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In the past decade, we have been told repeatedly by environmental campaigners, the UN, and scientists the world over that cows are a major contributor to climate change. The logic goes something like this:

1. Cows (and all ruminants) eat grass and other plants.
2. Ruminants release methane while digesting their food.
3. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Conclusion: Ruminants are a major contributor to climate change.

It also makes for great headlines: "Cows fart, burp. World Burns." It is funny, catchy, and true- to an extent.

While it is undeniable that ruminants produce greenhouse gases, there is one major flaw with this logic- nowhere in this reductionist line of thought do the ecological services provided by ruminants enter the equation.

This diary will introduce what is known as Holistic Management and how its implementation is akin to setting a bull into a china shop of reductionist thought. It also runs in tandem with my previous diaries on ecological gardening, but since its content is more applicable to larger land areas than a garden (at first glance), I've broadened the title to the umbrella of agroecology.

[Edit- The title of this diary is a direct lift from the title of Allan Savory's lecture which I discuss in this diary. I think it fits, but if anyone is truly concerned, let me know and I may change it.]

[Edit 2- Thank you to gmoke for informing us that Allan Savory will be speaking at The Fletcher School in Medford, MA on Friday Jan 25th!]

[Edit 3- 28.03.2013: Attaching proper citation for the photographs from China.]

Last time here...

My last diary in this "series" (link is photo and embed heavy) ended a two-piece showcase of the transition from lawn to forest garden at my parent's place in North Carolina. It has been a very long time since I have posted a diary that talks about techniques or design frameworks. What prompted this diary was my discovery that very few have been speaking about Holistic Management on Daily Kos. In all actuality, there has been very little discussion about agroecology and the benefits of holistic planning beyond just food production and into habitat restoration, watershed and hydrological cycle restoration, community empowerment, fire prevention, poverty alleviation, and conservation of non-industrial cultures.

This community is rendered poorer by the silence. It is my hope that this diary will help readers to challenge their belief that cattle- and by extension other ruminants- are detrimental to their immediate environment and have a net negative effect on climate change.1 I will not be arguing against the notion that cattle produce greenhouse gases. What I will be arguing, or, rather, presenting, is that the equation does not begin and end with "Cows fart, belch. World burns."

Wait a minute, the diarist is ignoring the main point of contention over livestock- their systematic destruction of ecosystems. What is this ecosystem services nonsense?
If you agree with the above statement, keep these questions in mind as you read this diary:
"If it were true that ruminants are inherently destructive, how is it that we still have reasonably functional grasslands tens of thousands of years after the evolution of ruminants?

Would they not have caused desertification, biodiversity loss, and climate change before humans domesticated the first goat, sheep, or cattle?

What is the fundamental difference between domesticated livestock and their wild relatives?

Why are the former demonized and the latter showered with love?"

1. This can be widened to negative views of livestock in general.

Introduction to Agroecology

My first diary on the broader subject of agroecology defined and showcased awe inspiring examples from around the world of agroecology in action. Since the diary was published in December of 2011, allow me to briefly refresh our collective memories.

Agroecology, as defined by Wikipedia:

Agroecology is the application of ecological principles to the production of food, fuel, fiber, and pharmaceuticals. The term encompasses a broad range of approaches, and is considered "a science, a movement, [and] a practice."
Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens, goes on to add in a powerful article, "Stabilizing the Climate with "Permanent Agriculture", that:
Permanent agriculture doesn’t just sequester carbon. It is also a fantastic way to restore degraded land to productivity. Much of the carbon we are pulling from the air becomes organic matter, the foundation of productive agricultural soils. The Global Assessment of Human-Induced Soil Degradation (concluded in 1990) found that vast amounts of the planetary surface have been degraded by human activity, through erosion of sloping land, desertification, salinization, and nutrient depletion. [emphasis added, link is original]
The implication is that human decisions and consequent actions have already degraded much of the planet. As we progress into the Anthropocene, it would be wise to remember what has come before. Shifting baselines, a concept which describes the phenomenon where humans remember the way things were earlier in their life and in turn, create a baseline against which all change is measured. Even though we live in a literate society, all too often our personal baselines fail to take into account the way things were in previous generations. Eventually, degraded states become "normal" and we become enamored with sustaining these degraded ecosystems. If this can occur in literate societies, imagine the profound effect on largely illiterate societies where the power of oral history is being stripped away by modernity. Luckily, agroecological methods are being proven the world over to halt and restore biodiversity and ecosystem function. In turn, our baselines can begin to ascend towards ecosystem recovery and regeneration rather than ecosystem collapse.2

Agroecology is a rapidly evolving science and movement that is just as broad and deep as its parent ecology. There are variations in implementation, techniques, and ideas. Also included in Eric's article were a couple of diagrams which mind-map the concept. Click here for a larger view.


Note that Holistic Management is included under "Design Systems." Version 1.5 Developed by Eric Toensmeier and mind-mapped by Ethan Roland

As you can see, this becomes complicated quickly if we begin to investigate each concept in depth without an understanding of what these techniques hope to accomplish. Simply put, agroecology implores us to study natural systems and mimic their structures to accomplish our goals. Protecting the soil, fostering a diverse food web, restoring hydrological functionality, and integrating humans into the system as wardens are prime considerations with these design systems.

Here is a collection of before and after photographs, again, from around the globe, where this concept has been put into action. As a teaser, I have decided to include just one view of the Loess Plateau in China.


Caption from link: Loess Plateau example 3a: Early September, 1995. Photograph by: Kosima Weber Liu


Caption from link: Loess Plateau example 3b: Early September, 2009. Photograph by: Kosima Weber Liu

It is imperative that you take a look at the full set of photographs before continuing to read this diary. Without an understanding of what is possible, these concepts will remain just that: constructs rather than spectacular paradigm shifts for the locations involved.3

If photographs are not enough, John D. Liu (whose photographs of the Loess Plateau I've included) has recently released a documentary named "Green Gold" where he tours the Loess Plateau, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Jordan to reveal locations where these concepts are being put into practice with jaw-dropping results. You can follow his and many other people's work on his website.

I think the evidence arrayed in this first section does a solid job of establishing the credibility of agroecology.4 Now let's discover what Holistic Management has to offer.

2. Although agroecology has been shown to restore these functions, we should keep in mind that restoring an ecosystem to a past state is more than likely not possible. Extinctions, non-anthropogenic climate change, human impacts, and our incomplete knowledge (including the question of "Restore to what [time]?") are just a handful of factors which make it neigh impossible to "restore" a habitat.
3. The link will take you to a talk on Resilience Science delivered at the 10th International Permaculture Convergence held in Jordan, two years ago, by Owen Hablutzel.
4. For further validation, see this report from a UN scientist declaring that agroecology is the future.

Holistic Management

In the 1960's, Allan Savory, a "research biologist and Game Ranger in the British Colonial Service of what was then Northern Rhodesia (today Zambia)" began experimenting with ways to restore grassland function to the benefit of the ecosystem and the humans who rely upon it.5 After decades of success and failure (and exile to the United States), Savory and his colleagues have developed a system of managing grasslands which stands in stark contrast to conventional wisdom. Four principles guide the design process:

Nature functions in wholes:You can’t control or change one thing in one area without having an impact on something else in another area.
All environments are different:It is crucial to acknowledge nature’s complexity and that an action can produce completely different results in different environments.
Properly managed livestock can improve land health: When domestic livestock is properly managed to mimic the behavior of wild herbivores interacting with grasslands, they can reverse desertification.
Time is more important than numbers: Overgrazing of plants is directly related to the amount of time the plants are exposed to the grazing animals and the amount of time that lapses between consecutive grazing events.
His radical notion of mimicking the symbiotic relationship between wild ruminants (and other herbivores) and grasslands with domesticated stock saw him shunned by universities and institutes until very recently when the results of his work have become readily apparent. While there still remains debate over these techniques, I believe that the results speak for themselves. The restored land, the communities saved, the farms turned around, the carbon sequestered, the healthy produce, return of biodiversity and ecological function are undeniable.

In 2003, the Allan Savory was awarded the prestigious Banksia International award "for the person or organization doing the most for the environment on a global scale."6 In his acceptance speech, Allan Savory had this to say:

I did not know that in attempting to address these questions, the path I took would lead to discovering a totally unsuspected root cause, which was tied to the way people make decisions rather than the many things we scientists have been blaming for years -- overgrazing, overstocking, communal tenure of land, overpopulation, etc. Nor did I realise how this cause could be addressed by Holistic Management, which involves a profoundly simple framework for decision-making that empowers people, corporations and governments to begin reversing thousands of years of environmental degradation.

[...]

[Ever humble, Savory remarks near the close of his speech that...]

We scientists achieve little on our own merits and I, like all, have built on the work and ideas of others and stood on their shoulders:  Jan Smuts, who gave us Holism and Evolution in 1926 as a forerunner to today’s complexity theory; Andre Voisin, the French pasture specialist who enabled us to understand that overgrazing was not caused by too many animals but rather by time of plant exposure to animals; John Acocks, the South African botanist who first stated that ‘South Africa was overgrazed but understocked;’ Navajo medicine men and Scottish shepherds who first noted the connection between the health of the land and the hooves of the sheep, amongst others.

Just two years ago, Savory's Africa Center for Holistic Management (ACHM) was awarded the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award. BFI has this to say:7
The work of the Africa Center for Holistic Management (ACHM), the 2010 Challenge winner, is a living testament to Allan Savory's breakthrough methods for reversing desertification and its insidious impact on livelihoods, biodiversity and climate change. Allan Savory has transformed large swaths of parched and degraded areas of the ranch into lush pastures replete with ponds and flowing streams even during periods of drought through a dramatic increase in the number of herd animals on the land. Savory's seminal work on the subject is called Holistic Management - A New Framework for Decision Making. [emphasis added]
This begs the question:
If cattle are inherently a contributor to climate change, as many would have you believe, why is an organization predicated on the management of such creatures receiving environmental awards for its work on ecological restoration and climate change?
5. Allan Savory's biography from the Savory Institute, an organization which takes its name from its co-founder. I should also mention here that there is another organization, Holistic Management International, which does similar work. I won't go into the differences, but they should be mentioned as well.
6. Actual embedded link takes you to the award citation. The long quotation that follows is excerpted from a copy of his acceptance speech which was forwarded to me by the Savory Institute after I inquired about a citation for his award. AFAIK the speech is not publicly available online. This particular award is no longer offered, which may explain why it is not on Banksia International's website.
7. For a full overview of their award and BFI's continued coverage, see this link.

