Chelsea Green Publishing

Grass, Soil, Hope

Pages:272 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603585453
Pub. Date May 23, 2014

Grass, Soil, Hope

A Journey Through Carbon Country

By Courtney White
Foreword by Michael Pollan

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
May 23, 2014


This book tackles an increasingly crucial question: What can we do about the seemingly intractable challenges confronting all of humanity today, including climate change, global hunger, water scarcity, environmental stress, and economic instability?

The quick answers are: Build topsoil. Fix creeks. Eat meat from pasture-raised animals.

Scientists maintain that a mere 2 percent increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere. But how could this be accomplished? What would it cost? Is it even possible? 

Yes, says author Courtney White, it is not only possible, but essential for the long-term health and sustainability of our environment and our economy.

Right now, the only possibility of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is through plant photosynthesis and related land-based carbon sequestration activities. These include a range of already existing, low-tech, and proven practices: composting, no-till farming, climate-friendly livestock practices, conserving natural habitat, restoring degraded watersheds and rangelands, increasing biodiversity, and producing local food.

In Grass, Soil, Hope, the author shows how all these practical strategies can be bundled together into an economic and ecological whole, with the aim of reducing atmospheric CO2 while producing substantial co-benefits for all living things. Soil is a huge natural sink for carbon dioxide. If we can draw increasing amounts carbon out of the atmosphere and store it safely in the soil then we can significantly address all the multiple challenges that now appear so intractable.


Foreword Reviews-

“Optimism about scientific observations and what people can do to improve the environment makes this book inspiring. In Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country, Courtney White provides a compelling and practical account of how carbon—an essential element and building block of life—may hold the answer to many pressing issues. Smart land use that captures carbon in the soil can enhance the climate, plant and animal diversity, our waterways, the quality of our food, and our quality of life in general. An engaging storyteller, White describes farmers, ranchers, scientists, artists, and many “everyday” people who are putting these ideas into action.  White has crafted a challenging, engaging narrative that will compel many readers to reconsider the link between our soil and the future of our planet.”

Kirkus Reviews-

White (Revolution on the Range: The Rise of a New Ranch in the American West, 2008 etc.) shows how taking measures to increase the carbon content of the soil can help mitigate global warming. 'Around 30 to 40 percent of the carbon created by photosynthesis can be exuded directly into soil via plant roots to nurture the microbes that help plants grow and build healthy soil,” writes the author. The author traveled to speak with soil scientists and visited ranches in the American Southwest and Australia to witness how modern, high-tech ranches were using satellite monitoring and on-the-ground scrutiny to check the condition of the land. He discovered massive ranches that were divided into continually monitored small plots, where farmers tested the soil and ground cover condition and moisture in order to determine where and when to rotate cattle, which were contained by solar-powered, mobile fencing. White also spoke with scientists at the University of California whose experimental data buttressed his hypotheses about carbon soil capture. The author reports efforts to restore wetlands that “can sequester carbon at rates up to fifty times those of tropical forests.' White concludes that some sort of incentive-based carbon offset market is required to encourage high-tech investment in soil management. An inspiring can-do approach to the threat of global warming.”


“When one thinks of climate change, soil generally is not the first thing that comes to mind. White (Revolution on the Range, 2008), however, takes readers on a journey demonstrating the carbon sequestration power of dirt. He visited ranchers, farmers, urban agriculturists, restoration ecologists, and scientists across the US and in Australia and outlines approaches that not only decrease carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere but also improve ecosystem and human health. Though the case studies clearly show the myriad benefits of these techniques, which include no-till agriculture, pasture cropping, planned grazing systems, and wetland restoration, White also acknowledges challenges that might arise in implementing them. Other books extolling the importance of soil have come out recently and cover much of the same ground. White's background as the cofounder of the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit that brings together ranchers, environmentalists, and scientists to work to improve land health and build resilience, gives him an inside perspective on the issues he presents and makes the book more accessible to ranchers. Although he sometimes strays off on unrelated tangents, overall, this is an engaging and hopeful read of how humans can work with nature for a brighter future. Summing Up: Recommended. Students of all levels, general readers, and professionals/practitioners.”

