Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

David Montgomery


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.

Copyright 2007. Hardcover. 290 pages.

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Listen to David Montgomery on Tractor Time

David Montgomery and Anne Biklé were interviewed for episode 20 of the Acres U.S.A. Tractor Time podcast: Listen here.

More Books by David Montgomery

Growing A Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life – In this book Montgomery introduces us to farmers around the world at the heart of brewing a soil health revolution, drawing on visits to farms in the industrialized and developing worlds to show that a new combination of farming practices can deliver innovative, cost-effective solutions to problems farmers face today.

The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health – Co-written with Anne Biklé, this book describes Montgomery's and Biklé's journey of restoring their barren yard back to life while recovering from a health crisis, and the parallels between the botanical world and our own bodies. 

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