Chelsea Green Publishing

Cows Save the Planet

Pages:240 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603584326
Pub. Date May 20, 2013
eBook: 9781603584333
Pub. Date May 20, 2013

Cows Save the Planet

And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth

By Judith Schwartz
Foreword by Gretel Ehrlich

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
May 20, 2013


Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
May 20, 2013

$17.95 $14.36

In Cows Save the Planet, journalist Judith D. Schwartz looks at soil as a crucible for our many overlapping environmental, economic, and social crises. Schwartz reveals that for many of these problems—climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss, droughts, floods, wildfires, rural poverty, malnutrition, and obesity—there are positive, alternative scenarios to the degradation and devastation we face. In each case, our ability to turn these crises into opportunities depends on how we treat the soil.

Drawing on the work of thinkers and doers, renegade scientists and institutional whistleblowers from around the world, Schwartz challenges much of the conventional thinking about global warming and other problems. For example, land can suffer from undergrazing as well as overgrazing, since certain landscapes, such as grasslands, require the disturbance from livestock to thrive. Regarding climate, when we focus on carbon dioxide, we neglect the central role of water in soil—"green water"—in temperature regulation. And much of the carbon dioxide that burdens the atmosphere is not the result of fuel emissions, but from agriculture; returning carbon to the soil not only reduces carbon dioxide levels but also enhances soil fertility.

Cows Save the Planet is at once a primer on soil's pivotal role in our ecology and economy, a call to action, and an antidote to the despair that environmental news so often leaves us with.


ForeWord Reviews-

"Could it really be this easy? Improve soil fertility, preserve biodiversity, reduce obesity, and halt climate change by having more cows graze more land to help 'fix' more carbon into the soil? Well, solving the world’s problems may not be quite that easy, but journalist Judith Schwartz raises these and many equally intriguing questions in Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth.

Her book focuses on sustaining and improving the quality of soil, as well as the economic, environmental, and societal benefits we could realize by making that change. Around the globe, topsoil is lost at an alarming rate: up to 40 times faster than we’re generating it (in China and India, particularly). The consequences include a rapid increase in deserts, droughts, floods, and wildfires, not to mention a loss in the fertility of soil and the nutritional quality of food.

The losses occur rapidly, but the solutions can work almost as quickly. The soil can be rebuilt from the bottom up, and nature can heal itself with surprising efficiency. For instance, undergrazing can damage the soil as much as overgrazing. study the historical movements of herds of grazing animals over the grasslands and plains of much of the globe, and adjust livestock and land management principles accordingly, the author suggests. Allow for the organic material, natural microbes, and insect life that facilitate plant diversity and soil enrichment. The resulting impact will be far-reaching and transformational on the land, climate, and crops.

Schwartz refers frequently to the holistic management principles outlined by agriculturist Allan Savory, views that some consider controversial. Schwartz does not attempt to bridge the gap between these holistic ideals and current practices in the industrial food complex but instead grounds her view in narratives of earnest farmers and ranchers from Australia to Vermont who put these soil management principles into practice.

A journalist who has written on marriage, therapy, and other diverse topics, Schwartz tackles complex topics such as the chemistry of the carbon cycle and photosynthesis and counters the myths about cows and methane with an accessible, conversational voice. Her study is lucid, enlightening, and often surprising. It is also an enjoyable, compelling read that will appeal to a wide audience, offering hopeful and creative solutions to some of the most daunting questions of our day."


"The earth beneath our feet is something most of us acknowledge is important for raising crops and nourishing lawns, yet few of us realize just how vital it is to our planet's overall health. Inviting readers to roll up their pant legs and wade with her into the dirt, veteran journalist [Judith] Schwartz reveals a wealth of detail about soil's beneficial properties and presents a compelling case that proper soil management can end escalating worldwide desertification and slow, or even arrest, global warming. While these assertions may sound surprising, Schwartz collects abundant testimony from leading-edge soil scientists and activists, such as noted Zimbabwe biologist and rancher Allan Savory, whose sophisticated sheep- and cow-herding methods in several countries have completely restored arid grasslands in less than a decade. She also highlights evidence from little-known studies demonstrating that soil restoration techniques can sequester about a billion tons of atmospheric carbon per year, potentially neutralizing damaging greenhouse gases. A well-written and persuasive manifesto for healing earth's environmental woes with one of its most underappreciated resources."


