Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations Hardcover – May 14 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Montgomery (King of Fish), a geomorphologist who studies how landscapes change through time, argues persuasively that soil is humanity's most essential natural resource and essentially linked to modern civilization's survival. He traces the history of agriculture, showing that when humans exhausted the soil in the past, their societies collapsed, or they moved on. But moving on is not an option for future generations, he warns: there isn't enough land. In the U.S., mechanized agriculture has eroded an alarming amount of agricultural land, and in the developing world, degraded soil is a principal cause of poverty. We are running out of soil, and agriculture will soon be unable to support the world's growing population. Chemical fertilizers, which are made with lots of cheap oil, are not the solution. Nor are genetically modified seeds, which have not produced larger harvests or reduced the need for pesticides. Montgomery proposes an agricultural revolution based on soil conservation. Instead of tilling the land and making it vulnerable to erosion, we should put organic matter back into the ground, simulating natural conditions. His book, though sometimes redundant, makes a convincing case for the need to respect and conserve the world's limited supply of soil. Illus. not seen by PW. (May)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
As a work of nonfiction, its contents apply well to history, economics, geology, ecology, and anthropology, along with agriculture. As a commentary, it is quite objective and its points are well-conveyed. As reading material; it flows quite nicely and the chapters are easy to digest. A great book overall.
With unrelenting precision, Dave builds the case-by-case history of civilizations misusing the dirt to their ultimate misfortune. As a top-flight scientist and admirable philosopher, he lays bare the storyline of people first using dirt modestly, then disturbing and losing their topsoil in dozens of cases spanning the globe and ranging from pre-history to the present.
The progression of dirt degradation becomes very familiar by the end - one wonders how many more times and on what grand scale the failures will again become apparent.
A caveat - Dave is a colleague of mine, as well as an entertaining pop-folk guitar, who leads with guitar and vocals the local band "Big Dirt".
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