The ground beneath us From the oldest cities to the last wilderness, what dirt tells us about who we are

Paul Bogard, 1966-

Book - 2017

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Subjects
Published
New York : Little, Brown and Company 2017.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
ix, 307 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : color illustrations ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 265-297) and index.
ISBN
9780316342261
0316342262
Main Author
Paul Bogard, 1966- (author)
  • Paved and hallowed. Manhattan ; Mexico City ; London ; Northern Virginia ; Gettysburg
  • Farmed and wild. Bishopstone ; Soil ; Ames ; Grass ; The sandhills
  • Hell and sacred. Appalachia ; Treblinka ; Alaska ; The Sierra Nevada ; Home.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Is anything so underappreciated as the dirt underfoot? Bogard (The End of Night, 2013) rectifies this situation in this history of the ground below, looking to paved, farmed, and wild spaces to unpack a whopper of a cautionary tale. Gathering perspectives of historians and scientists, and traveling from New York to Treblinka, he reveals that a teaspoon of soil holds more microorganisms than there are people on Earth. The ground gives rise to every plant, animal, and human. Understanding dirt is important; protecting it is even more so. The Dust Bowl was caused by the destruction of tallgrass prairies, which left the precious soil loose and exposed. Paving over the land basically kills it, and given the pace of population growth, this destruction is not expected to slow. Under the weight of 21 million inhabitants, Mexico City has sunk 30 feet over the last 50 years. Beyond ecological concerns, Bogard asserts that pavement disconnects us from nature, making the land seem homogeneous and undermining our well-being. The fragility of the life-giving earth we call dirt is the fragility of us all. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Hoping to encourage greater appreciation for soil, Bogard (The End of Night) considers both built landscapes and more natural ones in this diverse and engaging discussion on dirt. Examining urban areas such as New York City, he looks at "what's gone missing, what remains, what may come to be." The soil is "a trove of biodiversity" that we have yet to fully explore, and Bogard chats with an array of experts to learn how to dig deeper. He begins with a section on "paved places," describing how Manhattan's street grid was planned and layered over drained swamps, cleared woods, and leveled hills. In London, Bogard looks at the ambitious Crossrail project, which involves 10,000 workers, 40 construction sites, and 26 miles of tunnels that will sit alongside a complex maze of existing pipes, tubes, and utility lines dug deep underground. Discussing soils and farms, Bogard takes readers to Iowa, where 82% of the state is cropland (primarily corn and soybean). He bemoans the prevalence of these crops, arguing against an industrial agricultural system that seeks to maximize yield and leaves little space for wildlife. Highlighting current and future predicaments, Bogard ponders what humans have sacrificed in the name of progress. (Apr.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Citing the significant percentage of paved and unnatural ground surfaces in the United States today, an exploration of the ground's significant relationship to the world's food, water and energy shares the stories of subsurface technologies and traditions while illuminating how the ground reveals humanity-defining facts. By an award-winning author. 30,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

An exploration of the ground's significant relationship to the world's food, water, and energy shares the stories of subsurface technologies and traditions while illuminating how the ground reveals humanity-defining facts.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

When a teaspoon of soil contains millions of species, and when we pave over the earth on a daily basis, what does that mean for our future? What is the risk to our food supply, the planet's wildlife, the soil on which every life-form depends? How much undeveloped, untrodden ground do we even have left? Paul Bogard set out to answer these questions in The Ground Beneath Us, and what he discovered is astounding. From New York (where more than 118,000,000 tons of human development rest on top of Manhattan Island) to Mexico City (which sinks inches each year into the Aztec ruins beneath it), Bogard shows us the weight of our cities' footprints. And as we see hallowed ground coughing up bullets at a Civil War battlefield; long-hidden remains emerging from below the sites of concentration camps; the dangerous, alluring power of fracking; the fragility of the giant redwoods, our planet's oldest living things; the surprises hidden under a Major League ballpark's grass; and the sublime beauty of our few remaining wildest places, one truth becomes blazingly clear: The ground is the easiest resource to forget, and the last we should. Bogard's The Ground Beneath Us is deeply transporting reading that introduces farmers, geologists, ecologists, cartographers, and others in a quest to understand the importance of something too many of us take for granted: dirt. From growth and life to death and loss, and from the subsurface technologies that run our cities to the dwindling number of idyllic Edens that remain, this is the fascinating story of the ground beneath our feet.