The Soil Will Save UsHow Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet

Thousands of years of poor farming and ranching practices—and, especially, modern industrial agriculture—have led to the loss of up to 80 percent of carbon from the world’s soils. That carbon is now floating in the atmosphere, and even if we stopped using fossil fuels today, it would continue warming the planet. In The Soil Will Save Us, journalist and bestselling author Kristin Ohlson makes an elegantly argued, passionate case for "our great green hope"—a way in which we can not only heal the land but also turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon—and potentially reverse global warming.

The granddaughter of farmers and the daughter of avid gardeners, Ohlson has long had an appreciation for the soil. A chance conversation with a chef led her the crossroads of science, farming, food, and environmentalism. She discovered that there is a vast kingdom of creatures under our feet—billions of microorganisms in a tablespoon of soil—that take the carbon dioxide that plants pull from the atmosphere and turn it into life-giving soil carbon. Ohlson introduces visionary scientists, farmers, foodies, ranchers, and landscapers, whose work shows that earth can be healed and offers the hope that seemingly intractable problems like climate change, air and water pollution, food quality, and even obesity have the same low-tech solution.

Ohlson’s fascinating journey to understand the hidden dynamics of the natural world—brought to life through vivid storytelling and crisp, engaging analysis will inspire everyone to rethink the potential of the ground beneath their feet, as well as the landscapes around them, and to figure out how they can make a difference.

Rodale Books, (256p) ISBN-10: 1609615549; ISBN-13: 9781609615543

Reviews and Praise

The Soil Will Save Us is part soil science primer, part history lesson on environmental degradation and the efforts to fight it, and part manifesto on restoring our relationship with the land.” Read review

–Adrien Schless-Meier, Civil Eats

"The Soil Will Save Us is an important book and a pleasure to read. Ohlson, who has traveled the world to meet with innovative farmers, soil scientists, and environmental activists, writes her adventures while foregrounding her own vibrant personality.” Read review

–Stephanie Bernhard for the Los Angeles Review of Books

“Billions of tons of carbon are floating in the atmosphere and you might be surprised to discover where it came from.” Listen to the interview

–Mike McIntyre for The Sound of Ideas, Cleveland Public Radio (WCPN)

“A Q&A with the New York Times bestselling author about her new book that focuses on the critical connection between the health of our soil and the health of our planet.” Read interview

–Anjula Razdan, Experience Life

“Fascinating new book on carbon farming, The Soil Will Save Us, by Kristin Ohlson, out today.” Read tweet

Michael Pollan, author of Cooked

“Kristin Ohlson's examination of how farming and forestry techniques might mitigate, if not resolve, global warming. We generally think of climate change as a story of sky — of emitted gases, of atmospheric carbon levels, of storms. Author Kristin Ohlson would like to direct our gaze earthward, to take a long, hard look at the dirt beneath our feet. We may have overlooked a solution there.” Read review

–Dean Kuipers, Los Angeles Times

"The author has a clear storytelling style, which comes in handy when drawing this head-turning portrait of lowly dirt." Read review

Kirkus Reviews

“At last, soil has been included in the conversation about food. And you don’t need a degree in soil sciences to see how the web of life below the surface that infuses soil—is soil—is strongly affected by the various webs of life that occur aboveground, for better and worse. . . . This book is eminently readable, well-researched, and important.”

Deborah Madison, author of The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

“I was barely a dozen pages into The Soil Will Save Us when I felt the ground shifting under my feet—the literal ground, as in the composition of the rich humus of old-growth forests compared to the exhausted, scorched, and ruined ancient fields of global farming—and the psychic ground…. This is a remarkable book, which tells—with a light touch and a breezy, readable manner—a story of modern science of the most crucial importance.”

Melissa Fay Greene, author of Praying for Sheetrock and There Is No Me Without You

“On the long list of things we have to do to fight climate change, learning to pay attention to soil again is near the top. It’s not just dirt, it’s not just something that holds plants upright—as this book points out, it’s pretty damned vital.”

Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

“This will surely be called an important book. Ohlson conveys her information in the lively manner of writers such as Michael Pollan and Rowan Jacobsen, making complicated ideas easily accessible to the reader, so that we see the ground at our feet not as dead dirt but rather as, in her words, a “coral reef” teeming with life, a ‘massive biological machine’ on which the health of our species depends. We’re lucky to have this account.”

Michael Ruhlman, author of The Soul of a Chef

"The Soil Will Save Us is a convincing argument that those of us who care about the environment have to start from the ground up—that is, if we are going to give a better world to our grandchildren, we're going to have to develop a deep interest in dirt. Fortunately, all you need to become fascinated by dirt is a book like this, which reveals just how intricate and important it is."

Nathanael Johnson, author of All Natural