Cattle and Climate Change

Let me introduce Allan Savory. In this nearly hour long lecture delivered at Trinity College, Dublin in 2009, entitled "Keeping Cattle: Cause or Cure for Climate Crisis?" Savory compares the conventional wisdom surrounding livestock and their grazing habits versus what he and his fellow practitioners have shown to be true.8 Savory was speaking at the request of the Feasta Foundation, a Dublin-based organization whose mission is to "explore the economic, cultural and environmental characteristics of a truly sustainable society, and to disseminate the results of this exploration to the widest relevant audience."

Now, I know what you are thinking- I just read all of that and now I have to watch an hour long lecture! oi!

I have two things to say to that. First, you came this far in a diary that is addressing one of the most common beliefs regarding land degradation and climate change. If this could be properly explained in less time, less thoroughly, then you are following the wrong diarist! Honestly, this is a topic that deserves your full attention. Although I guess I should not admonish you if you have made it his far!

Secondly, you are in luck. I know many folks do not have the bandwidth to watch such movies or are browsing from work where they simply cannot watch videos. And I know many people just don't have the time, nor want to watch, a lecture.9

So follow me on past the embed and I will walk you through Savory's lecture.

At the beginning of his presentation, Savory shows a slide entitled "World Views." The reductionist world view sees three separate serious issues: biodiversity loss, desertification, and climate change.

The holistic world view sees these three serious issues as one large issue resulting from ecosystem malfunction. While explaining how the hockey stick graphs of climate change, desertification, and biodiversity are but "three legs of the same stool", Savory has this to say:

They are indivisible. Without biodiversity loss, you don't get desertification. It doesn't occur. Desertification is a symptom of the loss of biodiversity. Plant cover, litter cover on the soil. As simple as that. If you get bare ground forming it changes the microclimate. By the time bare ground is the size of the Sahara or the big deserts of Australia and so on it's changing macroclimate. What I'm saying to you is that if we'd never discovered fossil fuels we would still be facing climate change brought about by humans. ... There's just mass ignorance that we are dealing with because of our reductionist point of view. [emphasis added]
Anthropogenic climate change is the culmination of a series of decisions made by human beings. We have been adversely affecting the climate and ecology of the planet for tens of thousands of years. Deforestation and desertification are not new to the human story. What is new is the scale. Environmental degradation is, more often than not, the result of humans misunderstanding the relationships between elements in an ecosystem- usually our own. Anthropogenic climate change is accelerating due to the burning of fossil fuels and the subsequent environmental destruction these energy sources enable us to inflict upon the biosphere.

Savory then lays out a litany of symptoms of environmental malfunction- everything from desertification to violence against women and children. He explains that most of our governments treat these symptoms as separate issues (again, reductionist thinking rears its ugly head). If we are to alleviate these issues, we must stop treating them separately and look for the underlying problem- the way we interact with the biosphere.

Continuing with the theme that we would be causing environmental malfunction even without fossil fuels (albeit not as rapidly), Savory then looked for a common denominator across time and cultures that would explain how we arrive in a degraded state.

The answer is: human decisions. Savory then examines the mainstream view of the problems in Africa:

Overpopulation; Overstocking and overgrazing; Communal ownership of Land; Poverty and no access to capital; Lack of education & training; Lack western extension services
Sound familiar, especially the overstocking and overgrazing bit? These are taken straight from the UN, independent think tanks, and other paragons of mainstream scientific and rational thought. The first three of these are blamed the most for the environmental problems Africa faces. Savory explains that we are so sure, that the mainstream scientists have "total certainty," that these are the factors. Then he takes a look at West Texas because it has a similar climate.
"It is easier to look at Africa than it is to look at ourselves."-Allan Savory
West Texas is the polar opposite of Africa: low and declining population, few animals after 100 years of destocking (on land, not on feedlots), private ownership, great wealth and access to capital, well funded education and extension services.

Take a guess as to whether or not the lack of the "African" factors has allowed West Texas to remain a land of abundance. Since I do not have written permission to copy images from the lecture, I will point you to the time stamp where he begins showing images from West Texas- skip to 11:11. Ghost towns, sand dunes, and environmental degradation.

How can this be? If environmental degradation is caused by overpopulation, especially that of livestock, how can an area that is almost devoid of livestock be turning to sand?

Herbivores, including ruminants and grasslands co-evolved. If you remove herbivores from the grasslands, they die.
For images of American experiments with removing and excluding livestock from the land, skip to 13:00.10 We've been experimenting for over five decades, in some locations, only to find that without a functioning food web, grasslands die. Complete and total rest does not work. They must have their symbiotic partners acting in a natural fashion to survive.11

What is the natural fashion of herbivores in grasslands? They form herds. Why do they form herds? To protect themselves from predators, who due to the abundance of prey, can form packs. As Savory explains in this lecture- you don't find packs of tigers in the forests of India.

What happens when herbivores form herds? The land is heavily impacted- all the plants in a given area are grazed (not just the preferred plants). Heavy hooves push organic matter into the soil, such as the prodigious amounts of manure and urine that the herd leaves behind. This fertilizes the earth and decompacts the upper layer allowing for rainfall to infiltrate. No creatures enjoy living in their own excrement. One only has to look at a modern feedlot to witness why. Under pressure from predators and this simple fact, the herds then move on- disturbing a location for a day or so before exhausting their food resources.

How does this natural behavior differ from how most humans manage their livestock? First, we have done our best to wipe out as many predators of our domesticated animals as possible. We have destroyed the ecosystems which allow them to roam freely and we have systematically persecuted our competition. By securing safety for our livestock, we have removed the impetus to form herds. Now the impact of the animals is spread thinly, without concentration, and the animals are able to eat whichever plants they wish- allowing undesirables to finish out their life cycle and become "problems."  

The evolutionary link between grassland plant species and herbivores has been fundamentally broken by human action.

Managing livestock in this way can easily contribute to climate change and environmental degradation in brittle climates (while the results are slow to show themselves in humid ones). But what happens if we learn from nature and apply the principles of Holistic Management?

A teaser photograph from Montana shows itself soon after 43:00. For the "Results" section of the lecture, you can skip to 52:19. Savory shows photographs from the very same day in a Hwange community in Zimbabwe and a ranch where Holistic Management is being implemented.

I kid you not when I say that the results are similar to those at the beginning of this diary depicting the Loess Plateau in China.
8. This video is also freely available for download on Vimeo. Right click on the word "vimeo" at the bottom right, click "watch on Vimeo" and you will find a download icon with three options.
9. Even if it is about a paradigm shift in the way we interact with the biosphere, even if it gives hope that we may one day put back the remaining pieces of our ecosystems and live in a regenerating world. Made you look. Seriously though, the fun is just about to begin- I promise you!
10. Savory will continue for almost thirty minutes documenting the failure of our belief that total, as well as partial, rest will allow grasslands to recover.
11. Plants even react differently to the chemical signature of saliva from diverse sources. The relationship between herbivore and grass (and other species of plants) is one of the oldest in evolutionary history.

Conclusion

By following the example set forth by nature, it is possible to increase biodiversity, restore degraded landscapes, provide a means of income for people from the developing to first world, and increase the population of ruminants at the very same time. In fact, it is almost impossible to restore grasslands without restoring herbivores in their evolutionary role in the environment.

The implementation of Holistic Management is based upon common sense and is a framework that everyone can understand and implement. It is restoring grasslands and being implemented across the globe- even in humid environments by the likes of Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms in Virginia. Holistic Management is turning conventional wisdom on its head and returning prosperity to ailing communities.

Here is yet another video, created as the Savory Institute's submission for TED's "Ads Worth Spreading" competition.

[In places that] haven't known water in 100 years in the dry season...we have open water, fish, water lilies, geese... no fear of droughts or floods. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are truly showing a way to address the most pressing issue that is facing humanity. [...] Is in line with the culture and livelihoods of pastoralists and agropastoralists. [...] Pastoralists are saying it is the first thing that has offered them hope in their lives of saving their cultures."

Livestock are not the problem.

Cattle are not inherently destructive.

The ecosystem services ruminants provide when managed properly restore rather than destroy.

The restoration of grasslands, savannas, and beyond, will sequester more carbon and do more to combat climate change than the damage ruminant emissions could ever cause in the process.

The way human beings manage livestock and the biosphere at large is the problem.

Additional Resources

[Note- I will be updating this list as I wait for comments]

Most pertinent: the Savory Institute.
The Africa Centre For Holistic Management.
Holistic Management International.

Excellent, must see documentary: John Liu's Green Gold- extended version of "Hope in a Changing Climate" that was presented at the recent Rio summit. I'll have to do a diary on this documentary. It is astounding.

There are some excellent video presentations from last year's International Permaculture Convergence held in Jordan, which followed a permaculture design course taught at the world-renowned "Greening the Desert Part II" site in the Dead Sea Valley. Here is a link to the documentary about the site, and here is a photo update from 2011 (around the time of the Convergence). John Liu's Green Gold also features the site and is probably newer than the 2011 pictures. If you scroll to the bottom of this webpage, you will find links to video presentations given at the convergence. Most were delivered in Bedouin tents near Wadi Rum.

You can also find a few more great documentaries in the first diary of this series- one about rainforest restoration to provide habitat for orangutans and a standard of living for the local people using agroecological methods as well as a documentary about Sepp Holzer, a very famous Austrian noted for his ability to cultivate citrus in the Alps.

My favorite books:

Edible Forest Gardens, Vol I and II. David Jacke with Eric Toensmeier. Chelsea Green, 2006.
Sepp Holzer's Permaculture. Sepp Holzer, translated by Anna Sapsford-Francis. Chelsea Green, 2010.
Gaia's Garden. Toby Hemenway. Chelsea Green, 2009 (2nd edition).
Let the Water Do the Work. Bill Zeedyk and Van Clother. The Quivira Coalition, 2009.
The One Straw Revolution. Masanobu Fukuoka. Link will point you to a decent review.
Akinori Kimura's Miracle Apples. By Takuji Ishikawa, translated by Yoko Ono. This is an absolutely fantastic story. My favorite part is towards the end, chapter 22, when Kimura is told of his family's first success. Give it a read!

