David R. 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, released 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. He's joined by Curtis Johnson and others in a panel discussion addressing “The Environmental Crisis and the Future of Humanity.” BRIAN MILLER

Sat., April 24, 7 p.m., 2010

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