Dirt, soil, call it what you want - it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are - and have long been - using up Earth's soil. Once pared of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations.
A rich mix of history, archaeology, and geology, Dirt traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, China, European colonialism, Central America, and the American push westward. We see how soil has shaped us and how we have shaped soil - as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt.
David R. Montgomery sees in the recent rise of organic and no-till farming hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations. The book is published by University of California Press.
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"Anyone interested in environmental issues should read this book.... [It] entertains and stimulates thought." (Times Higher Education Supplement, UK)
Dirt is both a facinating history of the stuff under our feet and a good education about how it's created, weathered away, drained or suplimented with nutrients and how human horticultural practices have effected it throughout time.
There are 3 clear sections to the book, the middle of which did seem to drag on repeating the same story over and over again. In fairness to the author though this is more an inditement of our farming practices over the centuries than to his writing style.
Well read and well researched this book is a great starting place for anyone interested in soil. You may even develop some enthusiasm on the subject and go and build yourself a Worm Farm and a compost heap!
I use my left foot to type my reviews.
"Dirt" is something that I wanted to read for a long time. I find this kind of information to be interesting, but not necessary to know. My brain drives on facts and figures that doesn't start conversations at parties. David R. Montgomery writes this book like a term paper, where he is defending his thesis. Montgomery uses topsoil, erosion, and calcification to explain the history of agriculture and our need for farming as the population expands. Basically, Montgomery raises the issues of not having enough soil to keep up with the demands. Pretty much we are running out of dirt to farm and need to find another way to grow our crops.
I have a passion for all things science, music, and outdoors. I am also a "crazy dog lady."
As a geologist/biologist I expected to be keenly interested in this book. The comprehensive historical survey lost me, however, and it became somewhat tedious to listen to the many examples. This may have been a better
My husband & I share the account. Anything on history is his read. I'm more into fiction/zombie & apocalyptic reads.
Thought this was a really good book. I have a leaning towards ag and sustainable ag so I was very interested in the concepts brought forward. I have to admit while the exhaustion of the topsoil may not be the sole cause of some of the societies downfall, the thoughts brought forward make you think it played an important role.
Fresh Take on History
This is a completely fascinating topic - a long neglected and yet absolutely essential part of history. I was amazed, surprised and constantly engaged by the ever intriguing twists and turns. Highly recommended!
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