GRASS, SOIL, HOPE by Courtney White


A Journey Through Carbon Country
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White (Revolution on the Range: The Rise of a New Ranch in the American West, 2008 etc.) shows how taking measures to increase the carbon content of the soil can help mitigate global warming.

The author explains that after years of working on environmentalist issues as a Sierra Club activist, he became dispirited by the “constant brawling between environmental activists and loggers, ranchers and other rural residents.” In 1997, he and a partner decided to put their ideas into practice and started a nonprofit ranch based on the migratory behavior of bison feeding in a natural habitat. The venture failed after the 2008 financial collapse, but the author was convinced that they were on the right track. He believed that with proper soil management, ambient carbon dioxide could be significantly reduced, which would also increase the quality of the food we eat. “Around 30 to 40 percent of the carbon created by photosynthesis can be exuded directly into soil via plant roots to nurture the microbes that help plants grow and build healthy soil,” writes the author. White traveled to speak with soil scientists and visited ranches in the American Southwest and Australia to witness how modern, high-tech ranches were using satellite monitoring and on-the-ground scrutiny to check the condition of the land. He discovered massive ranches that were divided into continually monitored small plots, where farmers tested the soil and ground cover conditions and moisture in order to determine where and when to rotate cattle, which were contained by solar-powered, mobile fencing. White also spoke with scientists at the University of California whose experimental data buttressed his hypotheses about carbon soil capture. The author reports efforts to restore wetlands that “can sequester carbon at rates up to fifty times those of tropical forests.” White concludes that some sort of incentive-based carbon offset market is required to encourage high-tech investment in soil management.

An inspiring can-do approach to the threat of global warming.

Pub Date: June 10th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-60358-545-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Chelsea Green
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2014


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