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Throughout history, civilizations have withered and even disappeared after destroying their once-fertile soils. We now risk repeating this age-old trauma on a global scale due to ongoing soil-degradation, climate change, and rapidly rising populations.

But UW Professor David R. Montgomery offers reasons for hope in this lecture, based on his recent book, Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, published in May by W. W. Norton. This Orcas Currents event was on Sunday, September 24, 2017, in Orcas Center.

Professor Montgomery led his audience on a fascinating journey through history and around the world, demonstrating how innovative farmers are ditching the plow, mulching cover crops, and adopting complex crop rotation schemes to restore their soils. Merging ancient wisdom with modern science, they have developed simple, cost-effective ways to pull carbon from the atmosphere and feed the world, meanwhile stashing an impressive amount of it underground.

“In the past couple of years, an awful lot of smart people have started talking very seriously about the state of the planet’s soil,” says New Yorker staff writer Bill McKibben on the book’s dust jacket. “If you want to understand what’s at stake, and learn about the exciting possibilities, this book is a fine starting point.”

David R. Montgomery is Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, where he leads the Geomorphological Research Group. A distinguished MacArthur Fellow, he is the author of King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization , and The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood — which all won Washington State Book Awards. With his wife Anne Biklé, he coauthored The Hidden Half of Nature: Microbial Roots of Life and Health, on which they spoke in a May 2016 Orcas Currents lecture.

This event was cosponsored by Janet Alderton, Orcas Island Public Library, and Orcas Food Co-op. Admission to the event was free, but donations are gratefully accepted at the door. Afterwards, Montgomery signed copies of his book in the Orcas Center lobby.