It’s time to think like a radish: This beloved root crop gets its name from the Latin radix, the root word for “radical.”
After reading our article about fertilizers, one Mother Earth News editor said it offered a “radical” perspective. The article points out that the grass clippings most people discard with their garbage are actually a better, and less expensive fertilizer than most of the store-bought stuff.
How have we come to the point where we are throwing away something so valuable?
“Radical” comes from the Latin word radix, meaning “root.” It literally means “going to the foundation or source of something.” These days, it means “favoring fundamental or extreme change.” Using grass clippings as fertilizer might be seen as a radical act today. One could think of it as “extreme change,” but we think it also means “returning to the source.”
Human beings have used clippings — dead plant material — as fertilizer for thousands of years. During the last couple of centuries, industrial societies have invented a lot of new stuff, but it isn’t always better stuff. Many commercial fertilizers are a good example.
Another example — one that we find particularly frustrating — are the millions of homes that fail to take advantage of passive solar designs that have been used for thousands of years. We are wasting energy and polluting our environment because most people are totally unaware of how simple passive solar principles could allow them to easily make dramatic reductions in their home energy costs. Nobody can patent solar design, so pretty much nobody sells it, and as a result most of us know nothing about it.
We are at a point in history when time-tested wisdom can strike the contemporary mind as “radical.”
Recycle and conserve resources
Know where your food comes from.
Be mindful how you build your home.
These maxims satisfy both definitions for “radical” ideas. They suggest an extreme change from what we’ve been doing these past couple of centuries, but they also suggest that we are returning to principles that are the roots of human wisdom.