethical code that won’t harm the patient and will keep all medical history confidential. But few know more about this Ancient Greek doctor. So let’s look at why Hippocrates’  work is still so influential almost 2400 years after his death?

Hippocrates of Kos (who lived around 460-370B.C.) is often referred to as the ‘Father of Modern Medicine.  He was the first physician to diagnose disease based on a medical condition rather than seeing it as a punishment from the Gods, separating biological medicine from religion for the first time. He was also the first doctor to make a valid link between health and adequate, healthy nutrition,  exercise, and environmental factors such as a good standard of hygiene and a balanced mental state. This was ground-breaking work in then effectively rural Ancient Greece.

Observing various stages of illness, he came up with a systematic categorization of diseases and founded the Hippocratic School of Medicine. Although the human anatomy was then not well-researched (in fact we know now that some methods described were clearly wrong), many observations survived and are still a valid part of modern medicine. What made Hippocrates’ approach so appealing is the fact that he was the first doctor to have a ‘whole-body approach’ to medicine. Once a disease is diagnosed it is of course priority to deal with the acute illness.  But Hippocrates believed that prevention and keeping an overall balanced state of health before and after an acute illness is the ultimate goal. A concept that we are slowly losing in our current medical system.

 How is this relevant to the LWTM Lifestyle?

We believe that keeping a healthy body-mind-soul balance is key to a happy and healthy life. Hippocrates borrowed some concepts from the Babylonians (check out this article about their calendar system) who linked body regions with positions in the sky. This meant that within 28 days all the organs/body parts are highlighted for at least 2-3 days at each time.  This may be an outdated concept medically speaking, but it is a great way of working on your body in an equilibrant way within a whole moon cycle. We have therefore added the body symbols to the LWTM lifestyle calendar and called this series ‘ Keep Fit and Healthy From Head to Toe’. 

Astroman 

keep fit and healthy from head to toe

 Here is Astroman, a depiction of how surgeons operated until the 19th century. Today we of course aim for the best surgical procedure when diagnosed with an acute illness. This could even mean robots operating and other high-end technical procedures, regardless of what the stars are doing. But working on each body area for 2-3 days each month will make sure that you pay equal attention to the whole body.  The aim is to prevent diseases from forming in the first place. If you have certain problem areas, then of course spend more time treating that specific body region. 

 

Illnesses do not come upon us out of the blue. They are developed from small daily sins against nature. When enough sins have accumulated, illnesses will suddenly appear

Hippocrates

 Keep fit and healthy from top to toe 

With this program, we hope that you can do your fair share to prevent disease and correct ‘these little sins against nature’ as and when they occur. Look after your overall health by: 

  • Keeping a well-nourished body and a healthy weight
  • Having an optimistic, can-do outlook and being kind to others
  • Keep well-balanced mind
  • Look after your environment (your home and nature) 

Remember – you alone are the master of your own destiny. Have a look at the LWTM lifestyle calendar by clicking the link below and check out the recommended suggestions and tips. 

Have a look at the LWTM Lifestyle Calendar.  What body part is highlighted today?

 

 An Introduction to LWTM

Here is a link where you can download all our free resources to start building your new holistic life 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stewardship of the land

Stewardship of the land

weeding   This article explores the history of agriculture and how it turned into our recent way of farming that is so reliant on artificial fertilizers and pesticides. How can we use the stewardship of the land in a better way?

The history of artificial fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture

We all can make a big impact, positively as well as negatively. When it comes to cultivating the land, nature always took care of itself, and the rhythmic cycles  –  preparing the soil, planting, harvesting, and composting in preparation for a new growing cycle –  took care of itself for thousands of years. The soil was rich and full of life. There were millions of tiny creatures involved in this delicate process. Fungi, earthworms, insects, and microbes all lived harmoniously in the soil. Microbes cultivated the crops and even colonized the guts of the humans and animals that ate these plants. It all worked in a harmonious, ever-repeating cycle.

