« PreviousContinue »
ON THE UNIVERSAL
FERTILIZATION OF THE EARTH.
In the Dedication to a work recently published, intitled “A Developement of the principles and plans on which to establish self-supporting Home Colonies," there are twenty questions submitted by the Author to the consideration of his race. These questions are of grave and vast import, and involve subjects of inquiry essentially connected with the social and progressive weal of man. They relate generally to the interest with which human beings ought to contemplate those beneficial changes which the disciples of Rationalism expect to result from the establishment of their system. They therefore involve matters of public interest, and on this account are deserving of special consideration.
The first question as stated by the author is as follows:"Is it not your interest that the whole earth should be fertilized and rendered healthful and beautiful in the shortest time possible.”
To this question every rational and rightly constituted mind will answer in the affirmative. Some persons, however, under the influence of illiberal and vitiated notions, may fancy that to fertilize the earth and render it universally healthful and beautiful, though it might be productive of good to society at large, would not be promotive of their individual happiness. To such characters I address the following remarks, hoping that they may be received in the same friendly spirit in which they have been written.
There is no doctrine more true than that which asserts that "whatever is good for the many is good for the few;" that is whatever arrangements are calculated to promote the public welfare, are also adapted to promote the private welfare of individuals. However anomalous this doctrine may appear when viewed in connection with existing arrangements, it is nevertheless founded in truth and warranted by an appeal to facts. It is true that no general arrangements can be devised, no general law enacted, under the existing circumstances of society, without doing injury to some party, even though the arrangement in question be calculated to promote, ultimately, the happiness of all. The reason why a law having a tendency to produce ultimate good, has also a tendency to produce
present and partial evil, arises out of the present classification and structure of society, and the division and opposition of interests connected therewith. Whatever the cause may be, however the fact is certain and undisputed. Thus, if a law were to be made tending to abolish that curse of nations and scandal to religion-a State Priesthood, it would certainly do good to mankind generally, though it might be prejudicial for a time to the private interests of a particular body of men called state priests. And if a law were to be enacted tending to universalize the benefits of education, and to place the facilities for acquiring knowledge within the grasp of all, it would certainly be promotive of the interests of the majority of mankind, though it might be injurious to the immediate interests of a particular class of teachers, who have hitherto monopolized and made a profit of the impartation of instruction. But the partial evil arising out of the operation of a good law is not essentially connected with it, but is an accident springing out of the untoward circumstances under which the law happens to be made. Society is at present split into sects, parties, and classes. This classification gives birth to a division and opposition of interests, while the principle of selfish antagonism prevailing plus aut minus, in the bosoms of all, renders it impossible for a law to be enacted which shall ultimately conduce to the general benefit of mankind, without at the same time having an injurious effect on the present and private interests of some particular party. To the illustrations of this truth already adduced I will add a few more. If a law were to be made in favour of Booksellers it might be injurious to Authors; and if the Corn Laws were to be repealed, the measure would probably be injurious to the immediate interest of the landowners, and vice versa. I will admit that the ultimate effect of these laws might be beneficial to all parties— authors and booksellers, landlords and manufacturers; but this admission does not invalidate my argument, nor obviate the inference emergent from it. This inference is, that no law, however good it may be, can come into extensive operation without doing injury to some class or party. Let, however, the evil circumstances under which laws are now made, be abolished; let the system of society be changed; let the principle of selfish antagonism be destroyed, and then laws essentially good may be enacted, and arrangements devised and thrown into extensive operation, without injuring either immediately or remotely the interests of any portion of the population. It must then we think be evident to all rational minds, that to fertilize the earth and render it healthful and beautiful, would be productive of general good, however detrimental it might be
to the present and private interests of a few and even those few would not be injured by it were it not for the present iniquitous arrangements of society.
I have, in the preceding paragraph, admitted the possibility of injury being done to the private interests of a particular class, by the fertilization of the earth and by rendering it healthful and beautiful. But upon more mature consideration I feel half inclined to retract this admission. I can scarcely perceive one valid reason for supposing that any one could be really and positively injured by such a change, unless the machinery by which it might be effected were of such a character as no good man could sanction. If the Socialists were desirous of fertilizing the fair fields of earth with human gore; if, in accomplishing such an object as the fertilization of the world, they intended to enslave the multitude, and compel the populace, by terror and coercive measures, to cultivate the soil-then indeed, however good the end might be, the means of accomplishing it would be deplorable, and all good men might justly fling them from them as bloated corruptions and curses. But when the end to be attained is of the utmost importance to man, and of the most delightful character, and the means of attaining it are peaceful and peace-producing, then it becomes the duty of all who desire to promote the well-being of their species, to combine their efforts for the institution of those measures which are likely to accomplish it. Let us then consider whether the universal fertilization of the earth would be promotive of human happiness, and whether the means proposed by the disciples of Rationalism, are likely to accomplish such an object.
The cultivation of the soil exercises a very great influence over climate-climate over health, and health over happiness.