Cows Save The Planet is a wonderfully comprehensive book, challenging some of the current popular theory relating to climate change and the mending of our damaged planet. Judith D.Schwartz has travelled to meet and interview an impressive mix of people, some well known names from around the world (Allan Savory, Christine Jones for example), and many who I have never heard of prior to reading her book. All, however, in some way, are undertaking a wealth of inspirational and essential work relating to healing the world's soil.

At its core, Schwartz's work provides us with solutions and hope, for spiraling environmental and social destruction, through the rehabilitation of the earth beneath our feet. Each chapter of the book is a work in itself but there is also a natural flow and progression in the writing as Schwartz invites us to witness her journey, addressing climate change, loss of biodiversity, desertification, droughts, floods and human health.

The new thinking and new understanding you gain from reading and then rereading Schwartz's work gives us motivation and determination to want to make some very real positive changes in our communities and lands. I can recommend it to all."

"Here's a secret climate-change activists and energy-efficiency and renewable-energy promoters neglect: Nature is designed to be self-healing, and her most profound 'tool' is photosynthesis. 'Free' sunlight is the best energy source to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while also producing organic matter and oxygen—and a by-product is healthier soil, forests, wetlands, and ecosystems. When politicians, policy leaders, and activists get serious about cost-effective solutions to climate change, then a top priority will be ecological restoration to harvest and store carbon naturally, and Judith Schwartz's new book will provide a destination and map."--Will Raap, founder, Gardener's Supply and Intervale Center

“Judith Schwartz’s book gives us not just hope but also a sense that we humans—serial destroyers that we are—can actually turn the climate crisis around. This amazing book, wide-reaching in its research, offers nothing less than solutions for healing the planet.”--Gretel Ehrlich, from the foreword

“Judith Schwartz takes a fascinating look at the world right beneath our feet. Cows Save the Planet is a surprising, informative, and ultimately hopeful book.”--Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change

“In Cows Save the Planet, Judith Schwartz takes us on a fascinating, John McPhee-style journey into the world of soil rehabilitation. The eclectic group of farmers, ranchers, researchers, and environmentalists she visits have one thing in common: they all believe in the importance of organic matter in the soil for solving our most pressing environmental issues. Some of the innovative techniques they use to increase the vitality of their soil include no-tillage, using deep-rooted perennial grasses, cover crops, mulching, and, surprisingly, grazing large herds of animals according to a program called 'holistic management.' Imagine, a book about soil that’s a real page turner!”--Larry Korn, editor of The One-Straw Revolution and Sowing Seeds in the Desert, by Masanobu Fukuoka

“Judith Schwartz reminds us that sustainable range management is as much about the microbes in the soil and their feedback loops with cattle as it is about the cattle themselves. When I finally go home on the range to be composted, I want to be part of the miraculous cycle of rangeland renewal that is managed in the way that Schwartz describes so well.”--Gary Nabhan, author of Desert Terroir, Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems, University of Arizona


  • Winner - Nautilus Award, Silver in Green Living/Sustainability - 2014


Judith Schwartz

Judith D. Schwartz is a longtime freelance writer whose work has appeared in venues from Glamour and Redbook to The Christian Science Monitor and The New York Times. She is the author of several books, including Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth, Tell Me No Lies: How to Face the Truth and Build a Loving Marriage (coauthored) and The Therapist's New Clothes. She has an MA in counseling psychology and an MS from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She lives with her family in Southern Vermont.


October 16, 2015

Judith Schwartz at Restoring Water Cycles to Reverse Global Warming

419 Boston Ave, Medford, MA, 02155 | Judith Schwartz
Judith Schwartz will be a speaker at the Biodiversity for a Better Climate's conference, "Restoring Water Cycles to Reverse Global Warming." The conference will be taking place at Tufts University on October 16-18. More details to come!

See all Events by this Author


The Safari Companion

The Safari Companion

By Richard D. Estes

Since its original publication in 1993, The Safari Companion has been the best field guide to observing and understanding the behavior of African mammals. An indispensable tool for naturalists traveling to Africa, this new edition has been revised to acknowledge the enthusiasm to those watching these magnificent animals at zoos and wildlife parks, and on film.