For a much fuller list of books on the subject, see Toby Hemenway's Permaculture Reading List. The article I linked to up top is also a great read.

There are plenty of materials online as well.

The Permaculture Research Institute is excellent (Updated: formerly PRI Australia). With almost daily updates from the world of permaculture (an ethical design system that utilizes agroecology), this site is on my "must check list" daily. Good news to be found here.

The Land Institute. Their goal is to develop highly productive perennial staple crops which will produce a living system as stable as natural prairies. This is the kind of pioneering research we should be funding. H/T to sfinx for bringing them up.

Originally posted to Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 12:58 PM PST.

Also republished by SciTech, Climate Hawks, DK GreenRoots, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for reading and (83+ / 0-)

    please keep in mind that I live in Helsinki which is seven time zones ahead of EST. I am posting this on a Friday night because a) I don't want to go out and b) I have the studio to myself so I can stay awake and answer questions.

    I would also like to say that this diary is not about, nor is intended, to spark a debate over the morality of eating meat. My wife is vegetarian. I eat very little meat myself, and when I do, I try to choose the most ecologically sound products.

    If you decline to eat meat for moral reasons, I respect your decision. If you want to encourage others to eat less meat, I respect that too.

    But this diary is about countering the myth that livestock are inherently detrimental to their immediate surroundings and pose a threat to the climate. So please, let us discuss the topic at hand.

    Cheers,

    •  I wish I could stay longer, but it grows late. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ban nock, Wood Dragon, DawnN, shaharazade

      Goodnight DK!

      •  J. Finch (22+ / 0-)

        Finally.  How long have I been waiting for a diarist to get it right about what's wrong with modern Ag and human civilization in general.  We can produce a lot of food with heightened ecological benefits if we would only use enlightened strategies that mimic Nature herself.  Unfortunately, the level of thinking and the capital expense of current agriculture industry means that this will continue to happen at only experimental levels paid for by foundations or government grants just to show what can be done.

        But, in general, Kossers believe that all meat is bad, mainly because their only understanding of how meat is produced is the feed-lot.  And the feed-lot is very bad, indeed, the uber poster-child for agriculture run amuck:  forcing grain on a ruminant, moving the grain and animals many hundreds of miles to a concentration camp with all the accompanying pollution problems, growing annual grain with the required tillage, chemicals and fertilizers, producing a product that is extremely degraded and even bad for our health.

        So, we are way out on a tangent that is ruining the earth's eco-system.  We have 7.1 billion people.  We have less soil and overall habitat resilience than in a long, long time.   The climate is not happy with this.  

        At some point, at long last, we really need to get it right with food production and human footprint on the landscape.  Restorative agriculture built on agro-ecological strategies is the only way we can make it on this planet in the next several hundred years.

        But, for the people out there whose heads are spinning, think of it this way:  SOURCE YOUR FOOD!  Find the most ethical, low-input, tuned in producers in your local area and buy from them.  Lift them up, help them grow as farmers.  That's the best an individual can do right now.

        Industrial food production in America ruins our health, our environment and consumes more fossil fuel than any segment of our economy.

        by Mi Corazon on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 07:14:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks you. Many Kossacks do know (9+ / 0-)

          about Joel Salatin, but those of us who are familiar with agroecology just haven't been making our voices heard so that connections can be made between a man, theory, and practice.

          I have a lot of hope for the future. Change is most definitely on its way, but whether or not time hardened traditions and special interest-backed disinformation can be countered. The best way is to lead by example, the best we can, and get this message out there.

          But, for the people out there whose heads are spinning, think of it this way:  SOURCE YOUR FOOD!  Find the most ethical, low-input, tuned in producers in your local area and buy from them.  Lift them up, help them grow as farmers.  That's the best an individual can do right now.
          Yes, yes, yes. Farmers, gardeners, ranchers... they can't make the switch without customers who will be there to support them.
    •  Saturday evening update- (5+ / 0-)

      I'm going to take a few hours away from checking now that my wife is home.

      Have dinner to cook and Finnish homework to complete. Feel free to post comments and questions, as well as links to more information. Especially if you disagree with the diary, leave me links and I'll be happy to read them through.

      One last thing though- I want to remind readers that holistic management is not just about producing meat for consumption. Try to grapple with the concept of restoration and putting our lands back on track to ascending baselines rather than diminishing. I also should say that holistic management does not preclude the production of other agricultural and industrial commodities from the same land.

      For instance, I am enjoying a white wine froman Austrian biodynamic farm where they graze cattle between the rows of vines for all the ecosystem services they provide. This isn't applicable to just grasslands.

    •  Saturday: Good night everyone. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril

      Being seven hours ahead of EST can be a lot of trouble when trying to keep in touch with a diary. I see lots of comments rolling in, but it is almost midnight and I need to go to sleep now.

      Keep the comments and links coming!

      Night,

    •  The real threat to climate is man (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FinchJ

      The problem is people not ruminants.
      The more of us there are, the more we pollute the atmosphere in various ways.
      The animals we raise do contribute, however, my contention is that our use of fossil fuels as energy sources is the real problem
      We must transition our energy economy to renewable resourses - solar, wind, tidal etc as an emergency priority
      We must stop using fossil fuels within 40 years.
      We are very near the tipping point where our climate shifts into another regime via positive feedback from methane released by thawing permafrost and clathrate release of methane from warming coastal waters.  When these feedback loops kick in, there will be nothing we can do.

      The following is a whitehouse petition to promote the use of renewables and an end to the use of fossil fuels.

      https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/...

      Please sign the petition for your children's sake
      Thanks
      Barry Allen

  •  Fascinating diary. (13+ / 0-)

    I will follow up some of your many resources. Are you familiar with the Land Institute?

    Those photos are pretty staggering!

    Babylon system is the vampire... ~Bob Marley

    by sfinx on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:22:42 PM PST

  •  Isn't the problem with agriculture (12+ / 0-)

    be it crops or livestock, simply that we practise "mono-culture"

    A holistic approach suggests that the custodians of the land seek to balance what we take from it, with what we put back.

    Commercial agriculture doesn't do that, because the driver is profit .... even creating hedgerows is a problem because they would get in the way of the harvesters.

    And don't even get me started on the beef farms I have seen in Oklahoma and Texas.

    Complex giant of a Diary. I enjoyed the bits I could fully understand :)

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    Who is twigg?

    by twigg on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:34:58 PM PST

  •  appreciate your approach here (9+ / 0-)

    i'm all for systems approach, and an extra good-on-you for an ecological services analysis. every time i hear someone ask for cost-benefit analysis, i roll my eyes, precisely because our 100%-sh*tty economic system does such a defiantly poor job of assigning ledger entry dollar values to a healthy forest, clear river, etc.

    here's the thing for me, though, re: environmental impact of meat production. it goes way beyond methane.

    the amount of water / land / feed required to make that pound of beef is high (to the point of being not-sustainable).

    not gonna stand on a veggie soap box -- i actually do eat meat -- although much, much less than i used to, in part for health concerns but mostly out of it's behemoth footprint (methane plus water plus grain plus land).

    "i hear you're mad about brubeck ... i like your eyes. i like him too." -donald fagen

    by homo neurotic on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 01:37:04 PM PST

  •  Great Plains Bison, (14+ / 0-)

    tens of millions of them, managed to inhabit the American prairie without bringing about the end of the world (or the prairie, either).  Enter humans . . . bison nearly exterminated, prairie plowed, dust storms follow.

    Myabe there's a lesson in there somewhere.

    Great diary . . .

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 02:21:29 PM PST

  •  Wonderful resource and overview, (7+ / 0-)

    tipped, rec'd and hot listed. Thanks for the hard work and great collation of material, I'll be using it to refer to and pass on.

    Sleep well. ;-)

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 04:31:10 PM PST

  •  Let me just add a note to other readers" (8+ / 0-)

    If you are wondering whether it is worth watching those videos - YES! They are mind-blowing.

    Having read the diary earlier I came back to watch the vids and I am really glad  did. Thanks again!

    Babylon system is the vampire... ~Bob Marley

    by sfinx on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 06:25:43 PM PST

    •  The videos really make the case. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DawnN, DrFood

      I had been planning on taking screen shots of the lecture, but since I only had last night when I would have the house to myself and the will to stay in and baby sit... well, I didn't have time to ask permission from FEASTA. (By the time I started to pick up where I left off two nights ago, their office in Dublin would have been closed)

      Those images I ask folks to skip to are exactly as you say, "mind-blowing"!

      Thanks again for coming by sfinx!

      •  Yes, thanks for picking out the bits to skip to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FinchJ

        I did that first, and that motivated me to go back and watch the whole thing.

        Thanks to you too - I'll be watching out for more!

        Babylon system is the vampire... ~Bob Marley

        by sfinx on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 09:27:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for showcasing John Liu's videos! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FinchJ, melo, Mrs M

      I tried to push them in comments a while back, but got nowhere.  His stuff is so inspiring, and it's wonderful to see us humans making things BETTER on such a massive scale.  Truly hopeful.

      If we could turn our focussed attention on the millions of acres of human-degraded landscape, I think we could capture really significant quantities of carbon.  Even if we can't, we would be returning wastelands into positive production of food which is so necessary.

      Much of what you discuss in this diary falls under the rubric of permaculture.  Anybody who wants to discuss permaculture should check out permies.com

      Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

      by DrFood on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 12:28:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AZ Sphinx Moth, FinchJ, DawnN, cocinero

    Thanks for writing it.

  •  I'm only down to the first Liu video on green gold (8+ / 0-)

    This is too much for one reading but I can find it again in the morning and even bookmark if I don't finish then.

    A big thank you to Community Spotlight.

    And a big thank you FinchJ for writing all of this down. We eat mostly wild meat here, I've heard people say bad things about wild ruminants as well as cattle.

    I did look at many of the before/after photos and many things look small scale and labor intensive, which is actually a good thing, there are worse things to do in the world than to grow things both plants and animals.

