Cows Save The Planet


With a B.A. from Brown University, an M.S.J. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern, how exactly did Judy Schwartz begin writing about the soiled side of life?

Schwartz’s book, Cows Save The Planet, addresses soil, a substance that many of us outside of the scientific realms would not consider to have an impact on our climate change.

It was familiarity with asking questions from her journalism and psychology background that led to Schwartz’s interest in soil and how it has affected our environment. When the publishing industry went into decline, Schwartz said her interest in the Transition Movement peaked just before the economic crisis in 2008, a moment which also had an influence in her journey.

The Transition Movement, to keep it simple, is an international movement that began in the United Kingdom that brings “an upbeat, can-do approach to dealing with peak oil and climate change on a local level,” as Schwartz herself put it in a Christian Science Monitor piece she authored in 2008.

As a result of her experiences, she learned a new form of economics called New Economics.

“Total dependence on one currency is like total dependence on one crop, or, for that matter, a single energy source: there’s always the risk that crop failure or a cutoff in supply will topple the whole system,” according to an article written by Schwartz for Yes! Magazine.

“The economy should serve people and the planet, as opposed to the other way around,” stating now the fear is that people and the planet work together to serve the economy.

Schwartz also stresses the importance of a movement called Slow Money, an alliance of networks organized around new ways of thinking about the relationships that occur between food, money and soil.

“Money is constantly moving faster and faster chasing evermore abstract, speculative profits,” Schwartz told me. “The whole idea of money is to allow people to trade in a very basic way.”

“I heard a comment that just wouldn’t let me go. Will Raap, the owner/founder of Gardener’s Supply, said that ‘more carbon dioxide has gone into the atmosphere in the last 150 years or so, from agricultural practices, compared to the burning of fossil fuel.’ And I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never heard this!’ I thought it was all about fossil fuels.”

Carbon dioxide is released when tilling the soil, and people often neglect to put the necessary nutrients back into the soil.

“When you start to look at different ways of bringing carbon back into the soil, then you start to see how animals are involved,” says Schwartz. “Add the use of animals to accelerate the biological process of bringing carbon back into the ground. It all comes down to photosynthesis.”


Soil must be treated a certain way to be able not only to retain carbon, but also water.

“We’ve got droughts all over the country, [then] you have flooding at different points, but it’s so relevant because…it’s not necessarily the amount of water, but the capacity of the land to hold that water,” she says. Once the water is in the ground, plants begin to grow and act as a cooling mechanism.

“So I kept thinking, ‘someone’s got to write a book on soil.'”

Soon after, Schwartz was approached by the Chelsea Green Publishing Company regarding her work on Allan Savory.

Savory, a Zimbabwean biologist who recently gave a speech for TED Talks, is the originator for the idea of holistic management. Chelsea Green proposed that she write a book on Savory’s work and practices, yet at the time she felt it was impossible to give the topic the justice it deserved.

However, armed with the desire to write, Schwartz proposed her idea for a book on soil, and thus Cows Save the Planet was born.

Conducting research for a full year, Schwartz spent a significant amount of that time brainstorming and “pushing the boundaries of [her] own scientific knowledge,” as this way of thinking wasn’t natural for her.

“Asking the questions is natural, engaging with science is not,” Schwartz confessed.

Having plenty of mentors during the writing process has allowed her to look at certain issues in a new way.

“We’re trained to look at numbers,” she explains, “we’re trained to say ‘well, this farm yields ‘X’ amount of beef…compared to the farm next to it… I learned from Allan’s work that…if you’re farming cattle, you’re really farming grass, if you’re farming grass, you’re really working soil. It’s about how things connect and how things work.”

Schwartz told us that the process of writing the book has had a large impact on the way she lives her life now.

“We think of food as a thing, as an object… I’ve come more to think of it as a yield of a part of a process… When you stop to think about how it all works, it helps you to make better decisions both in terms of health and in terms of its environmental impact. The closer you can get to where your food is produced, the better it will be for you, the better it will be for the land.”

With these words of wisdom and hopes for the future, Schwartz’s goal is to reach the younger generation.

“I so do want to reach young people, because my generation, and the generations before have just trashed things so much, and we need to think creatively on how to solve our problems and align with nature.”

Megan Kennedy

Megan Kennedy

A University of Dayton alumni, reporter, nature enthusiast, animal whisperer, avid hiker, mystery novel lover, and whiskey connoisseur.
Megan Kennedy
Megan Kennedy

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