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Sources – Soils for life

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

David R. Montgomery, May 2007, 295 p, $42.00, £28.95, ISBN: 9780520248700

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.

Bio-charculture: Biochar for Environment and Development

N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, 2014, MetaMeta Paardskerkhofweg 14 5223 AJ ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands www.metameta.nl http://biocharindia.com

Biochar research inspired the development of a revolutionary technology that can have tremendous impact on agriculture, water, habitats, energy, health, sanitation, livelihoods, environment, and carbon sequestration. This book contributes to the understanding of biochar as a resource. Although the term “biochar” has only recently been adopted, it is a very well known concept. Biochar has long been part of some of the best practices in traditional agriculture in different parts of the world. People have used it for many purposes, including soil fertility management. Recently, biochar has attained greater importance as a result of discoveries about biochar use in the past and ongoing scientific research about its characteristics. This book highlights the diverse uses of biochar.

Biochar is a traditional, cultural, sustainable, and adaptable practice and is not just a product for soil amendment. The term biochar culture was coined by the author. The application of biochar to soil enhances its fertility and enables long-term carbon sequestration. And also offering an innovative opportunity to enhance the living conditions of rural families. Additionally, these effects counteract deforestation, protect biodiversity, increase crop production, improve agricultural waste management, and remove carbon from the atmosphere-functions that are crucial to a carbon-negative strategy to fight global warming.

The Soil Underfoot: Infinite Possibilities for a Finite Resource

G. Jock Churchman, Edward R. Landa (Eds), 2014, CRC Press, 472 p., $99.95, ISBN: 978-1-46-657156-3

The largest part of the world’s food comes from its soils, either directly from plants, or via animals fed on pastures and crops. Thus, it is necessary to maintain, and if possible, improve the quality-and hence good health-of soils, while enabling them to support the growing world population. The Soil Underfoot: Infinite Possibilities for a Finite Resource arms readers with historical wisdom from various populations around the globe, along with current ideas and approaches for the wise management of soils. It covers the value of soils and their myriad uses viewed within human and societal contexts in the past, present, and supposed futures. In addition to addressing the technical means of maintaining soils, this book presents a culturally and geographically diverse collection of historical attitudes to soils, including philosophical and ethical frameworks, which have either sustained them or led to their degradation.