David Montgomery

Nobel Conference 54

David Montgomery is Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, and a 2008 recipient of a MacArthur fellowship. His interests lie at the intersection of the solid earth--the rocky crust beneath our feet-- and the ever-changing processes that sculpt its surfaces. He asks questions about the Earth’s surface from the perspective of one who has studies long stretches of geologic time. Montgomery is interested in the ways by which processes at the Earth’s surface (geomorphology) influence the life that depends on that surface.

His interests in soil go back more than a decade, to the publication of his book Dirt: the Erosion of Civilization, which explored the human history of mining the soil to feed a population, with the almost-inevitable consequences. Tucked alongside the many stories of societies’ booms and busts, Montgomery inserts a few hopeful notes; examples that suggest there are ways to shepherd soil resources so as to avoid catastrophe. He builds on that hopefulness in Growing a Revolution: Bringing our Soil Back to Life and in The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health, co-authored with Anne Biklé. The take-home message: the Earth and its soil are complex and alive. Soil is a resource--a scarce one--but it is alive as well.

Montgomery is a frequent contributor to public conversations about science. In addition to his books written for a popular audience, he has been featured in documentary films, news shows, and a wide variety of television and radio programs, from NOVA to Fox and Friends.

Professor Montgomery’s Nobel Conference Presentation

In his book, Growing a Revolution, David Montgomery introduces us to farmers around the world at the heart of a soil health revolution that could bring our ailing soil back to life remarkably fast. Cutting through standard debates about conventional and organic farming, Montgomery explores why practices based on the principles of conservation agriculture help restore soil health and fertility. Montgomery will lay the case for an agriculture that is profitable while also helping feed us all, cool the planet and restore life to the land.