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.


Designing Ecological Habitats

Designing Ecological Habitats

Designing Ecological Habitats is the third volume in the Four Keys to Sustainable Communities series and is an important and eloquent exploration of humanity’s limits to growth, addressing the problems arising from climate change, habitat destruction, population growth, and resource depletion.

This is not a book of theoretical ideas but an anthology of solutions, of experience, tried and tested, from experts all over the world. The designs and practices included in this book present a vision for the future, already tested out in ecovillages, sustainable communities, and projects in many countries. These are practical low-carbon solutions that provide significant improvements in the quality of life.

Designing Ecological Habitats is an anthology of work by writers who have created, built, lived in, and thrived in eco-developments, and addresses green building, food resources, appropriate technology, and restoring nature.

“By understanding the process of creating integrated ecological designs, we also make explicit the process of creating integrated social and economic systems. We reconnect with the true meaning of ecology that comes from the Greek word oikos, meaning ‘home’ or ‘a place to live.’ Humanity’s greatest challenge is to ensure that planet Earth can support human life far into future centuries not only by adapting to climate change but also by mitigating it.”—from the Foreword by Mark Richmond, director, Division of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, UNESCO Education Sector.

The Four Keys represent the four dimensions of sustainable design—the Worldview, the Social, the Ecological, and the Economic. This series is endorsed by UNESCO and is an official contribution to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The other books of the series are Beyond You and Me, Gaian Economics, and The Song of the Earth. The Four Keys to Sustainable Communities series was completed in 2012 and is now available in the U.S. for the first time.

Available in: Paperback

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Designing Ecological Habitats

E. Christopher Mare, Max O. Lindegger

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By Ugo Bardi

As we dig, drill, and excavate to unearth the planet’s mineral bounty, the resources we exploit from ores, veins, seams, and wells are gradually becoming exhausted. Mineral treasures that took millions, or even billions, of years to form are now being squandered in just centuries–or sometimes just decades.

Will there come a time when we actually run out of minerals? Debates already soar over how we are going to obtain energy without oil, coal, and gas. But what about the other mineral losses we face? Without metals, and semiconductors, how are we going to keep our industrial system running? Without mineral fertilizers and fuels, how are we going to produce the food we need?

Ugo Bardi delivers a sweeping history of the mining industry, starting with its humble beginning when our early ancestors started digging underground to find the stones they needed for their tools. He traces the links between mineral riches and empires, wars, and civilizations, and shows how mining in its various forms came to be one of the largest global industries. He also illustrates how the gigantic mining machine is now starting to show signs of difficulties. The easy mineral resources, the least expensive to extract and process, have been mostly exploited and depleted. There are plenty of minerals left to extract, but at higher costs and with increasing difficulties.

The effects of depletion take different forms and one may be the economic crisis that is gripping the world system. And depletion is not the only problem. Mining has a dark side–pollution–that takes many forms and delivers many consequences, including climate change. 

The world we have been accustomed to, so far, was based on cheap mineral resources and on the ability of the ecosystem to absorb pollution without generating damage to human beings. Both conditions are rapidly disappearing. Having thoroughly plundered planet Earth, we are entering a new world.

Bardi draws upon the world’s leading minerals experts to offer a compelling glimpse into that new world ahead.

Available in: Paperback

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Jorgen Randers, Ugo Bardi

Paperback $24.95

Seeds of Deception & The Hidden Dangers in Kids Meals (Book & DVD Bundle)

Seeds of Deception & The Hidden Dangers in Kids Meals (Book & DVD Bundle)

By Jeffrey M. Smith

Without knowing it, Americans eat genetically modified (GM) food every day. While the food and chemical industries claim that GMO food is safe, a considerable amount of evidence shows otherwise. In Seeds of Deception, Jeffrey Smith, a former executive with the leading independent laboratory testing for GM presence in foods, documents these serious health dangers and explains how corporate influence and government collusion have been used to cover them up.

The stories Smith presents read like a mystery novel. Scientists are offered bribes or threatened; evidence is stolen; data withheld or distorted. Government scientists who complain are stripped of responsibilities or fired. The FDA even withheld information from congress after a GM food supplement killed nearly a hundred people and permanently disabled thousands. While Smith was employed by the laboratory he was not allowed to speak on the health dangers or the cover-up. No longer bound by this agreement, Smith now reveals what he knows in this groundbreaking exposé.

Today, food companies sell GM foods that have not undergone safety studies. FDA scientists opposed this, but White House and industry pressure prevailed and the agency's final policy--co-authored by a former Monsanto attorney--denied the risks. The scientists' concerns were made public only after a lawsuit forced the agency to turn over internal documents.

Dan Glickman, former Secretary of Agriculture, describes the government's pro-biotech mindset: "You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view. . . . So I pretty much spouted the rhetoric. . . . It was written into my speeches."

In Seeds of Deception Smith offers easy-to-understand descriptions of genetic engineering and explains why it can result in serious health problems. This well-documented, pivotal work will show you how to protect yourself and your family.

DVD Overview

Three videos in one: includes an interview with Jeffrey M. Smith, footage of scientists, and a look at the miraculous improvement in student behavior that accompanied a change in diet at a Wisconsin school. Also included is a lecture by Smith on "The Health Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods and Their Cover-up."

Available in: Mixed media product

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Seeds of Deception & The Hidden Dangers in Kids Meals (Book & DVD Bundle)

Jeffrey M. Smith

Mixed media product $34.95

Thinking in Systems

Thinking in Systems

By Donella Meadows

In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet— Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.

Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life.

Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.

While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.

Available in: Paperback

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Thinking in Systems

Donella Meadows, Diana Wright

Paperback $19.95