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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Soil Fails

Curtis Eller came up with a song title and phrase so haunting to those of us who live in north St. Louis. "After the Soil Fails" is really a song about a vivid dream inhabited by historical figures like William Tecumseh Sherman, but its references to the imagined deaths of New Orleans and Philadelphia invoke the condition of emptying sections of St. Louis.

"One of these days the soil is going to give out," warns Eller. While the causes of much of the loss of the built environment of north city is more economic, the landscapes left behind are devoid of any clues. To the innocent wanderer, perhaps it seems that the very land on which the city is built is dead. Just as bad soil kills crops, bad land could kill blocks or neighborhoods. The difference is that the infection of farm soil is real, while the infection of our city soil comes from within us, legitimate brown fields notwithstanding. City land is as good for city life as ever. Trouble is, city land's healthful properties come not from its physical content but from how it's labeled on maps and valued by builders. An ounce of soil from a lot in St. Louis Place could be as nutrient rich as any found in Clayton, but that has nothing to do with the value of the land it composes.

Hence, the best soil for farming in the region may be in places like the floodplains of St. Charles County, while the better soil for building could be the bedrock-pinned land of north city. We don't seem to mind this absurdity as continue to build out irresponsibly. If soil affected our settlement patterns as it does planted crops, our soil would have failed awhile ago. Maybe it still will.


Doug Duckworth said...

The soil might be excellent in St. Louis Place, but existing residents must be removed before it's a suitable investment opportunity.

It's labeled as risky even though the soil is rich and the same color, but the inhabitants aren't.

Anonymous said...

That was a good one Doug, sometimes I think McKee, crooked black alderman that sellout their community for crumbs, and other lowlife city leaders have a mass conspiracy to destroy the Northside and move all the poor people to public housing in near North St. Louis County and then what is left of the Northside (by then there will be only 2 or 3 neighborhoods that could be saved) will be redeveloped with McMansions and homes that you could once buy for 20 grand will sell for $500,000 (can somebody say mass gentrification)! The racial/socioeconomic divide is one of the leading factors to urban decay and disinvestment, that is something hard to reverse and is going to take a long time to change...especially in a city that is divided from the county that shares the same name.