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Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth [Kindle Edition]

Judith Schwartz , Gretel Ehrlich
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In Cows Save the Planet, journalist Judith D. Schwartz looks at soil as a crucible for our many overlapping environmental, economic, and social crises. Schwartz reveals that for many of these problems—climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss, droughts, floods, wildfires, rural poverty, malnutrition, and obesity—there are positive, alternative scenarios to the degradation and devastation we face. In each case, our ability to turn these crises into opportunities depends on how we treat the soil.



Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. For example, land can suffer from undergrazing as well as overgrazing, since certain landscapes, such as grasslands, require the disturbance from livestock to thrive. Regarding climate, when we focus on carbon dioxide, we neglect the central role of water in soil—"green water"—in temperature regulation. And much of the carbon dioxide that burdens the atmosphere is not the result of fuel emissions, but from agriculture; returning carbon to the soil not only reduces carbon dioxide levels but also enhances soil fertility.



Cows Save the Planet is at once a primer on soil's pivotal role in our ecology and economy, a call to action, and an antidote to the despair that environmental news so often leaves us with.



Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Most of us acknowledge that the earth beneath our feet is important for raising crops and nourishing lawns, yet few realize just how vital it is to our planet’s overall health. Inviting readers to roll up their pant legs and wade with her into the dirt, veteran journalist Schwartz reveals a wealth of detail about soil’s beneficial properties and presents a compelling case that proper soil management can end escalating worldwide desertification and slow, or even arrest, global warming. While these assertions may sound surprising, Schwartz collects abundant testimony from leading-edge soil scientists and activists, such as noted Zimbabwe biologist and rancher Allan Savory, whose sophisticated sheep- and cow-herding methods in several countries have completely restored arid grasslands in less than a decade. She also highlights evidence from little-known studies demonstrating that soil-restoration techniques can sequester about a billion tons of atmospheric carbon per year, potentially neutralizing damaging greenhouse gases. A well-written and persuasive manifesto for healing earth’s environmental woes with one of its most underappreciated resources. --Carl Hays

Review

Permaculture-

Cows Save The Planet is a wonderfully comprehensive book, challenging some of the current popular theory relating to climate change and the mending of our damaged planet. Judith D.Schwartz has travelled to meet and interview an impressive mix of people, some well known names from around the world (Allan Savory, Christine Jones for example), and many who I have never heard of prior to reading her book. All, however, in some way, are undertaking a wealth of inspirational and essential work relating to healing the world's soil.

At its core, Schwartz's work provides us with solutions and hope, for spiraling environmental and social destruction, through the rehabilitation of the earth beneath our feet. Each chapter of the book is a work in itself but there is also a natural flow and progression in the writing as Schwartz invites us to witness her journey, addressing climate change, loss of biodiversity, desertification, droughts, floods and human health.

The new thinking and new understanding you gain from reading and then rereading Schwartz's work gives us motivation and determination to want to make some very real positive changes in our communities and lands. I can recommend it to all."



"Here's a secret climate-change activists and energy-efficiency and renewable-energy promoters neglect: Nature is designed to be self-healing, and her most profound 'tool' is photosynthesis. 'Free' sunlight is the best energy source to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while also producing organic matter and oxygen―and a by-product is healthier soil, forests, wetlands, and ecosystems. When politicians, policy leaders, and activists get serious about cost-effective solutions to climate change, then a top priority will be ecological restoration to harvest and store carbon naturally, and Judith Schwartz's new book will provide a destination and map."--Will Raap, founder, Gardener's Supply and Intervale Center



ForeWord Reviews-

"Could it really be this easy? Improve soil fertility, preserve biodiversity, reduce obesity, and halt climate change by having more cows graze more land to help 'fix' more carbon into the soil? Well, solving the world’s problems may not be quite that easy, but journalist Judith Schwartz raises these and many equally intriguing questions in Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth.

Her book focuses on sustaining and improving the quality of soil, as well as the economic, environmental, and societal benefits we could realize by making that change. Around the globe, topsoil is lost at an alarming rate: up to 40 times faster than we’re generating it (in China and India, particularly). The consequences include a rapid increase in deserts, droughts, floods, and wildfires, not to mention a loss in the fertility of soil and the nutritional quality of food.

The losses occur rapidly, but the solutions can work almost as quickly. The soil can be rebuilt from the bottom up, and nature can heal itself with surprising efficiency. For instance, undergrazing can damage the soil as much as overgrazing. study the historical movements of herds of grazing animals over the grasslands and plains of much of the globe, and adjust livestock and land management principles accordingly, the author suggests. Allow for the organic material, natural microbes, and insect life that facilitate plant diversity and soil enrichment. The resulting impact will be far-reaching and transformational on the land, climate, and crops.

