Bumping along the broken asphalt roads around Bad Zeischenahn, Germany, the fields around sit at least 15 feet below the level of the road.
This ground has been moving and shifting since long before these roads were paved over with asphalt. The movement of the soggy ground causes the asphalt to crack. However, lots of changes have taken place here. 50 years ago, the streets used to be level with the surrounding fields.
The streets have remained at the elevation they were built at, while the fields around have been significantly lowered in elevation.
The fields have been harvested for their peat moss.
If you get out of the car, and very carefully walk along each side of the road, you will discover that the ground is quite soggy.
You have to be careful that you don’t slip and fall 15 feet down the hill into the ditch, which is actually just the field next to the road.
It’s quite amazing to think actually…
Peat Moss that took hundreds of thousands of years to develop can be chopped out of a field in blocks, stacked for a year or two until it dries out, the blocks can be heat treated, and they can then be sold nurseries and farms all over the world.
Once a whole field has been harvested, the company which sells the peat will plant over the land with grass and move on to the next plot of land they will buy, where they will repeat the process.
The once amazingly fertile land will take thousands of years to get back the peat it once had (if ever).
Carrie’s cousin Joern, who took us to see these fields, told us that selling peat used to be big business in the north of Germany.
Today, there is significantly less peat here to sell, and significantly more competition from places like Russia.
I know through our GreenJoyment site about the multitude of ways the 7 billion of us have dramatically altered our planet in the last 50 years, but this is one of the most visually astounding things I’ve seen with my own eyes.
A road that sits 15 feet above the surrounding ground… not because dirt was piled to build the road, but because the earth all around was harvested by machines and sold all over the world.
I don’t know if there will come a time when peat moss is simply unfindable, as apparently (at the current rates of extraction), there are hundreds of years worth of peat in Russia.
However, I do wonder what the extraction and alteration of the landscape (in such a dramatic way) means for future growth in this area.