• Matteo De Vos

FFS 037 - The Dirty History of Soil

When we stop treating dirt like dirt, when we accept it’s neither ‘dirt cheap’ nor ‘dirt poor’, we will come to realise it is the most precious resource we have. Treat dirt, or soil, the way you want to be treated.


In this episode, David R. Montgomery joins us to talk about how soil has shaped the course of civilisations. From the Classical Greeks and the Romans to the Maya civilisation – the story of soil and its mistreatment has been central to explaining why civilisations collapse.


The plow – the tool that defines farming - is the number one culprit. Some argue it has been more destructive than the sword.


David is a Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, he’s a MacArthur Fellow, and author of King of Fish: The Thousand-year Run of Salmon

; The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood; Dirt: The Erosions of Civilizations; The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health(which he co-authored with Anne Biklé); and Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life.


We cover:

  • A crash course on soil, soil formation, erosion and degradation

  • The myth that ancient civilisations lived and farmed in harmony with nature

  • The central role of soil in the fall of ancient Greece and Rome

  • The plow: more destructive than the sword?

  • Soil erosion and colonialism, slavery and empire

  • Soil and climate change

  • Soilutions: the promise of conservation agriculture


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