ambience: Farming in Indonesia
In a small Indonesian village, a farmer works his rice paddy with the help of an ox-driven plow, adorned by a bell. The soil here is rich and fertile, due largely to the presence a rather ominous neighbor, an active volcano. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
“Volcanoes erupt ash and other materials that ultimately break down over time and form nutrient rich soils which are very useful for growing crops.”
Jim Webster is a curator at the American Museum of Natural History where the new Hall of Planet Earth opened recently.
“Traveling through Indonesia, most, if not all, of the active volcanoes have a variety of crops planted around their base: tea and coffee and fruits and vegetables, for two reasons. One, because the soils are so nutrient rich. But two, it turns out, that the high peaks of these volcanic mountains tend to capture or trap clouds, so to speak. Clouds cluster around these high peaks and they’ll release moisture in the forms of rain, which runs down the slopes. So, you’ve got abundant moisture or an increased abundance of moisture as well as nutrient rich soils in and around volcanoes.”
Of course, living in the shadow of an active volcano has its risks.
“In Indonesia there are roughly two hundred million people in an area the size of Texas and there are a hundred and twenty-seven active volcanoes. And unfortunately, they tend to erupt fairly frequently and these are the catastrophically erupting types of volcanoes.”
People live alongside volcanoes all around the world, reaping the agricultural benefits, and facing the direst consequences when the inevitable eruption occurs.
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.