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The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet
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The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  815 ratings  ·  130 reviews
Thousands of years of poor farming and ranching practices—and, especially, modern industrial agriculture—have led to the loss of up to 80 percent of carbon from the world's soils. That carbon is now floating in the atmosphere, and even if we stopped using fossil fuels today, it would continue warming the planet. In The Soil Will Save Us, journalist and bestselling author K ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Rodale Books
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Lori Yes, it is wonderful, but I would have liked a more balanced view.

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Kristin Ohlson
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I have to give it five stars-- it's my book!
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If only 11% of the world’s crop land, land that is typically not in use, improved its community of microorganisms... the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil would offset all our current emissions of carbon dioxide.
- summery from a report to NASA

You have my complete attention because that is the most hopeful sentence I have read this year.

I loved this book! It was entertaining, interesting, global, and above all excitingly hopeful.

I was amazed to find myself starting a conversation on
Catch-up Review 1 of 4:

I finished reading this many weeks ago, but I've been slacking on reviewing (and reading, and life) lately, so I'm not sure quite how up to my usual standards this review will be.

What's that? Yes, I DO have standards, thank you very much. (RUDE.)

ANYWAY (:P), I decided to listen to this after reading Naomi Klein's book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate and being thoroughly depressed about the state of the world (by which I mean all of the aspects of it)
Lauren Henderson
The Soil Will Save Us is a very good introduction to the issues of soil carbon depletion. Being a new wannabe farmer, I have been doing my best to become educated about current issues and form my opinions about GMO crops, the local movement, "organic" farming, and now soil health. This book brings to light many issues that farmers face with crop health and how improving soil health may be the answer.

Also, Ohlson tells of many of the front runners in the polictical aspects of soil carbon and how
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environment
This is the second consecutive book I read about land health. The first was Courtney White's "Revolution on the Range" so I was familiar with the Quivira Coalition before picking this up. This book reinforced many of the same ideas, though this one spends time discussing continuous no-till as well. The book makes a lot of interesting points but I would have been more skeptical of it had I not read "Revolution" first, as that book gives more detailed arguments about soil health. I think the most ...more
Keith Akers
Sep 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book is long on promises, subtle digs, profound questions, and vague generalizations, and very short on specifics. The author seems to understand a few things about the soil, and can write, but what exactly does she know? At the end of the book we have assurances and bold declarations but not much that is concrete.

There are several red flags at the outset. There is a bibliography for each chapter, but no footnotes. There is no index. It is as if the author wants to make it as difficult as p
The Good:
--I always have an ongoing science/environment read, one that is light and flows like a fiction; this book worked just fine.
--Always refreshing to move beyond chemical reductionism and sterile-obsessed modernity and consider the biology/ecology of life… in this case, soil. Yes, dirt. It turns out there is a delicate ecosystem where plants sequester carbon to feed micro-organisms, which in return help plants absorb certain nutrients and flourish.
--One is reminded of the complex ecologie
Jim Kahn
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
The author presents an introductory lesson on soil health and the benefits of agriculture that employs methods to retain and restore carbon to the soil. She does this mostly through case studies of farmers pioneering these methods.

The case studies were very interesting and informative, and I can see this book being a great introduction into soil management for new farmers or gardeners. Particularly enlightening is her presentation of the unbelievable complexity of the soil ecosystem - truly we
Lisa Hanson
Jun 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm going to give this book five stars because it was a terrific eye opener. I am passionate about microbiology and have been particularly focused on the human microbiome. This book opened up the microscopic community of the soil and the earth and atmosphere as a whole. Content was eye-opening and a true delight. Narrative was playful, grounded, and brought me into the word of agriculture, agri-science, and agri-business, and painted a thoughtful picture of the intersections of all of these. Nar ...more
Jul 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
At last, a book offering a glimmer of hope to pierce the all-pervading environmental gloom!

Author Ohlson digs deep into topics like soil science, mob-herding, no-till farming and cover crop husbandry to outline how we might yet undo the damage we’ve done to our ecosystem.

