6 min read

VIII: Manure

A look at how science catches up to knowledge.
octidi, the 8th of Nivôse, Year CCXXXI
This photo is titled: "Pile of manure on a field" and yes, yes it is. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Good morning. Today is octidi, the 8th of Nivôse, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le fumier, droppings that naturally fertilize the planet.

Well, shit. Which animal makes the best manure? This isn't a straightforward question, as it depends on what you're trying to fertilize and how quickly you need it to grow. Manure's magic comes from its carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, with a smaller amount of nitrogen being "safer" to apply raw, but a higher amount of nitrogen giving plants more "go juice" – as long as there isn't so much to scorch them. Here are some animals in order of least nitrogen-rich poop to most: cow, horse, sheep, pig, human, chicken, bat.

Let's address the common criticism – or, more accurately, dismissal – of the French Republican calendar that I've seen online. Basically, people use the calendar as an example of when secular society went too far in trying to erase religious tradition, failed, and therefore stands as a testament to the folly of such social engineering.

On the surface, that's not a terrible read. The calendar, even I can admit, was a failure. I could get into all sorts of "what if" scenarios involving Napoleon being a fan rather than an opponent, and spreading the calendar through Europe during his flash-in-a-pan conquests instead of killing it in its cradle, but even in those optimistic scenarios, the calendar would have instead been example of expansionist overreach and been roundly rejected as were all things Napoleonic in the tumultuous middle of the 19th century.

Back to the point, though. "The French Republican calendar was a joke and therefore so is all woke-ism" is the most facile read possible of every noun in that sentence. Social progress toward reason has its excesses and drawbacks, but does not inevitably fail in the face of hide-bound tradition. For every French Republican calendar, there is a metric system, born at the same time and of the same mindset, but wildly successful instead of a failure because it was wanted instead of forced.

Okay, okay, so what does this have to do with manure? Well, our use of feces to fertilize has sound scientific principles, yet predates not just modern scientific methods but even writing! Before we could even figure out how to communicate beyond the reach of our voices, we figured out how to enrich topsoil with nitrogen. Tradition and progress coincide and reinforce each other.

Today I want to talk about the pursuit of "manure moments" in our own time to find pathways to lasting social betterment.

This post is for subscribers only