In Blaenavon, South Wales, on a warm September morning last year, a psychotherapist from Colorado and a computer repairman from northeastern England, both on vacation, sat on a grassy hill slope and measured how water flowed through the layer of topsoil covering the hill. Their readings will help determine the quality of this land, which is currently used for sheep grazing.

The next day, on a nearby tract of land, a California elementary school teacher and a New Hampshire accountant, both also "on holiday," assessed the health of some 250 baby alder, ash, and sycamore trees that had been planted about a year earlier. Assisting the two Americans were Anatoly Mandych, the director of the Coastal Geographic Systems Laboratory at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow, and Marin Penkov, chairman of the national land council of Bulgaria, who, in addition to his state position, is a soil scientist.

The nonscientists...

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