I was involved in the very first Earth Day, and I remain a strong supporter of its goals.
The earth we grow our crops in is our umbilical cord for survival. The proverb take care of the earth and the earth will take care of you is true in more ways than one. If we continue to rape the earth as we have, we will leave nothing for future generations. This earth has provided us with an abundance of food and has helped to sustain us in many other ways. We have an obligation to correct the mistakes that we have made and apply the technology to make things better. We need to preserve the fertility of our land and repair the damage that we have done.
We can no longer afford to scar the surface of the earth and allow it to erode away by water or wind. Productive soils need to be biologically active whether or not the land is being used to grow trees, pasture, grasses or gardens.
We tend to rely too much on chemical fertilizers to supply all of the needs of plants and give little attention to soil biology. While plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, we tend to ignore the fact that plants also require certain trace elements like iron, zinc, boron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, molybdenum, nickel, chromium and many more.
These elements are generally not supplied in the fertilizer bag, yet pushing for higher yields depletes them faster than they are renewed. And if you continually grow crops without sufficient trace elements in the soil, your harvests will be of ever lower quality, less nutritious and with lower yields.
Productive soil that produces an abundance of high-quality food rich in nutrients is biologically active with an abundance of organic matter undergoing all stages of decomposition. In the process of decomposing, essential trace elements are returned to the soil for roots to absorb. It is for this reason that organic waste recycling through composting is so important.
Everyone — whether large-operation farms or home gardeners — should plant cover crops on open land when the land is not producing a crop. Cover crops not only prevent the loss of nutrients from the soil, they also help in maintaining soil organic matter and, when legumes are included, add essential plant nutrients. We can no longer afford to leave land barren.
It should be mandatory for contractors to surround all construction sites with filter fabrics and water-filtering mounds of compost to prevent sand, silt or clays and the phosphorus they carry from entering our waters. And it should be a crime to dump chemicals, including antifreeze and oil, onto the soil or into storm drains.
We can no longer allow parking lots, roads and hard surfaces to overload our streams and dump their contaminated waters into our lakes, streams, the Bay or oceans. Rainwater must be allowed to filter slowly back into the soil to replenish our aquifers — not rush away through storm drains.
The poor quality of the waters in the Bay should be a reminder of our past mistakes.
We can all do more for those who are to follow us.