“The Soil Will Save Us” by Kristin Ohlson


Muddy pages: an occasional book review

The Soil Will Save Us

Author: Kristin Ohlson, published by Rodale Press, 2014, 241 pp.

The title speaks volumes for this entertaining, passionate, very well-researched book by a sometime Cleveland gardener. Kristin Ohlson delves into a misunderstood (and unglamorous) substance, emerging with engrossing stories about some fascinating people, their advocacy for the life underground and the real and potential miracles performed in partnership with “the incredible life in the soil.”

The main thesis of the book covers the potential for reversing human damage to earth and atmosphere using our fresh understanding of how the life in the soil can sequester carbon. Ohlson explains the history of destructive agriculture (it goes back much further than 50 years) and makes the optimistic case for new methods of “carbon farming.” Her lively engaging style doesn’t oversimplify the science, but makes it perfectly accessible to the interested reader. Encounters with scientists, environmentalists, and conventional farmers turned radical agrarians form much of the narrative. It’s laced with stirring accounts of once-barren land burgeoning with productivity and dead rivers brought back to life through the blending of innovative science, ancient techniques, and new appreciation for nature’s systems. From the perspective of a home-gardener and consumer, this is an inspiring, energizing read rather than a gardening primer. However, in her introduction, which begins “I’m working in my Cleveland backyard…” Ohlson does describe her adoption of soil-friendly techniques like using fallen leaves to rejuvenate lawn and flower beds. Caring for the earth can happen in small spaces as well as large ones. This book gave me fresh encouragement to be part of this optimistic enterprise.

Ann McCulloh uses a trowel for a bookmark

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