David R. Montgomery / University of California Press / 296 pages
Painstakingly, Montgomery, a geomorphologist and professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington, leads us on a verbal journey spanning millennia and the globe to give us a convincing lesson on the importance of soil and soil-dwelling organisms to life as we know it. Compelling and admirably thorough, Dirt details the rise and collapse of cultures that, failing to appreciate the complexity and fragility of the soil, exploited it without giving back. Dirt tells us the world is running out of soil, and soon agriculture will not be able to support the population. Montgomery does not look to chemical fertilizers or genetically modified organisms to save us. Instead he makes the case for a new intergenerational stewardship based on appreciation for this life-supporting substance and the widespread adoption of more sustainable farming methods, requiring more people to practice intensive organic-type agriculture on smaller farms, using technology but not high capitalization.