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Matthew Evans

‘A love letter to Mother Earth and entertaining must-read that goes to the heart of our survival’  - Charles Massy.

What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves.

Soil is the unlikely story of our most maligned resource as swashbuckling hero. A saga of bombs, ice ages and civilisations falling. Of ancient hunger, modern sicknesses and gastronomic delight. It features poison gas, climate collapse and a mind-blowing explanation of how rain is formed.

For too long, we’ve not only neglected the land beneath us, we’ve squandered and debased it, by over-clearing, over-grazing and over-ploughing. But if we want our food to nourish us, and to ensure our planet’s long-term health, we need to understand how soil works - how it’s made, how it’s lost, and how it can be repaired.

In this ode to the thin veneer of Earth that gifts us life, commentator and farmer Matthew Evans shows us that what we do in our backyards, on our farms, and what we put on our dinner tables really matters, and can be a source of hope.

Isn’t it time we stopped treating the ground beneath our feet like dirt?


Read a book on soil, they said. You like gardening, eating, breathing – read a book on soil. Until now, I can honestly say that soil has not been a passion of mine, but now I am all about considering dirt in a brand-new light. I have been changed. Farmer, cook and environmental warrior and worrier Matthew Evans has written the most eloquent and passionate plea for us to consider the very earth we stand on. This is a science book, but it is more than that. This is a history book, but again, it is more than that. It is the story of how dirt makes us and can break us. And how we are all responsible for our share in protecting this resource.

To be fair Evans does give farmers the greater serve. Partly because some farmers did not acknowledge or, more importantly, act on the compelling science that climate change was real, but principally because the European-based farming systems employed over the past 10,000 to 12,000 years have consistently turned arable soils into desert. But if we want soil that looks like chocolate cake, argues Evans, we all need to jump on the dirt train. We need to be planting, toiling and considering where our food comes from and how to get delicious crumbling soil back into our lives. There are a lot of (easy-to-read) chemistry-based facts in this book; there is dismay here as well, but also hope.

To put it simply, we must all start ‘soil conditioning’ to keep the ball rolling. It is an elegant solution to help change the trajectory of our environmental crisis. Read a book on soil, I say. Read a book that can change your life, I say. Read Matthew Evans’s Soil and this weekend, dig a little.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager at Readings.

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