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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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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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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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Profile Image for Roy Pfaltzgraff
  • Roy Pfaltzgraff
  • 20-11-19

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.

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  • Emeline
  • 05-10-18

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.

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  • Jared Brandon
  • 10-05-22

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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  • BossBaker
  • 26-04-22

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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  • tom allen
  • 08-04-22

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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  • Kyle
  • 31-03-22

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
  • 06-01-22

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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  • Ben
  • 06-12-21

spectacular

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

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  • Archi-rancher
  • 15-08-21

Essential info, needed condensing

"Dirt" is essential information for anyone interested in a sustainable civilization on (literally) the Earth. Without understanding the earth beneath our feet we risk our own extinction. However, the author does have a style wherein he says something, then says it again, and then summarizes again. Kept wanting to edit and tighten the text; on the other hand, makes for good background while engaged in physical work with only occasional use of the jump back button.

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  • Christopher D
  • 14-05-21

A must read history of agriculture

This book should be in every history class around the world. This book is so much more than just a book about dirt. It is a book about how poorly regulated civilizations destroy themselves.