“Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything,” [Gerald O’Hara] shouted, his thick, short arms making wide gestures of indignation, “for ‘tis the only thing in the world that lasts and you don’t be forgetting it! ‘Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for—worth dying for.” (Mitchell, Gone with the Wind)
In a series of vignettes, structurally reminiscent of Jared Diamond’s Collapse, David R. Montgomery explores the history of mankind and its destructive relationship with the most foundational of natural resources:
Montgomery demonstrates that a society’s land, not in its area but in its fertility, is one of its most critical resources: loss of productivity in the land inevitably leads to the “erosion of civilizations.” With more than ten billion people expected to inhabit the Earth by 2100, he calls for drastic agricultural reform with and eye down towards the soil and not merely up toward the sky and the changing climate.
With a chilling talent for storytelling and a well rounded understanding of all sides of the issue—geologic, ecologic, economic, societal, etc.—Montgomery brings to the surface a looming disaster that is already under foot and delivers a stern warning: if we, as a global civilization, fail to heed the warning signs, we too will be buried in the consequences of our own making.