“A great practical book that I hope will be read by many people in all walks of life, even those who still doubt human-induced climate change. No technology even imaginable can restore nature’s past healthy functioning over the Earth’s greatest land areas--its vast grasslands. The solutions Courtney illustrates can and will do what is required, and he tells the story well.”--Allan Savory, president and founder of the Savory Institute

“This is a book to read for many reasons: to learn about the Earth’s carbon cycle; to glimpse ways ‘conservation’ is evolving, especially in the semi-arid West; and to understand the future of ranching and sustainable agriculture. It’s also a book to read if you want to be infused with hope, and inspired to play a broader role in the face of climate change. For many of us who think about ways to create a more resilient world for future generations, it pays to think more about carbon. This book will get you started.”--Jonathan Overpeck, co-director, Institute of the Environment; professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson

“Grass, soil, hope: three simple words with the power to tackle society’s most challenging problems. A ray of sunshine, converted by grass into carbon and stored in the soil, represents the possibility of a brighter future. Courtney White takes us on an enlightening journey to farms, ranches, and ecosystems around the world to show us where the most important molecule of life—carbon—is regenerating landscapes. An empowering and uplifting read!”--Gabe Brown, owner, Brown’s Ranch, Bismarck, North Dakota

"Grass, Soil, Hope is not just another gloom-and-doom composition about global climate change.  Courtney White takes the reader back to earth's beginnings to help illustrate the vital role of carbon in sustaining life and then gives real-life, real-time examples of agricultural practitioners who are using creativity and common sense to grow food, restore watersheds and wildlife habitat, and, yes, sequester lots of carbon.”--William McDonald, fifth-generation cattle rancher; founder and director of the Malpai Borderlands Group

Grass, Soil, Hope is a wonderfully accessible account of the promise of soil and agriculture for a better climate and better future.”--Thomas E. Lovejoy, professor of environmental science and policy, George Mason University, and senior fellow, United Nations Foundation

“This delightful diamond of a book is a tour-de-force that covers the story of carbon from the Big Bang to your backyard. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in how carbon endlessly cycles from soil into plants and animals (including humans), most of the things we create, and then on into the atmosphere that blankets our planet. At a time when environmental narratives have become gloomy, this book is a breath of optimism exhaled with practical recommendations for moving carbon from the air back into the soil, for the health of the planet and every creature on it.”--Fred Provenza, professor emeritus, Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University

“Courtney White employs a masterful blend of storytelling and science to communicate a most hopeful message: that building healthy soils – in some surprising and creative ways – can help solve our food, water, and climate challenges all at the same time.  The carbon-capturing farmers, ranchers, and conservationists whose work White so elegantly describes form the vanguard of a new movement of regenerative production that deserves society’s attention and support.  Inspiring, thought-provoking, energizing, and—at bottom – full of hope.”--Sandra Postel, Freshwater Fellow, National Geographic Society

“Courtney White's journey was sparked by a question: What if we looked at carbon not just as a ‘pollutant’, but from the standpoint of its role as the building block of life? What he found across the country and abroad were farmers, ranchers, and scientists who are working with the carbon cycle to build soil, restore ecosystems, and bolster productivity--in short, embracing life to generate more life. At once plain-spoken and radical, this book promises to stir up hope even among those made cynical by relentless bad news. White has made the case for hope. Whether this is turned to action is up to us.”--Judith D. Schwartz, author, Cows Save the Planet

“Courtney White’s book offers refreshing insights on ‘climate-smart’ agriculture. In an era when farmers and ranchers are often vilified for environmental disruptions, this analysis gives an optimistic contrast: It’s a well-grounded practical outlook of the win-win outcomes of management practices by ranchers who are good stewards of soil carbon.”--L. Ann Thrupp, PhD, executive director, Berkeley Food Institute, University of California, Berkeley

“As anyone paying attention now knows, we will be facing numerous new challenges in our agriculture and food system in the near future. The most important ‘journey’ we all need to make in preparing for that future is, as Courtney White points out, to restore the biological health of our soil. The hopefulness in Courtney’s journey comes from his demonstration of the practical ways in which we can accomplish this task. Anyone interested in the future of food should read this remarkable, heartwarming book.”--Frederick Kirschenmann, author, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher

Grass, Soil, Hope takes us on a journey from one fascinating topic—and one inspirational, hardworking individual—to another.  The exciting concept of 'carbon farming', which Courtney White clearly articulates both with theory and with practical examples, could revolutionize our entire approach to environmental restoration. If widely applied, these techniques would reverse climate change, and reestablish health to the land, to ourselves, and to our communities. This is an important book that is filled with hope.”--Larry Korn, translator and editor of Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and Sowing Seeds in the Desert 


Courtney White

Courtney White is the author of Grass, Soil, Hope. A former archaeologist and Sierra Club activist, White dropped out of the “conflict industry” in 1997 to cofound the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to building bridges between ranchers, conservationists, and others around practices that improve economic and ecological resilience in western working landscapes. He is the author of Revolution on the Range, The Age of Consequences, and The Indelible West, a collection of black-and-white photographs with a foreword by Wallace Stegner. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with his family and a backyard full of chickens.


January 16, 2016

Courtney White at KGA Winter Grazing Conference

1616 W Crawford Street, Salina, KS, 67401 | Courtney White
On January 16th, Courtney White will be a keynote speaker at the Kansas Graziers Association's Winter Grazing Conference, which is taking place at the Salina Ambassador Hotel in Salina, KS. More details to come.

