Even a worm will turn’ is an expression used to sell the message that even the meekest or most docile of creatures will retaliate or seek revenge if pushed too far.
Today we are witnessing a mindset change led by individuals such as Greta Thunberg.
We seem to be at a tipping point regarding the irreversible environmental damage we have inflicted upon the planet.
The saying above got me thinking about worms and the important part they play in our lives.
As a young boy I used to collect worms for my fishing trips. Back in those days all you had to do was stick a spade into the soil and once you turned the spade over you unearthed many worms.
We used to store them in an old jam jar which we took with us as me and my friends went fishing.
Unfortunately, due to modern intensive farming the poor worm is struggling to survive.
Many of the fields that were full of worms before are now virtually devoid of them.
The use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has had a serious impact on worms but also the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and living organisms in the soil.
Elaine Ingham, the American microbiologist and soil biology researcher and founder of Soil Foodweb, has concluded that modern farming has reduced soil to ‘dirt’.
Plants cannot survive in this sterile environment we have created without artificial fertilisers in this self-perpetuating cycle of chemical dependency.
When you look out of a plane window when you are flying over the mouths of rivers you will see a muddy brown run-off due to soil erosion.
According to a recent report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, one-third of the land across the globe is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, salination, compaction, acidification and chemical pollution.
Land degradation results in up to 40 billion tonnes of topsoil lost to erosion every year costing up to $10.6 trillion a year, equivalent to 17 per cent of global GDP.
This topsoil is lost forever once it is carried out to sea.
In 2014 the UK Farmers Weekly newspaper announced that the UK has only around one hundred harvests left.
In parts of the world that have not been exposed to modern farming techniques the story is so different.
In the tropical rainforests of Malaysia scientists have counted 670,000 worms per acre and in New Zealand there are an incredible 8,000,000 per acre.
In the Nile Valley there are up to 1,000 per acre making it an incredibly fertile area sustaining close to 100 million Egyptians.
Elaine Ingham campaigns vigorously to get everyone focused on restoring the microbial life to our much-depleted soil.
She finds it unbelievable that we continue to support expensive chemical fertilisers and neglect the natural potential of the soil if left to nature.
Every spring, around 16,800sqkm of the Gulf of Mexico becomes an anoxic ‘dead zone’ as a result of the chemical runoff from the Mississippi river.
Around the world there are over 400 ‘dead zones’ in coastal waters across the world, including the Black Sea, which may never recover due to the algal blooms we have created.
Hopefully, reading this piece you will now view the humble worm differently in the future.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org