A bit philosophical

MichaelJanuary 16, 2010

If I remove the leaves from my neighbor's yard to put into my garden soil eventually, am I not taking away subsequent fertility from their yard? Philosophically at least, doesn't the same hold true any time we remove organic matter from one place to use it in another?

If the above is true, how do the ends justify the means?


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IF your neighbor was going to toss out the leaves anyway, then his yard would experience the same loss of OM and it does when you take them and put them in your yard. The difference is that your yard gets the enrichment instead of a landfill. Seems justifiable to me ;)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 11:35AM
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JUSTIFIABLE ? If the leaves are freely given by one person to another, what is the 'philisophical' problem?

Or, do you mean that the leaves grown on a particular plot of land BELONG to that land and to take them for use on another plot of land is IMMORAL and must be JUSTIFIED in some way?

I wonder if in a natural, un-mankind-touched environment, if a wind or flood moves one tree's leaves over to be used by another tree or meadow, ought that be 'justified'?

BTW -while we are pondering such deep subjects, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? ...'inquiring minds...."

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:20PM
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Mike (if I may call you that?) I have often pondered that question, of how all traditional agriculture is really about concentrating the output of flora from one area into another much smaller area (of course chemicals and the artificial fixation of nitrogen allow us to pump much of that output into the ground and eventually surface waters by way of septic systems).

Like the break-down of the leaves from acres of trees into a few hundred or thousand square feet of garden, or acres of pasture grass into a much smaller area of tillage via cattle manure.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 1:19PM
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Pn: exactly what I was thinking! And, yes you may.

Justaguy: My neighbor just leaves them where they lay, ditto on your point about using them vs tot'n 'em to the landfill, what a waste.

Borderbarb: Forgive me if I am misinterpreting your message but WOW, intense. The means, humans taking organic material from one place and moving it to another for it's enrichment, an end, presents something of a dilemma. Do you agree? It doesn't seem a morality issue, but could be argued as one, just a fertility issue. I'm sure you would agree that our actions often have consequences.

One other example I'd thought of was the landscaping industry which makes use of bags of chipped and shredded forest products. If we are buying those products we are aiding in the removal of OM from those forests' soils whether they be natural or people planted and managed.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 8:19PM
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Mike -- Intense? Yes, probably. But the way you cast the poser made it seem like something philosophically problematic with taking the gift of leaves your neighbor will not use, to enrich your own soil.

Similar question ... if you accept a gift of used appliance [or anything] from your neighbor instead of buying a new one, are you taking work away from the man/woman who manufactures/sell/repair those appliances?

I take the extended meaning of the problems - consequences - of commercial stripping of natural resources. Robbing a stand of trees of its surface compost/mulch is indeed problematic, even if the stand is to be cut for lumber ... as leaving the composted material makes way for the next generation of trees.

But the question loses its value if you carry it into the plus-minus consequences of using resources to feed and cloth the people of our nation.

We are sitting at a computer made of something that was taken from somewhere for us to use here. Ditto for the power that runs it. Ditto for the desk the computer sits on. Ditto for the house it sits in. Ditto for the infrastructures in the city in which we live. All comprised of materials taken from one place, processed, and then used to benefit us as we sit here at our keyboards.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 9:44PM
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Without the Haber process, and fossil-fuel, we have no choice but to concentrate the results of plants processing huge areas of sunfall into much smaller areas with much denser output. Like a cow, or a garden. I think we will be without the Haber process for practical purposes by 2030 or so, and that's when the developed world will start to experience real upheaval.

Barb, I understand your logic, however, food is a 3-times daily constant for every human mouth, whereas houses and computers and etc are far less frequent outlays. So the co-option of sunfall for food which we have been largely avoiding for the past 60 years - and coincident billions of mouths added in that time - that will suddenly come due will be extremely painful and felt.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 7:47AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

pnbrown's latest sounds an awful lot like a standard Dan statement. I will say, however, societies will decide what sector to stop getting fossil fuel: food, transportation, materials. In my view it will be materials, but every vested interest will weigh in and in the US - as we see today - whoever has the most skillful lobbyists and the most money to buy votes will decide, so the materials sector going away in favor of food is no given, although rational.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 4:50PM
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Pnbrown -- You have expressed the OP's 'philosophical conundrum' more forthrightly than he did. You seem to question the justification of "traditional agriculture" [along the whole scope of its history from cave to hunter-gatherer to subsitence farming [as practiced in much of the world today] to small & large family farms to mega 'factory farms'?] Since the concentration of materials has been present along the continuum of that time-line, has it always been of dubious value or just since the advent of artificial fertilizers? And what consequences have we/do we reap from these concentrations?

