Dirt, soil, — 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 soil, 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 (2007) explores the compelling idea that we are,and have long been, using up Earth’s soil. Once bare 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 we have shaped soil—as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt. David R. Montgomery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_R._Montgomery) sees in the recent rise of organic and no-till farming the hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations. A sobering and compelling read.


Further reading – Jared Diamond covers soil exhaustion in many of the chapters in his excellent Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive (2005)(http://www.amazon.co.uk/Collapse-Societies-Choose-Fail-Survive/dp/0713992867/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1389010527&sr=8-1).

296 pages in University of California Press

ISBN 978-0520272903

David R. Montgomery

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