The Safari Companion enables readers to recognize and interpret visible behavioral activities, such as courtship rituals, territorial marking, aggression, and care of young. Each account of over 80 species includes a behavioral table in which the unique actions of the hoofed mammals, carnivores, and primates are described for easy reference. In addition, useful maps show the major national boundaries, vegetation zones, and game parks relevant to the guide. The book includes an extensive glossary, as well as tips on wildlife photography, a list of organizations working to protect African wildlife, and advice on where and when to see the animals.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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The Safari Companion

Richard D. Estes, Daniel Otte, Kathryn S. Fuller

Paperback $30.00

In the Company of Bears

In the Company of Bears

By Benjamin Kilham

Imagine raising an orphaned bear cub, carefully reintroducing her to the wild, then being welcomed back, almost daily, to observe her wild world for more than seventeen years. Imagine visiting her in her feeding spots, watching her with her mates and her young, peering into her den, and, over time, observing the lives of all the other wild bears in her territory and surrounding ones. That is what happened to Ben Kilham, whose long-term study of wild black bears has shattered conventional wisdom about how they live their lives.

In the Company of Bears unveils Kilham’s groundbreaking work. Like others, he once thought that black bears were solitary. But he discovered that they actually have extraordinary communication and interaction with each other—creating and enforcing codes of conduct, forming alliances, and even sharing territory and food when supplies are ample.

In the Company of Bears (originally released in hardcover as Out on a Limb) is more than a story about bears. It’s the story of a scientist once kept from a traditional science career by his dyslexia, only to find that thinking and seeing differently was his greatest gift and his best tool to interpret the non-human world.

In the Company of Bears is also available as an audio book! Browse and download the book here >>

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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In the Company of Bears

Benjamin Kilham, Temple Grandin

Paperback $17.95

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

By Brad Lancaster

Turn water scarcity into water abundance!
Earthworks are one of the easiest, least expensive, and most effective ways of passively harvesting and conserving multiple sources of water in the soil. Associated vegetation then pumps the harvested water back out in the form of beauty, food, shelter, wildlife habitat, and passive heating and cooling strategies, while controlling erosion, increasing soil fertility, reducing downstream flooding, and improving water and air quality.

Building on the information presented in Volume 1, this book shows you how to select, place, size, construct, and plant your chosen water-harvesting earthworks. It presents detailed how-to information and variations of a diverse array of earthworks, including chapters on mulch, vegetation, and greywater recycling so you can customize the techniques to the unique requirements of your site.

  • Real life stories and examples permeate the book, including:
  • How curb cuts redirect street runoff to passively irrigate flourishing shade trees planted along the street
  • How check dams have helped create springs and perennial flows in once-dry creeks
  • How infiltration basins are creating thriving rain-fed gardens
  • How backyard greywater laundromats are turning "wastewater" into a resource growing food, beauty, and shade that builds community, and more.
  • How to create simple tools to read slope and water flow
  • More than 225 illustrations and photographs


Available in: Paperback

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Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2

Brad Lancaster, Joe Marshall

Paperback $39.95

The Biochar Debate

The Biochar Debate

By James Bruges

The Biochar Debate is the first book to introduce both the promise and concerns surrounding biochar (fine-grained charcoal used as a soil supplement) to nonspecialists. Charcoal making is an ancient technology. Recent discoveries suggest it may have a surprising role to play in combating global warming. This is because creating and burying biochar removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Furthermore, adding biochar to soil can increase the yield of food crops and the ability of soil to retain moisture, reducing need for synthetic fertilizers and demands on scarce fresh-water supplies.

While explaining the excitement of biochar proponents, Bruges also gives voice to critics who argue that opening biochar production and use to global carbon-credit trading schemes could have disastrous outcomes, especially for the world's poorest people. The solution, Bruges explains, is to promote biochar through an alternative approach called the Carbon Maintenance Fee that avoids the dangers. This would establish positive incentives for businesses, farmers, and individuals to responsibly adopt biochar without threatening poor communities with displacement by foreign investors seeking to profit through seizure of cheap land.

The Biochar Debate covers the essential issues from experimental and scientific aspects of biochar in the context of global warming to fairness and efficiency in the global economy to negotiations for the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Available in: eBook

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The Biochar Debate

James Bruges, David Friese-Greene

eBook $14.95