Since these are the same lines of argument given by those who advocate for a meat-free diet -- too many resources devoted to produce meat -- resources which are, in essence, usurped from a more just and humane distribution plant-based food supply -- for the benefit of the most industrialized and prosperous nations, and ergo, to the detriment of nations not in that magic circle of development. Is this base of your concerns? BTW - I am a vegetarian and raised a family of 4 on a non-meat diet.
Mike -- Agreed, the ABC's of the real world are that Actions Bring Consequences. Not a newsflash. Also not newsflash that people are quite often blind to the harm done to someone else's environment to meet some need or comfort of theirs. For instance, many people who think that wind-generated energy is one of many viable solutions to end an overuse of oil-based energy. AAAAH, but just not in their state or county. They will gladly pass legislation [force of government] to require use of solar/wind/geothermal energy for the "good of all", but make very sure that these not infringe on their own quality of life. See,? Nothing new in this -- description of human nature, which like it or not, we are pretty much stuck with.

Let me guess that if you point to practices in the landscaping industry as an example of taking from one area to enrich/benefit another. Agreed, if we BLINDLY buy these products, we are contributing to detrimental practices. You do know that some chipped/shredded forest products are a by-product of harvesting a crop of wood used in construction, etc? [yes, trees are 'farmed' not just for Christmas trees, but for pulp and construction materials] In this case, using these materials is not contributing to devastation of our forests. Perhaps we can also agree that the landscaping industry [and construction trades] make use of another natural resource -- human labor -- that is imported in order to suppress a living wage from workers in those fields. This undermines the cultural and economic 'soil' of our nation just a surely as stripping leaf mold and topsoil to make golf courses and flower gardens is.

This is as far a field from the general subject of this forum - organic gardening - as is your foray into philosophical discussion.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 6:59PM
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Dan, I don't know who is influencing who in this spiral of doomful pronouncements!

Barb, by golly, veggie here since the age of 9 and have raised 5. Not that it's a hippified contest or anything like that......

Yes, yes, that durn human nature. It'll be the downfall of, let's see, humanity? Seriously, that is the trouble with human tendencies, they add up, and a great many individuals are going to and are paying the price. I suppose in the case of agriculture, it is of double-edged value. Without it, we would have stayed with small and very low-technology populations; with it, what we are. Which is more desirable? Was there a choice?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 8:29AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

pnbrown, I'm an urban ecologist and as Aldo Leopold said: "One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. ". The BH has numerous strategies to alter the framing of a discussion, one of which that may be useful is here.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 12:39PM
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B-barb: I say this to you humbly. I brought the topic up in this forum because there is frequent discussion of the use of organic matter for the improvement of soils; therefore, I believe it is an appropriate topic for this forum. Don't you think it is a worthy endeavor to contemplate, at least a little, the shifting around of organic matter that we do on both grand and small scales for the purposes of food production? I do.

The example of using wood chips was meant to be one of removing the OM (wood), that would otherwise be left in place in a forest and be recycled in the soil, thereby benefiting it. It wasn't a stab at the nursery industry.

If I were a of a purist bent, I'd argue that your argument for using byproducts makes them exempt from the degredation issue. But alas, I am not and am glad they are used as opposed to becoming a "waste" that needs to be disposed of with no subsequent good coming from them.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 8:05PM
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Michael .... Thank you for your sweet and gentle response. [do you know how to get around a cranky old lady, or what?]

Frankly, if you had broached your first question in the same way that you did your last, I would have had no trouble with it at all. If something is worthy of serious discussion, it is worthy of a honest and straightforward presentation. Pussy-footing your way into a serious discussion has the odor of deviousness [& therefor a waste of time and energy].... which I have seen derail honest disucssion far too often. ['recovering' local activist-gadfly]

Since, in its broadest interpretation, those who participate in this forum [in all of its sections] hope to become good stewards of their own garden environment, and often extending to local, state, national, and so forth.

And because this issue has the potential to becomes polarized along the political spectrum, I have doubts that any minds will be changed by an online discussion in this forum.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 9:56PM
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Well Barb: I was figuring, in answer to the question about justifying, there would be a wide range of opinions ranging from my above cited "purist" to those who had never even thought about it, to those who thought it was fine.

Perhaps it seems a deceptive way of bringing up the topic but, it was worded that way intentionally to bring in the broadest possible responses. Nothing more, nothing less. I've certainly been in debates and discussions over the years that had disingenuous participants, they should be allowed to reveal themselves and taken for what they are so the debate can continue. They ceased ruffling me long ago.

As far as changing minds goes, I only hope that others will honestly try to open my eyes (not with a crow bar) so that I can change my own mind. A good example of this was a thread that had a component on peat commercial harvesting in Canada. I had only ever considered the harvesting that takes place in the UK prior to the thread so, it was an eye opener for me to read and try to see the points that were presented. Guess that could have been a more dramatic example for me to use in place of the landscape industry and wood chips.

If you ever get a chance, try reading Plato's, Allegory of the Cave.

Oh, BTW, you are welcome!


    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 2:31PM
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