    I'm not sure how well such ideas would be accepted by what is basically an urban society. I live in the American west and our small scale ranchers are often hated and derided by our urban elites. Most are small scale ranchers, I think the average ranch is around 25 head. Many have been on the same land for generations and contribute significantly to irrigation and making the land more fertile than it would be using careful husbandry and planting.

    We drive them off their land, as we seemingly hate them with a passion. I don't know why. The word "rancher" has become a term of derision amongst environmentalists. I think they have a romantic dream of a place far in the past that never was. I'll comment more as I read more.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 07:10:08 PM PST

    •  Thank you for your kind words and thoughts- (7+ / 0-)
      We drive them off their land, as we seemingly hate them with a passion. I don't know why. The word "rancher" has become a term of derision amongst environmentalists. I think they have a romantic dream of a place far in the past that never was. I'll comment more as I read more.
      This is all too true; and it is a symptom of our culture's desire for urbanization. Farmers as well as ranchers have been told for decades now that their profession is a dead end. IMO, rural brain and population drain has had an enormous effect on the delay in uptake of agroecological methods. With less farmers but with more farming than ever to do, there just aren't the hands anymore.

      The push to urbanize at all costs is a mistake. We need people to stay on the land, to have holdings at a size they can manage properly. But first we need to stop telling children that there is no future and that heading to a university and never "coming home" is much more admirable than staying on the land (while still receiving an education). Not only do we have to stop diminishing the way of life, but we need to support those who choose to protect and restore their charge with a livelihood that makes it attractive.

      Thanks for stopping by. I do write "mammoth" diaries. An old habit from my days studying history. :)

      •  How are we to encourage them (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cocinero, FinchJ, BYw, Cassandra Waites

        to stay on the land, when they are paid less and less for more and more work?  When the only way to make ends meet is to compete in a vicious market that is severely tilted for the benefit of corporate agriculture, and frankly, few of those city-dwellers are willing to pay the costs of food grown responsibly and well?  So long as urban workers are paid non-living wages, and the urban middle-classes are urged to compete and "bargain hunting" for low prices over all, and what government supports exist are deliberately designed to advantage large agribusiness, those who actually produce will not be adequately compensated.  The young starting out without capital in the form of inherited family land will be unable to do anything except work as managers on corporate farms under corporate mandates to maximize short-term profits while abusing the land, the livestock, and the short-term immigrant workers brought in to keep costs low.

        In human society as with the land, it's all One Thing.

        •  There is more than one way to make ends meet. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mrs M

          Perhaps not for everyone, but for many it is possible to build a local market for your products. The way we as consumers help is to look for these products, purchase them, and converse with the farmer to let them know exactly why we purchase from them.

          If nothing is available in your area, perhaps reaching out to farmers and inquiring what it would take for them to switch.

          It is an uphill battle. Our society is facing so many issues that you rightly point out, but I think we have to hold out hope that our actions- when taken together- have the power to set in motion change for the better.

          I'm sorry I don't have a better answer for you at this point. Perhaps that could be the focus of another diary.

          •  You assume the consumer (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mrs M, FinchJ

            has some wealth, I'm afraid.  Being currently unemployed and eating up my savings in a small apartment, I'm not exactly in a position to be seeking out opportunities to pay premiums for better food.  I'm commenting here to note that the playing field and the incentives our society sets for land management are just all wrong, and that's going to be a major impediment to any movement for reclamation, no matter how technically superb.

            •  I agree with you. (0+ / 0-)

              How to level the playing field so everyone can afford clean and ecologically produced food is beyond my expertise.

              I am also unemployed. I don't buy everything organic. I wish I could, but we can't. I am getting involved with local organizations to network with local farmers and such since that is the line of work I'll be going into. That right there might help me when spring comes around in terms of employment and finding good quality food at a reasonable price.

              But it is a struggle. The incentives and priorities our society have are out of line at just about every level.

              I honestly believe that access to affordable, clean, and ecologically produced food should be a universal human right. How to get there is a very complicated road.

          •  it is small, but (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FinchJ

            there is an emerging market of ranchers processing selling direct to consumers via the grapevine, the internet, or local newspapers.  They are also selling direct to various "health food' outlets.  I see about 4 - 5 "brands" of these in the stores.  This is ranch country in New Mexico, east of the mountains where the prairie begins.  These emerging markets are by-passing the established production/distribution networks.  I suspect this dynamic is at work in many places in the West.

            This is all ranch-raised grass-fed beef and lamb.  There is also pork and goat.  I get all my meat from my neighbors; raise poultry myself.

            I've heard of Savory for years; I'm pretty sure he has worked with some of the ranchers out here and his ideas seem well-received.

            don't always believe what you think

            by claude on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 08:16:45 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Bad ranchers tarnish good ranchers. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FinchJ, cocinero

      What's the way to make the efficient distinction idely distributable?  The bad news--overgrazing & predator depletion--travels fast.  Good news, not so much...

      Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

      by Leftcandid on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:30:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I admire a person who has the stamina... (12+ / 0-)

    I admire a person who has the stamina and intellectual discipline to post such a detailed diary. I am giving it poor reward by quickly skimming through and suggesting that it deserves an executive summary along these lines:

    The concern about the role of zoogenic methane in global warming is legitimate, but needs to be refocused. Herd animals such as cattle and sheep are an essential part of the ecology of grasslands. Preventing desertification therefore implies maintaining livestock herds. The solution to zoogenic methane may lie not in eliminating the animals but in altering their digestion and developing more sustainable patterns of grazing
    The photos of the Loess Plateau are impressive. I am sure they involved careful herd management. There are areas of the southwestern and mountain central US where poor herd management methods devastated areas perhaps irretrievably.

    Thanks for a detailed, thoughtful, and passionate diary.

    •  CharlesII- thanks for the summary :) It is a very (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DawnN, BYw, mamamedusa

      long and dense diary.

      Your summary hits most of my points on the head.

      Interestingly, the Loess Plateau project required the Chinese government to pay farmers to stop grazing their goats. This indicates total rest. However, I would say that in their situation it may have been necessary. The farmers were then paid by the government to partake in the large scale earthworks and planting projects. They were guaranteed that the work they performed would be turned over to their ownership once completed.

      In light of the massive terraforming undertaken in the region, perhaps keeping the animals fed and therefore freeing time for the farmers to participate in the emergency restoration project was the right course.

      It is my opinion, and that of many regenerative designers, that there are no irretrievable locations on the planet. Some may not be accessible now, but as we restore the entire world (and almost the whole planet needs a lot of help), we will change climate patterns in such a way as to begin the march back to abundance in areas now deemed untouchable.

      There is, of course, the question as to how much of the earth should we "restore." That would be the topic for another diary though- lots of things to take into consideration there.

    •  Please watch the Green Gold video (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FinchJ, BYw, Mrs M

      If you don't have time, look for the 5 minute version of "Hope in a Changing Climate," which covers the same topic briefly.  

      Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

      by DrFood on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 12:31:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Will bookmark this for later - got to rise early (10+ / 0-)

    But I'm pretty sure there is useful research here.

    I oversee 130 acres of family land that is under wildlife management. Pretty dry 10 months out of the year, 100 years of overgrazing, hilly, bad erosion, sporadic native grasses and overgrown with cursed junipers.

    Around here, junipers sprout easily when they aren't shaded by tall grass, then compete aggressively for the limited water. Soon enough there is no grass, just junipers. Rain runs off instead of soaking in.

    When I took over about five years ago, all my reading boiled down to increasing grass cover as job #1. Tactic #1 is cutting juniper, which is left in place as 'slash.' Slash breaks the raindrops' impact, impedes flow and keeps critters from grazing baby grasses. I figured hilltops were the place to start. Rain soaking in there would seep in to supply lower plants longer term, plus rain running all the way down a hill would pick up speed and cause worse erosion.

    So, 800 hours of sweat and four chainsaws later, where there was bare limestone 'dirt', there are widespread clumps of three foot tall little bluestem, with a fair smattering of blue grama. Got a lot more sawing to do, some washes to dam up etc., but it's starting to look like some of your before/after pix. Leave the grazing to the deer for now, but some rotating cows may join us in a few years.

    On days I am feeling particularly worthless, I walk through these areas to let myself know that I am making a difference.

    Disclaimer: If the above comment can possibly be construed as snark, it probably is.

    by grubber on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 08:28:50 PM PST

  •  could not agree more! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, DawnN, shaharazade

    excellent diary

  •  No, yes, no, no. Wait a minute here. (7+ / 0-)

    No, I'm not buying the premise. Or at least it's headline expression.

    Yes, I'm totally in sync with your contextual perspectives. Yes, we need to take a holistic view as much as we are capable. Systems science goes far further towards wisdom than do the fragmented overspecialized disciplines of reductionist science. I've fought the reductionists for decades, and am your ally as a fellow champion for ecosystemic health.

    But, by the time any of us fully digest the several hours of material in this diary, the time for comments will be over. And unfortunately, the material does not justify the conclusion/premise of an implied "cure" answer to: "Cattle, Cause or Cure for Climate Crisis?"

    Stepping back, and seeing a bigger picture with less detail, there are some generalizations that may be appropriate here:

    Animal domestication by humans is among the most ecosystemically destructive of the dynamics that are at work in putting longterm sustainability at risk. As the scale of such domestication has risen relative to carrying capacity, the impact has risen from negligible to catastrophic.

    The diarist never argues that more cattle would be better. The diarist argues for approaches that only make sense at far smaller cattle populations that the earth currently has.

    Hmmmm.... why am I feeling that the title of this diary is misleading? Let's start here:

    Probably diarist and commenters and most progressives would prefer intentional shifts away from large-scale livestock toward smaller-scale.

    To how small a scale? For example, would we better off in the extreme case of zero livestock? Well, no environmentalist is likely to support elimination of of all ruminants from planet earth; we tend to take a very dim view of species going into extinction. Its a strawman to posit that folks concerned with climate and methane somehow consider all ruminants to be worthy of elimination for the cause.

    So walking away from strawman arguments, the macro question would look at ruminant population in the context of longterm ecosystemic balance, and without subsidy or interference by homo sapiens.

    Wild ruminants in natural habitats would be cropped by predators, would as herbivores crop the vegetation and contribute their excrement, and over time would participate in returns to dynamic equilibria.

