From the Golden Blade 2008
Today everyone - even those with a financial interest in being sceptical - is talking about climate change; and most people recognise that global warming is not only a natural phenomenon but is also caused by the actions of human beings. It is the purpose of this article to explore these changes to our planet, consider the role played by carbon and offer some solutions.
Civilisation is causing global warming in several ways but it is the burning of fossil fuels which is considered to be the primary cause of the problem. We are burning vast amounts of carbon that was sequestered in a bygone age. Millions of years ago (according to our present time-scale) vast forests of equisetum-like plants covered the Earth. We can imagine how they once grew out of the ground and how in the course of one year attained heights of perhaps a hundred feet or more and had girths greater than the largest of our present-day forest trees. We can also imagine how in the autumn they died back and decayed like our present day equisetum plants and how the following spring the plants would grow again from their roots and emerge through vast piles of the previous year's half decomposed vegetation. A huge and powerful process of growth followed by massive decay. If this were repeated each year for thousands of years, we can begin to understand how it came to be that such vast amounts of organic matter could accumulate and eventually form the coal measures. The decay and building up of layer upon layer of carbonaceous deposit would suggest a growing medium that was at least partly waterlogged - an environment in which soil and humus formation would have been almost non-existent. It is believed that our oil reserves came about in a similar way through the anaerobic decay of countless animal remains. Nothing akin to the powerful life of the coal forests or the pools of teeming creatures that existed when oil deposits were created can be found on the Earth today. The Earth has grown up. It is now older, far more slow moving and probably much more rigid than it was in that ancient Palaozoic period. Huge amounts of carbon dioxide must have been abstracted from the atmosphere while the coal measures and oil deposits were being formed and probably led to far-reaching global climate changes.
The world has changed a lot however since those ancient times and it is no longer possible for enormous annual growth to occur.
With the appearance of dry land and flowering plants the first earthworms appeared and the formation of soil humus began. In wild nature the forming of humus is a very slow process and only attains a significant depth when the conditions are particularly favourable as in the case of the great grasslands (prairies) of the world where huge reserves of humus rich soil have accumulated.
Sadly much of this has now been lost as a result of the agricultural "mining" that has occurred over the last hundred and fifty years. The fertility of vast areas of cultivated land carefully nurtured for thousands of years by countless generations of peasant farmers has gone a similar way.
Soil humus is a wonderful substance and is like the glue of life. It is not only the medium in which our crop plants can flourish, it also has a mediating and regulating role in the many different cycles of nature. The presence of humus is absolutely vital for survival. Without it desertification occurs and water becomes inaccessible.
The world is facing a water crisis largely because of declining humus levels in the soil. Mineral fertilisation has depleted the soil of humus to such an extent that water simply runs through it and disappears. This is becoming so serious that severe water shortages are becoming a daily experience across ever widening areas of the Earth. A humus-rich soil holds the water, which falls upon it and allows it to drain away slowly, feeding the springs and water veins of the landscape as it goes. Along with its capacity to hold water, humus also absorbs and holds carbon. It has been calculated that if as little as one centimetre of humus were to be laid over the Earth's sol, many of the problems resulting from global warming would be solved.
Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas; but what is it and how do we understand the nature of carbon? In his Agriculture Course (lecture 3), Rudolf Steiner describes how carbon:
While the burning of fossil fuels is an important factor in the production of greenhouse gases, an even more important one is the global destruction of our living soils which has occurred through widespread deforestation and the near universal use of mineral fertilisers in agriculture. These and particularly nitrogen fertilisers are lifeless by nature and serve only to stimulate the watery element in the soil. Nitrogen salts are taken up immediately by the plant, bypassing the many micro-organisms of the soil. These become redundant and the plant lives entirely from the stimulating effect of the fertiliser. Its roots no longer need the soil other than for physical support. The soil is abandoned, and becomes solid, compact and in effect dies. Rainwater is no longer absorbed and earthworms disappear. Artificial fertilisers are temporary stimulants, which cause compaction at best and desertification at worst. The absence of life means that there is no room for carbon and its creative living power is excluded from the soil. This kind of agriculture with its inevitable use of chemicals is now the greatest environmental polluter. It is arguably also one of the largest contributors to global warming.is the bearer of all the creatively formative processes in nature. Whatever in nature is formed and shaped - be it in the form of the plant persisting for a comparatively short time or the eternally changing configuration of the animal body - carbon is everywhere the great plastician.
We generally think of carbon simply as one of the elements in the periodic table with certain chemical and electromagnetic attributes.
If however we think of it as a sculptor crafting the structures of life, the way we work with the carbon-rich organic matter of the soil becomes of the highest importance. Carbon is the bearer of the spirit of the universe in living matter. It creates the form or the scaffolding upon which life can unfold. As carbon dioxide gas it is of course in a resting state and only becomes alive and active when it is absorbed into living processes.
In a healthy living soil carbon is being breathed in and out by countless micro-organisms and is in continuous movement. The more life there is in the soil the more active carbon becomes and the more it is absorbed. Increasing life in the soil is part of the task of every gardener. Good ripened compost made from all manner of decayed plant remains and manures feeds the micro-organisms which in turn create the living ambience in which plants long 10 grow. Every plant brings its own unique contribution to this soil environment and the greater the variety of plants growing in it, the more able is the soil to activate and absorb carbon dioxide. Low-growing plants but especially trees are able to absorb many tons of carbon. The key however is not simply the assimilation of carbon but keeping it alive and in movement.
