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The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet Hardcover – March 18, 2014
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“This will surely be called an important book. Ohlson conveys her information in the lively manner of writers such as Michel Pollan and Rowan Jacobsen, making complicated ideas easily accessible to the reader, so that we see the ground at our feet not as dead dirt but rather as, in her words, a "coral reef" teeming with life, a ‘massive biological machine' on which the health of our species depends. We're lucky to have this account.” —Michael Ruhlman, author of The Soul of a Chef
“On the long list of things we have to do to fight climate change, learning to pay attention to soil again is near the top. It's not just dirt, it's not just something that holds plants upright--as this book points out, it's pretty damned vital.” —Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
“I was barely a dozen pages into The Soil Will Save Us when I felt the ground shifting under my feet--the literal ground, as in the composition of the rich humus of old-growth forests compared to the exhausted, scorched, and ruined ancient fields of global farming--and the psychic ground.... This is a remarkable book, which tells--with a light touch and a breezy, readable manner--a story of modern science of the most crucial importance.” —Melissa Fay Greene, author of Praying for Sheetrock and There Is No Me Without You
“At last, soil has been included in the conversation about food. And you don't need a degree in soil sciences to see how the web of life below the surface that infuses soil--is soil--is strongly affected by the various webs of life that occur aboveground, for better and worse. . . . This book is eminently readable, well-researched, and important."--Deborah Madison, author of The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone "The Soil Will Save Us is a convincing argument that those of us who care about the environment have to start from the ground up--that is, if we are going to give a better world to our grandchildren, we're going to have to develop a deep interest in dirt. Fortunately, all you need to become fascinated by dirt is a book like this, which reveals just how intricate and important it is.” —Nathanael Johnson, author of All Natural
“The author has a clear storytelling style, which comes in handy when drawing this head-turning portrait of lowly dirt. But dirt--or soil, if you prefer--takes on character in Ohlson's hands, and readers will soon become invested in its well-being, for soil is a planetary balancer, and from its goodness comes the food we eat....Ohlson ably delineates this promising situation: Vital soil may well help address climate change, but it absolutely will provide for "more productive farms, cleaner waterways, and overall healthier landscapes.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
“Kristin Ohlson's examination of how farming and forestry techniques might mitigate, if not resolve, global warming. We generally think of climate change as a story of sky -- of emitted gases, of atmospheric carbon levels, of storms. Author Kristin Ohlson would like to direct our gaze earthward, to take a long, hard look at the dirt beneath our feet. We may have overlooked a solution there...This is a hopeful book and a necessary one. The Soil Will Save Us is not the last word on this subject but is a fast-paced and entertaining shot across the bow of mainstream thinking about land use. May a million new farms bloom.” —The Los Angeles Times
About the Author
Kristin Ohlson is a writer based in Portland, OR. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Salon, Discover, and elsewhere. Her article about burning coal mines was collected in Best American Science Writing 2011. She is also the author of Stalking the Divine, which won the American Society of Journalists and Authors' 2004 Best Nonfiction Book award, and coauthor of New York Times bestseller Kabul Beauty School.
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ORGANIC FARMERS AND GARDENERS: PLEASE TAKE THIS NEXT, PLANET-SAVING STEP! You'll save water, as well.
Read Gaia's Garden to learn how - another wonderful book.
I've been an organic garden forever, but I learned a lot that I wish CSA farmers would learn about the damage tilling does, in terms of climate change and each consumer's carbon footprint.
I now practice no-till gardening, an expansion of Ruth Stout's approach 50 years ago - mulch the bejeezus out of your soil, feed worms and germs. Only dig where you need to (I use a triangular hand-hoe - Ken Ho, I think it's called, which also slices weeds off paths and elsewhere, just below the surface), chop up any yard waste on the spot and add to the mulch along with any weeds, which pull easily out of the loose mulch and soil underneath.
Also, Hugelkulture, where you put a log at the base of a raised be, cover it with yard waste, leaves, and soil, and plant over the whole works, or next to it. You DON'T HAVE TO WATER IT, according to many testimonies. I'm just starting to use this - I live where we have hot, dry summers and have already cut back markedly on watering with mulching and making swales of various sizes downhill from all my plantings, which I fill with leaves, bark, twigs, etc. They serve as paths and also as long-term water storage.
Tilled soil, on the other hand, releases carbon into the atmosphere (which is why the soil eventually gets depleted and "less-black"), destroys mycorrhyzae, worms, and other soil life, and lets water evaporate instead of return to the aquifers and hydrate plants.
The book is a good primer on the role of microbes -- fungi and bacteria -- in maintaining soil health and sequestering organic carbon. But it neglects other equally important soil conservation and sequestration methods such as remineralization. The author describes the hard clay in her back yard as an example of "soil with few microbial aggregates", but a soil test would probably pinpoint the problem as excess magnesium requiring addition of calcium to loosen the soil. Minerals are the stuff of which microbes are made, and soil fertility and plant health can be dramatically improved by addition of basalt rock dust or sea minerals.
The book discusses the role of livestock in soil remediation. This is a controversial topic, in part because cattle are a major source of atmospheric methane. But anaerobic digesters can perform the same function as cow's stomachs on an industrial scale, without methane emissions, while providing useful energy co-generation:
The book also neglects biochar, one of the most effective mechanisms for permanently sequestering carbon, improving soil fertility, and creating liquid fuels:
The book is a good introduction to soil and climate, but the interested reader should explore other information sources that better convey the full potential of land use for climate stabilization.
Unfortunately, it is not well arranged and seems rather disorderly.
Moreover, Savory's claim (on which much of this book's premise is based) that managed grazing will restore the soils and more has been refuted in a recent Sierra Club magazine article.
Read both and come to your own conclusion.
Most recent customer reviews
Chapter 5 was the richest.Read more