    Wild ruminants, yes. "Livestock", well, no.

    What's the difference? Multifacetted, but at root: Wild vs Domesticated.

    And this is where a subtle bait and switch seems to rise up in the diary to yield misleading headline/premise.

    * The key benefits come from shift from largescale to small scale, and from domesticated to wild -- NOT from

    * We can have the benefits touted in the diary from a return of substantial land to natural habitat for life (plant and animal) in the wild protected from human interference; there is no need for "livestock" or any other form of animal domestication to achieve these benefits.

    * The population of "human-sponsored" animals will necessarily shrink as part of the  overall human footprint shrinking and open up space and resources for the population of wild fauna and flora to recover to sustainable levels determined by ecological dynamics.

    Wholism is not the enemy of simpilicity; rather they can be allies.

    The picture of the whole earth taken from space is at once both comprehensive and simple.

    It is not reductionist to realize some simple generalizations.

    One of those worth recognizing is simply this: the plants are losing and the animals are winning.

    And as Lotka-Volterra dynamics demonstrate over and over, when the animals triumph over the plants, the animals lose as well. (Overcropping leading to consumer die off.)

    Human-and-human-sponsored oxygen consumers are also carbon (GHG) emitters. Their populations are vastly above sustainable levels. Transitioning humanely toward soft landing at sustainable levels is a supreme challenge of our current century.

    The oxygen producers are also the carbon consumers, and their collective biomass has been shrinking due to being defenseless against the ever growing populations consuming them.

    Human-and-human-sponsored consumers are collectively imposing a wholly unsustainable footprint. Any pathway forward must entail a dramatic reduction of that footprint.

    As uncomfortable as it is to look in the mirror and see our collective obesity, we must realize that our footprint consists not only of the dimensions of our personal bodies and our consumptive and polluting behaviors, but also of all that we are dependent on and we sponsor to support us: the cattle, the chickens, the pigs, and collectively all the billions of domesticated "food animals"; the dogs, the cats, and collectively all the billions of domesticated "companion animals"; the cars, the trucks, the airplanes, and collectively all the many millions of fossil-fueled machines that behave like animals (consuming oxygen and producing carbon emissions); and the buildings, the factories, the production processes that follow those same dynamics. None of the foregoing would be present in their current numbers if not for human sponsorship financed by temporary abundance of fossil fuel. None of those numbers are sustainable. The sooner we shift our consumption, culture, and consciousness away from dependence on the unsustainable, the better.

    Nothing in this diary suggests a change to our understanding that cutting back on meat consumption is healthy personally and of utmost importance planetarily; while simultaneously on a more subtle level, we can all agree with the wisdom that to the extent we do eat meat, its origin ought be as far from CAFO as possible and as close to the sustainable husbandry expounded in this diary.

    Changing what type of animal we eat is in no way a "cure" if the scale of the eating does not change.

    Changing how we manage our livestock is in no way a "cure" if the scale does not change.

    The overarching priority is to dramatically reduce the footprint of consumers, and quickly. Scaling back cattle populations globally is key to that. Once such a scaling-back has been accomplished, then the ideas in this diary are extremely applicable to exploring questions of how humans ought to interact with such sustainably-small-scale ruminant populations -- as hands-on Warden or as hands-off Steward? But until we are anywhere near that scale, the predominant attitude in the environmental community very much ought be that cattle are indeed curse rather than cure in regards to climate crisis.

    #3: ensure network neutrality; #2: ensure electoral integrity; #1: ensure ecosystemic sustainability.

    by ivote2004 on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 10:51:51 PM PST

    •  Although I disagree with your conclusion, (7+ / 0-)

      I recommend your comment as it is well thought out and provides a good starting point for discussion. I do, however, resent the implication that I am actively baiting and switching the audience.

      Let me address some of your points of contention.

      First, the title.

      The title, as I mentioned at the beginning of the diary, is lifted from the title of Allan Savory's lecture. "Curse or Cure?" While the evidence presented in this dairy leans towards "cure," I think it would be wise to assume that I understand that the climate crisis cannot be "cured" by a silver-herd of cattle. As far as I can tell, the vehement antagonism towards livestock herding falls on the "curse" end of the spectrum. The answer lies somewhere in the middle, depending on the situation. I never stated that cattle are the cure for the climate. The entire section on agroecology would put that claim to rest as it clearly demonstrates that there are many methods to combating climate change in the agricultural sector alone.

      Also, if you watched the lecture, Allan Savory also doesn't believe that cattle are the cure for climate change. He talks briefly about the need for hi-tech solutions for our energy crisis, but focuses- like I have- on the low tech solutions. I left it out because it has nothing to do with my intention of challenging the belief that livestock are inherently a curse.

      Second, this bit:

      As the scale of such domestication has risen relative to carrying capacity, the impact has risen from negligible to catastrophic. [...] The diarist never argues that more cattle would be better. The diarist argues for approaches that only make sense at far smaller cattle populations that the earth currently has.
      Have we risen to carrying capacity, or have we moved to a model of agriculture that destroys ecosystems rather than maintains or rejuvenates them? Yes, the current industrialized system is pushing the planet to its extremes. Anyone can see that. But we are talking about restoration here. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land that is at risk of desertification, hundreds of thousands of acres of land that is desertified that could be brought back, and hundreds of thousands of acres of land that is currently mismanaged but not showing the extreme signs of degradation. How do you declare that we are at the earth's carrying capacity when this carrying capacity is the result of declining baselines? We are seeing remnants of the productive capacity of the earth. Whether or not after restoration we could maintain the same numbers of livestock remains to be seen.

      The second part is true, I never argued that more cattle would be better. However, if you were to watch the presentation or follow the links to more information on HM, you would find that more often than not, ranchers and villagers are increasing the sizes of their herds as their land returns to productivity.

      The last part remains to be seen. I don't think that you have provided any evidence to support said conclusion when you take into account the increasing size of herds on Holistically Managed properties. I have a feeling that we will see less livestock in the future, even with the wider adoption of HM, but I have no evidence to suggest that conclusion.

      Third:

      Probably diarist and commenters and most progressives would prefer intentional shifts away from large-scale livestock toward smaller-scale.
      It depends on what you mean by smaller scale. If you mean smaller scale in terms of the size of land holdings by families, businesses, and individuals, you'd be heading down the right path in terms of deciding what I want. Every situation differs, so I cannot make a blanket statement that everyone should have less land. The follow up to the quoted lines has been addressed in the diary. Removal of herbivores from grasslands and savannas leads to ecosystem collapse.

      Fourth:

      Wild ruminants in natural habitats would be cropped by predators, would as herbivores crop the vegetation and contribute their excrement, and over time would participate in returns to dynamic equilibria.(1)

      Wild ruminants, yes. "Livestock", well, no.

      What's the difference? Multifacetted, but at root: Wild vs Domesticated.(2)

      And this is where a subtle bait and switch seems to rise up in the diary to yield misleading headline/premise.

      * The key benefits come from shift from largescale to small scale, and from domesticated to wild -- NOT from (3)

      * We can have the benefits touted in the diary from a return of substantial land to natural habitat for life (plant and animal) in the wild protected from human interference; there is no need for "livestock" or any other form of animal domestication to achieve these benefits.(4)

      * The population of "human-sponsored" animals will necessarily shrink as part of the overall human footprint shrinking and open up space and resources for the population of wild fauna and flora to recover to sustainable levels determined by ecological dynamics.(5)

      (1) Yes.

      (2) Human beings may not have evolved to be predators, but we have adapted our behavior in certain situations to become predators. We are a part of the natural world. There is no separation.

      The movement of livestock in Holistic Management mimics the wild movements herbivores. We "prey" upon this managed herd by removing individuals for harvest. I'm not sure how any of the following points you make refute this?

      (3) Again, on many if not most Holistically Managed properties, the total number of livestock increase. The key benefits of HM are that we can restore ecosystem functionality by changing our behavior. I fail to see how this can not be achieved with livestock, especially since Allan Savory does a very good job showing what is possible.

      (4) Mostly true. I would also like to see larger areas set aside as conservation zones, natural parks, reserves, and research areas. What isn't true is that you are ignoring the economic benefits these techniques bring to their practitioners. They allow cultures that have lived on the land to secure their future. That is a key benefit of Holistic Management. Perhaps as more land is restored, we can retreat to a smaller footprint of human managed land. I would support such policies- ones that begin the restoration with managed livestock and then allow wild creatures to continue the work into the future.

      (5) Again, your comment does not provide any evidence that we will necessarily shrink our footprint in grasslands and savannas where Holistic Management is going to be applied most readily. That doesn't mean that I do not agree that we should withdraw from some areas, let us try to be a bit nuanced here.

      Fifth:

      And as Lotka-Volterra dynamics demonstrate over and over, when the animals triumph over the plants, the animals lose as well. (Overcropping leading to consumer die off.)
      Please provide a citation that demonstrates this concept in specific regards to holistically managed properties. Properly managed grasslands and herds are not in a predator prey relationship. The plants are not losing in the equation. In fact, they are gaining by the action of the herbivores. The lecture clearly demonstrates this symbiotic relationship.

      Sixth:

      I'm going to skip your section on humanity's footprint being entirely too large, because it is true and is implied in the diary.

      Nothing in this diary suggests a change to our understanding that cutting back on meat consumption is healthy personally and of utmost importance planetarily;
      You are right. I also mentioned in the "tip jar" comment that this diary is not about healthy eating habits.

      Seventh:

      Changing what type of animal we eat is in no way a "cure" if the scale of the eating does not change.

      Changing how we manage our livestock is in no way a "cure" if the scale does not change.

      I agree with the first part. I don't think we need nor can the planet sustain every human being eating the quantity of meat Americans do  three times a day. Second part, well, of course. But this dairy wasn't about the quantity of meat we eat.

      It was about challenging the notion that livestock are inherently detrimental to their immediate environment and are inherently a negative part of the climate change equation.

      Lastly:

      But until we are anywhere near that scale, the predominant attitude in the environmental community very much ought be that cattle are indeed curse rather than cure in regards to climate crisis.
      I don't believe you have offered any evidence to support this claim. In fact, I have a hard time believing that you have paid serious attention to this material. If we continue to treat cattle as a curse, rather than a part of the cure, we will be shutting and slowing down the application of these techniques which are proven to restore functionality of the ecosystem on many levels.

