Our interview for this podcast is with Judith Schwartz author of one of our very favorite books Cows Save the Planet (2013). Judith’s latest book is Water In Plain Sight – Hope For A Thirsty World is now on our list of books that make the soil-water-landscape connection easy to understand. Judith’s work in her new book, and her previous book, bring us a huge message of hope as we are faced with climate change, drought, floods, wildfire, food insecurity and poor nutrition.
Judith talks about how we are used to thinking about drought as a lack of rainfall, but we ignore the effects of land and soil degradation on the soil’s ability to hold onto rainfall. When we talk about climate change we focus on greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane, but water has the bigger ability to absorb heat. When we start to investigate the water cycle, we quickly become aware of how inextricably linked this is with the carbon cycle.
Our standard agricultural practices, involving tilling the land, planting single species in huge fields and adding artificial chemical fertilizers, release the carbon from the soil, leaving it to hang out in our atmosphere, adding to the problems of climate change. In destroying the soil’s structure, they destroy the amazing ecosystem that works to support plants, to hold carbon in the soil and to create healthy, nutrient dense food crops.
In the book, Judith visits with people all over the world and tells us how each of them are changing the way they interact with the land to increase the carbon content of the soil. In doing so, they increase the water holding capacity of the soil, they grow plants that are more robust and nourishing, and those plants in turn create a cooler environment that is not only more comfortable to live in, they deter wildfire, attract more rain, creating this virtuous cycle that gives us refreshing hope as we face climate change.