Joe Martin

Dirt and You: The Hygiene Hypothesis

March 23, 2012

From what I have garnered from generations before mine, things used to be different. Not just different, but better. (Or worse, when it meant the grizzled old man telling the story was manlier than I, and had to put up with more. Don’t you know we used to have to walk to school in the […]

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Making Soil – Seattle’s model composting program

March 16, 2012

Recently, a classmate of mine suggested I read about Seattle’s composting program. Having cooked a couple batches myself, as well as having used copious amounts in gardens, I decided to have a look. Seattle’s program provides curb-side pick up to those citizens who have purchased a bin, which run around $6 for a residential size […]

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Looking to the (very distant) future.

March 9, 2012

For hundreds of years, Mars has been the focus of much human attention. Appropriately so, in my opinion. It’s tallest volcano, Olympus Mons, is three times the height of Everest. Its longest canyon is 5000 kilometers long. It is a planet of grand scales, with as much land surface area as the Earth. For those […]

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It Came from the Black (Manure) Lagoon!

March 2, 2012

It’s no secret that Americans, as a society, love to eat meat. According to the USDA, we produced 26.41 billion pounds of beef, and exported only 2.3 billion pounds of that in 2010. Add to that our dairy cattle, pig, and chicken farming, and we raise a lot of animals in this country. And those […]

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Nitrogen Fertilizers: When something good does something bad.

February 24, 2012

Paracelsus, a Renaissance man and the father of toxicology, once remarked “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; only the dose permits something not to be poisonous”. In other words, seemingly innocuous things can be harmful in great doses, and great poisons may be harmless in small enough doses. This holds true not […]

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Biochar: What it is, what it does, and why we need it

February 17, 2012

I grew up in a relatively rural and small town in Northern Michigan. Like for any rural child, spring had many connotations. The world would begin refreshing itself, turning green and blossoming. There was the sickly-sweet smell of the last leaves of fall completing their decay. And of course the possibility that everything will suddenly, and without warning, smell […]

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The Solution to Pollution (Part 2): The Tiniest Things Matter

February 10, 2012

Last week I wrote about phytoremediation, and its potential to help us combat and undo soil contamination. But, like any good advanced society, we’re not pinning all our hopes on a single technique. A commenter, Maryse, alerted me to the existence of another promising set of techniques and technologies: nano-remediation. For those who don’t know, nano-technology […]

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The Solution to Pollution is Plants, (sometimes).

February 3, 2012

Plants are awesome. It’s from them that we get most of our food. It’s from plants that many of our medicines originated, (such as Willow and aspirin). We raise the skeletons of our homes and furnish their interiors with trees. Most of our cloth is woven from plant fiber, (a statement I feel comfortable making […]

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Oil and Water…and Dirt

January 27, 2012

On July 26th, 2010, an Enbridge Energy Oil Pipeline leaked nearly 1,000,000 gallons of bituminous oil (that is, oil from tar sands) into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. This was, in technical terms, very bad. The volatilizing organics caused many health problems, prompting evacuation of many residents, capping of wells and irrigation pumps, and […]

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Rusty Nails – Now good for more than Tetanus.

January 20, 2012

When water, through rain or irrigation, begins to saturate soil, it will displace most of the gas which occupies the space between the soil particles. Though some maybe become trapped, for the most part the water pushes atmospheric gas towards the surface and prevents new gases from infiltrating the soil. Which is terribly bad news […]

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