Topsoil and Civilization

Dale, Tom, and Vernon Gill Carter

"well-rained-on desert"

tl;dr: vegetal cover helps soil absorb more rainwater. no point having lots of rain if it's just going to all run off in the end.

It is possible, even common, for soil climate to change while the atmospheric climate above it does not. One factor which can easily change is moisture. Moisture gets in the soil by the infiltration of water, and the infiltration rate may change radically. When rain falls on sloping land, it will do one of two things, and usually both: it will soak into the soil or run off. On land that is well covered with vegetation and has a loose, porous soil with an organic mulch, as much as 99 per cent of the rainfall may soak in.* Where a slope has been denuded of its porous topsoil by cultivation and continued erosion, the soakage may drop as low as 50 per cent. When this happens, there is a definite change in the soil climate: it becomes twice as arid. If the atmosphere supplies twenty inches of rain a year, only 50 per cent of which soaks into the soil, the plants living in the soil are no better off than if only ten inches of rain had fallen and all of it had soaked in.

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A few patches of really productive land may still be found in Sicily, and other broad stretches are still farmed--but the produce is meager. Some Sicilian farmers now claim that their main problem is lack of rainfall, yet the records show that the annual rainfall is from twenty to fifty inches a year, with an average rainfall for the entire island of about thirty inches. Sicily still supports a population of approximately four hundred per square mile, but most of the people are poverty ridden, with an inadequate diet. In other words, a great part of Sicily is another well-rained-on desert.

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communist capital

It is true that the Communist regime following World War II located its capital at Peking in north China, but this city was not selected because the center of wealth and population is there. It was chosen mainly because the center of Communist influence is there, and this is partly the result of the poverty of the region.

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topsoil-civilization Dale, Tom, and Vernon Gill Carter. 1955. Topsoil and Civilization. ↩︎ 1 2 3