Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations / Edition 1

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations / Edition 1

4.5 4
by David R. Montgomery
     
 

ISBN-10: 0520248708

ISBN-13: 9780520248700

Pub. Date: 05/14/2007

Publisher: University of California Press

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

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Overview

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520248700
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
05/14/2007
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
295
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

1. Good Old Dirt
2. Skin of the Earth
3. Rivers of Life
4. Graveyard of Empires
5. Let Them Eat Colonies
6. Westward Hoe
7. Dust Blow
8. Dirty Business
9. Islands in Time
10. Life Span of Civilizations

Notes
Bibliography

Index

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Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Sutton More than 1 year ago
In the beginning of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, Montgomery describes the essential properties of "gold old dirt" and its importance as one of the most vital natural resources in sustaining vitality here on Earth. He goes on to present central features of a soil which are characteristic of three different soil layers (O, A, B, C). The main distinctions between these layers are variations in texture, levels of organic matter, water availability, temperature, compaction, aggregation, and different degrees of biodiversity. All of these features play a distinct role in the quality of a soil that contributes to an environment, which is conducive to plant life. However, Montgomery goes on to note that the advancement of humanity from hunters and gatherers to agricultural farmers led to the deprivation of soil quality. With the development of irrigational practices by the first civilizations - the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia and the Nile in Egypt - the utilization of the surrounding rivers as a water source became prominent for increasing crop yield. Even though the irrigational practices allowed these civilizations to thrive and flourish on multiple levels, these practices would eventually result in the progressive worsening of the civilizations' main foundational unit - soil. While salinization plagued the viability of plant life in soil with high levels of salt, soil erosion weathered the upper layer of the soil (O Layer), which may have been even more detrimental to soil degradation and the effects of plant life viability. So how did these civilizations survive? Montgomery believes that the Greeks held knowledge about practices that increased soil fertility and improved soil quality (i.e., crop rotations with legumes). However, they used these techniques to their advantage in order to maximize crop yield, which inadvertently contributed to the onset of soil exhaustion. Coupled with a need to feed a growing population, we see that technological innovations became central for maximizing crop yields even though such practices wasn't sustainable. Furthermore, Montgomery presented evidence to reinforce the idea that technological innovations perpetuated detriment to the quality of soil with a citation from Marsh that said "the capacity for damaging land also increased with technological sophistication." For example, the advent of technological innovations, such as the John Deere tractor, led to extreme amounts of tillage that left the soil unprotected and susceptible to the hostility of climatic turbulence. As a result, historical events such as the Dust Bowl caused the erosion of massive amounts of soil that was eventually driven across the northeast by wind gusts that left sediments across major metropolitan cities like New York and Boston. Montgomery also presented evidence to show how other forms of climatic change, such as global warming, could contribute to soil droughts and the alteration of many of the functional and physical features of soil. Overall: Great Book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am going to be blunt, I know David, a wish I could work more closely with him. But all things said, David has written a book about a subject that is close to all our hearts, and so ignored and maligned. I hope that this book can make the New York Times bestseller list and become something that many will read. I am a environmentalist/geologist, and for years, I have been watching the destruction of the Puget Sound environment through a lack of decent erosion control, something that is beyond epidemic in proportion on the earth. In this book, David shows the effect this has had upon the people and places of this world, up to the recent past. It is a wonderful tale that makes soil erosion come alive in our world.
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
Montgomery makes an excellent case for recasting the fall of civilizations based on our most basic abuse and neglect of the environment -- soils. And we know better! We continue to ignore the current signs and past histories of this destruction in our pursuit of wealth and often just immediate survival. This book should be required reading for everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago