SEATTLE, April 17 (UPI) -- Civilizations have fallen when they exhausted their supply of soil and a U.S. scientist said the same thing appears to be happening again.
But University of Washington geomorphologist David Montgomery argued that this time the results could be far more disastrous for humans because there are very few places left with fertile soil to feed large populations and farming practices still trigger large losses of rich dirt.
"We're doing the same things today that past societies have done and at the same rate," said Montgomery, a professor of earth and space sciences. In essence, he said, we are slowly removing our planet's life-giving skin. "It only takes one good rainstorm when the soil is bare to lose a century's worth of dirt."
Montgomery presents his research in his new book "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations," examining how soil is slowly created over time, the vital role it has played in the rise and fall of civilizations from Mesopotamia to Rome, and how it shaped where and how we live today.
The 295-page book is published by the University of California Press.