Monday, February 13, 2012


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Saturday, July 16, 2011
FINAL EMPIRE: Part 1: THE HISTORY OF DISINTEGRATION CHAPTER 1: PATTERN OF THE CRISIS Collapse on the Periphery Individual empires have suffered cyclical collapse since civilization began. The Babylonian, Greek and Roman empires are classical examples. These civilized empires initially expanded, funded by their base of arable land, grazing areas and forests. As they reached out, conquering new lands and peoples, their growth was fueled by slave labor and appropriated resources. Their growth continued until the ecological base of the empire was exhausted. At that point, the empires imploded. Sumeria and Babylonia stripped their lands through overgrazing and deforestation. This brought down huge amounts of erosion material that threatened the irrigation works. They also inexorably salinized their soil by irrigation. Early on, in the history of the Greek Empire, Plato complained of the ecological devastation in the area of Attica. By the end of that empire the ecology of the whole of Greece was severely injured. Both the Greek and Roman empires used North Africa as a "breadbasket" and by the close of the Roman Empire it was ecologically destroyed along with much of the rest of the Roman territories. Though the standard political and social histories of these empires do not stress an ecological view, there is certainly no question that at the end of their cycles these empires had little ecological energy remaining. Anywhere the culture of empire (a.k.a., civilization) has spread one finds devastated ecologies. The life is literally "rubbed out," the original life is gone. Much of the living flesh of the planet does not now exist in those places. But, we know that it did exist. The life in those areas has suffered a die-back. The forests are gone, the topsoil is depleted and the land is eroded. The richness of the land has been used up. The wealth of the earth's life has been spent by the extortion of empire. Empires implode. They collapse from within. This is beginning now on the edges of world civilization where the ecology has been stripped, the population is exploding and the resultant social turmoil insures further decline. These implosions of the colonies will eventually become general throughout the cultural system. Islands such as Madagascar, the Canaries, the islands of the Caribbean, many south sea islands and others have been ecologically stripped. In areas like Peru, whole mountainsides fall off because of the ecological devastation caused by deforestation and hillside farming. In Brazil's Northeast, the coastal rain forest and the fertile areas further inland have been replaced by desert. In some areas of the former fertile southern interior of Brazil, coffee plantations have reduced the land to such eroded conditions that cows cannot even graze it for fear that they will fall into the canyons created by soil erosion. In Central Asia, many bodies of water such as the Azov, Caspian, Black Sea and Baikal are severely injured. The supply of caviar there has almost ceased because the waters are so polluted that the fish die. In Tibet where the Chinese Empire has invaded, devastation is spreading as trees are cut, steep areas are plowed and mines are begun. The story of the brief empire of Venice is instructive as to how the ecological base of empire injures the earth and how the culture of empire uses up the life of the earth to generate its ephemeral power. By the end of the fifteenth century the City of Venice was emerging as a sea-power. Venice traded all the way from the eastern Mediterranean to England. Galley ships were the power behind the merchant fleet. The oar-powered galleys ultimately depended upon slave labor. They were fast and could navigate where sailing ships could not. The whole arrangement was based on wood for ships, and in turn depended upon forests, which in the beginning were abundant near Venice. As the power of Venice was coming to an end, the City was obtaining ships in Barcelona built with lumber from the forests of northern Spain and finally from the Baltic region of northern Europe, which had not yet been stripped. By this time there were no forests anywhere in the Mediterranean that could fund a sea-faring empire. This phenomenon of implosion is occurring now in the present World Empire. The country of Bangladesh shows us one type of implosion. In the distant past the whole of the area was populated by forager/hunters such as those threatened tribes who live now in the Bangladeshi hills. As the waves of empire culture came, first with the Indo-Aryans thousands of years ago, the life of the area was progressively degraded. Bengal as it was formerly called, was conquered by the English early in the colonial period. Prior to the conquest it had been a fertile and self-sufficient area. When the English moved in they began to put heavy pressure on the organic fertility. They established the plantation system and mined the agricultural land to ship valuables to the "mother country." Later, in the Twentieth Century when England was severed from its colonies on the Indian subcontinent, the region became part of Pakistan and finally an independent country. In the later years, Bangladesh has suffered flooding, a constant population explosion and periodic drought. Bangladesh is located on the delta of the Ganges River that drains the Himalayan range. With the Chinese now stripping Tibet, floods and erosion material race down out of central Tibet borne by the Bramaputra River that joins the Ganges and comes through countries that are being stripped along the southern tier of the range: Bhutan, India and in particular Nepal. Because the forests are being stripped, the land no longer can absorb water and the floods grow larger. The State of India's Environment: 1982, a report by non-governmental groups, states: "From Kashmir (far west) to Assam (far east) the story is the same. Below 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) there are literally no forests left. In the middle Himalayan belt, which rises to an average height of 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), the forest area, originally estimated at being a third of the total area, has reduced to a mere 6-8 per cent."1 A global environmental study, Gaia: An Atlas Of Planet Management, says that the erosion is so bad that an island of five million hectares (12,355,000 acres) of erosion material is beginning to surface in the Bay of Bengal. "Around one-quarter of a million tonnes (255,325 U.S. tons) of topsoil are washed off the deforested mountain slopes of Nepal each year, and a further sizable amount from the Himalayan foothills in India's sector of the Ganges catchment zone." The study notes that the countries of India and Bangladesh are geared up to contest possession of the island when it surfaces.2 Due to the periodic catastrophes of flood and drought the society of Bangladesh is beginning to disintegrate into a low-level warlord society where even the central government cannot exert control much distance from the capital city. One effort that the government is making to alleviate its population crush is an attempt to settle a relatively small "hill country" area with lowlanders. These hill areas contain remnant tribes of non-civilized people. The Bangladesh government has warred against these people for some years, attacking them with modern armies and rounding up the survivors into concentration camps. As the lowlanders invade into the vacuum, they level the forest and attempt to raise crops. On the lowlands, a large share of the population lives in the delta. Here the impoverished people fight each other for small plots of land. As the floods come and go, the islands and marshes change continually. As the above-water areas dry out following a flood, the people rush in to claim small plots on which they attempt to grow food before the next flood or drought. The combination of exploding population and ecologically based disasters is causing the society to disintegrate. This process which began years back in Bangladesh is one of the effects that we can expect to see in the years ahead in other parts of civilization. Writer Mohiuddin Alamgir, researching his report, Famine in South Asia; Political Economy of Mass Starvation, asked villagers in Bangladesh during a famine in 1974, about the reasons why people were dying around them. He found that the villagers had only a vague notion about the true cause. The villagers could see that people were dying of disease and that they had various symptoms but few villagers could see or admit that people were starving. The villagers were in a weakened condition, which allowed them to die of the first disease that came around. Death was the end result of the steady social deterioration that they had experienced. "Once people ran out of resources to buy food grains, they sold or mortgaged land, sold cattle and agricultural implements, sold household utensils and other valuables (such as ornaments), and, finally their homesteads," says Alamgir.3 When there is nothing left and people are starving, they leave and wander aimlessly about the country of Bangladesh. Many of the uprooted households that Alamgir studied had begun to disintegrate, with members of the same household wandering off in different directions toward separate areas of the country. Deserted children, deserted wives, deserted husbands and deserted elders are becoming commonplace. Bangladesh society has gone over the brink. The centralized control by the wealthy elite and the military has broken down. The population is destined to continue as a wandering, increasingly hungry mass until, sometime in the future, all coherent human society and culture dies and human cooperation and optimistic effort disintegrates. It is this condition, as shown by Bangladesh, which is the ultimate end of a culture that eats up its survival systems. We need keep in mind that forager/hunter populations lived in stability in this area for hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of years because they did not destroy that which sustained them. Alamgir states that after previous famines in Bangladesh, the society returned to near normal social relationships, but he reports: "Both separation of families and desertion represent a breakdown of the system of security provided by family and kinship ties under traditional social bonds. This is, of course, not unique in the 1974 Bangladesh famine, as reference to erosion of social ties can be found in almost all preceding famines. However, two points should be noted: First, a slow process of disintegration of traditional ties had already set in and famine only accelerated it. Second, manifestations of breakdown of kinship and family bonds were reversible in the past in the sense that old relationships were restored through the normal process of post famine societal