Professor Landa Edited a New Soil Book with a Global View

Professor Landa Edited and Professor James Contributed to New Soil Book

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

May 27, 2014

Most food, at some point, starts in the ground, whether that be directly or indirectly. From fruits and vegetables that are eaten plain to animals that will be eaten, which get their sustenance from grazing, the soil contains much of what the human race needs to survive. With that in mind, ENST Professors Edward Landa and Bruce James contributed to the new book The Soil Underfoot: Infinite Possibilities for a Finite Resource.

According to Landa, the book takes views of soil from around the world as well as from different points in time in order to examine different attitudes and ethics about the soil. The goal is to come up with evidence that will help sustain humans through an uncertain ecological future. “[The Soil Underfoot] is a collection, from diverse…sources…as well as current analyses…of what may be required for a sustainable future,” Landa said.

The book’s title is taken from a Leonardo De Vinci quote in which he said, “We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.” With that in mind, Landa, one of Soil’s editors as well as contributors, set out to try to make digging into the book an easy task. “In planning the volume, our guidance to authors was to aim for a style that was readable, but with scholarly content,” Landa said. “We think the final book achieved this target.”

Authors from more than 15 countries contributed to the book. Professionally, the authors were just as diverse as their nationalities. They included not only soil scientists, but also soil scientists, ecologists, visual artists, anthropologists, theologians, and journalists. “We hope that the book will appeal to well-educated, environmentally concerned readers who do not necessarily have any professional training in soil science or even science in general,” Landa said. “We also hope that the book will appeal to policy makers with a concern that our soils will be able to sustain us while we sustain our soils.”

James’ contribution can be found in the book as  “Bread and Soil in Ancient Rome: A Vision of Abundance and an Ideal of Order Based on Wheat, Grapes, and Olives.” Winfried E. H. Blum and Carmelo Dazzi also contributed to this section. Landa’s contribution can be found as the chapter "Potash, Passion, and a President: Early Twentieth-Century Debates on Soil Fertility” in the United States.