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.


Defending Beef

Defending Beef

By Nicolette Hahn Niman

For decades it has been nearly universal dogma among environmentalists and health advocates that cattle and beef are public enemy number one.

But is the matter really so clear cut? Hardly, argues environmental lawyer turned rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman in her new book, Defending Beef.

The public has long been led to believe that livestock, especially cattle, erode soils, pollute air and water, damage riparian areas, and decimate wildlife populations.

In Defending Beef, Hahn Niman argues that cattle are not inherently bad for either the Earth or our own nutritional health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants that once covered the globe. Hahn Niman argues that dispersed, grass-fed, small-scale farms can and should become the basis for American food production, replacing the factory farms that harm animals and the environment.

The author—a longtime vegetarian—goes on to dispel popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. She methodically evaluates health claims made against beef, demonstrating that such claims have proven false.  She shows how foods from cattle—milk and meat, particularly when raised entirely on grass—are healthful, extremely nutritious, and an irreplaceable part of the world’s food system.

Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world, Defending Beef builds a comprehensive argument that cattle can help to build carbon-sequestering soils to mitigate climate change, enhance biodiversity, help prevent desertification, and provide invaluable nutrition.

Defending Beef is simultaneously a book about big ideas and the author’s own personal tale—she starts out as a skeptical vegetarian and eventually becomes an enthusiastic participant in environmentally sustainable ranching.

While no single book can definitively answer the thorny question of how to feed the Earth’s growing population, Defending Beef makes the case that, whatever the world’s future food system looks like, cattle and beef can and must be part of the solution.

Available in: Paperback

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Defending Beef

Nicolette Hahn Niman

Paperback $19.95

Wind Power

Wind Power

By Paul Gipe

In the wake of mass blackouts and energy crises, wind power remains a largely untapped resource of renewable energy. It is a booming worldwide industry whose technology, under the collective wing of aficionados like author Paul Gipe, is coming of age. Wind Power guides us through the emergent, sometimes daunting discourse on wind technology, giving frank explanations of how to use wind technology wisely and sound advice on how to avoid common mistakes.

Since the mid-1970s, Paul Gipe has played a part in nearly every aspect of wind energy’s development—from installing small turbines to promoting wind energy worldwide. As an American proponent of renewable energy, Gipe has earned the acclaim and respect of European energy specialists for years, but his arguments have often fallen on deaf ears at home.

Today, the topic of wind power is cropping up everywhere from the beaches of Cape Cod to the Oregon-Washington border, and one wind turbine is capable of producing enough electricity per year to run 200 average American households. Now, Paul Gipe is back to shed light on this increasingly important energy source with a revised edition of Wind Power.

Over the course of his career, Paul Gipe has been a proponent, participant, observer, and critic of the wind industry. His experience with wind has given rise to two previous books on the subject, Wind Energy Basics and Wind Power for Home and Business, which have sold over 50,000 copies. Wind Power for Home and Business has become a staple for both homeowners and professionals interested in the subject, and now, with energy prices soaring, interest in wind power is hitting an all-time high.

With chapters on output and economics, Wind Power discloses how much you can expect from each method of wind technology, both in terms of energy and financial savings. The book’s updated models, graphics, and weighty appendixes make it an invaluable reference for everyone interested in the emerging trend of wind power and renewable energy.

Executive Director of the American Wind Energy Association Randall Swisher has said, "In the last two decades, no one has done more that Paul Gipe to bring wind energy to the public’s attention."

Available in: Paperback

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Wind Power

Paul Gipe

Paperback $75.00

The Case against Fluoride

The Case against Fluoride

By Paul Connett and James Beck and Spedding Micklem

When the U.S. Public Health Service endorsed water fluoridation in 1950, there was little evidence of its safety. Now, six decades later and after most countries have rejected the practice, more than 70 percent of Americans, as well as 200 million people worldwide, are drinking fluoridated water. The Center for Disease Control and the American Dental Association continue to promote it--and even mandatory statewide water fluoridation--despite increasing evidence that it is not only unnecessary, but potentially hazardous to human health.

In this timely and important book, Dr. Paul Connett, Dr. James Beck, and Dr. H. Spedding Micklem take a new look at the science behind water fluoridation and argue that just because the dental and medical establishments endorse a public health measure doesn't mean it's safe. In the case of water fluoridation, the chemicals that go into the drinking water that more than 180 million people drink each day are not even pharmaceutical grade, but rather a hazardous waste product of the phosphate fertilizer industry. It is illegal to dump this waste into the sea or local surface water, and yet it is allowed in our drinking water. To make matters worse, this program receives no oversight from the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency takes no responsibility for the practice. And from an ethical standpoint, say the authors, water fluoridation is a bad medical practice: individuals are being forced to take medication without their informed consent, there is no control over the dose, and no monitoring of possible side effects.

At once painstakingly documented and also highly readable, The Case Against Fluoride brings new research to light, including links between fluoride and harm to the brain, bones, and endocrine system, and argues that the evidence that fluoridation reduces tooth decay is surprisingly weak.

Available in: Paperback

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The Case against Fluoride

Paul Connett, James Beck, Spedding Micklem, Albert W. Burgstahler

Paperback $24.95

The Woodland Year

The Woodland Year

By Ben Law

Packed with stunning color photographs, The Woodland Year is an intimate month-by-month journey through Ben Law’s yearly cycle of work, his naturally attuned lifestyle, and his deep understanding of his woods. The Woodland Year provides a fascinating insight into every aspect of sustainable woodland management, including the cycles of nature, seasonal tasks, wild food gathering, wine making, mouthwatering and useful recipes, coppice crafts, round-pole timber-frame eco-building (pioneered by Ben), nature conservation, species diversity, tree profiles, and the use of horses for woodland work.

This is a profound book that is both practical and poetic. It describes a way of life that is economically and ecologically viable and sets a new standard for managing our woods in a low-impact, sustainable way. As such, it holds some of the fundamental keys to how we can achieve a lower-carbon society.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Woodland Year

Ben Law, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Hardcover $39.95