Dear David Montgomery:
As a University of Washington geologist, you made it quite clear in this newspaper recently that I should be worried about dirt. Like most people in the modern world, I spend a great deal of time worrying about things. These include global warming, the ozone layer, West Nile virus, the crashing economy, the mutant frogs that were found in these United States, and shortages of food, fuel, space, and decent clam shacks. Worrying is the main activity of the modern Homo sapiens. Of course, there are those people who spend more time working out at the gym, which is all about cardiovascular disease, dementia, and diabetes, which means working out actually is just worrying with sweatbands. And, in the case of the aging process itself, there are those who artificially remove the lines in their faces. This is merely worrying with food-borne poison. All self-improvement is simply a more diligent form of worrying. But, I'm sorry, I cannot be worrying about dirt. You say we are losing dirt at an alarming rate, and the dirt we have left is losing its life-giving nutrients. We are wearing it out it with over-farming. There are even people hard at work developing artificial dirt, but, so far, it's too expensive for general use. Ancient Rome fell, you argue, not only because of plague, corruption, and Visigoths, but also, at least partly, because it lost its dirt. Classical Greece, too, and the Mayans - all human beings who treated the earth upon which they trod in a manner dumb as, well, dirt. Come to think of it, maybe I should worry about it. I'll drop the mutant frogs from the list.
Charles P. Pierce