Sunday, July 24, 2011

A different kind of carbon problem and free-ranged cattles are saving the day.

I remember some of my conversation with folks who don’t believe in climate change and think it’s all a global conspiracy. I respect their beliefs and I get a tickle for their witty response: but the trees and plants breath carbon-dioxide, it’s in the air, it’s not a bad thing. Aside from restraining my scare tactic and show you a bunch of graphs of a rapid shift in our atmosphere in the last few decades, I have incentive to also direct your attention to a new counterintuitive idea to solving a different kind of carbon problem.

First, aside from the emission crisis and the rapid environmental changes, we are also faced with a carbon shortage crisis in our topsoil. Over the last 150 years, we’ve lost between 50 to 80% of our organic carbon in the topsoil. The prime culprit is the existing system of industrial agriculture. According to Guardian Environmental Network, seven tons of carbon-banking topsoil have been lost to every ton of grain gained by our current methods of farming.

Some have suggested putting back the carbon into soil by carbonate or charcoal. See "Black Is the New Green," Conservation, Summer 2010. But a growing number of scientists are considering the option of brining back grazing animals and use their digestive systems their hooves of ruminants to turn deserts back into grasslands

Allan Savory, A 76-year-old native of Zimbabwe and a staunch supporter of the grazing animal idea, believe the practice of range raising animals could help prevent and even reverse land degradation and the desertification of grasslands. Savory's theory is that grasslands and herbivores evolved in “lockstep” with one another.

Animals eat plants, which allows sunlight to reach the low-growing parts; their waste then fertilizes the land; their hooves breaking up and aerating the soil. Savory doesn’t believe that grazing degrades the land; what matters to him is how livestock are applied to the land. He argues for the capacity of free-ranged production and thinks overgrazing is a problem of time, not of number – meaning we are able to raise the same quantity as our current CAFO methods if we properly manage the cycles of grazing with appropriate land area.

He was shunned for years by the mainstream academics for his belief. He marched on and expand his training programs. Today, his success is hard to ignore.

“Farmers, ranchers, and other land stewards who have attended his training programs have brought land back from the brink across Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. In 2010, his Zimbabwe nonprofit, the Africa Centre for Holistic Management, received a $4.8 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand its work in Africa. More recently, Savory won the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge prize, a prestigious award that supports a proposal with "significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems."”

You can read more at the Guardian Environmental Network.

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