Ancient Civilizations and What Some Have Learned

I think that our discussion of erosion has definitely lent itself for some good blogging. I think that erosion was one of the only things I remember from elementary school science. We studied all the different types but for some reason I can’t remember the subject as we’re talking about it… But I digress…

I read the two chapters from the d*%$ book last night and I do like what the author has to say. The first two chapters we discussed at the beginning of then novel echoed what our textbook had to say. They did offer interesting insight into a new way of viewing prehistory and some early civilizations. These cultures, the Greeks, Romans, Mesopotamian and other middle eastern groups, nomads and South American civilizations treated their soils in similar ways, for the most part. Depletion of nutrients, erosion and the effects of non sustainable practices were all problems of these civilizations agricultural systems.

In last night’s reading, the author addressed the role of soil in the formation, independence, and early history of the United States. As most people probably learned in some form of a US History class, England during the age of imperialism colonized many nations to create what was known as the British Empire. On Great Britain’s small land, they were unable to produce raw materials and goods. In the American Colony, according to the author, crops were very difficult to grow, except for tobacco. However, tobacco depleted the soil about ten times more than other crop.

During the American Revolution and the early state of the nation, the agricultural aspects of the nation were considered. It was one of the goals of the founding fathers to make America an agrarian nation. However, according to our text, Washington and Jefferson had acknowledged that the soil resources were being depleted. While land was so cheap, it was just as easy to pick up a new piece of land and farm that rather than help the old soil. Washington and Jefferson, both politically radical, had very new ideas of adding crude forms of fertilizer to their soils.

The Civil War and Southern agriculture economics were addressed as well in terms of cotton and soil. Again, farmers were exhausting vast expanses of land and then moving to other land and growing more cotton. Fast forward about a century and during the great Depression, the Dust Bowl was a devastating to the agriculture in the Midwest and the crop yield for many years was drastically decreased. This problem, according to the author, was not attributed to problems of nutrient depletion, but to the invention of the John Deere tractor, and therefore loose soil ready to be picked up and no barriers or roots to contain it.

I think that this comparison is interesting because in the early chapters, we learned that there were problems and solutions were offered, but little advice was taken seriously. This was also the case during early American history. Improper crops were grown in the soil located along the coast. There was even a myth that there was a “perfect” soil that was not affected, no matter how much it was farmed and had yet to be found. In class, we discussed that this was not deliberate harm on the soil, but ignorance. These misconceptions and misuses of soil resources seem to occur within a group but interestingly don’t pass on to other groups. For the United States, it may not have been until Presidents such as FDR and Theodore Roosevelt acknowledged these problems that standards were put into place to aid in the erosion and other problems. As we learned from problems with too much fertilizer and compaction, it is far from perfect but at least the problem is being addressed.

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