For a very considerable length of time Geographers allowed authority and preconceived opinions to prevail in that department of science which treats of the causes of physical climate. The sun was long considered as the primal and only source of those varieties of temperature which the traveller perceives in circumnavigating the globe, or in passing from one kingdom to another. It appears, however, that there are many causes which act conjointly with the sun upon the atmosphere, and thereby influence the climate. These causes may be stated in the language of Malte Brun,
First. The action of the sun upon the atmosphere.
Third." The elevation of the earth above the level of the
Fourth. The general inclination of the surface, and its local exposure.
Fifth." The position of its mountains, relatively to the cardinal points.
Sixth. "The neighbourhood of great seas and their relative situation.
Seventh." The geological nature of the soil.
Eight." The degree of cultivation and of population at which a country has arrived. And
Ninth." The prevalent winds."
I pass over all the foregoing causes of climatal variety, except the eighth, which is essentially connected with the subject in hand, and which is thus commented upon by Malte Brun :
"Man exercises a slow but powerful influence upon the temperature of the air. Without cultivation few climates would be salubrious and agreeable. Let us contemplate a desert country; the rivers, abandoned to themselves, become choaked and overflow, and their waters serve only to form pestilential marshes. A labyrinth of thickets and of brambles overspreads the most fertile hills. In the meadows the unsightly wild mushroom and the useless moss choak the nutritious herbs; forests become impenetrable to the rays of the sun; no winds disperse the putrid exhalations of the trees which have fallen under the pressure of age; the soil, excluded from the genial and purifying warmth of the air, exhales nothing but poisons; and an atmosphere of death gathers over the whole country. But what do not industry and perseverance accomplish? The marshes are drained; the rivers flow in their disencumbered channels; the axe and the fire clear away the forests; the earth, furrowed by the plough is opened to the rays of the sun and the influence of the wind; the air, the soil, and the waters acquire by degrees a character of salubrity; and vanquished nature yields its empire to man, who thus creates a country for himself."*
The quality of the soil influences the nature of the climate, and agriculture influences and modifies the quality of the soil. Thus it is generally supposed by philosophers, that the salubrious air of several of the provinces of France arises from the nature of the soil, which is light, sandy and calcareous. The severe cold and unwholesome air which prevail in the governments of Astracan and Orenburg are attributable to the saline nature of the soil. It is well known that lands which are stony and barren emit fewest vapours, while the contrary may be affirmed with truth of marshy soils. Marshy soils diminish the heat; and as the waters are generally stagnant in such places, the duration of the frosts is prolonged, while the sky is obscured by fogs and vapours.
* Malte Brun's Phys. Geog., vol. i.
It is in hot countries, however, that the influence of marshy soils on the climate is more apparent and more generally pernicious. There the marshy soil evolves great quantities of putrid effluvia, which renders the eastern coasts of Africa and some parts of America extremely unhealthy. Malte Brun, in speaking of the climate of Congo, or Southern Guinea, says that "the stagnant waters which remain after the rains, fill the air with mephitic exhalations, and render a residence near the coast dangerous to Europeans."
Cultivation has a marked influence on the general healthfulness of a climate. If the cultivation of the soil be carried on scientifically and with a due regard to local circumstances, this influence will be beneficial; but if not it will be pernicious. As a proof of this I need only allude to the Cape de Verde Islands. There the forests were cut down, and this has caused the springs to be dried up and rendered the atmosphere extremely sultry. The cutting down of the forests which once covered the Pyrenees has rendered the air in the valley of Azun, in the department of the eastern Pyrenees, unwholesome; because the absence of that barrier now permits a free passage to the southern winds. The same thing may doubtless be predicated of many other places.
Mr. Bell, in his System of Geography, writing upon this subject, says::
"The quality of the soil modifies the climate, because all kinds of earth do not acquire an equal temperature under the same circumstances, and because incessant exhalations rise from the soil into the atmosphere, partaking of the nature of the substances from which they are detached, and communicating these qualities to the air. Thus a dry sandy soil every where acted upon by the sun's rays, as in the deserts of Arabia, heats the air; while the exhalations from the thick woods and putrid marshes of Batavia load it with the most obnoxious particles; and the quantity of saline particles which are present in the soil of Siberia, greatly contribute, upon well known chemical principles, to increase the cold of that district. Hence, too, the happy changes which agricultural art always effects upon the climate of a country. The Germania sylvis horrida of Tacitus is no longer to be recognized by the stern and forbidding features under which that accurate observer beheld it; and those districts of our own country, once impenetrable to any foot save that of the wild beast, or his almost equally savage hunter, are now the abodes of peace, health, and plenty. It has been alleged in the case of the valley of Azun, in the district of Bigore, that cultivation has rendered that tract of country less healthy, because the clouds now sweep over the country instead of being attracted or dispersed by the woods which no longer present their barrier to the scorching south wind. Castile and Arragon are likewise stated as furnishing similar cases. But it seems probable that those instances