Hans Jenny on Dirt

It’s interesting, keeping a blog about a book you’ve already written. I find that the blog keeps my attention focused on worms, and because of that, I keep researching. If I kept this up for a year, I’d probably have enough new material to write a sequel.

Today I want to quote a beautiful passage from a 1984 interview with Hans Jenny, an influential soil conservationist. This interview appeared in Whole Earth magazine in 1999. What he has to say about soil and the creatures living in it is really stunning, quite beautiful. This is rather long, but well worth it:

“Soil-profile art is not akin to classic paintings with themes; rather, it resembles abstract art: and if you are used to thinking of soil as dirt, which is customary in our society, you are not keyed to find beauty in it…

“Soil speaks to us through the colors and sculptures of its profile, thereby revealing its personality: we acknowledge it by giving soil a name, albeit in a foreign tongue, but we don’t mention our emotional involvements…

“Over the years I have acquired a kind of reverence for the soil, for the creature-world inside it, and for its character expressed in the profile features. Where big logging equipment turns soil upside down to make earth-beds for falling redwood trees, the mass of soil remains at the site and no “environmental damage” is said to occur. Yet the soil profile, the soil’s signature and identity, is obliterated. Though I consider such profile destruction an irretrievable loss, I have never seen anybody shedding tears about it. My attitude may be a personal quirk, or a result of lifelong interest in soil. In the latter case, I might not be alone. Whatever, I am glad I feel the way I do.”

Wow. This was a man who loved the earth. More from Hans Jenny tomorrow.