On The Enviro Show we often refer to ourselves ironically as tree hugging dirtworshippers. Of course we do this to own the terms and deflate those Enemies of the Earth who use those words derisively. I have no problem hugging a tree now and then when the spirit moves me (it’s safer than hugging bears), perhaps just as some macho owner of a gas guzzling overpowered SUV may have no problem with fondly caressing his pathetic machine with a soapy sponge. As for dirtworshipping there is a whole other level involved.
My co-host on the show, Glen Ayers, is a soil scientist and he often points out to our listeners that undisturbed soil in the woods and the lifeforms within it sequester even more CO2 than the trees above. In fact, soils are the largest terrestrial pool of carbon, storing some 22% or more of carbon. Forest soils in the U.S. have the potential to store from 48 to 185 million metric tons of CO2 per year. With this in mind. one can’t help but realize that dirt, like the trees the soil supports, helps us to live in balance on the plane……theoretically. Yet, when the soil and all the life within are disturbed, say by logging or development, all that stored CO2 is emitted back into the atmosphere. The worse the soil is disturbed the more CO2 is released.
As you may have heard, us humans have managed to increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to 400ppm (parts per million), something not seen since the Miocene Era some 15 million years ago, with no human soul in sight. Now, scientists and a good many of your neighbors are warning us that we must reduce these emissions (especially the even more destructive methane emissions) and store more CO2 if our children and grandchildren are to survive in any semblance of a livable world. Soils, the lifeforms within them, and the trees and understory must be preserved. All the old notions about new commercial or residential developments and so-called forestry need to be updated for the Climate Crisis.
It’s been said that trees are our climate saviors, but so is the soil, dirt. It is a savior you can see, in fact you are standing on it.