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Fascinating lecture: “Keeping Cattle: Cause or Cure of Climate Change?”

Check this out. It’s a lecture by Allan Savory sponsored by Feasta, an Irish organization (“The foundation for the economics of sustainability”). There’s a 10 minute version and a 1 hour version. The full version includes a lot of seriously interesting stuff not in the condensed version. I’d love to have the opportunity to talk with Savory, or someone who knows his perspective well. There are some seeming discrepancies and over-reaches in his presentation, but he may have perfectly good answers to explain those. For example, if you watch the full version, you’ll see that he identifies “partial rest” (that is, allowing a small number of grazing animals to wander freely over a large plot of land) as being as destructive to the soil as “full rest” (no grazing animals at all), so that both result in desertification. He’s got lots of photos and case examples of this happening in arid climates. But in his lecture, given in Ireland, he implies that the Irish are likely to see similar results since the standard grazing method there is to use partial rest. But separately, he explains that the biological cycle, as it relates to soil health, is quite different from arid zones to year-round-humid zones, like Ireland. So is Ireland at risk of desertification if the current grazing pattern is maintained for sufficiently long? Or is there a fundamental difference that means partial rest grazing is harmless in humid zones? Update: I’ve just come across another video on restoring degraded land, “Hope in a Changing Climate.” Curiously, in this case the proffered explanation for success includes reduction of grazing. That’s not a direct contradiction of Savory’s thesis–he doesn’t deny that grazing can degrade soil, only that it inevitably will. Also, Savory is focused on grassland ecosystems while the locations in this video look to be, historically, hillside woodland.

I'm an associate editor at Chelsea Green and I like to think about low-tech/appropriate-tech gizmos that I hope to build when I have some spare time. In a previous incarnation, I coauthored the Field Guide to the U.S. Economy. When not at Chelsea Green or biking to work, I live and garden with my family in Norwich, Vermont.


If you need a new blog to follow…

I recommend a new blog from Liz Stanton, Public Goods: The economics of climate, equity and shared prosperity. Stanton is “a senior economist with the Stockholm Environment Institute-U.S. and a research fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) of Tufts University.” I know her because we were in economics grad school together a […] Read More..

Following up with Allan Savory on using cattle to reverse desertification and global warming

A couple weeks back I linked to the video of a lecture given by Allan Savory, on the topic of “Keeping Cattle: Cause or Cure of Climate Change?” Unexpectedly, and to my delight, a reader of the blog who knows Savory put me in touch with him, and Savory generously agreed to answer questions I […] Read More..

Pigs at the trough and looking beyond local farms

The February Center for Rural Affairs newsletter includes a couple articles especially worth noting. Bad news first: the Obama administration isn’t holding to the President’s campaign promise to clamp down on the loophole that allows unlimited subsidies to go to the biggest farms. In a repudiation of the president’s central campaign pledge on rural policy, […] Read More..

HCR Avatar analogy—and “pass HCR” contingency fund

Maybe lots of other people are making Avatar analogies, but I haven't happened to see them myself. So I'll just throw this out there. (Spoiler alert for people who haven't seen the movie and don't want to know the storyline: avoid this diary entry.) Read More..

A guy can dream… (passing health care reform)

Here’s my fantasy—if you have some way of making this into a reality, let me know! So it goes like this: the Senate version of health care reform, stripped of any semblance of a public plan by Joe “Take That, You Pathetic Citizens!” Lieberman, meets up with the House version in conference. They get merged […] Read More..