This is where the biodynamic preparations come in. There are many ways of trying to understand the nature of the horn manure preparation. The best starting point is to consider the cow. The cow has the most highly developed retabolic system of any creature on Earth. It is so thoroughly an animal of its digestive system that its entire organism is in some way involved in its metabolism. Even the horns, those mysterious organs that are so frequently deemed useless appendages today, are intimately involved in this metabolic process.
Like the nails on our fingers and toes, the horns of a cow are made from hard siliceous substances. Silica is a substance most commonly found on the periphery of an organism, in the skin and hair. It is also present in the sense organs and especially the eyes. The function of skin is to contain the organism and form a boundary between it and the surrounding external world. In the hardened horn substance this boundary quality is so strong that it forms not only a skin but also barrier plan oreverse she towerful physical digestive forces and energies from escaping.
The cow is thus able to retain within herself the released forces of digestion. Just as pre-digested roughage is returned to the mouth and chewed on further before finally passing into the animal's bowels, the active forces or metabolism released in gaseous form are carried via the extensive sinus system into the animal's horn cavities. They are also carried in a less visible way along the bloodstream towards the head. Here both they and the gases are prevented from escaping by the shape, structure and solidity of the horns and are re-directed back into the organism to be re-incorporated into the products of digestion. This is a very mysterious process and yet appears to have a very direct influence on the quality of both the manure and the milk produced by the animal. Differences can be clearly observed in chromatographical pictures. Interesting too is the discovery that when cows have horns, the protein structure in milk is different and even becomes more digestible - a recently recognised phenomenon of great significance especially for people with milk allergies. The manure released is also different.
Although the horns act as very strong bartiers to the escaping forces of digestion, they also serve as sense organs for the animal.
What kind of sensing this may be can only be intimated at; but like most other aspects of bovine nature, it appears to be linked directly with its metabolic processes. It has been observed for instance that animals which still have their horns are more able to distinguish edible from poisonous forage. The way the horns grow suggests that they also act as environmental sensors and can affect an in-streaming of cosmic influences. The more truly the animal is fed according to its nature - that is on roughage (hay and grass) - and the less it is given concentrates, the more will the form of its horn (in succeeding generations) begin to widen and grow majestically upwards. An older cow with such upward pointing horns has real majesty and has a visible connection with the heavens.
Cow horns when no longer needed by the animal still retain some of the quality and dynamic they once had when the animal was alive.
To make the preparation high quality, well-formed cow manure is placed inside a horn to experience the same twin functions of sensing and enclosing. In addition it is exposed to the winter forces of the Earth beneath the soil surface. This brings the process into a direct rhythmic relationship with the Earth. From October through tO May the filled horns lie beneath the soil and the contents gradually change from fresh cow manure to a very sweet smelling, fungus impregnated compost-like substance. A small amount of this is then taken and stirred in warmed water for an hour. The objective is to form a deep crater nearly reaching the floor of the container, in the rotating liquid. The direction of stirring is then reversed creating seething, chaotic turbulence. Stirring continues in the new direction until gradually a new crater forms. Then the direction of stirring is reversed once more. This stirring process continues for one whole hour.
Stirring is another mysterious process. Dissolving the tiny amount of substance added to the water is a very small part of what is going on. Stirring releases the dynamic forces that have accumulated in the manure-filled cow horn over the winter, into the moving water. Most significant is I believe the rhythmic alternation that occurs while stirring between the finely created form of the vortex and the turbulent chaos that occurs when the direction is changed. This hourlong movement of the water gives structure and binds it into form and then releases into chaos. Much is spoken of in the Agriculture Course about chaos and the seed. At the moment of chaos the cosmic plant archetype can imprint itself in the seed and enable a new plant to develop. This is what occurs in a rhythmic way during the hour in which the preparation is stirred. Spraying the stirred preparation is perhaps like spraying an opportunity or a seed potential over the land. Another way of looking at it is to see the water into which the horn manure is stirred as being the carrier of movement. Through stirring, the preparation becomes rhythmic movement and it is this movement which is brought via water droplets to the soil when it is sprayed out. The living soil then becomes active through the movement which has been brought to it enabling root growth to be stimulated.
When the soil is activated in this way not only are plants able to grow better, the soil itself is stimulated, the micro-organisms thrive and greater quantities of carbon dioxide are absorbed, brought into living activity. The effect of horn manure is supported further when barrel preparation (intensively prepared manure concentrate with the compost preparations) is repeatedly applied. The compost preparations (and the barrel preparation) help to regulate the physical and alchemical processes that occur when organic materials decompose and support the harmonious creation of balanced soil humus. Stable humus is made up of living carbon compounds, which are rhythmically released and taken up by living organisms in the course of each year.
These remarkable preparations contribute in different ways towards the enlivening of the soil and it is this enlivening which enables the soil to become active in the absorption of carbon dioxide and which in turn allows carbon to become creative once more as the great sculptor of life.
The creation of a living and humus-rich soil is the basis of life, and is arguably the most important task facing mankind in the coming years. The ancient pristine world has gone for ever and there is hardly a stone that has not been touched or turned by human hands anywhere in the world. Nature can no longer recreate what she once possessed. The expanding deserts, the diminishing tree cover, our ever sprawling conurbations, have all brought about irreversible changes - changes that nature is doing her best to accommodate. It is mankind however who alone can intervene and work positively to create a new and healthy world. Human wisdom gathered from all ages and peoples of the world, along with the individual creativity of each human spirit, can bring about this transformation. The first step is to change ourselves, to live sustainably, and in the greatest sense of the word to create humus on the Earth.