Schwartz refers frequently to the holistic management principles outlined by agriculturist Allan Savory, views that some consider controversial. Schwartz does not attempt to bridge the gap between these holistic ideals and current practices in the industrial food complex but instead grounds her view in narratives of earnest farmers and ranchers from Australia to Vermont who put these soil management principles into practice.

A journalist who has written on marriage, therapy, and other diverse topics, Schwartz tackles complex topics such as the chemistry of the carbon cycle and photosynthesis and counters the myths about cows and methane with an accessible, conversational voice. Her study is lucid, enlightening, and often surprising. It is also an enjoyable, compelling read that will appeal to a wide audience, offering hopeful and creative solutions to some of the most daunting questions of our day."



Booklist-

"The earth beneath our feet is something most of us acknowledge is important for raising crops and nourishing lawns, yet few of us realize just how vital it is to our planet's overall health. Inviting readers to roll up their pant legs and wade with her into the dirt, veteran journalist [Judith] Schwartz reveals a wealth of detail about soil's beneficial properties and presents a compelling case that proper soil management can end escalating worldwide desertification and slow, or even arrest, global warming. While these assertions may sound surprising, Schwartz collects abundant testimony from leading-edge soil scientists and activists, such as noted Zimbabwe biologist and rancher Allan Savory, whose sophisticated sheep- and cow-herding methods in several countries have completely restored arid grasslands in less than a decade. She also highlights evidence from little-known studies demonstrating that soil restoration techniques can sequester about a billion tons of atmospheric carbon per year, potentially neutralizing damaging greenhouse gases. A well-written and persuasive manifesto for healing earth's environmental woes with one of its most underappreciated resources."



“Judith Schwartz’s book gives us not just hope but also a sense that we humans―serial destroyers that we are―can actually turn the climate crisis around. This amazing book, wide-reaching in its research, offers nothing less than solutions for healing the planet.”--Gretel Ehrlich, from the foreword



“Judith Schwartz takes a fascinating look at the world right beneath our feet. Cows Save the Planet is a surprising, informative, and ultimately hopeful book.”--Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change



“In Cows Save the Planet, Judith Schwartz takes us on a fascinating, John McPhee-style journey into the world of soil rehabilitation. The eclectic group of farmers, ranchers, researchers, and environmentalists she visits have one thing in common: they all believe in the importance of organic matter in the soil for solving our most pressing environmental issues. Some of the innovative techniques they use to increase the vitality of their soil include no-tillage, using deep-rooted perennial grasses, cover crops, mulching, and, surprisingly, grazing large herds of animals according to a program called 'holistic management.' Imagine, a book about soil that’s a real page turner!”--Larry Korn, editor of The One-Straw Revolution and Sowing Seeds in the Desert, by Masanobu Fukuoka



“Judith Schwartz reminds us that sustainable range management is as much about the microbes in the soil and their feedback loops with cattle as it is about the cattle themselves. When I finally go home on the range to be composted, I want to be part of the miraculous cycle of rangeland renewal that is managed in the way that Schwartz describes so well.”--Gary Nabhan, author of Desert Terroir, Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems, University of Arizona


Product Details

  • File Size: 1005 KB
  • Print Length: 243 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1603584323
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (May 20, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CMR0N2E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,165 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3rd party coverage of emerging field June 20, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Desert Reclamation and carbon capture are together an emerging area of interest and a fountain of new and old methods are starting to become popular and advance our understanding. The topic of this book is very relevant.

In my experience popular science books are best when written by experts themselves or by an expert cowriting with a journalist. This book is written essentially by a journalist who reads about the subject and travels around interviewing experts. As a result is has the feel of a magazine article from something like Popular Science or Wired. This makes the writing very accessible to the general public without any background which is good. The bad is that it lacks the depth, breadth, and connectedness that I was really hoping for.

For those inexperienced in this area I would suggest watching Allan Savory's TED talk free on youtube and reading the wikipedia article on Glyphosate. Doing that will give you a better understanding of both Holistic Management and Roundup than this book will.

For those with no knowledge of Holistic Management or arid region restoration this book will expose them to some ideas they probably haven't heard of before. But it leaves a lot of relevant things out. There is only passing mention of agroforestry, no mention of permaculture, no mention of water harvesting methods like on contour swails or terracing, no mention of groasis waterboxes, no mention of dew or fog collection, no mention of mulch agriculture (see Back to Eden film free on Vimeo), no mention of forest gardening, etc. What is does have doesn't have many references for further investigation or research.

