Sixty some years ago I started college with a major in horticulture at Washington State College (now university). The first day of class, our prof, Dr. Woody Kalin, explained to us that we would be working with soil, and there was a difference between soil and dirt. Soil has life in it; dirt is dead. 

Now, all these years later, I am still a horticulturist even though I took a side trip to marry, become a parent, raise a family, and now settle into my true vocation, horticulture. 

Soils supported civilizations from Mesopotamia, Greece, the Roman Empire, China, Europe, and the Americas. Soils extended from east to west, north to south. Civilizations flourished and died as they plowed through the naturally fertile soils, killed the organisms that gave food its nourishment and left behind piles of dead dirt. 

Farming is like religion in that we learn about each from previous generations and develop into people who do not see the inadequacy of plows and gods. Farmers and religious pass their learning on to future generations. The Earth cannot sustain life if based on plows and gods. Humans kill the Earth with farming techniques of the ancient farmers and kill individual initiative with methods of turning people into dependents on a higher power based on old beliefs. 

We need to see the lost soils and eroding fields created by human action. We need to recognize the giving away of our ability to think and reason when we turn to a higher power for wisdom. We could look at the consequences of one religion warring with another religion over whose higher power is wiser or stronger. 

We need to pay attention to the value of observation, to recognize problems and conflicts we create. By looking at the methods used by farmers of the past and by seeking wisdom from some imaginary god we humans squander opportunities to learn from visions of a possible future.  

Some farmers and researchers look honestly at the reality facing us and search for better ways to grow food. There are decent, compassionate people who find more ethical ways to live in society. 

Revolutions exist in agriculture and ethics that open doors of possibility for healthier and happier cultures. I wonder if we will survive the present insanity of agri-business and religion to create a sustainable existence?

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