adjustment. This is no longer true in the Bangladesh scenario today where such processes seem to be irreversible, which is reflected in the rate of permanent destitution."4 The horn of Africa region where the country of Ethiopia is located represents another example of implosion. Ethiopia is hit with periodic drought. If the region were in its primordial climax ecological condition the droughts would likely have minimal impact but like Bangladesh, the region's ecology is so ravaged that any perturbation of climate becomes a disaster and the human created situation is called an "act of God." Ethiopia originally had a stable population of forager/hunter people but it became one of the "cradles of civilization." The life of Ethiopia is now almost gone. Almost all of Ethiopia is high, mountainous country with good rainfall, but there is little vegetative life left. The ancient empires were nourished on it and the vitality has evaporated. It is estimated that three quarters of the country was originally forested yet at present only four percent of the country has forest. One study estimates that the volume of live trees now, is 800 million cubic meters and then goes on to say that the annual fuel wood consumption is 20 million cubic meters and rising rapidly.5 Even if the remaining forests were only used to heat houses and cook food they would not last long. Despite having one of the highest death rates in the world, the country's population continues to rise. One would think it would decline but unlike our former forager/hunter culture, which sought to keep their population within the carrying capacity of the environment, people of the culture of empire do not. The people of civilization have many motives, other than simply lack of awareness that propels population growth. One important reason is that civilized people work at exploiting the land and the more hands the more production. Agrarians, for example, traditionally have large families to help with farm work and hard times call for more hands to force the land to produce more. There is also motive for large families so that one will be cared for in old age. There is the motive of the pride of the patriarch in large families. Though there are a number of basic motives, there is a functional reason also why population is not responsive immediately to food supply. If there is a famine or drought, the children already born will have children. Demographers say that population responsiveness has a time lag of seventy years to social/environmental events and even this responsiveness is only a momentary blip on the over-all graph line of exponential growth. One researcher highlights the continued drama of destruction in Ethiopia partially attributed to population growth: "A dramatic alteration in environmental quality has been visible within a single lifetime in the hills surrounding Addis Ababa. When the capital was founded in 1883 by the Emperor Memelik II, it was still surrounded by remnants of rich cedar forests and reasonably clear streams. Deforestation and erosion were immediately spurred by the influx of humans. In the ensuing nine decades, virtually all the available land in the region has been cultivated, while charcoal producers cut trees within a 160-kilometer radius for sale in the city. Now the waters of the nearby Awash River and its tributaries are thick with mud, and waterways are shifting their courses more markedly and frequently than in the past."6 Addis Ababa sits in the high mountains of central Ethiopia. It is near the headwaters of the Awash River. From Addis Ababa, the river courses northeast into a rapidly widening valley that eventually reaches the coast at Djibouti on the Red Sea. UN researchers expect the whole Awash Basin to soon become rocky desert; but the eye of civilization sees only war, ideology and revolution. The problem is ecological but the cultural attention and media-focus emphasize war. As civilization fixates on war and violence in Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa, the life of the earth dwindles in that area and starvation spreads. Although the destruction of the life of the earth is caused by civilization, civilized society is unable to see its own problem because the organic life of the earth is below its threshold of consciousness. El Salvador, in Central America, is another country that is imploding on the periphery of the Empire of Civilization. The Spanish Empire invaded the area that is now El Salvador early in the sixteenth century. They immediately began to enslave the stable and sustainable cultures of the region as factors of imperial production. At that time, the western two-thirds of the country was inhabited by a Nahuatl speaking culture. The Nahuatl language group includes Aztec, Hopi and Ute. In the eastern one-third of the country, across the Lenca River lived the tribes named Lenca, Jinca, Pokomám, Chortí and Matagalpa. There are now some half-million "invisible" Indians in El Salvador, in a country of five million. They are invisible because they have been forced to abandon their native dress and language. The first census from the years 1769-1798 listed 83,010 Indians in a population of 161,035. Initially, the native people of the lowlands were enslaved into the Spanish estates. These original estates exported cacao and balsam. By the end of that century, indigo plantations were spreading out further into the last Indian communal lands in the higher elevations. Soon cattle ranching moved into the northern tier of the country and masses of Indian people, who were not among the indentured workers, were wandering through the area in a detribalized condition. The native people's habitat had been destroyed. Inasmuch as their cultural knowledge and skills were related to the living world, the native people became powerless and dependent upon the invading culture. By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, coffee began to be the major export crop and this agriculture with its need for the last available higher elevation land, began to finish the remaining communal Indian lands as well as their forest habitat. By 1930, coffee was more than ninety percent of El Salvador's exports.7 In 1932, in the midst of the world depression, Indians in the highlands around Sonsonate revolted against both the imperial conquerors and their latino subjects, the mestizos. The army of the oligarchy was unleashed against the unarmed Indians. The virulent anti-Indian racism of "latinos" was also unleashed as they, also, began to participate. By the time the massacres were over, somewhere variously estimated at between 15,000 and 50,000 children, women and men had been murdered and the native land base was occupied by the aliens.8 The story of El Salvador is of native tribes who lived stably with their habitat, the forests and other ecosystems of the isthmus. The events since that time have been created by the far different culture of empire, which invaded, to extort valuables from the area. The pattern displayed has been consistent since empire culture began. The industrial revolution and markets have added a few new wrinkles. The pattern is that of a small powerful elite taking land and labor from the colony for free or at very low price. The extorted valuables are then exported in exchange for currency that supports the elite of the colony who, in return, keep the native populations in control. This is the classic picture of third world colonies and is the picture of El Salvador. This pattern has persisted in El Salvador and is largely the reason for its environmental destruction. The oligarchy runs the country on a feudal basis little changed from the days of the conquistadors. This means that in the pursuit of their profits they need observe no environmental laws. They may take any land they need, they may use any type and amount of agricultural chemicals on their crops and they may dump toxins in any manner that they please. One group that researches Central America's environmental problems says that as of 1990, "75 per cent of pesticides exported to Central America from the U.S. are either banned or severely restricted for use in the U.S."9 This elimination of the cost of environmental protection controls makes El Salvador a high-profit enclave for its rulers and for the transnational corporations located there. They are provided with an impoverished and cheap labor pool, which is unable to organize effectively because of military repression and death squads. They do not have the expense of meeting environmental standards so this gives them a decided competitive advantage over other countries. Since the arrival of civilized culture, 95 per cent of the country's original tropical, deciduous forest has disappeared. Twenty mammal species and eighteen bird species are gone. Serious soil erosion affects 77 per cent of the country. Following deforestation, groundwater is disappearing, sediments are beginning to fill the dams and stop the hydroelectric supply and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says the country is undergoing a process of desertification.10 In the familiar pattern, particularly since World War II, the alliance between the domestic oligarchy, U.S. aid agencies and transnational corporations have increased exports which has led to the clearing of the last viable stands of old-growth ebony, cedar, mahogany and granadilla trees. Where the country was once food self-sufficient it now exports cash crops of food items and even flowers to the industrial countries (for the profit of the oligarchy) and imports food. The Environmental Project On Central America (EPOCA) says that: "Today unequal control of resources remains at the root of poverty and environmental destruction in El Salvador. A small elite, referred to as the `Fourteen Families,' comprises less than 2 per cent of the population yet enriches itself from ownership of more than 60 per cent of the country's arable land. The poorest 20 per cent of the Salvadoran people own no land and receive only 2 per cent of the national income." In the countryside, the report says that: "two-fifths of the population cannot afford a basic diet of corn and beans."11 The EPOCA report says that one in ten have access to safe drinking water. "Look at a body of water in El Salvador and you will see a reflection of almost every major environmental problem in the country: pesticide and fertilizer contamination; industrial pollution; municipal waste and sewage; sedimentation from deforestation and soil erosion; and waterborne diseases. All the major waterways in El Salvador are contaminated by raw sewage and a variety of toxic chemicals, according to a 1982 report by the U.S. Agency for International Development."12 With the oligarchy occupying the land that an agriculturist would call "arable," the poor are forced up onto the mountainsides where they use slash and burn agriculture. Because the people are overcrowded and there is not enough