Chapter 9 Dance With The Devil By Gunther Schwab Written in 1963.
THEY ENTERED THE BOSS'S OFFICE, THEY FOUND HE was not alone.
near him was a rather fat man, who gave the impression of being an easy-going
something of a provincial air.
two rose as the guests entered and the Devil's assistant, for such he obviously
all over his fat face.
heard the report of Klikprap," said the Boss, "and as you know,
ultimate aim is the starvation of mankind. He's a very efficient fellow,
his work was getting on top of him, so I had to split up his Department and
create a special section
the destruction of the soil.
here, is the head of it. His number is 301."
Boss turned to his assistant. "Well, Pulvero, have you got good
never expected anything else from you."
last report was thirty years ago."
Devil nodded. "I've forgotten it, with all the work I have.
what is the exact position about the feeding of mankind."
would be better to talk of the hunger of mankind."
should be only too delighted if you proved to be right."
said, "Since 1937 the number of starving people in the whole world has risen
from 39 to 60 per cent.
is, we are already past the half-way mark."
turned to the guests.
looked at Rolande; he obviously liked the girl. "The earth is at present
people; only a fifth of these regularly get enough to eat; two-fifths are
the edge of catastrophe."
Devil said: "That's what Nature intended, so you can hardly claim credit
further two-fifths are undernourished and there's no possibility of providing
them with enough to eat.
the 60 millions who die every year, 35 millions die of under-nourishment;
people die every day of sheer hunger."
now began to get into his stride.
increases at the rate of 90 a minute; 5,400 an hour; 130,000 a day and 17
millions a year.
every human being requires at least 2 ˝
acres in order to support life, mankind should be concerned
ensure that the existing food-bearing acreage is increased daily by 330,000
to the destruction of the soil, However, man is actually losing cultivable land
in various parts
the world at the rate of 500,000 acres a day.
is, therefore, faced by the fact of a daily deficit of 830,000 acres.
Europe there is less than a third of the necessary cultivable land per head of
even that has usually been spoiled and weakened; mankind is on the increase
while the acreage
it needs grows ever smaller and less fertile."
said the Boss, "if it's true.
what we'd really like to know is how you got these results."
begin my report with the destruction of the countryside by building,
this is not the most important reason why cultivable land is disappearing.
ulcer of the towns, and the industrial desert, is always taking up more and
more of the countryside
Nature designed it and so killing it. Building is mi the increase; in many
parts of the world
countryside is like a Chicago, with a few farms sandwiched into the middle of
whole of England has become a single great suburb —"
smiled. "Very good indeed; very well put.
have houses and factories but no bread.
have to eat asphalt and concrete."
loss of farmland because of the building of garages, airports, barracks,
the reservation of training areas all over the world, is steadily rising."
"Still, I'm sure there are reserves in many parts of the world on which
man can fall back.
"Expectations haven't been fulfilled in that quarter.
sums of money have been spent in Central Asia and Eastern Siberia in an attempt
70 million acres of virgin soil fit for cultivation,
it has so far proved impossible because of lack of rain."
"All the same, I don't quite see how you can blame man.
he does is to use the surface of the earth to satisfy the most urgent needs of
that's all there is to it."
Devil: "You must distinguish between the claims of bare life and those of
of living. If you deduct those natural resources which are used to satisfy
artificially enhanced demand, a demand for satisfying man's desire for
would find that the position was not nearly so bad.
a man uses up ten times as much of the gifts of Nature as he really needs, for
a full life.
have managed to make the soil into an article of commerce.
the high rate of interest which capital demands is what today directs its
continued with his report.
yet, large surfaces of land are still left which might serve the purpose of
here I have to examine the actual degree of fertility with which they are endowed.
life of man will always depend on what plants produce out of earth, water, air
slice of bread, every potato, every morsel of meat must be provided by a little
piece of earth.
soil is a highly complex and dynamic entity composed of minerals,
and organic combinations, living creatures, air and water.
is a creature of a very high order, created by nature over thousands of years
out of living substances
with the help of living things. It is permeated by an infinite fullness of
gramme of sand contains 200,000 bacteria, but a gramme of humus contains 100
a handful of garden soil there are more living things than there are human
beings in the world;
them there can be no growth, no fertility, no human existence; thus,
task is clearly defined, it is to destroy the life of the soil.
soil of the earth which is animated by bacteria is known as humus;
has a depth of between 25 to 100 inches; all life on earth depends on these few
crumbs of soil;
is absolutely irreplaceable. Nature requires between 300 and 1,000 years in
order to develop a single inch
of such soil. The mysterious combinations
that give life to the earth are unknown by man and are still
much a riddle to him as life itself. I have made use of this fact, and thanks
to the world-wide activity
my department, I have induced man in the last hundred years to destroy the
has been left to him over millions of years."
