"From this gritty and compelling state-of-our-earth report comes the inescapable truth that we are nothing if not dirty-minded. A brilliant and essential book."Roger Swain, science editor of Horticulture magazine
"The relationship between soils and societies has been crucial for humankind for 10,000 years. David Montgomery brings a geomorphologist's eye and a world-historical vision to the subject, showing why it demands our attention."J.R. McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun
In our cyber-charged age, it's easy to forget that all six billion of us stand on the thin skin of the earth. Humanity is agriculture and agriculture is soil, just as it has been for 10,000 years. David Montgomerya competent digger of dirt and an engaging storytellershows how a close look at the soil can reveal a surprising amount about who we are and where we are headed."Richard Manning, author of Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization
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 2007 Reed Business Information.