land, the fallow periods on the slash and burn plots are too short. This quickly erodes the topsoil and leaves the mountains denuded of all vegetation except for hardy brush. In 1974 there were 400 people for each square mile of El Salvador. The population doubling time in El Salvador is now twenty-two years.13 These three countries, Bangladesh, El Salvador and Ethiopia, with their varying histories and varying types of impact from civilization characterize the periphery of what we may term the industrial empire. These are the conquered and colonized resource and labor areas and their societies are collapsing under the pressure of environmental degradation, population explosion, and militarism and export economies. If the oligarchy of El Salvador were to suddenly depart for Miami, the country would still be in a state of disintegration. The soil, water and air are poisoned. There are few natural resources left and importantly for our analysis, the civilized culture of the people of El Salvador would not be disposed to restore the land mass to the climax ecosystem, even if that were possible. This is the beginning of the end for the Final Empire of civilization. Here we see in these examples that there is little remaining to take out and the populations are exploding. When two people have five children and then fifteen years later those five children have five children the stage is being set for disintegration. As these factors of soil and ecosystems work themselves out into social turmoil and breakdown, the reports of the media refer to revolution, economics and politics. The life of the earth is not within their consciousness. As the regions on the periphery of the empire implode, the center is also imploding, though in a qualitatively different way. The most general statement to make on the system-wide implosion of the industrial empire has to do also with the cultural consciousness. Because of the nature of the culture, it lives and profits by exhausting the life of the earth. Within the cultural bubble we tend to measure our progress by our wealth. The more pressure that the farmer puts on the soil, the more the farmer and the banker profit. The more forests that are cut, the more the timber company and the employees benefit. What this means is that as the life of the earth is eradicated, the information feed-back system (bank accounts) reports that things are getting better and betters. Progress is being made. This is another major example of how the reality of life is below the threshold of consciousness and also helps to explain why civilization cannot extricate itself from the fall toward apocalypse. As we approach the end of the Final Empire, societies become paralyzed and disintegrate. There is nothing left with which the society can regenerate itself. In El Salvador, even the "arable" soils are exhausted and poisoned because they have been subjected to years of industrial agriculture with its poisons and artificial fertilizers. The other side of this grim equation is the population explosion. This is compounded by the fact that a majority of the population now is youthful and just beginning to come into their child bearing years. This means that the already overbearing population has reached a take-off point and will climb even more steeply. The life of the earth dies out at varying speeds. So that we do not lose contact with reality we must look at this. These examples show swift destruction. It is possible to see the huge erosion canyons in Ethiopia. It is possible to see the floods of Bangladesh and it is possible to count the children in hospitals in El Salvador who have been poisoned with agricultural chemicals. Although not as dramatic, we must realize that our own backyard is degraded and poisoned. If any of us walk out of our back door and look, we will see gross injury to the life of the earth. We may view a lawn that has been subjected to poisons and artificial fertilizers. At some point in the history of that small area, toxins may have been introduced such as motor oil, household cleansers or maybe air drift or subsoil moisture seepage of some industrial dump. The point is that if the climax ecosystem is not there then the earth is losing its life. This is a difficult concept for modern people to deal with mentally. The statement is that the life of the earth, the climax ecosystem, must regain balance or the earth will become substantially dead. The natural state of health and balance of the earth is to be covered with climax ecosystems or ecosystems closely approximating them. There are examples in the Mid-East of reg pavements (rock-hard soil) where forests once stood. The reg pavement is a hard, virtually impermeable, layer of clays and other dirt that covers wide areas. We have the example of El Salvador proceeding toward desert status (and there are other examples in other parts of the world of tropical forests becoming deserts). With both of these examples we can trace the historical devolution of these ecosystems and soils, which usually begin with the cutting of the forest. When we travel about the earth we don't always realize that where we are seeing a desert now, there may have been a thriving semi-arid ecosystem. Where there is a brushwood hillside, there was once a magnificent forest. In those areas where we now see forest we will soon see deserts. The life of civilization is only an eye-blink in the eons of time of the life of the earth. We can see the killing of the life of the earth in the rapid dramas as well as the long range spirals of descent. As we continue to examine the condition of our earth we must maintain contact with reality and realize that everywhere civilization has spread the earth is hurting, injured and dying. Even if an area is green with vegetation, it may only be the first aid crew of weeds struggling to heal the earth and the chances are good that soon the bulldozers will come to destroy even that, so that the "real estate" can be "developed." Collapse From the Center Our generation is on the verge of the most profound catastrophe the human species has ever faced. Death threats to the living earth are coming from all sides. Water, sunlight, air and soil are all threatened. When Eskimos of the far north begin to experience leukemia from atomic radiation and Eskimo mothers' milk contains crisis levels of PCB's, we must recognize that every organism on the planet is threatened. Compounding this crisis is the fact that the prime forces in this affair, the civilized humans, are unable to completely understand the problem. The problem is beneath the threshold of consciousness because humans within civilization (civilization comes from the Latin, civis, referring to those who live in cities, towns and villages) no longer have relationship with the living earth. Civilized people's lives are focused within the social system itself. They do not perceive the eroding soils and the vanishing forests. These matters do not have the immediate interest of paychecks. The impulse of civilization in crisis is to do what it has been doing, but do it more energetically in order to extricate itself. If soaring population and starvation threaten, often the impulse is to put more pressure on the agricultural soils and cut the forests faster. We face planetary disaster. The destruction of the planetary life system has been ongoing for thousands of years and is now approaching the final apocalypse which some of us will see in our own lifetimes. Far from being a difficult and complex situation it is actually very simple, if one can understand and accept a few simple and fundamental propositions. The planetary disaster is traced to one simple fact. Civilization is out of balance with the flow of planetary energy. The consensus assumption of civilization is that an exponentially expanding human population with exponentially expanding consumption of material resources can continue, based on dwindling resources and a dying ecosystem. This is simply absurd. Nonetheless, civilization continues on with no memory of its history and no vision of its future. Possibly the most important source of life on this planet is the thin film of topsoil. The life of the planet is essentially a closed, balanced system with elements of sun, water, soil and air as the basic elements. These elements work in concert to produce life and they function according to patterns that are based in the laws of physics, which we refer to as Natural Law. The soil depth and its richness are a basic standard of health of the living planet. As a general statement we may say that when soil is lost, imbalance and injury to the planet's life occurs. In the geologic time-span of the planet's life, this is a swift progression toward death. Even if only one per cent of the soil is lost per thousand years, eventually the planet dies. If one per cent is gained, then the living wealth, the richness, of the planet increases. The central fact must be held in mind of how slowly soil builds up. Soil scientists estimate that three hundred to one thousand years are required for the build up of each inch of topsoil. The nourishment of the soil depends upon the photosynthetic production of the vegetative cover that it carries. There are wide differences in the Net Photosynthetic Production of many possible vegetative covers. As a rule it is the climax ecosystem of any particular region of the earth that is the most productive in translating the energy of the sun into the growth of plants and in turn into organic debris which revitalizes the soil. A climax ecosystem is the Equilibrium State of the "flesh" of the earth. After a severe forest fire, or to recover from the injury of clearcut logging, the forest organism slowly heals the wound by inhabiting the area with a succession of plant communities. Each succeeding community prepares the area for the next community. In general terms, an evergreen forest wound will be covered by tough small plants, popularly called "weeds" and the grasses which hold down the topsoil and prepare the way for other grasses and woody shrubs to grow up on the wound. ("Weeds" are the "first aid crew" on open ground.) As a general rule, the "first aid crew" - the first community of plants to get in and cover the bare soil and hold it down - is the more simple plant community with the smallest number of species of plants, animals, insects, micro-organisms and so forth. As the succession proceeds, the diversity, the number of species, increases as does the NPP, until the climax system is reached again, and equilibrium is established. The system drives toward complexity of form, maximum ability to translate incoming energy (NPP) and diversity of energy pathways (food chains and other services that plants and animals perform for one another). The plants will hold the soil so that it may be built back up. They will shade the soil to prevent its oxidation (the heating and drying of soil promotes chemical changes