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Read What the Land Thinks

Do you want to know what the land thinks?  You can read that in an Iowan’s new book The Land Remains, A Midwestern Perspective on Our Past and Future by Neil Hamilton because he has written it partly in the voice of 40 acres of Iowa farmland.  You can tell us what you think by joining River Action’s Environmental Book Club, June 27th , 7 p.m., at River Action’s office.

This book is really a love story, though an unconventional one.  It is love for the earth, the soil beneath our homes, highways and gardens, and the ground under our feet.  Literally, the land is the foundation on which we all exist.  But the author warns how it has become endangered. He weaves the narrative with humor, as when he talks in the voice of the land known as the Back Forty.

Here is a section from the Back Forty entitled “On Being a Prairie”.  “At one time I was a prairie. Prairies are all the rage now.  In nature circle discussions about climate change and sequestering carbon in the soil, much of the conversation focuses on prairies and how valuable they can be. Unfortunately, not much of the focus is on saving ones we still have at least not in Midwestern states like Iowa and Illinois, because there is hardly anything left to save! The settlers and pioneers couldn’t get rid of us fast enough! It was like there was a national contest to see who could plow up the most prairie the fastest—and in so doing you destroyed the native grasslands and many of the plants and critters living here.

It continues, “There is good news on the prairie front though, and it comes in several ways. First, although you did a great job of clearing us out, you didn’t get everything. In the well-fenced railroad right-of-way, in the pioneer cemetery, and even in small tracts tucked away in long-grazed Iowa pastures, remnants of native prairie are still being found.  These scraps and pieces are vital links to what once grew on me.  They still contain dozens of native plants, the grasses, forbs, and flowers once blanketing the state.  Today, prairie remnants have a new audience of enthusiasts who treasure their discovery.  I bite my tongue and resist the urge to cry out ‘where were you 150 years ago when the teams and gangplow took my prairie away!’ Then I remember how my time frame is so different than yours.”

The Land Remains is a book perfect for our time—an engaging and insightful piece on land and agriculture. Hamilton explores challenges, quite literally from the ground up, to find solutions and remind us we are all caretakers of the land.