Our most compelling resource just might be the ground beneath our feet.
When a teaspoon of soil contains millions of species, and when we pave over the earth on a daily basis, what does that mean for our future? What is the risk to our food supply, the planet's wildlife, the soil on which every life-form depends? How much undeveloped, untrodden ground do we even have left?
Paul Bogard set out to answer these questions in The Ground Beneath Us, and what he discovered is astounding.
From New York (where more than 118,000,000 tons of human development rest on top of Manhattan Island) to Mexico City (which sinks inches each year into the Aztec ruins beneath it), Bogard shows us the weight of our cities' footprints. And as we see hallowed ground coughing up bullets at a Civil War battlefield; long-hidden remains emerging from below the sites of concentration camps; the dangerous, alluring power of fracking; the fragility of the giant redwoods, our planet's oldest living things; the surprises hidden under a Major League ballpark's grass; and the sublime beauty of our few remaining wildest places, one truth becomes blazingly clear: The ground is the easiest resource to forget, and the last we should.
Bogard's The Ground Beneath Us is deeply transporting reading that introduces farmers, geologists, ecologists, cartographers, and others in a quest to understand the importance of something too many of us take for granted: dirt. From growth and life to death and loss, and from the subsurface technologies that run our cities to the dwindling number of idyllic Edens that remain, this is the fascinating story of the ground beneath our feet.
"A beautiful call for deeper physical, intellectual, and emotional connections between people and Earth. Paul Bogard eloquently describes the roots of culture and ecology, and the importance of the many forms of 'ground' and soil for our collective future."―David George Haskell, author of The Songs of Trees and the Pulitzer finalist, The Forest Unseen; Professor of Biology, University of the South
"An intriguing examination of the ground, which 'holds the wild world in place'.... environmental journalist Bogard contributes an expert if unsettling account of the 'living ground.' In the author's expansive view, the ground is whatever lies under our feet, and he explores the many ways humans exploit it until, ultimately, they pave it.... insightful, wide-ranging."―Kirkus
"Bogard considers both built landscapes and more natural ones in this diverse and engaging discussion on dirt. Examining urban areas such as New York City, he looks at "what's gone missing, what remains, what may come to be." The soil is "a trove of biodiversity" that we have yet to fully explore, and Bogard chats with an array of experts to learn how to dig deeper." - Publishers Weekly
"A whopper of a cautionary tale... Beyond ecological concerns, Bogard asserts that pavement disconnects us from nature, making the land seem homogeneous and undermining our well-being. The fragility of the life-giving earth we call dirt is the fragility of us all."―Booklist
Paul Bogard is the author of The End of Night and the editor of the anthology Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark. His writing and commentary on the natural world have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on Slate, Salon and All Things Considered. He teaches creative nonfiction at James Madison University and lives in Virginia and Minnesota.