that cause sterility) and conserve moisture. Each plant takes up different combinations of nutrients from the soil so that specific succession communities prepare specific soil nutrients for specific plant communities that will succeed them. Following the preparation of the site by these plants, larger plants, alders and other broadleaf trees will come in and their lives and deaths will further prepare the micro-climate and soil for the evergreens. These trees function as "nurse" trees for the final climax community, which will be conifers. Seedling Douglas Fir for example, cannot grow in sunlight and must have shade provided by these forerunner communities. The ecosystems of this earth receive injury from tornado, fire, or other events and then cycle back to the balanced state, the climax system. This is similar to the wound on a human arm that first bleeds, scabs over and then begins to build new replacement skin to reach its equilibrium state. The climax system then is a basic standard of health of the living earth, its dynamic equilibrium state. The climax system is the system that produces the greatest photosynthetic production. Anything that detracts from this detracts from the health of the ecosystem. Climax ecosystems are the most productive because they are the most diverse. Each organism feeds back some portion of energy to producers of energy that support it (as well as providing energy to other pathways) and as these support systems grow, the mass and variety of green plants and animals increases, taking advantage of every possible niche. What might be looked at as a whole unitary organ of the planet's living body- a forest or grassland- experiences increased health because of its diversity within. On a large scale, the bioregions and continental soils substantially support sea life by the wash-off (natural and unnatural) of organic fertility into aquatic and ocean environments. This is a further service that these whole ecosystems perform for other whole ecosystems. A few basic principles of the earth's life in the cosmos have now been established. Balance is cosmic law. The earth revolves around the sun in a finely tuned balance. The heat budget of the planet is a finely tuned balance. If the incoming heat declined, we would freeze or if the planet did not dissipate heat properly we would burn up. The climax ecosystem maintains a balance and stability century after century as the diverse flows of energies constantly move and cycle within it. In the same manner the human body maintains balance (homeostasis) while motion of blood, digestion and cell creation, flow within it. The life of the earth is fundamentally predicated upon the soil. If there is no soil, there is no life, as we know it. (Some micro-organisms and some other forms might still exist). Its vegetative cover maintains the soil and in optimal, balanced health, this cover is the natural climax ecosystem. If one can accept these few simple principles then we have established a basis of communication upon which we may proceed. Anyone who cannot accept these principles must demonstrate that the world works in some other way. This must be done quickly because the life of the planet earth hangs in the balance. We speak to our basic condition of life on earth. We have heard of many roads to salvation. We have heard that economic development will save us, solar heating will save us, technology, the return of Jesus Christ who will restore the heaven and the earth, the promulgation of land reform, the recycling of materials, the establishment of capitalism, communism, socialism, fascism, Muslimism, vegetarianism, trilateralism, and even the birth of new Aquarian Age, we have been told, will save us. But the principle of soil says that if the humans cannot maintain the soil of the planet, they cannot live here. In 1988, the annual soil loss due to erosion was twenty-five billion tons and rising rapidly. Erosion means that soil moves off the land. An equally serious injury is that the soil's fertility is exhausted in place. Soil exhaustion is happening in almost all places where civilization has spread. This is a literal killing of the planet by exhausting its fund of organic fertility that supports other biological life. Fact: since civilization invaded the Great Plains of North America one-half of the topsoil there has disappeared. The Record of Empire The eight thousand year record of crimes against nature committed by civilization includes assaults on the topsoil of all continents. Forests, the greatest generators of topsoil, covered roughly one-third of the earth prior to civilization. By 1975 the forest cover was one-fourth and by 1980 the forest had shrunk to one-fifth and the rapidity of forest elimination continues to increase. Indeed, World Wildlife Fund study released in 1998 states that between 1970 and 1995 the world's forests declined ten percent. This is a loss of forest cover the size of England and Wales- each year. If the present trends continue without interruption eighty percent of the vegetation of the planet will be gone by 2040. The simple fact is that civilization cannot maintain the soil. Eight thousand years of its history demonstrate this. Civilization is murdering the earth. The topsoil is the energy bank that has been laboriously accumulated over millennia. Much of it is gone and the remainder is going rapidly. When civilized "development" of land occurs, the climax system is stripped, vegetation is greatly simplified or cleared completely and the NPP plummets. In the tropics, when pasture is created by clearing forest, two-thirds of the original NPP is eliminated. In the mid-latitudes one-half the NPP is lost when cropland is created from previously forested land. The next step is, that humans take much of even that impaired production off the land in the form of agricultural products so that not even the full amount of that impaired production returns to feed the soil. This points out a simple principle: Human society must have as its central value, a responsibility to maintain the soil. If we can create culture that can maintain the soil then there is the possibility of human culture regaining balance with the life of the earth. The central problem is that civilization is out of balance with the life of the earth. The solution to that problem is for human society to regain balance with the earth. We are now back to everyone's personal answer concerning how to respond to the planetary crisis. Most proposals for salvation have little to do with maintaining the soil. All of these seek to alleviate the situation without making any uncomfortable change in the core values or structure of existing society. They only try to "fix" the symptoms. If we had a society whose core values were to preserve and aid the earth, then all of the other values of society would flow consistently from that. The civilized people believe they have an obligation to bring primitive and underdeveloped people up to their level. Civilization, which is about to self-destruct, thinks of itself as the superior culture that has an obligation to bring others "up" to its level. Civilization, is a cultural/mental view that believes security is based on instruments of coercion. The size of this delusion is such that the combined military expenditure of all the world's governments in only one year- 1987- were so large that all of the social programs of the United Nations could be financed for three hundred years by this expenditure. Looking back at the simple principle which says that humans cannot live on this planet unless they can maintain the topsoil, demonstrates the delusion. The delusion of military power does not lead to security, it leads to death. The civilized denial of the imperative of maintaining topsoil, and the addictive grasping to the delusion that security can be provided by weapons of death, is akin to the hallucination of a alcoholic suffering delirium tremens! Civilization must come to see that its picture of reality is leading it to suicide. It lives on topsoil and it is destroying that topsoil. This is ultimately a self-destructive act. Here we have the whole of it. The problem is imbalance and the solution is to regain balance. Here we have the simple principle: if human actions help to regain balance as judged by the condition of the ecosystems and the soil beneath them, then we are on the path of healing the earth. If the theory, plan, project, or whatever cannot be justified by this standard, then we are back in the delusional system. We of civilization have lost our way. We are now functioning in a world of confusion and chaos. We must recognize that the delusional system of civilization, the mass institutions and our personal lives function on a self- destructive basis. We live in a culture that is bleeding the earth to death, and we have been making long range personal plans and developing careers within it. We strive toward something that is not to be. We must try to wake up and regain a vision of reality. We must begin taking responsibility for our lives and for the soil. This is a tall order. This will require study and forethought. That is what this book is about. Humans have never dealt with anything like this before. This generation is presented with a challenge that in its dimensions is cosmic. A cosmic question: will tens of millions of years of the proliferation of life on earth, die back to the microbes? This challenge presents us with the possibility of supreme tragedy or the supreme success. Creating a utopian paradise, a new Garden of Eden is our only hope. Nothing less will extricate us. We must create the positive, cooperative culture dedicated to life restoration and then accomplish that in perpetuity, or we, as a species cannot be on earth. NOTES 1 Natural Disasters: Acts of God or Acts of Man? Anders Wijkman & Lloyd Timberlake. New Society pub. Santa Cruz, Ca. 1988. p.58. 2 Gaia: An Atlas Of Planet Management. Dr. Norman Meyers, General Editor. Anchor Books. Garden City, New York. 1984. p. 41. 3 Famine In South Asia: Political Economy of Mass Starvation. Mohiuddin Alamgir. Oelgeschlager, Gunn and Hain Pub. Sweden. 1980. P. 135. 4 ibid., p. 135. 5 Physical Environment & Its Significance For Economic Development With Special Reference to Ethiopia. Sven Beltrens. C. W. R. Gleerup. Lund. Sweden. 1971. p. 110. 6 Losing Ground: Environmental Stress and World Food Prospects. Erik P. Eckholm. W.W. Norton & Co. New York. 1976. p. 94. 7 "The 500,000 Invisible Indians of El Salvador." by Mac Chapin. Cultural Survival Quarterly. Vol. 13. #3. 1989. pp. 11-14. 8 ibid. p. 14. 9 EPOCA UPDATE. Pressure Mounts To Halt Pesticide Exports. Summer 1990. The Environmental Project on Central America. Earth Island Institute, 300 Broadway suite 28, San Francisco, CA. 94133. p. 13. 10 El Salvador: Ecology of Conflict. Green Paper #4. The Environmental Project On Central America. Earth Island Institute, 300 Broadway #28, San Francisco, Ca. 94133. p. 2. 