See all Events by this Author


Two Percent Solutions for the Planet

Two Percent Solutions for the Planet

By Courtney White

Two Percent Solutions for the Planet profiles fifty innovative practices that soak up carbon dioxide in soils, reduce energy use, sustainably intensify food production, and increase water quality. The “two percent” refers to: the amount of new carbon in the soil needed to reap a wide variety of ecological and economic benefits; the percentage of the nation’s population who are farmers and ranchers; and the low financial cost (in terms of GDP) needed to get this work done.

As White explained in Grass, Soil, Hope, a highly efficient carbon cycle captures, stores, releases, and recaptures biochemical energy, mitigating climate change, increasing water storage capacities in soil, and making green plants grow. Best of all, we don’t have to invent anything new—a wide variety of innovative ideas and methods that put carbon back into the soil have been field-tested and proven to be practical and profitable. They’re mostly low-tech, too, relying on natural resources such as sunlight, green plants, animals, compost, beavers, creeks, and more.

In Two Percent Solutions for the Planet, White expands what he calls the “regenerative toolbox,” to include holistic grazing, edible forests, biochar, weed-eating livestock, food co-ops, keyline plowing, restoration agriculture, bioenergy, aquaponics, animal power, Farm Hack, bees, bears, wildlife corridors, rainwater harvesting, native seeds, and various other projects from across the United States, as well as in Canada, Europe, and Australia. These short, engaging success stories will help readers connect the dots between diverse, exciting, and pragmatic practices, and inspire them to dig deeper into each individual story and concept, energized by the news that solutions abound.

Available in: Paperback

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Two Percent Solutions for the Planet

Courtney White

Paperback $24.95

The Art of Fermentation

The Art of Fermentation

By Sandor Ellix Katz

Winner of the 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship, and a New York Times bestseller, The Art of Fermentation is the most comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation ever published. Sandor Katz presents the concepts and processes behind fermentation in ways that are simple enough to guide a reader through their first experience making sauerkraut or yogurt, and in-depth enough to provide greater understanding and insight for experienced practitioners.

While Katz expertly contextualizes fermentation in terms of biological and cultural evolution, health and nutrition, and even economics, this is primarily a compendium of practical information—how the processes work; parameters for safety; techniques for effective preservation; troubleshooting; and more.

With two-color illustrations and extended resources, this book provides essential wisdom for cooks, homesteaders, farmers, gleaners, foragers, and food lovers of any kind who want to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for arguably the oldest form of food preservation, and part of the roots of culture itself.

Readers will find detailed information on fermenting vegetables; sugars into alcohol (meads, wines, and ciders); sour tonic beverages; milk; grains and starchy tubers; beers (and other grain-based alcoholic beverages); beans; seeds; nuts; fish; meat; and eggs, as well as growing mold cultures, using fermentation in agriculture, art, and energy production, and considerations for commercial enterprises. Sandor Katz has introduced what will undoubtedly remain a classic in food literature, and is the first—and only—of its kind.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Art of Fermentation

Sandor Ellix Katz, Michael Pollan

Hardcover $39.95

Holy Cows and Hog Heaven

Holy Cows and Hog Heaven

By Joel Salatin

Holy Cows and Hog Heaven is written by an honest-to-goodness-dirt-under-the-fingernails, optimistic clean good farmer. His goal is to:

  • Empower food buyers to pursue positive alternatives to the industrialized food system
  • Bring clean food farmers and their patrons into a teamwork relationship
  • Marry the best of western technology with the soul of eastern ethics
  • Educate food buyers about productions
  • Create a food system that enhances nature's ecology for future generations

Holy Cows and Hog Heaven has an overriding objective of encouraging every food buyer to embrace the notion that menus are a conscious decision, creating the next generation's world one bite at a time.

Available in: Paperback

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Holy Cows and Hog Heaven

Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin

Paperback $17.95


Courtney White: "Two Percent Solutions" Chelsea Green

Courtney White: "Two Percent Solutions" Chelsea Green

Quivira Coalition Conference 2012


The New Wildcrafted Cuisine

The New Wildcrafted Cuisine

By Pascal Baudar

With detailed recipes for ferments, infusions, spices, and other preparations

Wild foods are increasingly popular, as evidenced by the number of new books about identifying plants and foraging ingredients, as well as those written by chefs about culinary creations that incorporate wild ingredients (Noma, Faviken, Quay, Manreza, et al.). The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, however, goes well beyond both of these genres to deeply explore the flavors of local terroir, combining the research and knowledge of plants and landscape that chefs often lack with the fascinating and innovative techniques of a master food preserver and self-described “culinary alchemist.”

Author Pascal Baudar views his home terrain of southern California (mountain, desert, chaparral, and seashore) as a culinary playground, full of wild plants and other edible and delicious foods (even insects) that once were gathered and used by native peoples but that have only recently begun to be re-explored and appreciated.