Better care of the land means healthier crops and animals, fewer flash floods, greater drought resistance, fewer chemical inputs, fewer issues with run-off and – best of all – massive amounts of carbon sequestration.

Modern agri
Emilie Ring
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a thoughtful exploration of recent trends in farming and ranching. Topics range from Alan Savory's mob herding to no-till farming with animals and cover crops to the benefits of outright carbon farming as a means for farmers to add income. The farmers she interviewed often ended up selling land or giving up leases, as they no longer needed as much land to support themselves once they switched to less invasive practices. The scientists she interviewed described an arc of amazement as they ...more
George Haun
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it
From reading John Michael Greer, I've been sold for a while on the need for sustainable agriculture. So when I heard about this book, I was anxious to read and learn how soil science might be progressing to answer this need. Unfortunately, what I found here was a story about people working on a theory for saving the world based mostly on anecdote and faith than scientifically verifiable data. I am all for exploring the methods advocated. However, I remain very skeptical that they can make a big ...more
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
What if there were simple but underutilized agricultural practices that simultaneously helped farmers and were environmentally beneficial? This book highlights several of these practices as well as the sociopolitical challenges to implementation thereof.

I found the book to have an appealing albeit skewed narrative and crucially important subject matter. However, some scientific implications were controversial at best. A relatively innocuous one is the Sahara was formed due to poor early human la
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A quick look into how reclaiming our land (and getting out of the way) can help create better production of food, preserve more water, and reduce carbon emissions.

Ohlson sets out take on you a journey of discovery regarding the who is who in land management and carbon sequestration with scientists in South Africa, farmers in Australia, ranchers in the States, horticulturists in major downtown areas with high traffic, and interested parties all over. This is not an educational read/ a hard read
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone concerned about the future of our planet
Recommended to Paula by: Amazon
A fascinating look at the relationship between healing our depleted soils and curing global warming. There is hope in the future as farmers team together to discover the soil science that will heal the damage done to America's farmland from tilling, herbicides and harsh chemical fertilizers. The latest science in organic farming has shown that encouraging the natural growth of soil bacteria and fungi through composting, mulching and the use of cover crops will lead to greater and higher quality ...more
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2015
This was totally fascinating. I thought I knew a fair bit about soil health and best farming practices, but my knowledge only scraped the barest surface! (...that was a semi-intentional pun.) In a lot of ways, I felt like this book is the answer to many questions raised by books like THE OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA - and the best thing is that, while the author certainly has her own opinions and preferences, it's a pretty balanced look at a wide variety of things that can be done to increase farming effi ...more
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I caught the tail end of a KCRW program with Kristin Ohlson and this book. I heard almost no information, but the title of the book was interesting enough for me to pick it up. It didn't take long before I was hooked.
I freaking LOVE this book. I love the hope that this book gives me, I love the immediate impact I know I can now make in my own back yard. I love that this book has made me thirsty for more information on Allan Savory and soil health in general. I love the we can clean up our mess a
Soil can absorb carbon from the air- who knew? Turns out quite a few agriculturalists, scientists, and environmentalists across the globe knew, and are working on cultivating soil health not only for the good of their crops, but also potentially for the health of our atmosphere. Thank you to Kristin Ohlson for bringing this hopeful news to the lay environmentalists of the world in a fascinating, readable way. I really enjoyed this book!
Sue Hedin
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ohlson took some very complex issues and distilled them into concise, understandable and very readable paragraphs. I learned so much! This is also the first book on the environment that offers hopeful solutions to many of our earthly problems while explaining the history of how we ended up in such a depleted state. Kudo's to Ohlson for her extensive research and interviews, and also keeping the book short and sweet. I will be recommending this one to everyone.
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The title indicates that this book will have a happy ending. In spite of that, the book is well researched and substantiated. Many of the books she provides "Cliff Notes" for are some that I have learned from and have wished others would read.