11 ibid. p.3. 12 ibid. p.3. 13 Margin of Life: Population and Poverty in the Americas. J. Mayone Stycos. Grossman Pub. New York. 1974. See also: Losing Ground: Environmental Stress and World Food Prospects. Erik P. Eckholm. W. W. Norton Co. New York. 1976. FINAL EMPIRE CHAPTER 2: THE END OF CIVILIZATION If the planet and the human species are to survive we must create paradise. We must restore the life of the earth. The only way that the planet can heal itself is for the soils of the earth to be restored along with the ecosystems that will maintain those soils. To do this, human culture must undergo transformation from a culture of suicide and immediate gratification of immature impulses for material goods into a culture focused on life and wisdom, a culture of paradise. We must get below the threshold of consciousness of civilization and examine the real basis of the life of the earth- the soil. All of us have to struggle to throw off the mind conditioning that we have received in civilization. Our reality molding would have us believe that there are environmental problems such as toxic chemicals, radiation and acid rain. The fact is that our life crisis began with empire/civilization. The environmental crisis began thousands of years ago, when the Han Chinese began to destroy the vast forests of China and when the Indo-Europeans began to overgraze the vegetation and exhaust the soils of central Asia. For two to three million years humans lived on the planet in a stable condition; then suddenly with the cultural inversion to civilization, the earth began to die. Civilization is the environmental crisis and the loss of topsoil is our measure of the etiology of the disease. The materialistic values of civilization teach us that the accumulation of wealth is progress. The material wealth of civilization is derived from the death of the earth, the soils, the forests, the fish stocks, the "free resources" of flora and fauna. The ultimate end of this is for all of the human species to terminate in giant parasitical cities of cement and metal while surrounded by deserts of exhausted soils. The simple polar opposites are the richness and wealth of the natural life of earth versus the material wealth of people living out their lives in artificial environments. In order to accurately assess the planetary condition, the ecological survey that follows will first focus on the basic reality, the soil. It will then examine the health of the planetary forests. Then will follow an examination of the greatest ecological disaster, agriculture. We will focus on these matters because these are the basic and enduring damages and unless these are set right, there can be no recovery. Then the focus will turn to the last phase of civilization, the destruction caused by industrialization. Industrialization poses dangers stretching from poisons to planet-wide imbalances such as the greenhouse effect. Here we will see in detail how the options are rapidly narrowing for the human family as soil erosion, overgrazing and deforestation continue their inexorable spread throughout civilization. In the past few centuries, industrial society has provided a swift push toward the climax. The seminal study, The Limits to Growth: Report For The Club Of Rome's Project On The Predicament of Mankind, shows how the dynamics of industrial society point us toward the final paroxysm.1 The Limits to Growth study was done in the early 1970's by an international team of scholars at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The team, which came from many diverse disciplines, isolated the dynamic and interactive movements of the five basic factors of industrial society: resources, food per capita, population, pollution and industrial output per person. The standard- model computer run of all of these factors show that industrial society will begin its swift collapse sometime in the 2020's. Here we quote the authors statement concerning the "World Model Standard Run:" "The `standard' world model run assumes no major change in the physical, economic, or social relationships that have historically governed the development of the world system. All variables plotted here follow historical values from 1900 to 1970. Food, industrial output, and population grow exponentially until the rapidly diminishing resource base forces a slowdown in industrial growth. Because of natural delays in the system, both population and pollution continue to increase for some time after the peak of industrialization. Population growth is finally halted by a rise in the death rate due to decreased food and medical services."2 The standard extrapolation of the growth curves since the 1900's can easily be drawn out to the end, though chances are very good that war, depression, nuclear disaster, or eco-catastrophe will occur sometime before then. We live in a material civilization. We can count the barrels of oil, we can count the acres of wheat fields, and we can count the number of people. All the scholars who created the MIT study did, was to put all of the numbers from all of the scholarly fields on computers and extrapolate. The thing the computer cannot do is anticipate unpredictable breakdowns in the world system. The scholars did examine the possibilities of averting disaster (which assumes a very unlikely world society, nimble enough to coordinate a survival strategy). The scholars programmed the computers so as to double the estimated resource base, they created a model that assumed "unlimited" resources, pollution controls, increased agricultural productivity and "perfect" birth control. None of these or other aversion strategies could take the world system past 2100. The reason that the world system cannot go on with unlimited growth is because each of the five factors is interactive. If we assume unlimited fuels such as a simple fusion process, this simply drives the growth curves faster. There is more cheap fuel so the wheels of industry churn faster and resource exhaustion comes more quickly, population continues to climb and pollution climbs. If there is more food production, then population climbs and resources are exhausted more rapidly. If population is stabilized, resources still continue to decline and pollution increases because of increased consumption. If the factors of resources, food, and industrial output grow then population grows but the resulting pollution creates the negative feedback of having to maintain cancer hospitals and institutions for the birth defected and mutations caused by pollution as well as pollution damage to factors such as farm crops. Growth had been the fundamental pattern of the culture of civilization long before Alexander conquered the "known world." The difference now is that the growth is approaching its outer limits and soon will have nothing left to feed on. We have come to the final cycle in which civilization will fall into entropy because it cannot any longer be sustained. There are no more virgin continents to exploit. There are few remaining forests to cut down so that new soils can be exploited and exhausted. In addition to this, the world population is now counted in the billions. The world has never before known this kind of exponentially increasing volume of flow and consumption of food, resources and industrial poisons. Because of these interactive forces world society is trapped within a system of cultural assumptions and patterns of behavior from which it cannot extricate itself. There is no way out. There will be a collapse of civilization. There is no question that there will be future famines in the ecologically devastated and desertified region of Ethiopia with its exploding human population, just as there is no question that civilization which eats up its resources and poisons the earth, will collapse. We are examining the process now in order to gain knowledge, because we are the people who will be attempting to live through the climax. An Inheritance of Destruction Life on earth has a long history. Bacterial microfossils have been discovered associated with some of the oldest unmetamorphosed rocks, which are 3.8 billion years old. We know that at least twice in this history, life has faced ecological catastrophe roughly equal to the one that we now are in. The first massive die-off was when cyanobacteria evolved, exhaling oxygen, and poisoned vast numbers of creatures. The second die-off, 65 million years ago, was the well known period when dinosaurs became extinct.3 After immense periods of time in which life proliferated, the human form appeared on earth. The fossil record, as unearthed in the Oldavi Gorge in Africa by the archeologist family, the Leakeys, goes back three million years. According to anthropologists, for that period of time, 99 per cent of human existence, we have been forager/hunters. Suddenly, and only an eyeblink in time of approximately ten thousand years, a different social form irrupted among the humans. This form is the monolithic and hierarchic social form known as empire. We are now assembling information on a third cataclysm to face life on earth, the age of human empire and its final apocalypse. The culture of empire, which also travels under the euphemism, civilization, is the cause of the third event. The culture of empire is characterized by ecological imbalance caused by cities, centralization, hierarchy, patriarchy, militarism and materialism. We find aspects of this cultural form among the Aztecs and Mayans of Meso-America, the Incas of Peru, Certain African kingdoms, the Egyptian dynasties and a few other locations. The most virulent strains of this cultural pathology developed in China, the Indus River valley and in Central Asia among the Indo-Europeans. It is the inheritance of this cultural form that is destroying the earth. China J. Russell Smith, author of a classic permaculture text, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture; gives a characteristic picture of the land occupied by the old Asian empires: "I stood on the Great Wall of China high on a hill near the borders of Mongolia. Below me in the valley, standing up square and high, was a wall that had once surrounded a city. Of the city, only a few mud houses remained, scarcely enough to lead one's mind back to the time when people and household industry teemed within the protecting wall. "The slope below the Great Wall was cut with gullies, some of which were fifty feet deep. As far as the eye could see were gullies, gullies, gullies-a gashed and gutted countryside. The little stream that once ran past the city was now a wide waste of coarse sand and gravels which the hillside gullies were bringing down faster than the little stream had been able to carry them away. Hence, the whole valley, once good farmland, had become a desert of sand and gravel, alternately wet and dry, always fruitless. It was even more worthless than the hills. Its sole harvest now is dust; picked up by