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Soil and Existence

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  • John Foster
    Sartre commented on impacts of soil erosion in his Critique of Dialectical Reason, and I wanted to add that that Existence and Soil are intricately connected.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2001
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      Sartre commented on impacts of soil erosion in his Critique of Dialectical
      Reason, and I wanted to add that that Existence and Soil are intricately
      connected. Although ideology has been said to cause 'strife', ideology
      arises from material conditions as well as political relations (ossified
      reason). In Marx's early writings are comments similar to those of
      Lowdermilk's on the sociological effects of poor soil conservation and
      irrigation practices.

      Ecological causes for poverty and strife in the Palatine, excerpted from


      "What is the cause of the decadence of this country that was once flowing
      with milk and honey? As we ponder the tragic history of the Holy Lands, we
      are reminded of the struggle of Cain and Abel, how it has been made
      realistic through the ages by the conflict that persists even unto today,
      between the tent dweller and the house dweller, between the shepherd and the
      farmer. The desert seems to have produced more people than it could feed;
      from time to time the desert people swept down into the fertile alluvial
      valleys where, by irrigation, tillers of soil grew abundant foods to support
      teeming villages and thriving cities. They swept down as a wolf on the fold
      to raid the farmers and their supplies of food. Raiders sacked and robbed
      and passed on, often leaving destruction and carnage in their path, or they
      replaced former populations and themselves became farmers only to be swept
      out by a later wave of hungry denizens of the desert.

      Conflicts between the grazing culture and farming culture of the Holy Lands
      has been primarily responsible for the tragic history of this region. Not
      until these two cultures supplement each other in cooperation can we hope
      for peace in this ancient land. We saw the tents of descendants of nomads
      out of Arabia who in the 7th century swept in out of the desert to conquer
      and over-run the farming lands of Palatine and again in the 12th century
      when they drove out the Crusaders. They and their herds of long-eared goats,
      often called cloven-hoofed locusts, let terrace walls fall in ruin and
      unleashed the forces of erosion which for nearly 13 centuries have been
      washing the soils off the slopes into the valleys to make marshes or out to

      In recent times a great movement has been under way for the redemption of
      the Promised Land by Jewish settlers, who have wrought wonders in draining
      swamps, ridding them of malaria and planting them to thriving orchards and
      fields, in repairing terraces, in reforesting the desolate and rocky slopes,
      and in the improvement of livestock and poultry. The work of the Jewish
      colonies is the most remarkable reclamation of old lands that I have seen in
      three continents.

      Throughout our survey of the work of the agricultural colonies, I was asked
      to advise on measures to conserve soil and water. I urged that trees of
      orchards be planted on the contour and the land bench-terraced by contour
      plowing. So insistent was I on this point that finally we were told of one
      orchard that was planted in this manner. We went to see it. The trees were
      planted on the contour, the land was bench-terraced and slopes above the
      orchard were furrowed on the contour and planted to hardy trees. By these
      measures all the rain that fell the season before, one of the wettest in
      many years, was absorbed by the soil. No runoff occurred after this work was
      done, to cut gullies down slope and to damage the orchards below. When I
      asked where the man responsible for this had learned these measures, he told
      me that he had learned them at the Institute of Water Economy in Tiflis,
      Georgia, in Trans-Caucasia."
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