Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Last night we watched Dirt! The Movie for free on Hulu. The cartoon characters and message of hope made a nice change from the somewhat depressing agricultural documentaries we've been watching lately.

Two snippets I took away from this movie:

"Kids don't play in soil. They play in dirt."
One of the people interviewed in this movie has made his life's work helping kids find greener places to play. He pulls up concrete in playgrounds so they can become dirty, living places -- in other words, the kind of places where kids actually like to hang out. He says that some people were shocked, asking where children would take recess if their play area wasn't encased in a lifeless layer of "clean." (Maybe those neighborhood parents need to take a gander at Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv's book which argues exposure to nature, unstructured play, and dirt is critical to childhood development?) I can't help but recall a neighborhood child who, watching us dig carrots through the fence we shared when we lived in the city, asked, "Why'd you put those carrots in the dirt?" While his innocence regarding the way plants grow was comically forgivable, honestly, I was somewhat impressed that in the age of packaged meals, he still recognized a raw carrot as food. And what's with university professors insisting that you call dirt "soil," as if changing the word somehow makes you sound more intelligent, and feel more distant from that stuff beneath your feet on which all life depends?

"There is no such thing as waste until it's wasted."
The folks interviewed about compost included people in Maine who were making a good living composting fish waste leftover from fishermen. This waste had previously been dumped into the ocean, with no one the wiser, until eventually the EPA decided to tell them they weren't allowed to do that anymore. Without a cheap place to dump their refuse, the fishermen became interested in whether it could be brought onto the shore to be composted and feed plants, "like the Indians used to do." Well, of course! For me, this story made a good illustration of just how much living, decaying stuff goes to waste, every day, all over this country and surely the world. Massive, gi-normous, mind-boggling amounts of stuff. Stuff that should be in the soil, but isn’t. Stuff that shouldn’t be killing the fish in the Gulf of Mexico, but is. Fish guts, lawn clippings, leaf litter, human waste, Smithfield lagoons of pig manure, and of course, millions of tons of artificially created nitrogen dumped indiscriminately across the great plains, all washing down into our drinking water. We have a waste problem, and we have a fertilizer problem, which is insane when Mother Nature has already created a perfectly round system where these things are not problems but complimentary solutions.


  1. Zev,
    I saw your comment on my old blog site. Thank you. The dragon is actually kind of small and part of a quilt I gave to my sister. I linked to your blog from your comment and I am not surprised your read CAF, too. I am looking forward to reading your blog Colorado girl! It looks fabulous.

  2. Thanks for the comment on my blog, Wheatless Foodie. Really good post on dirt and waste. I'm adding to my "follow" list.

  3. It makes me sad to think that children grow up without really experiencing dirt. My children spent a few summers running a backyard "bakery", and it engrossed them for a long time. It's so important to keep them close to the earth if they are to learn to take care of themselves and each other into the future. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Children today commonly suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder. They all need to eat some mud pies! We're supposed to eat a peck of dirt over the course of our lives. And playing in the dirt is what helps build strong immune systems.

    Keep on keeping on!

  5. I thought the use of the word "soil" was overblown too. The word you use has no bearing on the problem!