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The largest part of the world’s food comes from its soils, either directly from plants, or via animals fed on pastures and crops. Thus, it is necessary to maintain, and if possible, improve the quality―and hence good health―of soils, while enabling them to support the growing world population. The Soil Underfoot: Infinite Possibilities for a Finite Resource arms readers with historical wisdom from various populations around the globe, along with current ideas and approaches for the wise management of soils. It covers the value of soils and their myriad uses viewed within human and societal contexts in the past, present, and supposed futures.
In addition to addressing the technical means of maintaining soils, this book presents a culturally and geographically diverse collection of historical attitudes to soils, including philosophical and ethical frameworks, which have either sustained them or led to their degradation. Section I describes major challenges associated with climate change, feeding the increasing world population, chemical pollution and soil degradation, and technology. Section II discusses various ways in which soils are, or have been, valued―including in film and contemporary art as well as in religious and spiritual philosophies, such as Abrahamic religions, Maori traditions, and in Confucianism.
Section III provides stories about soil in ancient and historic cultures including the Roman Empire, Greece, India, Japan, Korea, South America, New Zealand, the United States, and France. Section IV describes soil modification technologies, such as polymer membrane barriers, and soil uses outside commercial agriculture including the importance of soils for recreation and sports grounds. The final section addresses future strategies for more effective sustainable use of soils, emphasizing the biological nature of soils and enhancing the use of "green water" retained from rainfall.
About the Author:
G. Jock Churchman holds a BSc(Hons) and a PhD in chemistry from Otago University in his native New Zealand, and a BA(Hons) in philosophy from Flinders University of South Australia. He was a post-doctoral fellow in the Soils Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was then employed in the New Zealand Soil Bureau, DSIR for 16 years and in CSIRO Division of Soils (later Land and Water) for 14 years. He also held visiting fellowships at Reading University (1 year) and the University of Western Australia (6 months). Currently he is adjunct senior lecturer in soils at the University of Adelaide and part-time associate professor in the Centre for Environment Risk Assessment and Remediation at the University of South Australia. His research has been centered on clays. He is currently (2010–2014) chair of the IUSS Commission on the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Soil Science.
Edward R. Landa holds an MS and PhD in soil science from the University of Minnesota, and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, College Park. His work at the U.S. Geological Survey from 1978 to 2013 focused on the fate and transport of radionuclides and metals in soils and aquatic systems. Throughout his career, Ed has had an active interest in the history of science and technology, and has published on the radium extraction industry, description of color in science and art, and depictions of soils in films. He co-edited Soil and Culture (Springer, 2010) with Christian Feller, and has served as the chair (2006–2010) and vice chair (2010–2014) of the Commission on the History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Soil Science of the International Union of Soil Sciences.
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