In our survey we have made many references to Nature, to which we have assigned a portion of unquestioned dominion in the world of physical phenomena, assuming by the expression "Nature" an orderly system proceeding on laws which are neither capricious nor finally beyond our comprehension.
To this system we owe obedience. This also we have stressed, indeed we have attached much importance to action in conformity with natural laws. The emphasis thus laid has been deliberate. Let us feel it has a needed corrective of some past arrogance in our human history. The great wealth which a few generations of mankind have been enjoying has been derived from the discovery of natural accumulations, of great stores of mineral substances such as coal and oil; to these have since been added the beginnings of a mastery over the gases and conditions of the atmosphere. For a century or more man's conquest of matter has been vaunted as a favourite theme; new vistas are alleged to have been opened: a new heaven has seemed at hand.
This paradise is a delusion and a terrible moral conflict has arisen among us. As fresh material discoveries are made doubts as to their ultimate validity become more and more insistent. Whither does all this tend? The joys which we promised ourselves and which seemed within our grasp are a deception; as we advance they recede. They prove useless because they have been derived from two unworthy premises: ignorance and exploitation. The idea that we can ultimately at will master the natural world shows an inability to grasp the character of that world. The suggestion that we are entitled to exhaust natural riches is robbery. Nor is our boasted dominion anything but limited. It breaks down when we approach what is alive. If sometimes we take upon ourselves to terminate life, we must acknowledge that we are unable to create it. Mastery here is partial, irregular and often ineffective. In no way do we finally alter the immense order of Nature, who in her ceaseless round initiates her own beginnings and decides also on her own moments of decease.
What then shall we do? We can have recourse to one thought only: recall the familiar fact that we are at one and the same time part of the natural world and also the only category of created things endowed with the capacity to apprehend it; we are in creation and outside it. This gives us a peculiar power from which we can derive all we need. We can and may -- indeed we must -- first understand the system of which we are a part; because we are a part we must obey. But because we can apprehend we may apply our understanding to our profit. It is permitted to us to use Nature and to use her largely but neither to alter nor command her.
There is in reality no limit to our use if we know what are the laws we have to follow. Our application of principles may be bold in the extreme. What is more astonishing than our selection of similar plants to grow in the same area at the same time? It runs counter to one of the greatest principles of Nature. Yet we can carry it to a successful and a safe conclusion provided that we know how to restore the balance of the mixed existences that Nature loves. What is bolder than the pruning of the tree? Yet we yearly undertake this, confident in the experience which tells us of Nature's insistent desire to propagate the species, which will induce the heavier fruitage and compensate the cutting. We dig and delve and turn the soil in a way which Nature scarcely permits to her own creatures, but it is in order to lead more ample supplies of air and moisture towards the growing root. We tame and confine our animals, but it is in order to take advantage of the ineradicable instinct which causes them to procreate their young and care for them. Nothing that we do is too bold provided it is done in intelligent confirmity with law.
It is proper to admit that our decisions as to practice can never be easy. Nature is not concerned to give us simple lessons. Therefore it must always be our part to keep a careful watch on what we undertake and to abide by any test which offers us the means of a just and reasonable judgment. Of all the tests the best is that of fertility of the soil. If what we do maintains it, we may be sure that we are not astray; if we appear to be destroying it even by a little, then we are on a dangerous decline. The earth's fertility, the power that maintains the springing of the green carpet, is the one essential to the conservation of life. Only if the soil is fertile can the green leaf permanently exercise its unique power of seizing on the energy of sunlight and turning it to use. The maintenance of this continuing capacity of green living things so far outweighs any loss of past accumulations of dead matter such as coal and oil as to make the exhaustion of such mineral stores a matter of indifference.
What is the future outlook? Contrary to the prevailing mood of pessimism we may confidently answer that it is a good one. There are no past mistakes that we have made that can not be repaired; so wide is Nature's power, so boundless her generosity, she can and will help us; even where we have spread a desert the green carpet can be made to smile again.
Far more than this is promised. We are nowhere near our final probing into Nature's wealth. We have scarcely begun to assume our great inheritance. Plenty awaits us of which we have not dreamed. The possibilities of intensifying our cultivation are almost endless. If every inch of our present neglected soils were brought to the fertility of a Chinese garden, if we could recall Inca agriculture or equal the wealth of the Hunza valley, this would be a mere beginning; we could thereafter so lay out the kindly earth that, after leaving ample space for rural pleasure and urban recreation, we could provide every natural material and every natural luxury that the heart of man could wish. An abundance of food, drink, shelter, clothing is lying at our feet. If we chose to put into our use of the green carpet one-half of the energy and knowledge now dissipated for wasteful ends, the garden of Eden would be round us once again.
Into this garden we could enter as more worthy and as more amiable inhabitants. The fertility which we should be conserving in our soils would be passed on as health into our crops, our animals and ourselves; health would bring an end to some contentiousness seeing that the well-fed creature is a happy one. We will abstain from the pretence that all would be set right. The world would be as it is now; our natures much the same. But we should have abolished one fear, the fear of hunger; we should have left behind a trail of weaknesses and be fitted to enjoy the beauties of a world which we had ourselves made more lovely.
In the hard projects of agriculture common sense, experience, and facts are the only things that count. It is on these that our thesis has been based. The day will come when what is here set forth will be accepted as a very simple contribution to what each human being ought to know.
Next: A. The Indore Process and its Evolution
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