Published on Sep 9, 2013
In Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, Montgomery makes the case that soil erosion should be seen as a threat to our planet as serious as climate change. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain through agriculture, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, faster than they can be naturally replenished. The erosion is slow enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. In this engaging talk, Montgomery traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of societies, from Mesopotamia to European colonialism and the American push westward. He explores how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil. David Montgomery is a professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington and studies geomorphology, the evolution of landscapes. In 2008 he received a MacArthur ‘genius’ award for his “fundamental contributions to our understanding of the geophysical forces that determine landscape evolution and of how our use of soils and rivers has shaped civilizations past and present”. He has received two Washington State Book awards, one for King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon in 2004, and for Dirt:The Erosion of Civilizations in 2008.