Devil asked: "What means have you used to destroy the life of the
"Man himself developed them under my guidance, thanks to the pressure of
economic nihilism and of the so-called rising standard of life. They are three:
of the soil and artificial fertilizer.
man takes living substances from the soil without replacing them,
he does when he continues always to grow the same crops on one piece of ground,
productivity of that soil becomes increasingly restricted to the point of
ultimate complete destruction.
healthy soil is firm, both in a biological and a mechanical sense.
withstands the attacks of wind and water. Sick soil changes its structure and
loses its cohesion;
thus tends to disappear and the door is opened to erosion."
"What farmer could be so stupid as to expose himself to such a
Devil: "Tell us something of what's actually happened."
take the prairies of North America. They've been grassland from the very
beginning of the world.
roots held the soil firm up to a depth of 25 feet; before the coming of the
million buffaloes grazed here, as did many other animals.
scum of Europe that came to the New World shot the herds to pieces;
the end they did it just for the sake of the tongues, the corpses being left to
wild life was ultimately replaced by herds of cattle, much too large for the
numbers destroyed the grass and deprived the soil of its protection,
that it could be washed away by the rain, dried up by the sun and carried away
by the wind.
the First World War, this grazing land was transformed into wheat land;
area under wheat was increased five-fold; thus, for the sake of a quick 100 per
prairie was completely ruined. Year after year, without regard for the need of
proper crop rotation,
planted wheat, wheat and yet more wheat. Business food.
low-priced wheat flooded the world and ruined countless farmers,
Nature repaid the injury done with terrible interest."
got up from his chair and went to the switchboard; he turned some knobs and
hear the noise of thunder. Then the empty space of the four walls was filled
with black smoke.
wind. It's the 11th May, 1934, a storm of hurricane force is blowing over the
hurricane-like winds have only occurred there since de-forestation took
picture changed; they saw what appeared to be smouldering acres, but the smoke
was fertile earth.
eddy of wind lifted it 3,000 feet into the sky and the storm blew it away.
the humus had been carried away, sand came to replace it;
pale coarse-grained stuff remained where it fell.
saw farms in the midst of this hell of dust which were buried up to their roofs
insane force of the storm broke trees by their thousands, carried roofs,
whole walls of houses away. Streets and railways were covered up to a height of
men and women reeled past, wading up to their knees in dust.
storm shut their mouths, made them blind and Furled them down. After a little,
silenced the roar of the elements by turning a knob.
you see being carried away are the wheat factories of the proud farmers;
fat, prairie soil that once covered the ground. In that first dust storm 300
million tons of fertile humus
carried 2,000 miles away into the Atlantic; all parts of the country suffered
under the rain of dust.
over a 100 million acres of arable land, an area ten times as large as that of
utterly destroyed. An even greater number of acres was severely damaged.
followed a number of similar disasters on a slightly smaller scale; indeed,
never really ceased and, all in all, arable land covering an area the size of
been definitely destroyed. The fabulously rich farmers grew poor and were
into the proletariat of the cities. And where
for millennia there had been rich prairie land and,
later, waving fields of wheat, was nothing but desert. Now let me deal with yet
which I have already referred, of setting the soil in motion – chemical
chemical fertilizer, mankind would have died of starvation long ago," said
right, and no doubt we'll talk about that a bit later. All I'm concerned with
here is that alien
substances destroy the basic plankton of the soil, kill the bacteria,
worms and other forms of animal life. They damage the deposit of humus and if
the formation of any further humus. This leads to a steady diminution of the
fertility of the soil
also to the alteration of the actual structure thereof, so that it is no longer
firmly held to the ground.
let's examine this business of chemical fertilizer a little more closely.
already said that the substances which are removed from the soil, together with
be replaced. This process is called manuring."
talk to us as though we were little children," said Groot.
grown to be very careful. People who come from the cities are generally
just those provinces of knowledge that most greatly affect real life.
does not mean that they do not have a great deal of knowledge about less
manure can only have a fertilizing effect if all the other elements that are
essential for growth,
within and outside the soil – that is to say, water, light, air and so on
are present in an harmonious relationship with one another.
the best manure will remain ineffective if the soil is too dry, the air is
the sunlight is unable to reach the ground because of clouds of dust – in fact,
there is a deficiency of any one single substance that's necessary for
"You mustn't underestimate us. We know very well that chemical analysis of
exactly determine what mineral substances are missing.
can then be returned to the soil and everything is in order."
