Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

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University of California Press, Apr 10, 2012 - Nature - 296 pages
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Dirt, soil, call it what you want—it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil 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 bare 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 lifespan 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.

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Dirt: the erosion of civilizations

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

It takes 500 years to create one inch of topsoil-it takes much less time to deplete the nutrients in soil or to strip soil of protective vegetation. Once that happens, wind and rain erode the topsoil ... Read full review

Review: Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

User Review  - Chris - Goodreads

This is a great book - well researched and yet thoroughly engaging - which quite the feat for nonfiction. I would recommend it to just about anyone. The author's writing style can be repetitive at times, but for a scientist who is playing author, I think he does a very good job. Read full review


1 Good Old Dirt
2 Skin of the Earth
3 Rivers of Life
4 Graveyard of Empires
5 Let them Eat Colonies
6 Westward Hoe
7 Dust Blow
8 Dirty Business
9 Islands in Time
10 Life Span of Civilizations

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About the author (2012)

David R. Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, is author of King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon.

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