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Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth

4.5 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1603584326
ISBN-10: 1603584323
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  • Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth
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  • The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet
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  • Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country
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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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603584323
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603584326
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joel Schopp VINE VOICE on 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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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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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.
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I ran across this book and, given the bad rap cows—meat animals in general—have been getting lately, I picked it up and read it. It’s an interesting little book and I recommend that anyone interested in the environment or good nutrition or global climate change should read it.

It’s really about restoring the earth’s soils—with a little help from grazing animals. In a chapter entitled “Ground Zero for Carbon Dioxide Reduction Is the Ground,” she cites some startling studies describing the relationship between soils and global climate change. According to Rattan Lal of Ohio State University, “. . . the soil could offset about one-third of the human-generated emissions annually absorbed in the atmosphere.” She goes on to say that “We’ve lost an estimated 50 to 80 percent carbon in our soils over the last 150 years.”

In a chapter called “Beyond Eat Your Vegetables,” Schwartz reveal the lack of nutrition in our soils and how that translates into less nourishing food. She quotes nutrition and agriculture educator, “Some nutritionists estimate that the food we eat today has just 30 percent of the nourishment of what our grandparents ate as children. The major reason,” says Sait, “is declining soil quality . . .”

“. . . the major portion of farm income is now expended on the inputs required to maintain production as soil function fails. An enormous industry . . . depends on us not finding solutions to the problems in agriculture,” Schwartz writes. These problems generate enormous income for manufacture of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, toxins that sterilize the soil, she continues.

And how do cows get into this discussion?
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