"Certainly, Mr. Groot, everything is in order – at any rate, in our sense
of the word.
man will never know all the different elements that go to make up the life of
is quite unable to say what exactly is missing and what is not;
if he doesn't know what is missing, he can't replace it.
man gathers the harvest he takes living substance from the soil, doesn't he?
and fruit and seed. And when he feeds back artificial manure, he feeds back
is a living substance. Life can't be analysed or produced in chemical
packaged or despatched or sold at so much a pound, and what we are concerned
the destruction of life.
you grasped that yet?"
surely," said Rolande, "that's the marvellous thing about plants, t
they can convert matter into living."
since Liebig," said Groot, "the genius to whom millions of human
beings owe their food
their very lives, we know that every deficiency in the soil can be made good by
replied: "Both those ideas are superficial and misleading, my friends.
ordinary view about the efficacy of artificial manure rests on the false
doctrine that plants
be nourished with inorganic matter; plants need living substance,
can only be found in humus, not lifeless substance such as chemical
isn't it a fact," said Rolande, "that besides artificial manure,
natural manure is also used."
said, "Modern agriculture is continually destroying vast quantities of
waste from plants,
and man, or using it on a quite insufficient scale.
man could be returning to the soil, he discharges into the river,
in quantities that amount to billions of
tons, as municipal sewage.
excrement that each man produces during the course of his life would,
properly treated, give us in every year a cubic metre of humus.
man doesn't think that this is necessary."
doubt there wouldn't be opportunities for good business if we acted
differently," said Sten.
was not altogether happy. "I must confess that I'm not quite clear why
the fertility of the soil," she said.
mobilizes certain groups of bacteria in order to convert the chemical manure,
is really foreign matter as far as the soil is concerned,
to reorganize it in organic combinations which can be absorbed by the plant.
these bacteria increase beyond the natural limits and start eating up other
forms of organism
the soil which the humus urgently requires if it is to convert organic matter.
the soil lacks a sufficiency of bacteria of this kind, it will be unable to
produce the nourishment
for the next period of growth in harmonious combination.
a great part of chemical manure is highly soluble.
plant roots swim in the superfluity offered to them;
effect of this is the same as that on a human being who is compelled to go on
he had long been satisfied. Other forms of artificial manure are not soluble at
have a whole host of different solvents added to them, which the soil doesn't
can't be absorbed by the plants and in the course of years collect in the soil
the bacterial life, and so prevent the soil from regaining its health.
conclusion, I may surely say that I have achieved some gratifying and
greater part of the world today suffers from soil exhaustion. After being
active in my service
a century and a half, my noble pioneers in the United States for instance can
following imposing balance: 40 per cent of fertile soil in the United States
has been ruined.
to monocultures, nearly 400 million acres of the best agricultural land have
been totally destroyed;
further billion acres are rapidly approaching desert conditions. In the United
States, year after year,
billion tons of soil are either blown away by the wind or washed away by
hee ! " laughed the Boss. "My American friends must always be in the
lead, mustn't they?"
argued, "Yet, despite all you say, U.S.A., Canada, Australia and South
Africa are exporting cereals
all the world. How could they do that if they'd all ruined their soil as you
say they have?"
of the enormous size of these continents and the low density of their
within a few years, Australia and South Africa will be only too glad
they can just about cover their own demand for bread cereals.
America, too, will soon cease to be an exporter of wheat; and then it will be
Europe's turn to worry
getting enough food to eat."
what will happen if it can't?" asked the girl.
Devil said, "What, indeed? Man will reap what he's sown.
shall press on with these lop-sided experiments which cause industry to expand
the expense of agriculture.
erosion of the soil leads increasingly to the erosion of the human soul.
blind to the truth think that the function of politics is simply to order the
collective life of man;
never enters their minds that politics has also a duty to secure the
foundations of a good life
future generations. The vital problems of maintaining the health of humanity's
not on man's political agenda."
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