Links between Soil, Food, the proposed Pipeline and Governor Terry McAuliffe

This blog post is about food, but it’s also political.

This post is about food because it’s about land. “Land” is soil, and soil is so much more than dirt. Soil is a melange of minerals, insects, water, microbes, plant roots, mycelium (mushroom roots) and trapped gasses… and likely more that I don’t know about.

Soil can be assembled and poured into bags and sold at a store, but real soil that’s appropriate to the life that’s living in and on it is made by Mother Nature, which is the same as saying “made by time”. Over time, the soil and everything living in and on it responds to the effects of weather, and the needs and actions of all the other living things around it. Its formation is dynamic, despite its slow pace.

If we could look closely enough at the formation of soil and speed up time, what we’d see would have the feeling of a blizzard of interdepartmental memos… everybody is talking and reacting… that’s soil.

Plants that live in soil depend on this dynamic adaptation to the effects of Nature (living things in and on the soil + weather). We rely on plants to feed us, whether we eat them directly, or by eating eggs or milk made by animals that eat plants, or the flesh of animals that eat plants.

Food is good because it keeps us alive… but food, just like soil is more than just dirt: it is more than just calories. Food is a melange of nutrients: minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, fats, proteins, starches, fiber and water.

Being nourished by food is to be alive, but being alive is about more than having a heart beat… it’s about being vibrant, responsive, creative, thoughtful and compassionate. Food that offers the bare minimum of nutrients will fuel a bleak life with the minimum of potential.

When soil is disrupted, the conversation gets interrupted. Opportunistic plants, microbes and insects can move in… invasive weeds, fungi and bacteria, pests… It’s like unlocking a door and allowing crowds of interlopers to move in and squat.

And, food grown in soil that is disrupted or denuded or demineralized is not the same.

Land is also valuable when it doesn’t grow food. It gives us a place to stand. It provides a place for trees to anchor. It makes hills for us to roll down like we’re five again. It cools and heats the air, air that holds sweet smells of pine, wisteria and cow manure, that shuttles animals’ pheromones and transmits birds’ calls. To stand on virgin land and feel the time below your feet and smell and hear and see the results of the soil’s interdepartmental memos, that is one wonderful facet of being alive. And if standing on virgin land does not make something inside your soul shimmer with familiarity and magic, you’re likely not eating enough real food.

Land also provides a barrier between our life and the water table, which, like our bloodstream does for our body tissues, nourishes the soil and removes its waste. And below the water table is the seething, bubbling, molten & gaseous world that we are not meant to be part of. When the worlds above and below Land collide, the results are explosive, gnashing and disastrous.

When Dominion Virginia Power Company representatives insist on tearing into Land to build a pipeline, they are being insane. And when our representatives, like Governor Terry McAuliffe support and approve of such a project and hard evidence that it is a bad idea, they are ignoring their responsibility to look out for their voters’ wishes. We’ve signed petitions, spoken at meetings, written letters, made phone calls and sent emails. To no avail.

Besides ignoring the preference of their citizens, those legislators who favor the pipeline are ignoring the Land. 

I attended a Staunton City Counsel meeting on August 28 at which a Dominion rep actually reminded us with a smile and jovial lilt in his voice that the George Washington National Forest has a sign at its entrance that says “Land of Many Uses”. The original pipeline proposal was to rip through sections of that forest, some of our most Sacred Land. When he said that, the crowd howled with disapproval and hissed with disgust. If we’d have been in an alley, it would have gotten very rough.

Beyond the valid complaints of politics, greed and profit-focussed agenda, these are two the deeper issues that I think are important to consider:

  1. We need to get our power from somewhere… I enjoyed a hot shower while contemplating what I was going to say in this blog post and I know that Dominion heated my water. I enjoy that hot water, as well as cooking and having light when it’s dark outside. A friend of mine appreciates being able to refrigerate his wife’s breast milk and heat it at 3am to feed to his hungry child. A man who spoke at the 8/28 meeting proclaimed that he cooks pancakes just like the rest of us. We all need power. And we have the responsibility to derive that power responsibly.
  2. An even deeper issue for consideration was brought to my attention by another friend. He urges us take our responsibility a step further and consider which of our electricity-requiring activities are truly necessary. We need more sustainable sources of energy that don’t damage our land, but we also should use much less electricity in the first place.

Governor McAuliffe, if this blog came up in your Google Alert search and you’ve read this far, please take a moment this week to stand on a quiet, sweet-smelling piece of Virginia Land. Take your shoes off. Close your eyes. Breathe. Hear. And consider whether that luxury is worth any amount of money. As you walk away, hear the sounds fade and feel the scents wrap around you, pulling at you to stay. Recognize the land is not inanimate. It is not separate from us… it’s an extension of us. And it would appreciate if we were its stewards. As you walk away, remember Land has a face. Our Land is in the face of every one of your voters, and in their children’s faces and in your own.


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