Historians think that the earliest form of agriculture arrived with the domestication of wild animals such as horses, pigs, and cows and can be traced back to around 10,000 B.C.

During the Bronze Age (around 3,300 B.C.) more sophisticated ways of agriculture sprang up and modifications to harvest cycles and best planting practices – like Biodynamic planting dates – were established. All these were organic tools with the intent to enhance harvest production.

The arrival of the first fertilizers

The first introduction of artificial fertilizers was undertaken during the early part of the 19th century. John Bennet Lawes began the first scientific investigations about adding inorganic fertilizers (mainly phosphates) onto fields to increase crops with moderate success. But other than these early steps the organic way of farming and gardening remained largely unchanged until World War 1 (1914-1918).

The Haber-Bosch process

The first patents for synthetic ammonium nitrates and other chemical fertilizers emerged from Germany. In 1910 Carl Bosch, working at the time for the chemical giant BASF, started to secure a number of patents for the use of synthic chemicals to increase crop production. He teamed up with Fritz Haber and both won a Nobel prize in 1918 for their Haber-Bosch process. This method is still the main formula to produce artificial fertilizers. Basically, this process converts nitrogen(N2) to ammonia (NH3) by a reaction with hydrogen (H2).

In the years after World War 2, more patents were sought and the use of synthetic fertilizers increased rapidly. Countries like China, Russia, and even Vietnam used these products in great amounts and Russia remains to this day one of the leading producers of artificial fertilizers.

Pesticides

The real problem started when pesticides were used in tandem with artificial fertilizers.  Again during World War 1, chemical warfare started to be introduced for the first time as a new weapon to kill soldiers in the trenches. Factories had to be remodeled to manufacture and supply these substances, mainly consisting of mustard gas and tear gas. But the war was short and once it was over, all these factories stood idle.

Pesticides such as arsenic, mercury, and sulfur dusting have already been used by the Sumerians in 2000 B.C. but in very small quantities and overall the soil health remained intact. However, after World War 1 and especially after World War 2, its use increased enormously.  It is estimated that the worldwide use of pesticides today measures around 2.5 megatonnes per year and this has, of course, a huge impact on the health of our soil and as a consequence our health.

The main detriment is killing the useful bacteria, microbes, and all the millions of other insects and species that help with the composting and the soil preparation. By killing them all, the soil turns to dirt – void of all life, and artificial fertilizers have to be used in ever-increasing quantities to assure a successful crop. The more we destroy, the more we have to artificially feed the plants. It is a cycle of destruction and sadly many farmers are now stuck with this process. To build up a new soil structure takes time, a lot of time. And many farmers would not commercially survive this conversion. This brings me to the next point of stewardship of the land.

 

The Stewardship of the land

 The fundamental way of human existence is to be connected to the natural cycle and the feeling of being at one with nature. We are not above it, far from it! 

We are an integral part of the all-natural processes and share this planet with plants and animals in equal measures.  We need to respect them and in turn, will be enriched by their contribution to the natural cycle. It should be a cycle of mutual benefit, not destruction. 

 

The introduction of artificial fertilizers was not all evil. Initially, it was seen as a means to serve a growing population with increased food security and lower food production costs.  But now we know that this has not happened and starvation still exists. Instead, farmers are held to ransom with increasing fertilizer price rises and worthless soils.

We better had listened to Rudolf Steiner’s warning exactly 100 years ago when he predicted all this and gave lectures to regain soil health and the linked food production and gut health. At the time this approach was ridiculed by many established scientists and the connection was only proven a few years ago.

As I mentioned above, we all can have an impact, positively and negatively. You may not be able to grow your own food, but at least you can source food from responsible food growers who work with the land and its natural rhythms.  It may cost a tiny bit extra as this way of farming is slightly more labour intensive and it takes more time to keep the soil in a good state. But by doing this, these farmers make sure that the land keeps its fertile soil and is in a good state of health when it is eventually passed to the next generation and the next after them. We all share responsibility in this and we all share in the stewardship of our precious Earth.

Here is an article that explains more about gut health and weight control

 

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