the bitter winds of winter that rips across its dry surface in this land of rainy summers and dry winters. "Beside me was a tree, one lone tree. That tree was locally famous because it was the only tree anywhere in that vicinity; yet its presence proved that once there had been a forest over most of that land- now treeless and waste."4 At one time nearly half of China was forested. The famous agricultural scholar, Georg Borgstrom estimates that 670 million acres of China were once covered.5 This forest, with its complex ecosystem was gone almost before written history. There is no doubt that it contained many species that became extinct and of which we will never know. One major consequence of the denudation of the vegetation of China is that its major rivers now carry more silt than any other river system in the world and the stories of the floods in China are as old as the Chinese empire. Indus River Valley The Indus River valley of western India once hosted an empire. Some one thousand years before the Chinese began the ecological destruction of China an empire existed in this area that is dated between 2,500 BC and 1,500 BC Evidence suggests that this was a forested region with an ecology that among other things contained elephant, rhinoceros, water buffalo, tiger, crocodile, bear, goose, lizard and tortoise. Edward Hyams, in his study, Soil and Civilization; indicates that the forest was cleared for agriculture, the fuel needed for the firing of mud bricks and the smelting of metals. This plus soil exhaustion created the destruction of the ecology and the implosion of the empire. This means that much of the area of the former empire of the Indus River valley was forest and it is now semi-arid desert. While this seems at first like an unlikely change, Hyams points to examples from Australia where that change has happened in the past hundred years. He says: "The present vegetation of Sind is tamarisk and scrub. In not dissimilar climatic conditions in Australia in our own times, such a vegetation has sprung up upon soils rendered semi-arid by forest clearance, by overstocking with cattle, or by soil-fertility `mining' with wheat."6 The Indo-Europeans of Central Asia Some seven thousand years before the present, the origin culture of what we now call the Indo-European language group, domesticated wheat and barley, which were wild plants of the region of the Caucasus Mountains. They also domesticated sheep and goats. This was the beginning of the culture of empire in Central Asia. The history of this culture along with the culture of the Han Chinese leads right down to the present day. From Afghanistan, through northern Persia to central Turkey the mountain areas have been deforested and eroded to the point that they are now simply bare, arid ranges.7 Grazing, deforestation for smelting, heating and cooking, and trees removed for agriculture are the chief culprits that have destroyed the soils and the ecology. The soils of Central Asia and the Mid-East have gone to the ocean. Massive erosion of soils on the watersheds of the Tigris-Euphrates river system was created by at least five thousand years of imperial abuse. Scholars calculate that the erosion material from this watershed has filled in the Persian Gulf for one hundred and eighty miles in the last forty-five hundred years. An area of more than 2,000 square miles has been filled. Prior to the empires, the Tigris and Euphrates had separate mouths that emptied into the Persian Gulf.8 Throughout this region we can see what will be the final stages of the whole of civilization. After the forests are cut and the grasslands overgrazed, plant regimes from drier environments move in. Spiny and thorny brush move in along with the hardier, tougher grasses. As the region continues to be razed for firewood and goat fodder, the harder layers of subsoil are exposed. Finally, the hard surfaces of desert pavements form. As hard subsoil and bedrock are reached a moonscape is created from which no recovery is possible. The Empires of Greece and Rome As we follow the denudation of the Mediterranean area, we see that Greece was well advanced toward ecological destruction early in that country's imperial career. Many of the wars of conquest were simply to gain new forests for use in building warships. Author David Attenborough describes the type of effects caused by the denudation of the Greek mainland: "Thermopylae, on the Greek coast, was the site in 480 BC of one of the most heroic battles in ancient history. A tiny detachment of Greek soldiers, commanded by the king of Sparta, held a narrow pass between the sea for three days against a huge Persian army. Today, that pass no longer exists. The soil from the hills above has been washed down by the rivers and deposited at the edge of the sea in such quantities that the pass has been transformed into a wide plain."9 One of the colonies used to gain shipbuilding lumber was Ephesus on the western coast of Turkey. By the fourth century, BC the harbor was so silted because of deforestation and soil abuse in the uplands that the harbor had to be moved farther along the coast. The new harbor quickly filled in and the location now is three miles from the Mediterranean.10 In Italy and Sicily soil destruction has been epidemic. "The Italian coast from south of Ravenna; north and eastward almost to Trieste has been extending itself into the Adriatic Sea for at least twenty centuries," one scholar reports. The city of Ravenna, once on the coastline is now six miles inland.11 The impact of the successive empires on the "breadbasket" of North Africa has been to destroy it. Both Greece and Rome used the luxuriant North Africa as a mainstay of empire. Finally the Arab, Ottoman Turks and other minor empires destroyed the last shreds of the ecology. At one time six hundred colonial cities stretched from Egypt to Morocco and the area provided Rome with two-thirds of its wheat budget. Now much of the area is barren, eroded and can hardly support goats.12 It is no accident that now the diet of these former empires is based on goats, grapes and olives. This is ecological poverty food. As these cultures have destroyed their lands, the plants and animals that remain such as goats, grapes and olives are ones that can subsist on denuded and dry soils. This brief review of the original areas of civilization can help us visualize what the earth will eventually look like in most areas where that human culture has spread. But, because of our massive modern population and technology, the destruction that took place over thousands of years is now being accomplished in very brief time spans. The ecological destruction has not stopped even now, but in the present continues on, headed for bedrock. NOTES: 1. The Limits to Growth: A Report For The Club Of Rome's Project On The Predicament Of Mankind. Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William W. Behrens III. New American Library. New York. 1974. 2. ibid. p. 129. 3. 1990 Catalog of Seeds. A.M. Kapular, PhD. Peace Seeds, A Planetary Gene Pool Resource and Service. 2385 SE Thompson St., Corvallis, Oregon 97333. P.1. 4. Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. J. Russell Smith. Devin-Adair Co., Old Greenwich. 1977. P.3. 5. The Hungry Planet: The Modern World at the Edge of Famine. Georg Borgstrom. Collier Books. New York. 1972. P. 106. 6. Soil and Civilization. Edward Hyams. Harper & Row. New York. 1976. P. 69. 7. ibid. pp. 55-64. See also: Man and the Mediterranean Forest: A History of Resource Depletion. J. V. Thirgood. Academic Press. New York. 1981. P. 62. And Losing Ground: Environmental Stress and World Food Prospects. Erik P. Eckholm. W. W. Norton & Co. New York. 1976. P. 94. 8. Man's Role In Changing The Face Of The Earth. William L. Thomas, Jr., Ed. U of Chicago Press. Chicago, Ill. Vol. 2. P. 510. 9. The First Eden: The Mediterranean World and Man. David Attenborough. Little, Brown & Co. Boston. 1987. P. 169. 10. ibid. p. 118. 11. Thomas, op. cit. P. 511. 12. Attenborough, op. cit. P. 116. The Final Empire: Part Two: THE COLLAPSE OF THE ECOSYSTEM CHAPTER 3: SOIL: THE BASIS OF LIFE The Organic Rights All beings of the earth, from microbes to elephants exist in a web of organic energy flows. Everything in the material world is food and everything is excrement. Everything is part of the energy flow. Even edges of tectonic plates slide down into the magma, which is then spouted out of volcanoes. When the flow of energy comes from the sun to be consumed by the plant, this begins a succession of energy transformations called the food chain. Beings eat each other. This flow of solar energy undergoes many transformations. In addition to these connections in the food chain there are many more energy connections that are of a cooperative and contributory nature. Beings provide many services for one another that have nothing to do with eating each other. Bees pollinate flowers, birds transport and deposit seeds. Fungi combine with the root hairs of plants and the ensemble generates food for both plants and fungi that otherwise neither would be able to absorb. Each being, because it lives according to its nature, contributes to the smooth functioning of the whole. There are beings such as elephants, tigers, humans and others whose consciousness is such that the intellectual function is well developed but the organic memory is not highly developed such as it is in animals like the earthworm or frog. Earthworms and frogs do not need to be taught what they are, their identity, they simply know what their nature is. The elephant, tiger or human, on the other hand have to be taught their culture by their parents or clan. This is shown by the fact that these animals, if raised in captivity and turned loose in their natural habitat, will starve, because they have not learned their culture. Many civilized people have starved in the midst of abundant food that native people utilize with ease. These beings, deprived of knowledge, do not know their organic identity. For two to three million year's humans lived in clans and tribes as forager/hunters. In that culture we learned our personal identity within the clan and we learned that we had an organic identity as one among many beings of the earth. We learned of the other beings and their habits of life. We learned of life and the conditions for the growth of life. This organic right, to know who and what we are and that we are located within a web of living energies must be a birthright of all humans. The earthworm conducts its life and contributes its excrement to help create the valuable humus of the soil. The bird visits one oasis in the desert and then transports seeds to another oasis. All beings must act responsibly and do their part for the world to function. For life to persist they must act according to their natures. For a being such as the human who can be so constructive or destructive this is important, important for the continuance