This easy-read book highlights and condenses the points other insightful authors expounded upon. She provides poignant "visuals" of the essential interaction between cover crop roots and the health of the soil.

Kudos to Ohlson!
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Seriously fascinating book (if you're interested in this kind of thing) about how to increase the health of grazing land & farmed land. There were a couple of spots that got too detailed on bacterial types & interactions that I skipped, but other than that I couldn't put it down. The idea that by treating the soil better plants will be able to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is so exciting. ...more
Christina Dudley
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved this optimistic, informative book about the power of healthy soil to sequester carbon, promote pest resistance, fight drought, and increase nutrition and yields. The very good news: with shepherding, even depleted soils can be improved, and pretty quickly--within years, not geologic ages, as I was taught in college. Wish every farmer, gardener and homeowner could read this!
Cassandra Carico
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It could be considered a modern installment to the book by Peter Tompkins that was published in the 70s.The author brings current soil research and practices to the table. New scientific evidence and agricultural experiments are discussed. There are definitely biases present, but I believe, given the evidence, it is difficult not to share her views.
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ohlson opens her book in her own backyard and in many ways leaves her readers thinking critically about our own. The easy writing moves you along through a wide array of memorable characters that introduce some pretty complex ideas in relatively relatable ways. An interesting and enjoyable read, even for an every day, beginner gardener like me, with soil on my mind.
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature-science
Great Book! The way the book is written, it is easy to follow and understand. The book really opens your eyes to the world beneath our feet and the impact it has on both the climate and our food. Excellent read if your a soil scientists, agronomist, or just looking to learn the benefits of soil that we often neglect.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good read on how good soil can offset C02 and help fight climate change. A positive outlook on what is already happening in the farming and soil movement
Our library sponsored a discussion with the author via a live-link, which is a bonus. I wish more people had come than the 9 people that showed up. Our farmers, due to the weather, have not begun plowing, but perhaps different advertising might have helped. Or perhaps they are not aware of the growing interest in the practices that KO is describing (there are some in ND that are). The practices do work, are not expensive, and non-government aid is available. The focus is on American agriculture, ...more
Doug Trani
A better title might have been, "The Soil 'Could' Save Us: How Big Money is Thwarting the Efforts of Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies to Heal the Soil and Save the Planet". The basic premise is that poor land management practices have depleted nutrients required by essential microorganisms in the soil and released massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Superior land management practices have been developed which, if adopted on a massive scale, could possibly heal the soil and re- ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's an awful title (humans don't deserve saving), but a really interesting book for lay people who want to learn more about the role of soil - especially the role it plays in counteracting carbon emissions. Although she doesn't go into enough scientific detail on this (she's also not a scientist, but a writer who interviews scientists), she offers a number of expert opinions from agronomists to scientists who understand the benefits of soil sequestration. I just wish she had at least one part o ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I was skeptical about a book on soil, but I'm interested in various solutions to climate change, so I gave this book a chance. I really enjoyed the first few chapters when the author was talking about how different farming techniques can improve soil and draw in carbon for storage. However, the author then went after everything but organic agriculture. She spoke with obvious disdain for GMOs and agribusiness. She used terms such as "Big Pharma" and "Big Ag" with clear disgust. She admits numerou ...more
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It’s time to turn your attention to something dark and twisty, to a story (or two or three) so engaging, the pages just fly by. In short, it’s...
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“Sometimes they called themselves carbon farmers, knowing that it was carbon that was making their soils richer, moister, and darker.” 1 likes
“Harl is a tenacious advocate for antitrust action against agribusiness, but he’s not optimistic that without pressure from consumers, the government will go after these huge monopolies that control our food. “There’s a huge amount of money and a lot of pressure applied whenever someone in Washington tries to do something about this,” he told me. “That pressure is applied in the form of messages like ‘Look, if you let this go on, we’re going to diminish our support for your campaign.’ When things get bad enough that consumers rise up, that’s when we’ll get another era of antitrust.” How much money is involved?” 0 likes
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