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

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


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.



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

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."

“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.


The Systems Thinking Playbook

The Systems Thinking Playbook

By Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows

This book has become a favorite of K–12 teachers, university faculty, and corporate consultants. It provides short gaming exercises that illustrate the subtleties of systems thinking. The companion DVD shows the authors introducing and running each of the thirty games.

The thirty games are classified by these areas of learning: Systems Thinking, Mental Models, Team Learning, Shared Vision, and Personal Mastery. Each description clearly explains when, how, and why the game is useful. There are explicit instructions for debriefing each exercise as well as a list of all required materials. A summary matrix has been added for a quick glance at all thirty games. When you are in a hurry to find just the right initiative for some part of your course, the matrix will help you find it.

Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows both have many years of experience in teaching complex concepts. This book reflects their insights. Every game works well and provokes a deep variety of new insights about paradigms, system boundaries, causal-loop diagrams, reference modes, and leverage points. Each of the thirty exercises here was tested and refined many times until it became a reliable source of learning. Some of the games are adapted from classics of the outdoor education field. Others are completely new. But all of them complement readings and lectures to help participants understand intuitively the principles of systems thinking.

Available in: Mixed media product

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The Systems Thinking Playbook

Dennis Meadows, Linda Booth Sweeney

Mixed media product $70.00

Sowing Seeds in the Desert

Sowing Seeds in the Desert

By Masanobu Fukuoka

The earth is in great peril, due to the corporatization of agriculture, the rising climate crisis, and the ever-increasing levels of global poverty, starvation, and desertification on a massive scale. This present condition of global trauma is not "natural," but a result of humanity's destructive actions. And, according to Masanobu Fukuoka, it is reversible. We need to change not only our methods of earth stewardship, but also the very way we think about the relationship between human beings and nature.

Fukuoka grew up on a farm on the island of Shikoku in Japan. As a young man he worked as a customs inspector for plants going into and out of the country. This was in the 1930s when science seemed poised to create a new world of abundance and leisure, when people fully believed they could improve upon nature by applying scientific methods and thereby reap untold rewards. While working there, Fukuoka had an insight that changed his life forever. He returned to his home village and applied this insight to developing a revolutionary new way of farming that he believed would be of great benefit to society. This method, which he called "natural farming," involved working with, not in opposition to, nature.

Fukuoka's inspiring and internationally best-selling book, The One-Straw Revolution was first published in English in 1978. In this book, Fukuoka described his philosophy of natural farming and why he came to farm the way he did. One-Straw was a huge success in the West, and spoke directly to the growing movement of organic farmers and activists seeking a new way of life. For years after its publication, Fukuoka traveled around the world spreading his teachings and developing a devoted following of farmers seeking to get closer to the truth of nature.

Sowing Seeds in the Desert, a summation of those years of travel and research, is Fukuoka's last major work-and perhaps his most important. Fukuoka spent years working with people and organizations in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States, to prove that you could, indeed, grow food and regenerate forests with very little irrigation in the most desolate of places. Only by greening the desert, he said, would the world ever achieve true food security.

This revolutionary book presents Fukuoka's plan to rehabilitate the deserts of the world using natural farming, including practical solutions for feeding a growing human population, rehabilitating damaged landscapes, reversing the spread of desertification, and providing a deep understanding of the relationship between human beings and nature. Fukuoka's message comes right at the time when people around the world seem to have lost their frame of reference, and offers us a way forward.

Available in: Paperback

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Sowing Seeds in the Desert

Masanobu Fukuoka, Larry Korn

Paperback $15.95

The New Net Zero

The New Net Zero

By Bill Maclay

The new threshold for green building is not just low energy, it’s net-zero energy. In The New Net Zero, sustainable architect Bill Maclay charts the path for designers and builders interested in exploring green design’s new frontier net-zero-energy structures that produce as much energy as they consume and are carbon neutral.

 In a nation where traditional buildings use roughly 40 percent of the total fossil energy, the interest in net-zero building is growing enormously–among both designers interested in addressing climate change and consumers interested in energy efficiency and long-term savings. Maclay, an award-winning net-zero designer whose buildings have achieved high-performance goals at affordable costs, makes the case for a net-zero future; explains net-zero building metrics, integrated design practices, and renewable energy options; and shares his lessons learned on net-zero teambuilding.

Designers and builders will find a wealth of state-of-the-art information on such considerations as air, water, and vapor barriers; embodied energy; residential and commercial net-zero standards; monitoring and commissioning; insulation options; costs; and more.

The comprehensive overview is accompanied by several case studies, which include institutional buildings, commercial projects, and residences.  Both new-building and renovation projects are covered in detail. 

The New Net Zero is geared toward professionals exploring net-zero design, but also suitable for nonprofessionals seeking ideas and strategies on net-zero options that are beautiful and renewably powered.

Available in: Hardcover

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The New Net Zero

Bill Maclay

Hardcover $90.00

The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

By Marie-Monique Robin

Monsanto's controversial past combines some of the most toxic products ever sold with misleading reports, pressure tactics, collusion, and attempted corruption. They now race to genetically engineer (and patent) the world's food supply, which profoundly threatens our health, environment, and economy. Combining secret documents with first-hand accounts by victims, scientists, and politicians, this widely praised film exposes why Monsanto has become the world's poster child for malignant corporate influence in government and technology.

Also on the DVD:
Your Milk on Drugs—Just Say No!, A film by Jeffrey M. Smith

Dairy products from cows treated with Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) may sharply increase cancer risk and other diseases, especially in children. Already banned in most industrialized nations, it was approved in the U.S. on the backs of fired whistleblowers, manipulated research, and a corporate takeover at the FDA. This must-see film includes footage prepared for a Fox TV station—canceled after a letter from Monsanto's attorney threatened "dire consequences."

Bonus CD:
"Don't Put That in Your Mouth," a speech by Jeffrey M. Smith

You'll want to stop eating genetically modified foods after you learn how they're linked to toxic and allergic reactions; sick, sterile, and dead livestock; and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.

Available in: DVD

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The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

Jeffrey M. Smith, Marie-Monique Robin

DVD $19.95