Under our feet, in the soil traversed by tree roots and fungal networks, an ancient and mysterious conversation is taking place. We are at the very beginning of understanding the nature of the languages used in this conversation. Perhaps it is not their complexity which eludes us, but their simplicity and directness. Like the conversations of trees, human discourse is also electro-chemical in nature, sparked by reactions in the bodies of participants. But human conversations must go through the additional step of translation into spoken or written language, whereas tree conversations are directly chemical-to-chemical. Does this make us more advanced, or simply more complicated?
During WWII, the U.S. government appealed to the American people to take personal action as a way of aiding the war effort. One such initiative involved the creation of “Victory Gardens,” small family vegetable plots which aimed to provide some part of a household’s food supply, and thereby make more output from the larger food production system available to the troops.
Now imagine what modern victory gardens would be like. These could be aimed at reducing pressure on the food production system, which periodically shows strains in the form of e coli scares, mass recalls, and the like. Moreover, as factory farming and food production pumps as much and perhaps even more carbon into the atmosphere as the transportation system, a massive retooling involving low-impact family plot could have a significant impact on climate change. When would we declare “victory?” When we managed to reverse the flow of carbon, and redirect it into the earth around us and our food supply.