As you might remember from grade-school American history, Manifest Destiny was the 19th-century U.S. claim that its settlers were divinely ordained to expand across the North American continent. This was the defense for the cold-blooded extermination of countless natives, whole communities that had been thriving on this land for at least tens of thousands of years.
Peace was never an option with the European settlers, who treated human life as cheap and disposable. Nothing short of complete possession and power over the land would satisfy the self-declared new owners. This was implicit in the “blessed” mission. Besides, once they secured ownership of the land, the settlers aimed to “civilize the redskins” and allow them to pay taxes.
A kind of poetic justice has come to pass. By a series of events, this land–once rich in minerals, metals, and fecundity for millions of years–is now comparatively lifeless. After just 250 years in the hands of “civilization,” the land has none of the lifeblood and resistance to disease it had when the settlers claimed it from the natives. With all of our science, higher learning, and so-called breeding, we’ve thoroughly leached the land of its vitality. Gold stars all around, my fellow Americans.
But contempt for this dark side of U.S. history is not the point. The point is much more fascinating. It is the story of “mother immunity” and what happens to her–and to all of us–when greed and egoism, in pursuit of fame and fortune, assume leadership and don the hat of public service.
Let’s start at the beginning. It all begins with topsoil and something called humus (not the kind you eat with pita). Humus is the precious substance that ensures nutritional balance in the soil. Humus is waste metabolized by soil–not the compost itself, but the compost that the soil has metabolized. Plentiful humus guarantees natural protection from disease. The absence of it guarantees disease, pests, and weeds.
Unadulterated, pre-colonial North American soil was as fertile and rich with humus as any that you could find anywhere. Plant life flourished in it and the animals that consumed those plants received protection from the soil as well. Nature was just doing what she does best–conferring her immunity on her creatures, just as a mother’s milk confers her immunity on her baby. This is all normal in an interdependent, mutually sustaining system of life.
But when lust for ownership and domination comes swaggering in, the system breaks down.
“The Father of Chemical Agriculture”
Let’s go to Germany in the early 1800s where we’ll find Justus von Leibig, a scientist who managed to convince farmers that humus was not actually the source of highly fertile soil. He presented a compelling theory to suggest that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash (potassium carbonate) were the basis of soil fertility. Consequently, widely distributed propaganda convinced European and American farmers that nothing would grow without this German-mined blend.
During the First World War, U.S. farmers had to resort to finding the potash cocktail on their own shores. It turned out that the elements were abundant in the States, and they were mined so successfully as to become a profitable export.
Leibig’s theory spawned more chemicals that made him and his supporters rich while rapidly impoverishing the soil in Europe and North America. When Leibig finally realized his mistake and retracted his theory just a short ten years later, admitting that the organic extract, humus, was indeed the secret to soil fertility, it was too late. Companies were growing rich on these chemical fertilizers, and they were not about to relinquish their projected future profits.
Given the importance of humus to soil and plant life, it should be no surprise that chemical farming practices result in devastating, irreversible effects on our bodies. Any good organic farmer will tell you that humus is the source of a plant’s disease resistance. Artificial fertilizers not only fail to restore immunity and fertility to plants and soil, but poison the whole food chain.
By charging recklessly ahead in the name of Manifest Destiny, we have decimated the soil, robbed ourselves of our greatest survival tool, and rendered the human body helpless. By eating food grown in chemically treated, nutritionally devoid soil with low immunity, we are not getting our share of balanced nutrition.
As a greedy superpower, we took over 3.79 million square miles of fertile soil and squandered it. Now the majority of the remaining farmland is home to fields of inedible GMO corn and soy, and filthy factory farms where animals are raised on GMO crops, antibiotics, and hormone injections. And the corporate-governmental Goliaths are working hand over fist to perpetuate the madness that keeps us eating what they feed us.
Now consider this analogy: vaccinations, antibiotics, and synthetic growth hormones are to human tissue and blood what chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are to soil. We’ve raped the land, and now we inject poisons into our children’s bodies–denaturing them and causing mutations to their cellular structure and DNA–and call it disease prevention. Yes, companies are getting rich off of this, too.
We manifested our destiny, no doubt. We are reaping in tears what we sowed in tears. Call it karma or cultural comeuppance, but it’s really just Nature doing her thing. Far from setting out to hurt anyone, she is simply sending the decomposers (pests, fungi, bacteria) to break down that which is not viable so she can self-clean. We are the ones who have created a non-viable cultural organism and living with the consequences: widespread cancer, disease, mental illness, and infertility.
Frank Kafka once said, “You may not destroy someone’s world unless you are prepared to offer a better one.” Sure enough, we’ll have to shimmy our way out of this deadly agricultural system through reeducation and a major reshuffling of our priorities. We need to focus on what works for the earth, water, air, plants, animals, and humans–not what works for satellite dishes, SUVs, Pop-Tarts, and countless other products and technologies that do not generate life.
Agricultural health is our health. We cannot separate the two. We need to think not only like scientists, but also like organic farmers to understand how our bodies interact with what we consume. The Renaissance man and woman who will survive and seed the future will have to come home to the basic facts of life: biology.
This land is your land, this land is my land–for better or for worse. We must understand the land before it’s too late, before we lose it forever.