of the human species so that they do not ignorantly destroy that which feeds them. All beings of earth have a vital interest in humans knowing their organic place in nature, because when humans do not know, they become organic psychotics and wantonly destroy other beings. If the human species intends to exist in perpetuity, children must be provided with these organic rights. Most people in civilization grow up in boxes. Artificial environments and designer landscapes are most children's' formative, environmental experience. Even farm children do not have a sense of the beauty and complexity of a completely natural and unaltered environment. In order to give the human species a chance of survival, all children should have a right to the organic knowledge that they are an integral part of the life of earth. They need this knowledge in order to make rudimentary ethical and survival decisions. Children should at least be taught fully what soil is. Soil is the foundation of life of the planet, only the uninformed think of it as dirt, they pave it over, they dump poisons on it and they strip the vegetation so that the soil runs away without even realizing what they are doing. Children should be told that soil must receive sustenance. This factor, the decline of the soil's food, applies to all of the land mass where civilization exists, not just farm fields but ballparks, golf courses, wetlands that are drained, houses, yards, pastures and any other place that has had the climax ecosystem removed. Anytime biomass is removed from the land in the form of cattle, logs, corn, vegetables or even grass clippings; the soil is deprived of that amount of feed. Because civilized people do not know what they are, they talk politics, religion, and science and pursue material wealth while the basis of their life on earth, the soil, slips away beneath their feet. The Soil Soil is the gut of the earth, the principal digestive organ of planetary life. Soil is partially composed of rock chips, clay, sand, minerals and organic detritus, but it is also an interdependent living community of micro-organisms, insects, worms, small animals, reptiles and other organisms (even some birds) which live in, contribute to and feed on components of the soil. Like the bacterial community in the human gut that predigests the human food, the soil is a living community of organisms which produces the necessary conditions for the plant communities to exist. The excrement of the gut community feeds the human, and the excrement of the soil community feeds the vegetative community, which lives on the soil. Plants do not absorb earth. Plants absorb nutrients that are in solution in the soil moisture. These nutrient solutions are the result of many energy transformations as they pass through a number of organisms. The creation of soil begins with an inert and infertile subsoil of clay, sand, rock chips and rocks. When the first pioneer or "first aid" plant germinates it begins to thrust its roots down into the hard compacted earth. It pumps moisture and minerals up from the earth to its stems and leaves. It drops its leaves and stems on the surface. The decomposers, small insects and microbes that live in the soil, eat the organic material that the plant has dropped. The organic material, by covering the raw earth begins to shade it from the evaporative and oxidizing effect of direct sunlight. Moisture retention improves the habitat for small creatures that burrow, opening up the earth to more moisture and to oxygen that will allow more microorganisms to exist. Porousness and organic build-up on and in the soil help increase the soil's fertility. The organic material on the surface feeds the soil community and other beings eat primary soil ingredients such as rock chips, roots and other micro beings, both dead and alive. As roots die and leave micro tunnels and as earthworms and others create tunnels, passageways are created for the infiltration of water and oxygen, two vital needs of the soil community. As the soil increases its fertility it becomes more porous, it retains more moisture and the temperature extremes are moderated. As the soil builds, the richness and diversity of the habitat increases. More varieties of beings can find niches in the web of life. As the soil is opened up a succession of plants follow the pioneer species and find it easier to get their roots down into the soil. Bill Mollison, in his definitive work on Permaculture, Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, says of the living component in a typical soil: "50 per cent is fungi, 20 per cent is bacteria, 20 per cent yeast, algae, and protozoan, and only 10 per cent the larger fauna such as earthworms, nematodes, arthropods and mollusk fauna (the micro-and macro-fauna), and their larvae." He adds that, "Such classes of organisms are found in soils everywhere, in different proportions."1 The activities of the fungi are especially interesting. The body of the fungus stretches itself through the soil like a giant spider web. When the time comes for sexual reproduction most varieties of these fungi thrust up out of the soil, and produce what we call a mushroom. This is the sexual organ of the underground body. The web strands underground grow toward the root hairs of plants. As the threads of the fungi touch the root hair, the cells of the fungi invade the cells of the plant root. The fungus does not have the ability to translate solar energy into biomass (photosynthesis) but it can receive foods from the tree. The tree itself begins to absorb food from the cells of the fungi. Sir Albert Howard who wrote the historic treatise on organic agriculture, The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture; explains that: "Here we have a simple arrangement on the part of Nature by which the soil material on which these fungi feed can be joined up, as it were, with the sap of the tree. These fungous threads are very rich in protein and may contain as much as 10 per cent of organic nitrogen; this protein is easily digested by the ferments (enzymes) in the cells of the root; the resulting nitrogen complexes, which are readily soluble, are then passed into the sap current and so into the green leaf. An easy passage, as it were, has been provided for food material to move from soil to plant in the form of proteins and their digestion products, which latter in due course reach the green leaf. The marriage of a fertile soil and the tree it nourishes is thus arranged. Science calls these fungous threads mycelium..., the whole process is known as the mycorrhizal association. This partnership is universal in the forest and is general throughout the vegetable kingdom."2 The soil breathes through the sponge-like passages in it. One cause of air movement is the lunar gravitational attraction. Just as the moon causes tides, it also pulls on aquifers and soil water. This water movement exhales and inhales air in the soil. Differentials of high and low pressure zones in the atmosphere passing overhead also effect the earth's breathing in the same way. As noted by Mollison, even such things as the bodies of worms pushing through the tubes, effect earth respiration. As the soil becomes what we might call "mature" or climax, it is porous; it holds more water and air. As its diversity and richness increase, the vegetative cover grows richer and more diverse, thus feeding the soil more. Trees move in. They put out their feeder roots horizontally in the soil and the taproots deep into the subsoil. From the subsoil they bring up water that is transpired, improving the local microclimate. Minerals are also brought up from the deep, which go into leaf structure and finally end up on the soil surface. When the trees die, their decaying root systems leave deeper cavities. Within this enriching soil, the burrowing animals are working, churning the soil/subsoil, as other plants are growing and dying to deposit their dead bodies on the surface as food for the community. In this way the soil circulates toward increased fertility. Mollison points out the high value of soils by reminding us that the only place that soils are conserved or increased are: in uncut forests, in the muck under quiet ponds or lakes, in prairies and meadows of permanent plants and where we grow plants with mulched or non-tillage systems.3 The general rule of thumb used by ecologists is that three hundred to one thousand years are required to build one inch of topsoil. This means that thousands of years of production can easily be wiped out in a season. The Process of Soil Collapse Soil injury and death is a severe health problem for the earth. Natural processes that severely injure or destroy soil over large areas are rare. They occur in geologic time spans such as the ice ages, vast climatic changes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the movement of tectonic plates. On a smaller scale, intense fires, landslides, or floods can damage local soils. The history of "rapid" and large-scale soil injury is actually the history of the activities of civilization. The process of soil collapse and destruction is essentially the reverse of soil build-up. When soil builds, it opens up, breathes and accumulates moisture. More and more niches are provided to expand the diversity of the soil community. As soil deteriorates these factors decline and soil degenerates toward a solid clay-like impervious mass that inhibits life activities. Soil Exhaustion The soil is in a continuous cycle that must be fed organic detritus continually. If this cycle is stopped, the primary food of the community ceases. If the food ceases and the plants continue to feed on the soil, as in a corn field, the soil will become exhausted. When cattle graze, they remove essential elements from the cycle. A ton of beef has depleted the soil of approximately 26 pounds of calcium, 54 pounds of nitrogen, 3 pounds of potassium, 15 pounds of phosphorus and many other trace elements. This same situation obtains in a forest where the biomass is hauled away in the form of logs. Anything that detracts from the circulation of essential elements injures the soil. Any decline in the climax vegetation will cause a decline in the health of the soil community because of the decline of flow in the nutrient cycles. When a forest is cleared or a prairie is plowed, soil health is impaired. The first growing season on this land may be highly productive, but after several years even with manuring and fallow periods, the soil can function only at a level considerably below its optimum. Agricultural soils that can be maintained over centuries, are generally heavy clay soils but even these erode, lose humus and become compacted. These soils must be maintained with great care to maintain sustainability at their greatly lowered level of health. Unless large amounts of organic material are added each year, the soil will decline, because the soil community continues to feed, consuming