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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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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.
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!
We can, indeed, save the earth by saving our soil.
Most recent customer reviews
Chapter 5 was the richest.Read more
Unfortunately, it is not well arranged and seems rather disorderly.Read more