The Erosion of Civilizations
University of California Press, 9780520272903, 296pp.
Publication Date: April 10, 2012
List Price: 24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.
Dirt, soil, call it what you want—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 dirt, 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 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 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.
About the Author
David R. Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, is author of King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon.
Praise For Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations…
“Anyone interested in environmental issues should read this book. . . . Entertains and stimulates thought.”
— Times Higher Ed Sup (Thes)
“Fascinating insights into what be our most precious natural resource and gives important pointers toward sustainable land management.”
“How societies fare in the long run depends on how they treat their soils. Simple. Concise. You are your dirt.”
— Carol Ekarius
“Sobering. . . . A timely text that will no doubt stimulate the discussion of this issue, and its potential solutions, for years to come.”
— Environment & History
“Strengthen[s] appreciation for how important the soil is to our existence.”
— Great Plains Research
“This book is a thorough and enlightening treatment of the topic.”
— The Perennial Bookworm
“Sounds an ever timely and necessary clarion call.”
— Vadose Zone Journal