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Deconstructing Dinner: The erosion of civilizations (w/David Montgomery and Ronald Wright)

Deconstructing Dinner has recently been reflecting on the model of agriculture itself as the primary source through which most people on earth access their food. From our exploration of ethnobiology to recent topics on permaculture, it's clear that there are other models available, which, for some people are a substitute for agriculture, and for others, complementary practices. But what within that dependence on agriculture are we all dependent upon? Multinational corporations? The chain grocery store? Perhaps the microwave!?

Well behind those dependencies, which are precarious at best, is a more deeply rooted dependence... soil - a dependence of which its once-deep roots have demonstrated over time to have become progressively shallower as 'modern' agricultural practices deplete soil depth and nutrients.

On this broadcast, Deconstructing Dinner features voices of researchers who have explored the evolution of agriculture and soil alongside civilization.


David Montgomery, professor, Earth & Space Sciences, University of Washington (Seattle, WA) -

David is the author of the 2008 book "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations" (UC Press). The book explores the idea that we are and have long been using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. At the University of Washingotn, David studies theevolution of topography and the influence of geomorphological processes on ecological systems and human societies. He received his B.S. in geology at Stanford University (1984) and his Ph.D. in geomorphology from UC Berkeley (1991). David was hosted at Oregon State University in July 2009 by PAGES and was later interviewed by Tom Allen of KBCS.

Ronald Wright, author, A Short History of Progress, (Salt Spring Island, BC) -

Ronald Wright is a novelist, historian, and essayist, and has won prizes in all three genres, and is published in ten languages. Ronald was the 2004 Massey Lecturer - a prestigious annual public event in Canada, for which he presented A Short History of Progress. One of his more recent works is "What is America: A Short History of the New World Order". He was born in England, educated at Cambridge, and now lives in British Columbia, Canada.

Download the audio for this episode here.

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