Opinion: Tiny movers of earth, and also our hearts NPR's Scott Simon has worms. Hundreds of them. They live in a bin on his balcony and rejuvenate soil for flowers and vegetables. He talks about his admiration for the squiggly things.

Opinion: Tiny movers of earth, and also our hearts

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Important world figures have come and gone all week at the United Nations General Assembly. But some of the most vital figures in our lives can be almost unseen. As Charles Darwin once wrote, it may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures. Darwin wasn't speaking of politicians, but earthworms.

I have learned a lot about worms in recent times. Our family did not get a pandemic puppy - we already have a dog - but we did acquire worms. Hundreds of worms now gobble, eliminate and procreate in the dirt of a black plastic bin on our balcony. We've named each worm after a local public radio station. My wife and I pop the top and say, hello, WBEZ. Howdy, KQED and WBHM. You're looking lovely today, Ideastream. We've also named a worm for BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music.

Our worms subsist on scraps we scatter over the dirt - castoff lettuce leaves and cucumber shards, carrot shavings, abandoned green beans and forsaken grains of rice. As the weather gets cooler now, we cloak their worm metropolis with shreds of newspapers. Online editions won't work.

As Amy Stewart writes in her extraordinary 2004 book, "The Earth Moved," on the remarkable achievements of earthworms, the wiggle of worms through the dirt alters its composition, increases its capacity to absorb and hold water and bring about an increase in nutrients and microorganisms. This makes our food and our very lives possible, she notes, even as worms are almost invisible to us as we go about our days.

We spray water over our worms, and it soaks their castings, then distills down into a liquid humans call worm tea. It is not Earl Grey. Worm tea abounds with vitamins and nutrients. We pour it into pots and planters where it's reawakened flowers, herbs and peppers. We bottle worm tea for neighbors who attest that this elixir restores vivacity to their sun-scorched greenery. And I'm tempted to splash worm tea over my thinning hair.

They move the earth, Amy Stewart writes of worms, a remarkable accomplishment for a creature that weighs only a fraction of an ounce. Some weeks, it's cheering to remind ourselves that in the wild welter of news that seems to flash so quickly by, the most remarkable work is happening steadily and without fanfare just beneath our feet.


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