We come from dirt, and to it we shall return someday.
The universal symbolism of this concept is clear in our burial rites. In western Christian funeral services, the phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is said over the body. In the Jewish tradition, the family of the deceased tosses shovelfuls of dirt over the casket once it is lowered in the ground. At Islamic burials, the family positions the body of the deceased using balls of soil—one under the head, one under the chin, and one under the shoulder.
But while we are living, we may take soil for granted, even though it grows our food, affects our weather, and provides raw materials for shelter.
World Food Day is Friday, a day dedicated to alleviating hunger, and the theme this year explores social protection and agriculture. To celebrate, National Geographic is taking a closer look at soil and its critical role in food security, climate change, and sustainable development all week. (2015 is also the year of the soil, which works out perfectly.)
We’ll have stories on the history of soil, ways of farming that enhance it, and its role in human migration, a video chat with a chef dedicated to teaching children to grow food, and a Twitter chat with the top young minds behind the future of food, among other features.
To kick it off, please enjoy our gallery, highlighting how intimately connected we are with the Earth.