Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am


Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
by David Montgomery (read by Tim Lundeen)
University Press Audiobooks (audiobook)

Books abound about the ways in which humans have adversely affected earth's climate, water, air and more. But few have the focus of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. Written by geomorphologist David Montgomery, who studies how topography evolves and landscapes change, it examines how ancient and modern cultures have engaged in 'soil abuse', a contributing factor, Montgomery argues, in the demise of societies from the earliest agricultural civilisations to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Soil degradation has also been behind European colonialism, Montgomery writes, pointing out that globalised agriculture today is a legacy of plantations established around the world to feed European cities. Montgomery's message is that we are running out of soil because few places can produce it fast enough to sustain industrial agriculture. Dirt, narrated in a stiff, textbookish way by Tim Lundeen, is a wake-up call that advocates, among other things, bringing back organic farming methods that build soil fertility.