Back to the earth

The philosopher Mary Midgley has written extensively about what modern thinkers can learn from Nature. She also suggests that we can all learn from the way that modern industrialised societies regard Nature.

At an organic conference some years ago Midgley remarked on the pejorative – or downright seedy – connotation of so many words connected with one of Nature’s biggest wonders – soil. Soiled, dirt, muck, sod were a few examples I seem to remember.

Little wonder that’s it’s so hard to get people interested in this life-supporting, water regulating, carbon sequestering, biodiversity-boosting miracle material when we associate it with a vocabulary of fear and loathing!

This week a new film by the American film maker Deborah Koons Garcia – Symphony of The Soil – gets its London premiere (thanks to sponsor Organico and event organiser Elisabeth Winkler). It puts soil in an altogether more positive light.

Koons Garcia describes Symphony of the Soil as the antidote to the ‘problem film’ genre – “the movies that leave you with the impression that it’s all so depressing and you can’t do anything about it”. Soil, she says, is something  “you can do something about – like compost it, work it in your own garden and support the people and practices that create healthy soils.”

Koons Garcia wants to show us that we are all part of the soil community (“we rise out of it and we eventually get returned to it,” she reminds those who might be wondering). And when people see the film, she says, they tend to come away with a new positive relationship with the soil.

If you missed this week’s screening you can find out more about Symphony of the Soil (and how to pre-order DVDs) at Let’s start a love affair with soil in our own local communities – if we have to, we’ll talk dirty!

By Jim Manson

Natural Products editor and environment journalist
Jim Manson is editor of Natural Products magazine. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian and Time Out.