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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Jun 28, 2022

Year after year, the quality of the world’s agricultural soil is degrading, which deeply impacts the quality and quantity of the food that we grow. Further, there’s a clear link between the health of our soil and the health of humans. What does that mean for us? Eventually we’ll face an existential crisis of the world’s food supply and our health. Fortunately, experts are studying how to improve our outlook, and two of them happen to live in Seattle.

David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé believe that the roots of good health start on farms. In their latest book, What Your Food Ate, this local pair provided evidence from recent and forgotten science to illustrate how the health of the soil ripples through to crops, livestock, and ultimately us.

They traced the links between crops and soil life that nourish one another, which in turn provide our bodies with the nutrients needed to protect us from pathogens and chronic ailments. Unfortunately, conventional agricultural practices hurt these vital partnerships and affect our well-being. Can farmers and ranchers produce enough nutrient-dense food to feed us all? Can we have quality and quantity?

Montgomery and Biklé say yes. They argue that regenerative farming practices – agricultural practices that rebuild organic matter in soil and restore soil biodiversity – hold the key to healing sick soil and improving human health. “We need everybody to be thinking about a more sustainable food system,” says Montgomery, “because, quite frankly, the future of humanity in many ways really depends on what we do with that.”

Agriculture and medicine emerged from our understanding of the natural world — and still depend on it. Through current scientific findings, Montgomery and Biklé showed us that what’s good for the land is good for us, too.

David R. Montgomery is a professor at the University of Washington, a MacArthur Fellow, a finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and an internationally recognized authority on geomorphology. His books have been translated into ten languages.

Anne Biklé is a biologist and environmental planner whose writing has appeared in NautilusNatural HistorySmithsonianFine Gardening, and Best Health. She lives with her husband, David R. Montgomery, in Seattle. Their work includes a trilogy of books about soil health, microbiomes, and farming — Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, The Hidden Half of Nature, and Growing a Revolution.

Buy the Book: What Your Food Ate: How to Heal Our Land and Reclaim Our Health (Hardcover) from Elliott Bay Books

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