Whatever we wish to construct, whether a garden, a building, a business or some other product of our creativity, nothing is more important than building the enterprise on sound foundations.
The foundations of The Knot Garden are the soil. As with other types of foundation, soil is largely invisible except in such areas as flower beds where only the surface can be examined without a spade. The Knot Garden recognises that what is unseen is often more important than what is in plain sight.
I was alarmed this morning to see an article in the Guardian reporting a warning by the environment secretary that the UK is 30 to 40 years away from “eradication of soil fertility”. The Knot Garden usually takes politicians’ statements with a pinch of salt but my curiosity compels me to look more deeply into the story so that I can discover what lies behind it.
The ominous assertion reminded me of a chapter entitled The World Below Our Feet in John Humphrys’s book The Great Food Gamble, in which he refers to “the least explored and least understood environment on the planet: the earth beneath our feet”. He goes on to describe the damage that mankind has done to the soil through intensive farming methods.
I have thought from time to time about the importance of soil quality but have not so far been able to spend time to understand the science of this complex and fascinating subject. Surely soon, especially given my unexploited interest in the closely related subject of geology, I will conduct some research into the ecology of soil and the factors that affect its quality. This is a fascinating domain, crucial to our existence, that appears to be widely overlooked.
One important function of The Knot Garden is the identification of areas of personal ignorance (in subjects that are important to me), creating awareness and opening the door to an exploration of key themes that are relevant to my belief system.
I am not prepared to take the MP’s statement at face value but I will certainly treat it as a sharp reminder that I need to improve my knowledge of the soil and develop an informed view of whether it truly is being degraded in a manner that is dangerous to humankind.