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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

4.6 out of 5 stars 121 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609615549
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609615543
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I haven't met a soil scientist that I didn't like. They are always quirky, hopeful, and passionate about what they study. It's probably that childlike connection to playing in the dirt... and the realization that is plays such a significant role in life. Although Ohlson is not a soil scientist, she is not stranger to digging deep into topics.

I knew that this would be a good book to read when I picked it up, and as I read on, my conviction was supported. It is a quick read that will reach a mainstream audience, beyond those familiar with Ruth Stout (Gardening Without Work) and William Bryant Logan (Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth).

If you are looking to learn about "new" carbon sequestering techniques, this book is a great introduction to composting, cover crops, no-till farming, and other very modern agro-ecological science. You'll be fascinated to learn how Gabe Brown of North Dakota (who I saw present at the 2012 Quivira Conference!) created 4-feet deep topsoil over his land by going back to the basics!

This is a great book - read and pass along!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gardening magazines have told the same story for decades: someone buys a piece of land that is mostly sand or
gravel, and then the gardener brings it back to life by mixing in manure, compost and cover crops. And one day,
the worms appear, a signal that the soil has become a rich and fertile, water-retaining, bed of nourishment for
healthy and robust crops, whether flowers or food.

On our own small plots of land, this is an act of healing and renewal. And Kristin Ohlson's book tells the
same story, that the vast expanses of grassland exploited for centuries, and now turned or turning into desert, can also
be healed and renewed the same way. But to accept the stories of the heroes she shares, is a monumental paradigm shift.
We have to let go of the entrenched thinking that humans know best and return to a partnership with nature.

A central figure in this book is Allan Savory, who understood decades ago that grasslands do not renew themselves, but that
the fertility that was so prized by pioneers was the result of the massive migrations of the buffalo, who crossed the prairies,
stirring and fertilizing the earth where they grazed, and then moving on. Hot sun and low rainfall in the dry seasons did not
matter, because the earth had become a big sponge, retaining water through drought, renewing the water table, able to sustain life.

Ohlson provides a great introduction to Savory's work, which has now become a practice amongst enlightened farmers
and ranchers around the globe. I knew about Savory, but I did not know of the other heroes--soil scientists and farmers
who have been also walking a similar path.

How will the soil save us?
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a member of a small community environmental group, I found this book so very helpful in bringing others into the loop of caring for my community, which is where it starts, and helping to branch their enthusiasm for the earth's health beyond the gates of just my neighborhood. Kristin shows how it is never too late to begin to care about the integrity of our land, and gives perspective to the fact that the land has been there for us, even when we neglected it. We must consider the actions our neglect will have on our own future, and the time to do it is now.

Anyone who enjoys the air they breathe and the earth beneath their feet, should pick this one up! I didn't just read it, I enjoyed it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important and very readable book. This is a HUGE component in reversing climate change, and not enough people are talking about it.

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.
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