The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health Hardcover – Nov 17 2015
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A must-read for avid gardeners, those interested in bolstering our precarious food supply, or anyone remotely concerned about their health and the soil under their feet. — Kirkus Reviews
The Hidden Half of Nature offers a wonderfully fresh and exquisitely informed approach that could change how we relate to ourselves, our diets, our gardens and our world. — Tim McNulty (Seattle Times)
Montgomery and Biklé argue that when we farm and when we eat, we’re feeding a diverse community of microorganisms. This book is sure to become a game-changing guide to the future of good food and healthy landscapes. — Dan Barber, chef and author of The Third Plate
[A] transformative read. — Tom Philpott (Mother Jones)
The Hidden Half of Nature draws a straight line from the microbes that live in healthy soil to those that live in healthy guts, skillfully blending the personal and the scientific. This is a must-read for anyone concerned with their own health. — Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist
Amazingly detailed and well-researched. … [The Hidden Half of Nature] lays out the beautiful connection between the microbial garden in our bodies and the microbial garden in the Earth. — Sally Peterson (Oregon Live)
The Hidden Half of Nature reads like a fast-paced novel but tells the true story of the workings of soils, and even our own bodies. — Neil Shubin, author of The Universe Within
One of the year’s best books on gardens and health. — Jim McCausland (Sunset Magazine)
About the Author
Anne Biklé is a biologist and environmental planner. Her career spans the fields of environmental stewardship, habitat restoration, and public health. The Hidden Half of Nature is her first book.
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The book starts with a description of the authors' (the authors are married, and both have extensive backgrounds in science) rebuilding poor soil in their Seattle house, to make a garden. To be brief (the book describes this very well and gardeners will like it) it quickly became fertile and growth exploded, as did unanticipated populations of birds, insects and visiting mammals, all stemming from an enriched microbiota (which includes bacteria, fungi and other folks). A healthy soil has a healthy microbiota, every bit as complex as the above ground ecosystem parts; the point is that healthy soil produces healthy food--the book is explicitly advocating changes in farming.
This connects with Bikle's cancer and experience. At first this doesn't seem relevant, but it gradually introduces the human microbiome in all its complexity, and its impact on health, and how manipulating it can have good consequences. See the connection between healthy soil and healthy body? Human ignorance of the microbial world has been hugely costly.
Recent patterns have agriculture dousing land with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer, building up resistance in harmful bacteria and impoverishing the soil by cropping practices. And so with dousing patients with chemicals--works wonders but may alter or kill off the microbiota and in the long term do more harm than good. This book makes a very solid case, and also notes that big pharma and agribusiness will fight it, as they always have, because they have so much to lose. Think of this book as an attempt to raise consciousness. If you read it through, your views will change, and if not a convert to the lifestyle advocated, you'll at least have to credit it as having some compelling evidence behind it.
So: a healthier future will require much more awareness of microbes and taking them into account as assets in body and soil.
Then we learn about the human microbiome and find that the microbes in our bodies outnumber our own cells by many times, and that our gut is an amazing system analogous to the root system in plants. Our own health is strongly affected by our microbiome, and that antibiotics must be used carefully in order not to decimate our inner allies. Indeed, our outdated view of 'germs' is leading to the rapid evolution of superbugs that can resist most antiseptics and drugs. Many chronic diseases are a consequence of poorly developed, unhealthy microbiomes.
The message of this book is that much more needs to be learned about the hidden world of nature, because even though we can't see it, our lives depend on it.
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