Our newest interview, David Montgomery, is a geologist, a professor, a rock musician – and the author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, a startling book that details how human beings have been mining the soil since the dawn of agriculture, turning the Fertile Crescent, for instance, into the desert that is modern Iraq. It takes from 500 to 1000 years for nature to create an inch of topsoil, but with careless agriculture – the kind of agriculture we practice today – that inch of soil can be lost in just 25 or 30 years.
David is also the author of King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon, a fine book on the decline of salmon all around the northern hemisphere, from the fjords of Norway to the rivers of British Columbia. Once again, the cause is human carelessness. We never decided we didn't want salmon. We just decided that we wanted other things more – like logging, power generation, a place to dump pesticides and so forth.
We asked David what connects these two books. He told us that he's a student of the forces that shape the landscape over time – and among the most powerful forces shaping the landscape in recent millennia is us.
Oh yes – you can get his band's album via iTunes. The band is called… Big Dirt.