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Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations Hardcover – May 14 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 295 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (May 14 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520248708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520248700
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 16.2 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 621 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #480,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Anyone interested in environmental issues should read this book. . . . Entertains and stimulates thought.”
(Times Higher Ed Sup (Thes) 2007-08-03)

“Fascinating insights into what be our most precious natural resource and gives important pointers toward sustainable land management.”
(Bioscience 2008-04-01)

“How societies fare in the long run depends on how they treat their soils. Simple. Concise. You are your dirt.”
(Carol Ekarius Hobby Farms 2009-02-17)

“Sobering. . . . A timely text that will no doubt stimulate the discussion of this issue, and its potential solutions, for years to come.”
(Environment & History 2009-11-01)

“Strengthen[s] appreciation for how important the soil is to our existence.”
(Great Plains Research 2009-05-19)

“This book is a thorough and enlightening treatment of the topic.”
(The Perennial Bookworm 2011-03-07)

“Sounds an ever timely and necessary clarion call.”
(Vadose Zone Journal 2010-05-17)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An entertaining and enlightening read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d0bdc48) out of 5 stars 53 reviews
52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c8933d8) out of 5 stars What you never knew about history Aug. 28 2007
By Deborah - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While David R. Montgomery goes on a bit long and repetitively about how and why and where and how fast soils erode, the more interesting part of the book is the new look at history--why the Romans sought new lands to conquer, how Thomas Jefferson tried and failed to get widespread adoption of contour plowing, how the depletion of the southeast's agricultural soils provided yet more impetus for the Civil War, how even in ancient times writers urged soil husbandry, yet were largely ignored as they still are today, how monoculture, slavery and now industrialized agriculture speed up the process by which land will become unable to sustain growing human populations. It's a sobering message that we ignore at our children's peril.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c89342c) out of 5 stars A history of farming and its long-term legacy March 15 2008
By Newton Ooi - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Though the title says Dirt, it should actually say Soil, as this book is about how numerous civilizations destroyed themselves by adopting unsustainable farming practices that eventually destroyed their land. The author examines the histories of England, Roman Empire, ancient Greece, pre-colonial Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Pharaoic Egypt, continental Europe, Communist Russia, the antebellum South, Colonial New England, and China. The conclusions he draws from all are the same, agricultural practices driven by short-term profit led to long-term soil erosion and depletion. The latter created poverty, inducing emigrations, which led to civil strife, war, and gradual collapse. So this book does live up to its subtitle, it is a history of human civilization as told from the viewpoint of soil erosion.

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.
33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c893864) out of 5 stars The demise of soil Sept. 13 2007
By JohnVidale - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Policy makers at all levels as well as concerned citizens should take Dave's lessons to heart. In addition, this is THE book for the layman wondering anything about dirt's role in human history and its fate.

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".
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c89384c) out of 5 stars Best 'dirty book' I ever read... Oct. 15 2009
By Book Reader - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm probably more fascinated by the subject of soil in relation to civilization and society than most people are. That said, this is one of the most interesting, absorbing, well researched books that I've ever read. Professor Montgomery's book should be read by every high school and college student that is interested in a little known, but pertinent reason why civilizations fail...remember the Cedars of Lebanon? That area of Lebanon is desert now, why, because they cut down all the trees to build ships and the soil eroded...simple. Professor Montgomery makes a point that whenever economists are in charge of a society it goes downhill as they recommend unsustainable practices...and give numerous examples. In a perfect world this book would sell as many copies as a Harry Potter adventure does...however as the book points out, the world isn't perfect...but, in my opinion, this book is!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c893c0c) out of 5 stars Essential reading Sept. 15 2007
By J. R. Brownell - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This should be essential reading for any resource planner, all levels of elected policy makers and anyone that has read Jared Diamond, i. e. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed