Cows Save The Planet – And Other Improbable Ways Of Restoring Soil To Heal the Earth

Katie Shepherd | Thursday, 11th July 2013
A book that will challenge popular myths and inspire positive action to heal the world's soils after the effects of climate change and environmental destruction.
Author: Judith D. Schwartz
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Publication year: 2013
RRP: £12.99

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.

I initially read Cows Save The Planet over several weeks with a pause in between each chapter. There is a huge amount of widely researched material, all of which I wanted to explore further, so a lengthy pause for reflection in between each chapter is recommended. Having said that, Schwartz's writing style as an Investigative Journalist and the very clever way she links the personal and the political means that the information within the book is accessible to all. This is regardless of how much pre-existing knowledge you have about the subjects discussed.

I started reading this book with what I would regard as a moderate level of knowledge about soil and associated environmental issues. 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.

The timely publishing of Cows Save The Planet has been a much welcomed and essential guide and tool for me as I begin to examine and care for the land on which I farm at a much deeper level, quite literally. 

Katie Shepherd is a permaculture practitioner and hill farmer in North Yorkshire.

North American readers can buy this book direct from the publishers, Chelsea Green.

Buy from our Green Shopping website and get £2 off the cover price!

Futher resources

Katie Shepherd is a hill farmer in the Yorkshire Dales.

How to Green the World's Deserts and Reverse Climate Change: Hope for the future

The Planet's Soil Is Being Eroded - Does Permaculture Hold the Answer?

tommacg |
Thu, 11/07/2013 - 14:30

Just wondering what the book is actually about?

This review explains none of the content (apart from the title implying that cows will have something to do with it), or why we should consider buying it.

Maddy Harland |
Fri, 12/07/2013 - 10:28

Mmmmm I guess this hints at content by mentioning Allan Savoury (mob grazing/Holistic Management pioneer) Christine Jones (soil scientist, HM pioneer, soil food web researcher). To quote the publishers:

"Cattle, like all grazing creatures, can, if appropriately managed, restore land and help build soil. Rebuilding soil is only one aspect of this important, paradigm-shifting book. 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."

So this book is a detailed exploration of mob grazing and other management techniques using animals to lock up carbon in the soil by building biomass through planned grazing and other techniques. Have a look at