Farming, the way it is done almost everywhere in the U.S., requires tons of fertilizer every time a field is replanted. With every hard rain, quite a bit of that same fertilizer washes off, running into nearby waterways and polluting them. When the crop ripens, machines or hands harvest it, and later the soil is ripped up and plowed under, so that all the plant stubble is buried, the dirt turned, and less fertile earth is nearest the top. Therefore we need to start over again with the fertilizer — not to mention weedkiller and pesticide — for the next planted crop.
Here and there you can find a farmer practicing a different method of commercial farming. It requires little or no fertilizer, because the ground is not plowed and left bare when it’s time to plant the next seeds.
If you look at a meadow, forest, or even your yard, you can see wild unchecked growth. Everything gets greener and more lush as time goes on. The old grass and plant life stays right there and the new growth starts on top of the old, which provides nutrients and fertilizer because it rots or composts. A different way of farming would be to let the new crop feed on the old crop’s stubble, just as things happen in a yard or meadow.
The alternate method of farming is simply to crush the old plant stubble flat with a roller instead of plowing the ground. Last year’s plants make a nice lush layer that feeds the new seeds as it decomposes. The farmer punches holes in this layer to put the new seeds in. Some farmers might find it practical to put a cover over the ground with openings for the new crop. Strips of carpet with holes cut in them are one such cover. Covering the ground speeds up the decomposition of the plant layer, holds moisture in better, and even keeps weeds down.
Additional tricks help farmers avoid weeds. They add specific plants which are known to keep away specific insects or weeds, and grow these in the same field, alongside the crop. These provide more nutrients to the field as they grow and get rolled flat after harvest.
When they mention us, the humans of Earth, in some celestial video, displayed in thin air in the living rooms of a wiser race we never met, or when they write about us in an alien gazette in some remote quadrant of space we never saw, what will they say?
What will they know? All they might find of us could be our old TV signals, slight waves scattering in all directions on an eternal journey without us. We lived and thrived a long time ago.
I can imagine these beings in their living rooms watching our lifetime channel. They would love the first views. In our wildlife shows, they would see hale and hearty polar bears running and hunting in white arctic zones. The aliens would widen their rainbow eyes in appreciation. How beautiful! so fast and big, they’d tell each other. They’d see whales even more enormous, smooth-sided, as gray as the sea, and this would strain their imaginations further. Such mysterious sounds, they’d murmur. They would get to see fantastic landscapes ranging from blue and white ice to stark black sands, more green and more water than any star-being could imagine, ebbing and flowing with regular motion as if the sea were the planet’s heartbeat, and all the multicolored people, herds, and groups of living things scattered everywhere. More images would come. A thin and starving polar bear, dead land, then herds of dying whales with collapsed sides lying on beaches… causing the aliens to draw back from their screens in shock, wondering what had happened.
They would see the crimes.
What will they think when they finally learn how we ran our farms, how we raised eating-beasts in such numbers the beasts changed the air, and heated the atmosphere; how we burned away enough greenery so the land became a mirror, blasting heat back all round, even penetrating the oceans, where the rising temperature killed off the very plankton the whales needed to eat?
Our television news would show too much: We turned away when the slow water around the shores choked up with green unwholesome slime, a useless muck we couldn’t eat or burn for fuel. We scarcely spoke of the growths people picked up swimming in ever-warmer lakes, but it ate their flesh. And then later, the terrifying loss of life from uncheckable, unpredictable storms brought about by the myriad convections of the oven we’d made of our planet… this, I think this would turn them to stone.
If aliens stayed to see it, they’d stop speaking of us at all. No one would want to know exactly how we died.