Book Review: DIRT

DIRT:  The Erosion of Civilizations

     Author: DAVID R. MONTGOMERY
                  Professor of Earth and Space Sciences
                  University of Washington
                  University of California Press, Berkeley, California  94704
                  http://www.ucpress.edu
                  paperback

     The uppermost 6 inches of dirt, the topsoil, is what is cherished by farmers throughout the world.  It’s what they live on.  It is the material which supports their families and those to whom they sell their crops.  This precious topsoil is the key to allowing civilizations to thrive, and without it, when it blows or washes away, peoples tend to wither.
     From Darwin and his worms to the 1930’s dustbowl of the Oklahoma panhandle; from the Appalachians to once fertile Babylon; from North Africa, once the bread basket of the Roman Empire that supported its legions, to the rolling Palouse hills of Eastern Washington state.  This small book covers a lot of territory and makes a case that peoples rise and fall with the care they take with their topsoil.
     The author makes a case for the rise and fall of civilizations and of farmers, based on how they tended to their soil.  Farmers take great care to learn from others, and especially, from the past.  If you are a farmer who values and cares for his land, if you are a farmer’s friend or an urbanite, this book is for you.  It is a quick and easy read.

                                                                                    Submitted by James R. Wylie, March 25, 2013

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