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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2012 David R. Montgomery (P)2018 Echo Point Books & Media, LLC

What listeners say about Dirt

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Highly recommended if you care about your food

As a farmer soil is my bread and butter, it is the source of life all around us. This book is a fascinating study of how soil and civilizations are tied and what lessons we need to learn from history before we become history.

I will say there are a couple things in the book that are off such as “no-till” farming mean at least 30% of the residue remains. No-till means NO tillage period, it is challenging to do initially but it is vital to maintain soil structure created by the plants and microorganisms. We have Ben 100% no-till for 20 years and will never go back for anything.

3 people found this helpful

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Will forever change the way I farm.

Here is not only a history of civilizations’ soils, but also a manual for how to feed the earth’s present and future. Just the right blend of science, history, humor, and practical down-to-earth (as it were) advice for how to garden on your farm/garden/urban flower pot in a way that respects the tiny sliver of usable dirt that supports all our lives and dreams.

The narration is measured, articulate, and well paced to absorbing concepts which might be new and sometimes confusing to non-scientists.

2 people found this helpful

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Disturbing

In depth review of past failures per top soil and those looming. The author provides a grim outlook but one that can be redeemed.

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Revelatory

A couple of years ago, I started to understand what I think I first heard Derrick Jensen say in an interview a long time ago. Something about how to live sustainably, or in balance or reciprocity with the environment, we have to start with the land.

I think I first started to figure out what this meant after reading Dick Manning's Grassland: The History, Biology, Politics, And Promise Of The American Prairie, Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization and James Scott's book, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States.

The most profound realization I got from these books is that human beings can't eat grass, but, unfortunately, grass is pretty much all that grows naturally in the arid plains of the Midwest and the rest of the bread baskets of the world. Industrial agriculture is only able to squeeze corn, wheat, and soybeans out of these lands because farmers pour huge amounts of fossil fuel based pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers on these cash crops. Also, irrigation. And, government subsidies. This makes ridiculous, at least in my mind, any claim that vegan, and even just all-plant based diets, are a viable long-term solution to food shortages around the planet given the current global population. There's nothing vegan about industrial monocrop dead-zone agriculture.

Anyway, this book is an amazing companion to the aforementioned Manning titles and really drives home the Jensen point about everything starts with the land, i.e. the soil.

I learned so much from this book, but perhaps the most remarkable piece came in Montgomery's analysis of the American Civil War in which he argues that erosion of southern plantation soils, and thus their drop in productivity, was a contributing factor that lead to the war. This was mind blowing to me.

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Eye opening and detailed

If you’re discovering regenerative agriculture, Dirt is a must-read title for you. Full of well documented and supported information about the foundational role our soil plays in the success or failure of civilization. It spans the whole of civilization and proposes solutions for our modern times and on into the future.

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Crucial Information

This book delivers some of if not the most important information of our time. History is important. And If we can’t learn from our ecological mistakes as a society, then we face a long hard road ahead.

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Wonderful Historicle chronicle of events

Thanks, for a special unique perspective of how this commonality made such difference in the world we occupy but take for granted. It gives insights to our relationship and responsibility of caring for some thing we often think is an unlimited resource. It also gives the solutions available to us for our future, soil tending. Thanks

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Great!

This book is insightful, impactful, and enlightening on the history of agriculture and societies from ancient time to current status. A really mind opening book.

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  • J
  • 01-06-22

A retelling of history from the viewpoint of soil

This was a refreshing review of the history of many cultures and the common causes of soil loss with a few exceptions. It contains many lessons for farmers or gardeners.

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spectacular

simply fascinating 👌
never ever thought of this. wow. my whole perspective on history changed.

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  • marion
  • 07-31-20

Educational

Educational but not enthralling, worth a listen.
It backs up other books on this subject rather than hitting new ground

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  • hogblower
  • 06-20-20

A book everyone needs to read

An amazing insight into what is actually important, this knowledge should be taught in schools and should be the basis for the environmental movement moving forward

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 03-11-21

Amazing and eye opening!

detailed how human activities destroyed soil in ancient times - got to change the direction if we don't want the same to happen nowadays. definitely recommend!!!

"a nation which destroys it's soil destroys itself"

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  • Lea Hullett
  • 05-09-20

Seriously informative

I bought it to learn about soil and am glad I listened to the whole book. It took me through many countries and the devestating effects civilization has had on soil. We must take heed and change farming practices and practice restorative methods or face the consequenses.