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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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4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,123 ratings  ·  164 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 auth ...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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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  1,123 ratings  ·  164 reviews


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Start your review of The Soil Will Save Us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet
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! ...more
Lena
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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
...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
...more
Becky
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)
...more
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
...more
Steven
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
Kevin
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
...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
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
Teresa
Feb 09, 2022 rated it it was amazing
What an important book for our time. Another powerful reminder that if humans would just get out of the way and/or look past our blindsighted need for more, nature has the power to heal. Worth the read...and the reflection on what we can do personally to support farms that support real soil, and in turn, real food.
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
...more
Amber
This is a book we all need right now. A book that talks about one of the big, hard environmental issues of our times, not with doom and gloom, but with a certain amount of guarded optimism. One with an important message – we have the means at hand to not only slow, but stop, and ultimately reverse the carbon load we've been putting into the atmosphere. And it doesn't require massively expensive Rube Goldberg machines to either inject carbon deep underground or shoot it into space or whatever. Th ...more
Paul
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
...more
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
Jessica Burke-Trebell
This book completely changed my perspective. I now love worms and have a broader understanding about soil and how important it is to sustain our planet.
Carolien
Jul 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere in primary school we learn that through the process of photosynthesis, plants use chlorophyll to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, combine it with sunlight and convert it to carbon sugars which the plants use for energy. The oxygen is released back into the atmosphere and the plant consumes some of the carbon while depositing the excess in the soil around its roots in the form of humus. The carbon molecules provide structure to the soil, creating tiny air pockets and allowing ...more
Pedro Assunção
Nov 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Generally the Agriculture industry is seen as a source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In this book we look at one of the elements of Agriculture as an opportunity for carbon capture and storage.
The title caught my attention to learn more about it, though Kristin managed to teach me a lot about the subject, I felt there was more to learn than what the book shared.
So the 3 stars are related with the expectations I had about the book not matching the inside.
However, the soil can a
...more
Molly Cluff
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting read about soil health and carbon sequestration. There were some interesting ideas presented here that I hadn't been aware of before (farming without tilling, rotating cover crops, etc), but I also don't know what to think of Ohlson's huge support of Alan Savory's practices, which have received quite a lot of criticism. Some good discussion points in here, though. ...more
Clark DeWoskin
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
Interesting anecdotes and some science about the potential positive impact of sustainable farming and land management. If you’re reading about climate change / sustainability, definitely worth adding to your list.
Ginebra Lavao Lizcano
Apr 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
This week I want to become a soil biologist.
Pam
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
...more
Veronica
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
...more
Paula
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Cindy
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
Wes
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
...more
Paul
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I just got through the ugly part - chapter six, where we find out why precisely we don't hear anything about these innovations in farming and ranching. phew. now I'm hoping for more joyful inspiration in the last two chapters.
I have enjoyed the writing especially. Clear, readable, and direct. it brings to mind John McPhee ' s emphasis on people - characters - and on explaining and educating. (Though i am thankful that Kristin isn't as enamored of sharing scads of lingo and funny vocabulary word
...more
Elizabeth
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. ...more
Emmahoogs
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it
The ideas in this book were great and I definitely agree with this concept as a whole.
In this respect the book was great, however I found the writing style a little frustrating. The author appears to have done a lot of research into this, yet her style of writing gives an off-handed sense that takes away from the legitimacy of the work.
As a whole the work is good though and definitely worth reading.
Mwalkes
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!
...more
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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
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