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A World Without Soil

The Past, Present, and
Precarious Future of the
Earth Beneath Our Feet

A scientist’s manifesto addressing a soil loss crisis accelerated by poor conservation practices and climate change. This book by celebrated biologist Jo Handelsman lays bare the complex connections among climate change, soil erosion, food and water security, and drug discovery.

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Praise for A World Without Soil

“Jo Handelsman is a national treasure, and her clarion call warning of a looming soil-loss catastrophe must be heard. Add her clearly written alarm to other future-shocks: climate change, pandemics, and mass extinctions.”

— Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance

“The ground beneath our feet is slipping away as we lose the precious soil that sustains us. Jo Handelsman’s writing—as rich and life supporting as the soil itself—is a riveting warning. She tells us eloquently about the danger we’re in, but also what we can do about it.”

— Alan Alda, actor, writer, and host of the podcast “Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda” 

A World Without Soil
wins Association of American Publishers 2022 PROSE Category Award: Government & Politics

About the Author

Jo Handelsman is the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and a Vilas Research Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Handelsman previously served as a science adviser to President Barack Obama.

Media Appearances


Science – Searching for solutions to our soil woes

Nature – A call for governments to save soil

The New York Review – The waste land

Learn More About Soil

Check out these books, articles, and websites to learn more about
the precious resource beneath our feet