David Montgomery

We step in it. We plant flowers in it. Worms live in it. Some children even eat it. But how often to we really think about dirt? Yet that’s the humble subject of UW geomorphology professor David Montgomery’s Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations (U. of California Press, $16.95), released in a paperback edition last fall just before he was announced as a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant award winner. (And, yes, $500,000 buys a lot of dirt.) With reference to the Dust Bowl and other agricultural areas ruined by overproduction and poor resource management, Montgomery argues that we need to reinvest in soil. First published in 2007, Dirt nicely dovetails with new concerns about rising food prices and agribusinesses that grow monoculture crops (like soybeans and corn) over millions of acres that can only be farmed with massive amounts of chemicals. And as we all know from Michael Pollan and other food evangelists, that’s not sustainable. Perhaps as the Obama administration looks for environmentally friendly stimulus projects, one area for possible spending lies beneath our fee. You could certainly say that Montgomery’s subject is shovel-ready. BRIAN MILLER

Mon., March 2, 7:30 p.m., 2009

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