Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: email@example.com
We here at Governing (I'm a little ashamed to admit now) sometimes have made fun of the fact that states choose an official state soil. (It's just dirt, right?)
Twenty states, in fact, have legislatively established an official soil. This is the part we generally roll our eyes over, the fact that legislators take time to debate a state soil when there are more "important" things to do. But maybe we need to rethink.
This past weekend I went to the Smithsonian's "Dig IT!" exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History and learned a ton about the importance of dirt. Did you know that there are about 20,000 different kinds of soil in the United States? I didn't THINK so.
The state soil "monoliths" are quite impressive lined up side by side in horizontal glass cases, varying remarkably in color and texture, showing a thick slice of soil from the surface down into the subsoil. Even the District of Columbia, where I live, had the opportunity to chose a soil for display. It's called Sunnyside, in case you're interested. Illinois' is called Drummer. Maine's, Chesuncook.
Dr. Dirt (I don't think that's his real name), who mans the exhibit to explain all things soil related, showed us how different types of soil work to keep pollutants out of rivers and streams, and explained the latest theories on whether it's beneficial to let land lie fallow or not.
All very interesting. What can I say? I might just have to stick up for soil the next time someone here takes potshots at those legislators who revere it. Or at least honor the request of a school class to name an official state soil.
The exhibit will remain at the Smithsonian through 2010.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.