68 pages • 2 hours readEd. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Ed. Katharine K. Wilkinson
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In this essay, Zelikova describes playing in the dirt during her childhood in Ukraine. As she grew up and her family immigrated to the United States, her love of dirt did not diminish. She studied ecology in university, and her research revolved around dirt and soil.
Her research took her to Costa Rica, where she studied winnow ants and their relationship to the plants and seeds around them. She learned that because of the heat from climate change, these winnow ants were abandoning the plants that relied on them for seed dispersal. Zelikova realized that ecology is all about relationships, and that climate change was changing this relationship between the ants and plants, which took thousands of years to develop, in a matter of decades (288).
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Our relationship with dirt and soil offers one way to support our ecosystem and halt the effects of climate change. Farming and agriculture have diminished the amount of carbon absorbed by the soil over the last 12,000 years. The Earth’s growing population has increased the need for agricultural land, and this will only continue, putting more pressure on soil—a precious resource in a world full of carbon emissions. Soil regeneration is not a quick process; to bring back soil, we have to feed the microbes that live in it.