Compendium Vol. 1 No. 2: Geotherapy

Compendium Volume 1 Number 2 March 2018

Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase. Edited by Thomas J. Goreau, Ronal W. Larsen and Joanna Campe [Goreau 2015]

The term “geotherapy” was coined by Richard Grantham, an evolutionary biologist and geneticist who, in his later years, turned his attention to the deteriorating state of Earth in the current era, the Anthropocene.  He regarded the planet as ill, as a patient, in need of treatment.

The first geotherapy conference was held in 1991 in France, preceding the first international climate conference in Rio in 1992.  It was underfunded and the papers presented could not be published.  In the meanwhile the international community focused virtually all of its attention on climate as a greenhouse gas problem, and the powerful biological drivers of not only climate but most processes on Earth receded into the background.

This book is an invaluable contribution to redressing serious oversights on the part of mainstream climate science.  For example, anthropogenic climate change began long before the industrial revolution, as leading soil scientist Rattan Lal states in his Preface to Geotherapy:

One of the consequences of the drastic anthropogenic perturbation of the biosphere is the depletion of the ecosystem and soil carbon pools.  Rather than commencing with the onset of the industrial revolution around 1750, anthropocene began with the beginning of settled agriculture 10 to 12 millennia ago.  Over this period, more carbon may have been emitted into the atmosphere from deforestation and land use conversion than from fossil fuel combustion until the end of the twentieth century.  Thus, recarbonization of the biosphere in general and that of the soil carbon pool in particular is important to the maintenance and enhancements of ecosystem functions and services. [Goreau 2015: xv-xvi]

Geotherapy is an anthology of thirty-four scientific articles that sketch a roadmap to planetary health.  Topics covered range from biochar to rock powders to waste nutrient recycling to remediation with plants to carbon farming (farming with soil health a primary concern), and more.  The articles are well-illustrated, well-referenced, and accessible to a layperson generally familiar with scientific writing. It’s a guidebook with many shovel-ready approaches as well as theoretical explanations.  The sense of both urgency and hope in bringing back living systems to the anthropocene landscape is palpable:

If soils are not restored, crops will fail even if rains do not; hunger will perpetuate even with emphasis on biotechnology and genetically modified crops; civil strife and political instability will plague the developing world even with sermons on human rights and democratic ideals; and humanity will suffer even with great scientific strides.  Political stability and global peace are threatened because of soil degradation, food insecurity, and desperateness.  The time to act is now. [Rattan Lal in Goreau 2015: xvi]

Goreau, Thomas, Ronal Larson and Joanna Campe, eds. 2015, Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase, CRC Press,

For the full PDF version of the compendium issue where this article appears, visit Compendium Volume 1 Number 2 March 2018