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After Us

Water (Earth Primer #7)

- By Giacomo Sartori

(RER Ambiente: Erosion on a hillside in Emilia-Romagna.)

(Earth Primer #6)

During rainstorms, soil gets soaked by water, which it then retains within its most minute pores, acting as a reservoir. To achieve their ends, which include bringing nutrients all the way up to the leaves, the roots of plants draw water out, little by little, from these small tubes. Because water from the earth contains the mineral sustenance that plants feed on—it provides the delivery service. So, that is its first function: storing a mineral-rich reserve of water in its capillaries, to make it...


After Us

Vocation (Earth Primer #6)

- By Giacomo Sartori

(Crete Senesi. Photo by Gunther Tschuch, 2008)

(Earth Primer #5)

I don’t know why I ended up with soil as my specialization. I could tell myself it was a matter of chance, since that rendezvous seems to have happened on its own, not as an act of will: I did nothing to bring myself in its direction. Within the ideological framework of my family members (from which, despite appearances, I still hadn’t entirely freed myself), it was definitely the most well-worn path, the least appealing, least appreciated. What really attracted me was writing, but I never believed I had the intellectual gifts needed. If...


After Us

Beyond Earth (Earth Primer #5)

- By Giacomo Sartori

(Red and Green Tomato Plants on Train Rail, photo by Markus Spiske)

(Earth Primer #4)

For some time now, tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers and strawberries and raspberries and other plants have been grown in tiny containers, often small plastic jars filled with peat, usually in plastic greenhouses that manage partially or fully to slip the snag of the seasons. Peat, used one time, then thrown out. Peat, little by little used up, because it took thousands of years to form. Peat comes from bogs, environments with an unusually diverse variety of lifeforms that are dug up and cut off, often leaving behind holes filled...


After Us

Erosion (Earth Primer #4)

- By Giacomo Sartori

(Countryside in Algeria, photo by Giacomo Sartori)

(Earth Primer #3)

Cultivated soil is very fragile—just a bit of water running over the surface is capable of stripping away its thin upper layers, which are the most rich and fertile. The soil is then deposited at the base of the slopes, where the water slows, or poured into creeks or rivers that will carry it to the sea. In either case (and both often happen simultaneously), it is a permanent loss. And if the water streams down violently, it tears away all the best soil, opening up rivulets and deep ravines, eating up a stunning amount of earth, annihilating the labor of thousands of years through which the soil had been formed from stone. Steep...


After Us

Life (Earth Primer #3)

- By Giacomo Sartori

(Mycorrhiza mushroom: Photo by Backpackerin, Pixabay)

(Earth Primer # 2)

Unconsciously, we associate soil with life, because we’ve had the experience of observing the critters that live there: insects, ants, glassy larvae, light little spiders, snails, worms. A swarm of life that somewhat repels us, it is very distant from the ideal nature that we favor, those vast spaces where our gaze gets lost—an immensity that awes us but also attracts us, and where, in fact, we feel at ease. Not in line with our tastes, the life of soil is too humid, too dark, it smells too much of corruption and decomposition, of death. The spaces of our lives have become ever more aerated and sterile, and soil looks more...


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