Dirt : the erosion of civilizations

by David R. Montgomery

Paperback, 2007




Berkeley : University of California Press, c2007.


"A natural and cultural history of sail that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are - and have long been - using up Earth's soil. Once bate of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the life spans of civilizations. A rich mix of history, archaeology, and geology, Dirt traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, China, European colonialism, Central America, and the American push westward. We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil - as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt. David R. Montgomery sees in the recent rise of organic and no-till farming the hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member kaizic
Of course I was attracted to the unusual title, but the content is more thorough than one would expect. The author is a geologist with the University of Washington. He discusses how human have abused our most important resource from ancient times, and continue to do so today. We know how to nurture and maintain the soil, but refuse to because of carelessness or greed. This book will surprise you!… (more)
LibraryThing member hailelib
This is a very interesting blend of science and history that explains what soil is, where it comes from and why its preservation is so important to us today. The author rather convincingly shows how soil depletion and running out of new land to exploit has been a contributing factor in the collapse of many civilizations. Then he goes on to suggest that the whole globe has pretty much run out of new good land and is getting low on marginal land for farming and yet we continue to use what remains unwisely. Add to that the diminishing returns for genetic improvements and that chemical fertilizers will soon become increasingly expensive (their availability is based on cheap oil!) and we may well have a world-wide food crisis on our hands in the near future. However, Montgomery does suggest solutions to this dilemma. I would recommend the book to those interested in this subject as I found it readable and full of facts that I only knew vaguely or not at all. There is also an extensive bibliography at the end.… (more)
LibraryThing member Devil_llama
This is a truly dirty book - a book about dirt, in fact. This book traces the role that dirt, and the erosion of dirt (some of us would call it soil, but that would be pedantic) has played in the structure of our civilizations. A book that can teach a lot about a subject most people just sort of take for granted.
LibraryThing member jjwilson61
Interesting, but it bogged down when the author described one civilization after another doing the same or almost the same thing to their soil and paying the consequence. The entire middle portion of the book could have been summarized into one chapter.


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