      I'm glad that governments, NGOs, and private individuals are adopting these techniques because they address the root causes of climate change. Remember, the title was posed as a question- how you answered it was up to you.

      The world isn't "curse or cure." I think the diary demonstrates that.

      •  Correction, I did say in my conclusion (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DawnN

        that we can increase livestock numbers and reap the benefits of Holistic Management at the same time.

        By following the example set forth by nature, it is possible to increase biodiversity, restore degraded landscapes, provide a means of income for people from the developing to first world, and increase the population of ruminants at the very same time.
      •  I agree with ivote2004 on the following (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cocinero, ivote2004

        basis. While agroecology may ultimately, along with many other benefits, result in planet-wide carbon neutral domestic ruminant farming, today its impact is limited globally. With commercial farming being much, much more dominant, and no conceivable path to rapid conversion on the timescale of Climate Change, it is critical to note that, in the short term, the reduction of ruminants and their methane production, non-carbon neutral farming populations MUST be reduced as part of the overall reduction of carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, which is well-established baseline, as I understand it.

        In that sense I, too, find the diary misleading. You seem to suggest, whether intentional or not, that we can work our way out of the Climate Change problem vis-a-vis cattle farming by simply converting practices. Over a long, long now, that may be true. But not on the shorter now in which Climate Change will be devastating.

        And, contrary to one of your conclusions about ivote2004's remarks, none of this discourages agroecology, the type of cattle farming you are describing, OR promoting a view that cattle or cattle
        farming are inherently a problem, but that the approaches to them and methods employed can be, and are, in the modern, mass commercial model.

        The Class, Terror and Climate Wars are indivisible and the short-term outcome will affect the planet for centuries. -WiA "When you triangulate everything, you can't even roll downhill..." - PhilJD

        by Words In Action on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 09:14:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, today its impact is limited globally. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Crider, DrFood, BYw

          But the investments continue to pour in and new adherents are picking up the practice at a very rapid pace.

          I'm not so sure what you mean by this:

          the reduction of ruminants and their methane production, non-carbon neutral farming populations MUST be reduced as part of the overall reduction of carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, which is well-established baseline, as I understand it.
          Do you mean that we must reduce the numbers of non-carbon neutral populations of ruminants?
          You seem to suggest, whether intentional or not, that we can work our way out of the Climate Change problem vis-a-vis cattle farming by simply converting practices. Over a long, long now, that may be true. But not on the shorter now in which Climate Change will be devastating.
          Properly implemented, holistic management will see benefits in a years time with the changes compounding in subsequent years. Holistic management can turn around a ranch in less than ten years. That isn't fast enough?

          I don't see teaching and implementing new ways of managing livestock as taking all that long to disseminate, especially if governments were to actively support the move.

          What is this shorter now that you are talking about? What are your suggestions for the millions of people who rely upon livestock for their way of life? Why not teach them a management practice that is proving itself the world over to better their environment?

          Yes, I and many experts in the field, believe that livestock can play a positive role if we convert our practices. Does that mean there will be over 3.5 billion domestic ruminants? I don't think anyone really knows.

          And I am not sure at all what your last sentence is getting at.

          I would really like to hear what you mean regarding livestock. What is your solution to the improper management which leads to environmental degradation? I really hope it is one that takes care of families who rely upon this way of life.

    •  spot on ivote!..... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ivote2004, FinchJ

      this:

      Changing what type of animal we eat is in no way a "cure" if the scale of the eating does not change.

      Changing how we manage our livestock is in no way a "cure" if the scale does not change.

      The overarching priority is to dramatically reduce the footprint of consumers, and quickly. Scaling back cattle populations globally is key to that. Once such a scaling-back has been accomplished, then the ideas in this diary are extremely applicable to exploring questions of how humans ought to interact with such sustainably-small-scale ruminant populations -- as hands-on Warden or as hands-off Steward? But until we are anywhere near that scale, the predominant attitude in the environmental community very much ought be that cattle are indeed curse rather than cure in regards to climate crisis.

      Macca's Meatless Monday

      by VL Baker on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 03:26:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think it remains to be seen, but (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo, kyril, Mrs M, claude

        probably correct that the numbers will drop as we stop producing grain and corn for livestock production.

        However, I completely disagree that we have to wait, and while we wait, continue to treat cattle as a curse when with proper management they can be part of the cure.

        The ideas in this diary are extremely applicable now. There is no good reason, in my mind, to wait until we have scaled back industrial production to begin exploring these options. Instead, I think the transition to holistically managed livestock would be much easier if we who are opposed to industrial production would offer and support it now as an alternative.

        That way people who are on the fence can see that we have and are supporting solutions today.

  •  CLIMATE CHANGE May Make Some of This (3+ / 0-)

    moot.

    And I'm more interested in fundamentals like: is beef truly the most healthy, ecologically balanced, efficient and affordable method to provide protein for human consumption?

    IMHO, the answer to all four of the above is a resounding NO.

    We already know over consumption of beef leads to heart disease and increased mortality.

    We already know a massive amount of fresh water and feed (often grain stock like field corn) is needed to make one pound of beef.

    Due to the long term drought in Texas, our largest beef producing state, here's what's happening:

    Without enough food and water, ranchers cannot continue maintaining their herds. So many are taking their cows to market. Texas is the largest beef cattle producing state in the country, typically with about 14 million head. But that number is dwindling as ranchers drastically cull their herds.

    The horrible drought has led to a record $5.2 billion in agricultural losses, according to the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. More than $2 billion is linked directly to livestock losses. And it still hasn’t rained. This drought will have a lasting impact on the state and everyone will likely see impacts on the cost of beef and other agricultural products in the near future.

    Last I heard, the drought continues in Texas, and overall in several regions of our nation. Use of the Ogallala Aquifer by western/midwestern farmers and ranchers has hit crisis mode-- the aquifer is being drawn down much faster than the replacment rate.

    One could argue that grass fed beef is the way to go, but you have to have grass or grazing land, it takes regular rain to make grass, and it still takes a massive amount of water for the cattle.

    Economies of scale obviously apply; Texas farmers who'd like to raise grass fed beef can't do so-- there's little grass to be had and what is available is expensive. Cattle farmers in Texas are simply going out of business.

    It appears we're fighting a losing battle here; thus the question is not whether cattle production (at the scale we're accustomed to) can be done wholistically-- but whether it's the best use of our limited natural resources to produce beef for our consumption, or if it is fact time to look seriously at other options.

    http://bizmology.hoovers.com/...

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/...

    "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 06:57:03 AM PST

    •  Very interesting questions- (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Crider, DrFood, melo
      And I'm more interested in fundamentals like: is beef truly the most healthy, ecologically balanced, efficient and affordable method to provide protein for human consumption?
      I'm not sure I have the answers for those. Some days I agree with your point of view that we are on borrowed time. Perhaps these droughts will be here to stay. Maybe not.

      Holistic Management does not always have to be applied to domesticated animals. The methods can be adopted and adapted to managing wild populations as well. It is a design framework that begs us to begin weighing the very questions you ask.

      I am of the opinion that Holistic Management's benefits go well beyond just the production of animals for consumption as meat. As the evidence in this diary suggests, the use of this framework restores grasslands to health, restores the hydrological cycle (making water more abundant), restores biodiversity, and stores carbon in soils. As the land regenerates, so does its resiliency.

      Are we too late? Probably. But that shouldn't stop us from trying. Besides, millions of pastoralists the world over won't be asked to put their herds to rest anytime soon. If we can arm them with knowledge, if we can offer them financial support- when necessary- to purchase the light infrastructure necessary, and they can go on to manage the land under their care in a much better way, why not?

      Thanks for the links and I will take a look at them later!

      •  You Appear to be Ignoring the Answers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beach babe in fl

        Again, fundamental premises have to be agreed on. I don't agree a beef-centric diet is necessary or good. Thus for me and I think millions of vegans or partial vegans (those who eschew beef consumption, but do consume fish, chicken, turkey) don't see the need to study or plan for an ecologically sensitive or balanced beef production.

        The jury is definitely in in terms of the so called health benefits of beef: it leads to heart disease and cancer. There's no further "studies" that need to be done.

        Regarding my other three points/questions-- efficiency, ecologically balanced and affordable; I think the jury is more or less in on these as well.

        Efficacy-wise, we have millions of people living in cities/towns. they're buying groceries in the local store. shipping beef around the country from Texas, etc., is creating a rather large carbon footprint.

        It's not efficient, it's not ecologically balanced.

        "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

        by Superpole on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:46:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, I am not a supporter of shipping meat (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          melo, kyril, Mrs M, sfinx

          across the country and planet.  

          I don't agree that a beef-centric diet is necessary or good either. Meat isn't the centerpiece of my diet. I think meat, consumed in moderation, will not certainly lead to heart disease and cancer.

          Holistically managed properties can also utilize poultry in their operations. They aren't producing just meat. Many will also raise fish in the ponds that are included in their systems.

          So while you are focused on the meat part of the equation, I am focused on the entire operation.

          Meat, eggs, other products derived from animals (for soaps and such), vegetables, fruits, timber, fish, honey, wildlife conservation, restoring hydrological cycles, retaining biodiversity, among other benefits of these systems.

          I don't believe the jury is "in." I think the jury is just getting their first bit of evidence regarding these concepts.

          I'm not ignoring your answers, I disagree with them.

    •  What's the alternative? (8+ / 0-)

      The answer is that cows grazing grass is, at least here in Wisconsin, an appropriate use of land, for a number of reasons.  And, you have to graze appropriately, rotating, keeping an eye on the paddocks a la Joel Salatin.

      1.  Grazing improves the plants in the pasture, when done correctly.  The roots slough creating more organic material in the soil.

      2.  The product produced, grass fed meat, is an extremely efficient and healthy form of protein.

      Most importantly, what's the alternative?  To till open land, as we are now doing on a scale unknown in human history, consumes fossil fuel, exacerbates erosion, degrades the microbial and fungal life in the soil, and, I believe, will be shown to be a larger contributor to global warming than any other single factor.

      So, from a farming perspective, I need the ruminants to do their job.  They save time, fuel, expense, and do a better job at stimulating plant growth than anything humans can do.  And, in the mean time, you get a product that is nutritious, and easy to bring to market or store.

