There’s a theory that civilizations rise with the exploitation of their topsoil and fall with its depletion. Countries that are poor are poor because their ancestors have depleted the topsoil. An article in The Economist about how well emerging economies are currently doing appears to show this theory is wrong. See the 1955 book Topsoil and Civilization by Vernon Gill Carter and Tom Dale. Here us a review of that book.
Since the Industrial revolution civilizations have been based on minerals as well as agriculture. Minerals in the form of energy and fertilizers have allowed us to increase agricultural productivity in our own and in the emerging econmies. But what has all this done to the topsoil? When we drive into town (or out of town) we see the farms and as they look nice we take them for granted.
As the developed countries have industrialized we have used up a lot of our mineral resources so that it is now easier and cheaper to get them from other places. Thus the emerging economies are doing well.