For instance, he uses various barks to make smoked vinegars, and combines ants, plants, and insect sugar to brew primitive beers. Stems of aromatic plants are used to make skewers. Selected rocks become grinding stones, griddles, or plates. Even fallen leaves and other natural materials from the forest floor can be utilized to impart a truly local flavor to meats and vegetables, one that captures and expresses the essence of season and place.

This beautifully photographed book offers up dozens of creative recipes and instructions for preparing a pantry full of preserved foods, including Pickled Acorns, White Sage-Lime Cider, Wild Kimchi Spice, Currant Capers, Infused Salts with Wild Herbs, Pine Needles Vinegar, and many more. And though the author’s own palette of wild foods are mostly common to southern California, readers everywhere can apply Baudar’s deep foraging wisdom and experience to explore their own bioregions and find an astonishing array of plants and other materials that can be used in their own kitchens.

The New Wildcrafted Cuisine is an extraordinary book by a passionate and committed student of nature, one that will inspire both chefs and adventurous eaters to get creative with their own local landscapes.

Available in: Hardcover

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The New Wildcrafted Cuisine

Pascal Baudar

Hardcover $40.00

Seeds of Deception & GMO Trilogy (Book & DVD Bundle)

Seeds of Deception & GMO Trilogy (Book & DVD Bundle)

By Jeffrey M. Smith

Now Jeffrey M. Smith's best-selling book is paired with a new DVD and CD set that shows how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) put our health and environment at risk. This set will impact consumer perceptions and buying habits.

DVD 1: Unnatural Selection

This stunning, award-winning documentary by Bertram Verhaag and Gabriele Kröber reveals harsh consequences of genetic engineering on three continents. Vandana Shiva, Andrew Kimbrell, Percy Schmeiser and others, describe uncontrollable, self-replicating GM contamination, failed crops, farmer suicides, and new GM animals that threaten natural populations.

"Best Film," (CineEco, Portugal), "Best Long Production," (IEFF, Brazil), and "Best Journalistic Achievement," (IEFF, Germany).

"Meticulously researched, excellently photographed" -Ökomedia

 DVD 2: Hidden Dangers in Kids' Meals: Genetically Engineered Foods

Shocking research results, inadequate regulations and warnings from eminent scientists explain why GM foods are dangerous and should be removed from kids' meals. The dramatic story of how student behavior in a Wisconsin school was transformed with a healthy diet provides added motivation to make a change. It features Jeffrey Smith and more than a dozen scientists and experts. 

Audio CD: You're Eating WHAT?

Jeffrey Smith's riveting one-hour talk. 

Seeds of Deception

This is the top-rated, best selling book in the world on GM foods. Smith exposes the serious health dangers of genetically modified foods and the corporate cover-up. A fast-paced thriller of industry manipulation and political collusion, combined with lucid descriptions of genetic engineering and guidance on how to protect yourself and your family.

Available in: Mixed media product

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Seeds of Deception & GMO Trilogy (Book & DVD Bundle)

Jeffrey M. Smith

Mixed media product $27.95

The Chelsea Green Reader

The Chelsea Green Reader

Chelsea Green, the Vermont-based independent publisher, has always had a nose for authors and subjects that are way ahead of the cultural curve, as is evident in this new anthology celebrating the company’s first thirty years in publishing.

The more than one hundred books represented in this collection reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published–from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects–all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: "The politics and practice of sustainable living." The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher–something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.
From the beginning, Chelsea Green's books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years–often decades–beyond their original publication date.

"Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed," writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book's foreword. Today, craft continues to inform all aspects of our work–design, illustration, production, sales, promotion, and beyond. It has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green's books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

Available in: Paperback

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The Chelsea Green Reader

Ben Watson, Ian Baldwin

Paperback $15.00

An Unreasonable Woman

An Unreasonable Woman

By Diane Wilson

When Diane Wilson, fourth-generation shrimp-boat captain and mother of five, learns that she lives in the most polluted county in the United States, she decides to fight back. She launches a campaign against a multibillion-dollar corporation that has been covering up spills, silencing workers, flouting the EPA, and dumping lethal ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride into the bays along her beloved Texas Gulf Coast. In an epic tale of bravery, Wilson takes her fight to the courts, to the gates of the chemical plant, and to the halls of power in Austin. Along the way she meets with scorn, bribery, character assassination, and death threats. Finally Wilson realizes that she must break the law to win justice: She resorts to nonviolent disobedience, direct action, and hunger strikes. Wilson's vivid South Texas dialogue resides somewhere between Alice Walker and William Faulkner, and her dazzling prose brings to mind the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, replete with dreams and prophecies.

Available in: Paperback

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An Unreasonable Woman

Diane Wilson, Kenny Ausubel

Paperback $18.00