      The truth is:  ruminant meat production is exactly how the prairies evolved into the richest ecological equity on the planet, and we need to imitate that, not run from it because of the abomination of feedlots.

      Industrial food production in America ruins our health, our environment and consumes more fossil fuel than any segment of our economy.

      by Mi Corazon on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 11:31:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Go, Badger-cattle! You are so right! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FinchJ, BYw, kyril

        Multi-species, intensively managed rotational grazing (reproducing the effects of wild herds kept tight by predators) can produce equivalent amounts of food with continually improving soil quality.

        Wisconsin is the dairy state because our climate is great for pasture.

        If you like to talk about this sort of thing, check out the forums at permies.com

        Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

        by DrFood on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 12:44:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  What's the Alternative (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beach babe in fl

        good question.

        Part of the answer is millions of people the world over live very well on non-beef centric diets, i.e. rice, legumes, fish, dairy, and vegetables.

        Japanese people had a very low rate of heart disease-- until some adopted our western diet.

        The notion a beef centric diet is essential to health is nonsense. I wonder how many people are aware one cup of chopped broccoli has over four grams of protein?

        The answer is that cows grazing grass is, at least here in Wisconsin, an appropriate use of land, for a number of reasons.
        Cows grazing grass in Wisconsin-- to produce milk? I'm OK with that. I've been a "marginal vegan" over the years-- i.e. I've given up meat, but not dairy-- yogurt and cheese, which is essential for both protein and essential amino acids.

        If you read Frances Moore Lapp's "Diet for a Small Planet", you'll learn that combining foods in a meal-- again, rice, legumes and cheese, you get complimentary amino acids; everything the body requires.

        http://hmharvest.blogspot.com/...

        "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

        by Superpole on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:30:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Holistic Management isn't about (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, Mrs M

          creating or supporting a beef centric diet. I even stated in the tip jar that I hardly eat meat- my wife is vegetarian.

          What about the other benefits of the practice? What about integrating holistic management into agroforestry and other perennial systems? What about using holistic management to prepare ground for other uses? What about the other myriad applications of this design framework?

          Eating the livestock is just one of the many benefits of Holistic Management.

          •  Sorry, I Didn't Pick Up on That (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mrs M

            in your rather lengthy diary.

            I've no issue with using holisitic management in forestry and other perennial systems.

            I do have an issue with spending alot of time/effort on advocating holistic management for raising cattle for human consumption-- for the reasons I mentioned, plus one I neglected to mention.

            Regarding the obvious health problems associated with beef consumption, there's the concurrent very high cost of health care for people with heart disease and cancer.

            "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

            by Superpole on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 07:03:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think its hard to separate the issues. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Mrs M

              For me the idea isn't necessarily about raising meat for sale on the market- although that is the primarily way to earn income in many places where these practices are put into place.

              I'm more interested in the work the animals can perform in regenerating landscapes, among other ecological services they can provide.

              Even when I am able to have my own land and livestock I would never be interested in turning meat into the centerpiece of my diet. Besides the detrimental effects on health, I feel that it diminishes the animal into something trivial that can be taken for granted.

              Thanks for bringing your opinions to the table, as always.

      •  Here in Appalachia, too. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FinchJ, Mrs M

        There are hillsides you can graze cows on that you could never plant a crop on. Most of the herds here are small because of the land lot sizes and with the way the hills and mountains run there's just no way to accumulate more land into many of the existing small pastures.

        There are a few attempts I've heard of to raise buffalo instead of cattle in the region, but I'm not sure how effective any of them have been.

        Prayers and best wishes to those in Japan.

        by Cassandra Waites on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 05:28:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Gotta go to work so couldn't read the whole thing (8+ / 0-)

    but I agree with you. I read an article in Mother Earth magazine about a year or two ago that was written by a guy who had formerly been vegetarian. He believed the myth that our climate crisis was all the fault of cow farts too, until he looked into it.
    Man is far more destructive than cows. Besides all the gasses man spews in his quest for more money, he also uses noisy polluting machines to cut his lawn, so he can throw it away, noisy blowers instead off a broom or hose, and toxic chemicals to make it greener.
    Anyway, the author of the article pointed out that grazing cows is better for the ecology, when done right. it's also better for the cow! What modern "ranchers" (corporations) feed cows is making them sick, so they need hormones and antibiotics. Screw that, let them eat grass!
    And corporate farming is turning more and more pasture to corn production, also having an effect on the ecology.
    Nope, cows are NOT the problem. Man is the problem. We need to go back to the older, natural methods of farming and raising animals.

    Isn’t it ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so seemingly trivial as the choice of an insect spray. ~ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring ~

    by MA Liberal on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 07:21:06 AM PST

  •  Could you comment on forest ruminants? (9+ / 0-)

    In particular, the European bison (Bison bonasus)? At least today, they are forest-dwellers, though (as I understand) they eat mostly grass.

    We have cattle. They are grass-fed, supplemented with hay in the winter, fruit in the autumn, and garden-gleanings all year. We do a semi-managed intensive grazing (but not managed enough), and I think we are rapidly storing carbon in the soil.

    Great diary. Thank you.

    "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

    by CitizenJoe on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 07:27:46 AM PST

    •  I wish I could, but I am not too familiar with (7+ / 0-)

      forest ruminants. I will say that herbivores can be integrated into wooded systems effectively. Especially when it comes to alley cropping, herbivores can be run on semi-wooded or grass strips and their fertilizer slowly fertilize areas downhill from their rows.

      Here is a link to a tour of the Zaytuna Farm, Permaculture Research Institute of Australia's main teaching location. If you go to Geoff Lawton's new page, you can find his new video that has even more depictions of their animal husbandry techniques. I will note that the video on Lawton's site has, to me, a different edge when it comes to the intended audience.

      In both videos you can see how managed livestock are put to work establishing food forests.

      Say hello to your cattle for me and thanks for stopping by.

      •  Thanks. They say "Hey, Moo" (6+ / 0-)

        I ought to have added that our cattle help to control blackberries, which are an invasive here. They are Scottish Highlands and Dexters and they tend to browse a bit more than do some breeds.

        "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

        by CitizenJoe on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:17:39 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I was just about to leave to cook, but (7+ / 0-)

          one more comment.

          If you can find a copy of Bill Mollison's Permaculture: a Designer Manual, there should be a story in there of how a farmer in Tasmania found that he could grow fruit trees under the protection of blackberries and other brambles.

          After throwing seeds into the thickets, the young fruit trees will grow until they shoot out of the canopy before producing any lateral branches. At this age, they should be bearing fruit. The farmer learned of this after he noticed his cows going crazy in the brambles. They were eating the fruits! In a few years, the trees had been freed of brambles by the cows who continued to visit for treats. The trees grew to immense size and vigor due to the annual visitation of the cows.

          Moo!

    •  Deer are ruminants. n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FinchJ, kyril, Mrs M
      •  True. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FinchJ, kyril, Mrs M

        At least some deer mostly are. Whitetails and blacktails are, but mulies tend toward open areas. And elk prefer the plains, but were largely driven into forests by us. Lewis and Clark killed a lot for meat while they were on the plains, but nearly starved to death when they got to the forests.
        Joe

        "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

        by CitizenJoe on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:00:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Beware of the reductionist strawman! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ

    I do not disagree with the tenets of agroecology as put forth by the author, but I do disagree with the use of the reductionist strawman who views cattle as the the great agent of destruction. If there is a disagreement of this sort, it is between holists. Reductionists (of which I am one) would not be considering ecosystem level impacts but rather reducing ecosystems to their components. I believe that ecology requires both reductionist and holistic approaches, and while there may be some tension between the two camps, they are exploring phenomena from different perspectives, both of which can and have made contributions.

    On the subject of cattle. They are not inherently bad, but there can be no doubt that overgrazing has caused problems. I do agree that they are essentially carbon neutral. The CO2 released is from plants which took CO2 directly from the atmosphere. It is not as if cattle are dredging up carbon which has been locked up in the ground for 300my. If they are allowed to overgraze, they could indirectly affect the carbon budget by degrading systems which currently act as sinks. I am pretty certain that serious climate scientists recognize this.

    •  I concur that we need both reductionist (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DawnN, shaharazade, BYw, Cassandra Waites

      science and holistic approaches to tackle the challenges ahead.

      My diary does make mention of overgrazing. Overgrazing is a major problem. Heck, one can implement holistic management improperly and damage an ecosystem.

      Cattle can be managed in such a way that destroys and also in ways the regenerates. Unfortunately the damage done by poorly managed animals gets most of the attention and therefore the mainstream view that cattle and other livestock are inherently detrimental the the environment and climate.

      Thanks for stopping in, t o.

  •  Thank yu for a great diary or article. I'll leave (6+ / 0-)

    you to jostle with the no meat, some meat maybe crowd. Any system of animal ag that makes this less likely gets my vote: China’s Rising Soybean Consumption Reshaping Western Agriculture
    (Hint: They're not making tofu)

    Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

    by the fan man on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 07:37:55 AM PST

  •  Terrific Diary (8+ / 0-)

    Your research, writing and straight up good sense demonstrate perfectly why, though it continues to change, this blog remains home base for so many.

    You remind me to compare the agriculture of New England, in my case Maine--lots of Finnish descendants, versus the Deep South. i.e. Joel Salatin v. mono-culturist proto-corporatists.

    Salatin farms like New England farmers did for centuries, exemplified by Maine children's book author Barbara Cooney in "Ox-cart Man." (Forgive the kids' book reference. Home with children today.)

    I've always wanted to be somebody, but I see now I should have been more specific. -- Lily Tomlin

    by leolabeth on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:34:05 AM PST

  •  Thank you. I am so grateful for the time and (9+ / 0-)

    effort you've put into this diary. You've created a terrific resource for all of us.

    I look forward to exploring all your cited links and will look for  more from you.

    Thanks also to Community Spotlight. Hope this gets many eyes.

    Washington, DC, climate rally on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. See you there.

    by DawnN on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:38:04 AM PST

  •  your posts always give me such hope (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AZ Sphinx Moth, FinchJ, BYw, mamamedusa, kyril

    Now I get to look forward to mulching my garden today with even better understanding of what I'm doing.

