The Future of Life

In E. O. Wilson’s, “The Future of Life,” he opens the book with a letter to Thoreau updating him on our current understanding of the nature of the ecology of the soils at Walden Pond.

“These arthropods are the giants of the microcosm . Creatures their size are present in dozens-hundreds, if an ant or termite colony is present. But these are comparatively trivial numbers. If you focus down by a power of ten in size, enough to pick out animals barely visible to the naked eye, the numbers jump to thousands. Nematode and enchytraied pot worms, mites, springtails, pauropods, diplurans, symphylans, and tardigrades seethe in the underground. Scattered out on a white ground cloth, each crawling speck becomes a full-blown animal. Together they are far more striking and divers in appearance than snakes, mice, sparrows, and all the other vertebrates hereabouts combined. Their home is a labyrinth of miniature caves and walls of rotting vegetable debris cross-strung with ten yards of fungal threads. And they are just the surface of the fauna and flora at our feet. Keep going, keep magnifying until the eye penetrates microscopic water films on grains of sand, and there you will find ten billion bacteria in a thimbleful of soil and frass. You will have reached the energy base of the decomposer world as we understand it 150 years after you sojourn in Walden Woods.”

Certainly, there remains much work to just characterize all the estimated 1,000 species of microbes found in a pinch of soil, and Wilson concludes at the end of the prolog that:

“Now it is up to us to summon a more encompassing wisdom.”

Biochar is viewed as soil infrastructure. “Feed the Soil Not the Plants” now becomes: “Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included!”.

Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar. Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come. Microbes like to sit down when they eat and enjoy the full services provided by the web of fungal mycelium delivering nutrients, moisture and providing an internet for plant chemical communication. By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders and Kingdoms of Life.