Why Is the Dirt World Important?
Written by Megan Hamilton • Reviewed by Randy Blount
February 23, 2023
The Dirt World is important because it holds together the fabric of our society.
Without it, nothing else exists. The houses we live in, the roads we drive on, the water we drink—they only exist because of the hard working men and women of the Dirt World.
This industry builds the critical infrastructure society needs to function. It includes any mining of raw materials and any construction that starts at the earth's surface and goes down, across, or through it. It also includes the people who do this work, their tools and equipment, and the bond they share.
Let’s take a closer look at why the Dirt World is important.
You depend on the Dirt World every day
Did you wake up in a house or apartment this morning? That’s because Dirt World workers planned that building and prepared the ground to hold it up safely.
Did you flush the toilet, take a shower, or brush your teeth? That’s because Dirt World workers dug trenches and laid pipes to bring water to your house.
Did you leave your home? Then you turned off the lights (that connect to a power grid the Dirt World built) and hit the road (that the Dirt World paved).
Your day already depends on the Dirt World, and you’ve only been awake for an hour.
The Dirt World gives us most common household items
Just for fun, let’s consider some common household items that only exist because the Dirt World mines or makes them:
- Baby powder
- Canned goods
- Granite countertops
- Polyester workout pants
- Porcelain bathroom fixtures
- Cell phones, TVs, tablets, and other electronics
- Appliances like refrigerators, washers, and dryers
- Any small plastic or metal items—such as eyeglasses, spatulas, or refrigerator magnets
Chances are, you can reach out right now and touch at least five things that owe their existence to the Dirt World.
Individuals rely on this industry all day, every day—but what does that look like in society as a whole? Keep reading to find out.
The Dirt World builds our homes
The Dirt World doesn’t handle certain aspects of residential construction, like framing, roofing, or hanging drywall. But it does lay the foundation for every home, condo, and apartment complex people live in.
Dirt World workers clear the land for the building site. They test the soil to make sure the ground can support the structure the contractor wants to build, and they prepare and build the foundation.
They also do the utility work you’ll rely on once you move into these residential buildings, whether that’s water, sewer, storm drainage, gas, or electric.
The Dirt World builds our communities
In addition to helping construct our homes, the Dirt World has a hand in building all aspects of our communities.
Here are a few of the other structures our communities use thanks to the Dirt World:
- Grocery stores
- Shopping centers
- Government centers
- Police and fire departments
- Nature trails and boardwalks
- Canals, docks, and waterways
- Recreation sites—like your kid’s favorite playground, theaters, golf courses, or amusement parks
The Dirt World provides clean water
Dirt World workers dig the trenches and lay the pipes that supply water to our homes and cities. Their handiwork includes everything from digging a well in a farmer’s field to laying supply lines for fire hydrants to providing water for large cities.
They also build sewers, storm drains, and culverts that drain water from our neighborhoods and back into the environment for reuse.
And thanks to the Dirt World, we have water treatment plants and other industrial infrastructure—like dams—that help harness water’s power, clean it, and move it from place to place.
The Dirt World helps us to get where we're going
Society exists the way it does because we’re connected, and we’re connected because of roads, planes, and other forms of transportation.
From your concrete driveway to a 12-lane superhighway, the Dirt World makes transportation possible. This industry helps build and maintain:
- Roads and sidewalks
- Airplane runways
- Train tracks
- Docks and shipping ports
- Refineries and fuel pipelines
- Gas stations
The Dirt World also mines materials for our transportation infrastructure, such as the ingredients to make asphalt and concrete, like rock, sand, and cement.
And it mines the necessary materials to manufacture cars, bicycles, trains, planes, you name it. Even electric car owners count on the Dirt World to mine the materials for their car’s battery and the energy to charge it.
Which brings us to . . .
The Dirt World makes electricity possible
There’s a saying that “Coal keeps the lights on,” because so many American power grids have historically been coal-fired. But even as we transition to other energy sources, it will always be true to say, “The Dirt World keeps the lights on."
Dirt World workers play a key role in building every type of energy-producing infrastructure known to man: hydroelectric dams, wind farms, solar farms, and yes, coal-fired power plants.
They also extract non-renewable energy sources like natural gas from the earth and transport them where they need to go.
Whenever you flip a light switch, charge your phone, or adjust your home’s thermostat, you depend on the Dirt World's contribution to society.
The Dirt World keeps our healthcare system running
Whether you visit your primary care doctor for a checkup or the hospital for an emergency, medical facilities only exist because the Dirt World lays their foundation and supplies their utilities, energy, and water.
On top of that, consider all the equipment nurses and doctors use to care for their patients. Most healthcare equipment comes from materials that Dirt World workers extract from the earth—whether that’s the metal part of a stethoscope or the highest-tech X-ray machine.
In short, the Dirt World helps us to get the healthcare we need, when we need it.
The Dirt World makes manufacturing possible
The Dirt World builds factories and supplies the raw materials they use to make their products and manufacturing tools. It also paves the way for manufacturers to transport their goods to consumers (that’s us).
To see how this works, imagine buying a glass mug. You can do that because a Dirt World crew extracted sand from the ground and delivered it to a factory, where someone made it into glass. Someone else packed the mug into a box on a semi truck—which drove on an interstate highway to your local store.
Hundreds of Dirt World workers helped make your mug and deliver it to you before you took the first sip from it!
The Dirt World helps restore and preserve the environment
This one might surprise you after how much we just talked about construction and industry. But it’s true.
One of the coolest ways Dirt World workers give back to society is by turning old mine sites into sunflower fields, cattle ranches, shopping centers, and more. (For more on mine reclamation, check out this article.)
They also help preserve wetlands and ensure that construction projects don’t disturb plants, animals, or their habitats. Then those natural areas can stay safe for future generations to enjoy.
So, Dirt World workers don’t just dig up the earth. They help protect it, too.
The Dirt World gives more than 8 million people meaningful, lifelong careers
The Dirt World’s two biggest sectors—construction and extraction—employed nearly 8.5 million people in January 2023.1,2
There are lots of perks to working in the Dirt World, from the fact that it pays better than the average job to the fact that you can build a career from the ground up—with or without a college degree.3,4
The Dirt World is a great industry for people who want to learn practical skills, enjoy problem solving, and want to develop a lifelong career. And it provides countless growth opportunities for them.
Even more importantly, this industry gives people a chance to participate in meaningful work. After all, what matters more than making everything society needs to survive?
The Dirt World is the essential industry that keeps our society functioning. It’s the reason we can live the way we do. And we depend on it every day.
The Dirt World plays a significant role in providing our society with:
- Household goods
- Community structures
- Manufacturing facilities
- Environmental areas
That’s all essential. But what’s really special about this industry is the people. They are truly one of a kind.
Written by Megan Hamilton
Reviewed by Randy Blount
February 23, 2023