Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Amy Stewart "The Earth Moved"

"The Earth Moved: on the remarkable achievements of earthworms"

Leave it to Amy Stewart to write a book about earthworms that is actually a page turner. Taking her cue from a famous worm-lover, Evolution dad, Darwin, Stewart explores the natural history of worms: what are they exactly, how do they work, what do they do and how they do it.

Interviews with worm scientists (oligochaetologists) involved in different projects (taxonomy, for instance, since many earthworm species are yet unnamed and undescribed; their impact on ecosystems that evolved without worms; their possible role in waste management; and their quantifiable benefits in crop yield, for instance) are interspersed with tales of the author’s worm compost bin and vegetable garden.

More and more it amazes me how our very survival in this planet is intimately tied with creatures we don’t think much about and some of us even find repulsive. While large animals, predators and herbivores alike, are the poster children of conservation movements everywhere we are more intimately connected with insects – I find that humbling and somewhat magical.

The scientists Stewart interviews have a common tale of underfunding and little interest. No-one cares that you might want to devote your life wholeheartedly to worms and that they in turn, have many secrets to unravel or that agricultural fields rich in worms are many times more productive than the ones without. Pandas they are not.

And yet, according to Amy Stewart worms are probably the perfect pet. While I’m not completely sold on that one, “The Earth Moved” did convince me they are fascinating, mysterious and if not exactly beautiful, at least kind of cute.

1 comment:

Jeane said...

I love the worms in my garden. Whenever my kid finds a worm I make her throw it in the veggie patch where it can help the plants. I'm gong to read this one too!