Conservation Corner: Lo and behold: My mother was right

Published 8:00 am Friday, March 2, 2018

We all have, or have had, mothers.

My guess is that we listened to our mothers as if everything they said was true when we were children.

Then we grew up, and we discovered that many things that our mothers said were just not correct. Some of it was based upon misinformation provided by the media and politicians, some of it was superstition, and some of it may have made sense back then, but is sure doesn’t make any sense nowadays.

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However, much of what they said is true today.

Well, one of my mother’s beliefs that she passed down to me was that all of us should consume a little bit of dirt every year, but not a lot — a little bit is good for you. She was talking about the dirt in the back yard: soil.

Back in those days, we had no commercial fertilizers or chemicals in the ground, so for her dirt equaled dirt, nothing else. When our boys were growing up, I used Mother’s advice many times when the boys asked whether or not they had to wash their hands before eating.

“If all you’ve been doing is playing outside, in Mother Nature’s playground, don’t worry about it. A little bit of dirt is good for you.”

You can imagine how our friends viewed this irresponsible parenting behavior. Luckily, the boys rarely got sick, and injuries were from such things as falling off the swing or bicycle, so my mother’s “wisdom” was never challenged.

Then, imagine my surprise when Allen read for me an article from yesterday’s The Week magazine: “Fighting Bacteria With Dirt. Scientists have discovered a new antibiotic capable of wiping out several strains of ‘superbugs,’ including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (aka MRSA).”

The article goes on to say that the new weapons against drug-resistant bacteria could be lurking right under our feet.

“Every place you step, there’s 10,000 bacteria, most of which we’ve never seen…there’s this reservoir of antibiotics out in the environment we haven’t accessed yet.”

Antibiotic-resistant infections kill at least 23,000 people every year, so this finding is a big deal. It’s a humbling thought that the answer might have been right under our feet all the time, while we were thinking that we are so smart.

We have much to learn from the earth and all the secrets she holds within. We must come to terms with the fact that our modern scientific knowledge may not hold all the answers.

For centuries, we have followed the teaching philosophies of Galileo and Descartes, which separated humans from the natural world, stripped nature of its intrinsic value and segregated mind from body.

The environment has much to teach us, if we will only get on our hands and knees and look.

How do we, as parents and grandparents, help the next generation look for answers that are not available in the classroom? How do we encourage them to look beyond the textbook to discover what no one else is even looking for?

The only way I can think of is to keep asking ourselves, and our children and grandchildren, to take time to really observe the world around us.

Why is the ladybug hiding there? Why are there no worms in this part of the garden, but there are plenty over there? Why did the water wash away the topsoil in one place but not in another? Why did the mold grow here but not over there? Why did the seed from last year’s squash produce a weird squash this year that did not taste good?

There are so many questions, and we are too busy to even ask. If we don’t ask, and encourage the 3-year-old to ask those questions, we’re doing a disservice for the future of our planet.

Without inquisitive, creative thinking, we’ll continue on the same downhill path towards extinction of the world as we know it. It’s time to start thinking “out of the box.”

There was a popular cookbook years ago called “Laurel’s Kitchen.” The introduction contained a line addressing the question as to what foods are the healthiest for us to eat.

The answer will stay with me always, and it applies to far more than cooking: ”The closer it [the food] is to the way the Creator put it on this earth, the better it is for us.”

We are part of that creation.