In summary, this book is OK but I had hoped for more given such a revalent topic
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Judith D. Schwartz has written an entertaining and instructive book Cows Save The Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth, that left me with two feelings. First, it's a hopeful message that we can overcome our bad past decisions and correct the factors that are causing the degradation of our environment which is at the root of so much human suffering and disruptions around the globe. Second, she introduced me to a cast of inspiring characters who are working hard to find ways to restore grasslands, utilize natural systems to increase the quantity and quality of our food, conserve water, safely store carbon from the air into the ground, and most important, improve the vitality of the most important resource on earth - soil. Finally, after finishing the book I look forward to help solve our many pressing problems. Cows Save the Planet made me fall in love with this world again. I recommend people read this book and be inspired to look at our future in a fresh new way.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book was an education for me May 27, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The idea that animals such as cows might actually be good for not just the soil but for the grasses they feed on may seem a bit strange at first. But because grasses and grasslands (and pastures) have experienced millions of years of grazing animals they have not only learned to live with them but to thrive. Schwartz explains how this works and why healthy grasslands, farms and pastures can serve as carbon sinks while feeding the seven million plus people on the planet.

There is a crisis in food production and in fresh water availability that is upon us today. Soils are being depleted many times faster than they are being built, and water tables are falling precipitously. Schwartz interviewed people who demonstrate on their own farms that this doesn't have to continue. It was long thought (and before reading this book I believed it) that it typically took hundreds of years to build an inch or two of topsoil. However by using methods explained in this book farmers all over the world are building inches of topsoil in a year or less!

One technique is "pasture cropping." Essentially what you do is plant your seeds into an unplowed field that already has native grasses growing in it. The idea is that by keeping the field cover you retain the soil, the carbon in the soil, and the moisture while promoting and maintain a healthy soil ecology. Crops yields may fall a bit at first but over the long run you gain by keeping your fields covered all year round.

So what this book is about is soil rehabilitation. The stakes are huge. Healthy soil serves to sequester carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. Healthy soil retains moisture and very significantly contains nutrients for not only healthy plant growth but for healthy foods for us.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, Detailed, A Must Read! July 17, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I am a fan of Allan Savory's Holistic Management grazing paradigm.
And Judith does a great job not only showing why his idea works, but why we will not survive
on this planet unless we begin restoring soil to its original living state.

I wish this book was required reading for everyone and especially politicians.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening Optimism June 11, 2013
Format:Paperback
After reading this, I feel optimistic about engaging and letting plants and farmers and grassland and cows and grazing save us from our sins. I had no idea there was so much reason to be hopeful until reading this book. I am so inspired by the people and research presented in this book. Highly recommended!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars but a good story included in the mix
This book is killer! Dense, informative, but a good story included in the mix!
Published 17 days ago by Katie the Cat Master
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn about Soils. We Can all help it and help us.
Excellent overview of the value of healthy soils and therefore healthy agriculture and healthy ecosystems through an optimistic message of what we can do about it through numerous... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Edward M. Spevak
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
A well rounded book with different themes in each chapter. A good read.
Published 1 month ago by Lisa Blazure
5.0 out of 5 stars Redeems the role that animals play in the health of our land & planet!
Wonderful book discussing newest ideas about regenerative agriculture, especially how animals are a necessary part of keeping our land healthy and productive. Highly recommend!
Published 2 months ago by Ingrid L. Iversen
5.0 out of 5 stars Journalist Judith A Schwartz coherently shares information affecting...
Cows Saved the Planet explains soil science in simple terms and helps one understand the relationship of soil to the health of the consumer, economic systems, and the planet. Read more
Published 3 months ago by hillspirit
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
An excellent book of essays with really good information and inspirational stories for changing current paradigms.
Published 5 months ago by Jamie Vann
5.0 out of 5 stars This book conveys very important messages on soil carbon and ...
This book conveys very important messages on soil carbon and the water cycle, as well as the non-sustainability of our economics system, based on consumption.
Published 5 months ago by Ian Gavin Little
5.0 out of 5 stars This is such an interesting book for anyone who is ...
This is such an interesting book for anyone who is interested in farming, ecology and a different approach to healing the environment.
Published 5 months ago by gowannajo
4.0 out of 5 stars The Answer is in the Soil
Cows save the planet. A sentence that sounds so absurd that it immediately makes you utterly confused. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Kimberly Mac
4.0 out of 5 stars I think cows are pretty interesting animals
Cows save the planet. A sentence that sounds so absurd that it immediately makes you utterly confused. Read more
Published 6 months ago by nancy macphail
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More About the Author

Judith D. Schwartz is a longtime freelance writer whose work has appeared in venues from Glamour and Redbook to The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times. She is the author of several books, including Tell Me No Lies: How to Face the Truth and Build a Loving Marriage (coauthored) and The Therapist's New Clothes. She has an MA in counseling psychology and an MS from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She lives with her family in Southern Vermont. Visit her website at www.judithdschwartz.com


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