Dirt : The Erosion of Civilizations

3.94 (790 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 295 pages
  • 158 x 230 x 24mm | 621.42g
  • University of California Press
  • Berkerley, United States
  • English
  • 10 b/w photographs, 13 line illustrations, 5 maps
  • 0520248708
  • 9780520248700
  • 827,665

Review quote

"Anyone interested in environmental issues should read this book... Entertains and stimulates thought." Times Higher Ed Sup (Thes) 20070803 "Fascinating insights into what be our most precious natural resource and gives important pointers toward sustainable land management." Bioscience 20080401 "How societies fare in the long run depends on how they treat their soils. Simple. Concise. You are your dirt." -- Carol Ekarius Hobby Farms 20090217 "Sobering... A timely text that will no doubt stimulate the discussion of this issue, and its potential solutions, for years to come." Environment & History 20091101 "Strengthen[s] appreciation for how important the soil is to our existence." Great Plains Research 20090519 "This book is a thorough and enlightening treatment of the topic." The Perennial Bookworm 20110307 "Sounds an ever timely and necessary clarion call." Vadose Zone Journal 20100517show more

About David R. Montgomery

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.show more

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 Indexshow more

Rating details

790 ratings
3.94 out of 5 stars
5 31% (243)
4 43% (342)
3 18% (144)
2 5% (39)
1 3% (22)
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