the available organic and the biological nutrients until there is no more. At this point we have what farmers call "farmed out" land. On a small piece of land near Willits, California a group of experimental gardeners called Ecology Action began to build soil on a hillside that was considered of "intermediate" value for grazing. They report that it was difficult to get a shovel into the original soil. After seventeen years of intense work, they have created a soil that will support luxurious plant growth through a method that they call "biointensive gardening." To increase soil fertility, they leave three-quarters of the soil in fallow crops of sunflowers, vetch, fava beans, wheat and rye. This experiment is deliberately a closed system, with no organic material being imported for compost (which would deprive other soils). This experiment gives us a rough standard to judge how much must be done to keep a soil sustainable and increasing in fertility. It means that three-quarters of the soil must be planted with plants that build up the soil while one-quarter are used by plants that feed on the soil and are then removed.4 A test conducted for 41 years, between 1894 and 1935 by the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station at Wooster, Ohio, demonstrates the soil loss and yield on three sets of experimental plots devoted to continuous corn cultivation. This test shows the effect on the soil of "normal" farming methods. See Table at WWW.RAINBOWBODY.NET/Finalempire/FEchap3.htm or Page 29 "The Final Empire" by William Kotke (10-5-10 is 10 nitrogen, 5 phosphate and 10-lbs. potassium per l00 lbs. total ingredients) This study demonstrates that even with manuring, the soil suffers. In order to complement the nutrient cycle fully; so that the soil does not become depleted, even larger amounts of organic matter need to be applied. This is part of the problem of civilized agriculture. Where does the organic matter come from? In pre-industrial days, fallow periods were used. Plants were grown on the fields and then plowed into the soil. Manure from draft animals- cattle, pigs and chickens, was also applied to the soil. This slowed the depletion of the soil. Then came the tractor. The draft animal manure was lost. The land that was used to grow feed for the draft animals was turned to other crops. Vast fields of corn, wheat, soybeans or other monocrops were put in and fertilized artificially. In the above table, the greatest loss of organic matter occurred with the use of artificial fertilizers. The artificially fertilized soil lost even more than the plot with no treatment. This happens because the artificial fertilizers do spur plant growth and this in turn draws more energy out, thus causing the soil to lose even more organic matter. This study points out a crucial, but seldom-noticed fact. Everywhere in the world where the industrial agricultural system and the "green revolution" have spread, this process is happening to the soil. Farmers physically take biomass off the soil and this breaks the nutrient cycle. But even though the soil health is declining, crops continue to be raised because artificial fertilizer is injected into the soil. To industrial agriculture the soil itself is irrelevant. In fact, many modern farmers say that all they need the soil for is to "prop up" the plants while they artificially inject the nutrients. While this is true, it is equally true that this process is masking the actual biological deterioration of the planet's soils. The short-term gain might be large, but if artificial fertilizers become too costly to purchase, or if easily extracted petroleum energy from which artificial fertilizers and agricultural poisons are generated, becomes exhausted, the world will face starvation because the soils are dead. The final yield on the top line of the chart where no help was given to the soil shows about where the world population will be when the petroleum fueled fertilizer plants shut down. A billion and a half people in the world are now fed simply because of the added increase made possible with chemical fertilizers. If chemical fertilizers were eliminated, world agricultural production would drop by at least one-third.5 Soil Compaction Compaction of soils is another common injury that occurs on and off the farm. Anytime weight is put on soil; the pores tend to be crushed. This causes the moisture holding ability to decline and decreases soil breathing. This also inhibits plant growth because plants must expend more effort in order to get their roots down into the soil. As compaction increases, less water infiltrates and more water runs off, which increases the erosion of the topsoil. Plowing causes compaction because it requires heavy equipment. Trampling by confined livestock also creates soil compaction. The plow is probably the cause of more soil death than any other factor. When the iron bottom plow was invented, a great change occurred in agriculture. Light soils had earlier been worked with wooden plows, but when the iron bottom plow was created, deep, heavy, clay soils could be worked and this greatly expanded the area of civilized agriculture. Finally the moldboard plow was created which completely overturns the soil because of its increased curvature. The plow historically has been associated with Indo-European field agriculture. It is associated with the Indo-European cultural value of increasing production and as such was used by the Roman Empire in their vast agricultural enterprises. Digging stick and hoe, often in slash and burn plots in forests had done prior planting. This method had minimal interference with the soil and usually the cover vegetation of small plants was not eliminated. With the plow it is possible to completely clear the land and in this way much more land can be worked. Plowing also has the result of burying the cover vegetation. When the open fields are disced or harrowed after plowing, which break up clods and level the soil, the planting can be much more "efficient" and therefore much more land can be farmed. Plowing breaks up and collapses the soil pores and water/air passageways. When the soil is overturned the entire soil community and their relationships are overturned. After a forest is cleared and the land is first plowed, the soil still maintains its crumbly, granular nature. It is soft and friable. After a few seasons the crumb structure has broken down and the clay aspect of the soil begins to predominate. The plowing, which creates chunks and clods, impairs the soil's ability to receive soil moisture which "wicks" upward by capillary action. Edward H. Faulkner who wrote the classic treatise, Plowman's Folly, has shown how plowing disturbs the capillary action and how the moldboard plow by completely overturning the soil, reinforces this disturbance. After plowing, the layer of surface vegetation comes to lie upside down in the soil. Thus, a layer of loosely pressed organic matter is compressed under the soil surface. This breaks the capillary action. The capillary action occurs when moisture evaporates from the surface and draws moisture upward.6 The plowing of soil often results in the creation of a hardpan just below the bottom of the plow. As the plow goes through the soil year after year the layer created just below the foot of the plow becomes more and more compacted until it becomes an impervious layer. This allows water to accumulate and build-up to the level of the plant roots where it can drown the plants and kill the soil community by salinization. The layer of hardpan traps minerals held in the water so that they concentrate as the water slowly evaporates. Eventually this creates a dead soil that can only be reclaimed with great difficulty. When the soil is plowed, the deeper layer that contains soil moisture is overturned and exposed to wind and sun. This dries out the soil. The effect of direct sunlight on raw soil is very destructive. The sunlight oxidizes the soil. When the soil oxidizes, chemicals combine with oxygen and decrease their use to the soil community. The effect is to dry it out and lessen its fertility. All of this prepares the soil to be carried away by the wind and water. As the plowed soil deteriorates, its clayey nature begins to predominate. The surface becomes more and more impermeable. Less moisture infiltrates to the ailing soil community. Water running off soil is the beginning of the end. As water runs off, it begins to carry soil with it. As the more friable top layers go, lower layers with less water absorbency are exposed so that the water runs off faster. As this occurs even more soil is carried away. Even in an undisturbed environment there is some erosion of soil off the land but it is much less than the volume of soil build-up. The following figures show the comparisons of erosion in the same area that has different types of soil cover: "In Ohio it was reckoned that 174,000 years would be required to remove from 7 to 8 inches of top-soil by runoff in a forested area, 29,000 years in a meadow, 100 years if the soil is wisely planted with crop rotation and 15 years if corn alone is planted " (Bennett, 1939).7 The phenomenon of leaching is a pivotal factor in soil conditioning. Rainforest soils are leached constantly by the heavy rains. The large volume of water carries minerals from the topsoil down into the subsoil, but in desert environments, soil moisture evaporates more rapidly than it can be leached downward. This results in a higher level of nutrient/mineral buildup, which can be exploited by irrigators. They can utilize the sandy soils, which have a relatively low concentration of humus but nonetheless are nutrient rich and grow substantial crops if water can be obtained. But buildup of nutrients in desert soils happens over a long period of time and soil can be exhausted quickly unless artificial fertilizers are applied. Organic feed for the soil could be applied, but in a desert environment the production of organic material is limited. In the formerly forested areas of Lebanon, now degraded to a semi-arid desert environment, people collect manure from the goats that graze the sparse brush in the mountains and transport it to Beirut and the coastal city, Tripoli, to the north, to fertilize orange and banana plantations.8 Soil Erosion Soil can become exhausted in place and soil can be removed by erosion. Plow agriculture leads to soil erosion but there are also other civilized practices that create soil erosion. Grazing by livestock, deforestation, mining, and many other human activities all lead to erosion. There are three basic types of erosion; these are gully, sheet and wind. Gully erosion results in the familiar "erosion canyons" that we see on hillsides. Sheet erosion is a more camouflaged type in which large areas of a hillside slowly creep downhill to a "slump" at the foot of the slope. This type of erosion is sometimes only apparent when closely examined or when a