    We have a food forest being set up here in my neighborhood in Seattle.  I'll be volunteering with them this summer and learning some permiculture techniques as well.  I loved Liu talking about service.  My hope for retirement is to have a little part in cultivating some piece of desert reclamation.

    For every vengeance there is an equal but opposite revengeance

    by mothnflame on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:42:00 AM PST

    •  Perhaps we will bump into each other one day (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mamamedusa, kyril

      on a project in the desert. That is my goal as well- spend a month or two each year working on projects outside of Finland!

      Good news from Seattle on the permaculture front is always welcome. Is the project you are a part of the first food forest in a public park? I remember reading about such a development. If it isn't the same, then that is just awesome.

      Remember there is permacultureglobal.com (The Worldwide Permaculture Network) that you can put your site up on and share with the globe!

  •  Thanks for a most excellent diary. (9+ / 0-)

    Nicely done Finch. This is very important stuff.

  •  "His radical notion of mimicking the symbiotic (9+ / 0-)

    relationship between wild ruminants (and other herbivores) and grasslands with domesticated stock saw him shunned by universities and institutes until very recently when the results of his work have become readily apparent."

    We're still in the throes of Human Superiority Syndrome, aren't we.  It does seem as if a growing number of people are learning to look to Nature's systems first, instead of first imposing a human-designed, inevitably shortsighted system upon Nature & then dealing with unforseen consequences.  

    The thing I'd like to see more than mimicking ild ruminant interaction is a return to ranching those wilder ruminants--bison instead of cattle.  Perhaps the principles of agroecology might put cattle on par with bison in terms of land impact, but bison have an advantage in terms of vulnerability to predators.  Expanded bison ranching would theoretically help reduce objection to predator reintroduction.

    Thanks as usual, Finch.  Now I gotta go back & check out the videos.

    Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

    by Leftcandid on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:51:28 AM PST

  •  Great diary...thanks! n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AZ Sphinx Moth, FinchJ, kyril

    An idea is not responsible for who happens to be carrying it at the moment. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 09:21:15 AM PST

  •  Thank you for a most interesting diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, cocinero, kyril

    I read part last night, the rest today, and will watch the lectures.  There's a LOT to ruminate on!

  •  In other words (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, DrFood, cocinero, BYw, kyril

    There are ways to reduce to environmental impacts of agriculture, including livestock management. The real problem comes from factory farms rather than the sustainable operations you describe here.

    Great summary of better agricultural methods that minimize carbon and nutrient pollution.

    Be radical in your compassion.

    by DWG on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 11:04:52 AM PST

  •  I hotlisted this diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, FinchJ, kyril

    to read the rest of it later. I know how I get when I start following links on such an interesting subject :)  Thank you for putting such a wealth of information together from this angle on agriculture.

  •  Thank you for this (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cocinero, FinchJ, the fan man, kyril, Mrs M

    Much to digest.

    Electing people who don't believe in government to Congress, is like installing an atheist as pastor of a church. If they don't believe in the institution or its goals, they won't care if it does a good job for its members.

    by Lefty Coaster on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 12:52:31 PM PST

  •  it's not beef anymore... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ

    have a sinus infection and need antibiotic

    eat a steak

    want some g.m. corn with your synthesized potatoes

    eat a steak

    want to enter puberty at 10 years of age or less

    eat a steak

    me? i'm still stuck on carbon emissions.
    slow those down (china, india- good luck?)--

    and we can slow down the wipe-out-humans scenario from 100 years to maybe a 150 yrs.  and... this shit is gonna accelerate.

    People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think. -George Carlin

    by downtownLALife on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:03:44 PM PST

  •  thanks so much for this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, kyril, Mrs M

    I've read a few of your previous diaries, but I can't recall if I've heard you mention permies.com

    It's a great place to learn more about Sepp Holzer, Geoff Lawton, and other "bigs" of permaculture.  I found that website when I was looking for more information on hugelkultur.

    Just like this place is Markos', permies.com is the baby/domain of Paul Wheaton.  He is a real character who sometimes seems to operate on the "if I'm really obnoxious then I'll know that the people (still) around me are REALLY my friends" principle.  I've decided I like him (not that I've met him--I'm just listening to his podcasts and watching some of his videos).

    Anyway, permies.com is the largest permaculture website right now, so it seems worth adding to your list of resources at the end of your diary.

    Thanks again!

    Universal Health Care - it's coming, but not soon enough!

    by DrFood on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:08:34 PM PST

  •  Cause....Here is latest research.... (0+ / 0-)

    Of course, it can also be the cure...by elimination

    Macca's Meatless Monday

    by VL Baker on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:16:36 PM PST

    •  Thanks for sharing, just finished watching. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      the fan man, kyril, Mrs M

      Black Carbon- this is talked about in Savory's talk. Burning to maintain pastures and to clear land for other types of agriculture are explicitly not a part of agroecological systems. Clearing forests for livestock production and feed are also explicitly not a part of agroecological methods.

      Livestock do not contribute "40-60% of BC" in West Antarctica. Human management for livestock produces the black carbon.

      Livestock also do not cause deforestation. Human decisions cause deforestation.

      Livestock do not contribute to soil carbon loss. Human management causes soil loss. Livestock, managed properly, store carbon in the soil and prevent soil loss.

      Should land that has been cleared for livestock be restored to its previous state? Absolutely. Take a look at Holistic Managment's four principles again, especially the second:

      All environments are different:It is crucial to acknowledge nature’s complexity and that an action can produce completely different results in different environments.
      Fundamental to holistic management is a respect for different ecosystems. This is not a call to continue the industrialized livestock economy.

      Grain does not have to be grown and fed to livestock. While there were many factors that gave rise to the desire for "well marbled" meat produced by grain finishing, this desire is sustained by consumer demand. There is no reason we must grow grains to feed to livestock.

      If we are to eliminate livestock, what, then should we replace them with? Wild ruminants will then be necessary to maintain grassland ecosystems. But ruminants are ruminants:

      Overall, methane emissions from bison, elk, and deer in the pre-settlement period in the contiguous United States were about 70% (medium bison population size) of the current emissions from farmed ruminants in the U.S.;
      According to this study if we are to eliminate all domesticated ruminants in the USA and replace them with native populations of wild ruminants, how much would we really be saving?

      Do you really want to eliminate domesticated ruminants? If so, I would very much like to hear your ideas for maintaining grasslands without methane emitting animals- wild or domestic. Without ruminants and other herbivores, the grasslands will die. And if we replace domestic with wild, we will still be emitting methane. So if the grasslands cannot have methane emitting animals on them, what do we do to keep them alive?

      I would also very much like to hear your suggestions for replacing the ecosystem services domesticated ruminants provide on integrated agroecological farms.

      I'm all for ending the industrial system of raising animals. I'm obviously all for educating everyone on appropriate agroecological techniques for their climate and biome so we can halt carbon negative farming practices. But we cannot blame livestock for the way that we manage them.

      I just don't see where eliminating livestock is going to solve anything.

      •  this says it all.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FinchJ, Mrs M

        your words..

        I just don't see where eliminating livestock is going to solve anything.
        Accordingly to the latest research drastically reducing livestock production(I don't think you can completely eliminate livestock and wouldn't want too do so) but a drastic reduction can be the solution to reducing short lived climate pollutants of black carbon, methane and ground level ozone.  This would be the rapid reduction of greenhouse emissions that is needed to buy us the time to reduce the long lived C02.

        We have an emergency climate crisis that could derail our species and others with whom we share the planet (that can happen in this century read the latest Climate Assessment:  it's predicted 9-15 degrees F increase by 2100!   http://ncadac.globalchange.gov/

        Livestock is the greatest contributor to all three of the short lived climate pollutants.   So a rapid reduction of livestock production can save us (cows too!) from the worst effects of climate change.  If that's not accomplishing something I don't know what is.

        True, people have made the decisions that have contributed to this debacle for humanity.  And people have the opportunity to reverse those devastating decisions.  

        We also have a food crisis to deal with as our population is expected to grow by billions and we already have millions who are food insecure.  We have to find a way to feed the growing populations sustainably or there will be food wars.   The land and water use of livestock make it a nonviable solution to this problem.

        The health issues associated with meat eating are also a consideration as we try to move into the 21st century.

        Sure, your ideas are interesting but that's not the world we live in now.  We are living in challenging times where we need rapid(and safe) solutions to the climate crisis.

        I will list some sources below but i have been writing about this for five years on this site so just click my username and you will find all the information you need that supports my work.

        The following is a paper I presented to the UN and to the US congress committee on Natural Resources.  It is being used to promote policy.
        http://climatecolab.org/...

        http://www.worldpreservationfoundation.org/...

        http://www.worldpreservationfoundation.org/...

        Please feel free to message with any questions but consider that i am time challenged.

        Really, if we don't mitigate the worst effects of climate change all your questions become moot.

        Macca's Meatless Monday

        by VL Baker on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:14:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think it would be best to agree to (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mrs M

          disagree about this. Although a drastic reduction of feedlot livestock (of all species) would not be a bad thing at all. Especially since they have been bred specifically for feedlot conditions and are wholly unsuited to a more natural lifestyle.

          I'll take a look at your links, but I don't think that we are going to come to an agreement. Thank you for bringing a different perspective.

          •  it's not about disagreement it's about facts... (0+ / 0-)

            The facts are that we are an almost 100% factory farmed country.

            The urgency of climate change requires that we eliminate/drastically reduce our consumption of meat and meat products.

            There is no way to eliminate industrial animal farms without a drastic reduction in meat consumption.  There is just not enough land

            We do not have the water or land resources to continue our destructive meat eating habits into the future.

            http://www.dailykos.com/...

            Macca's Meatless Monday

            by VL Baker on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 10:27:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  enough land... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FinchJ

              The point is that there IS enough land, and enough water, if different decisions are made, and if practices to heal the land and water supply are used.

              I am new to these topics, and I will go & read your links as well.

              I think you both agree that industrial cattle farming must stop.

            •  Look, I understand you are passionate. (0+ / 0-)

              So am I.

              I know full well that we are close to 100% factory farmed meat production. I also know soy and corn are almost virtually guaranteed to be genetically modified. Trust me, I know. I think everyone here knows that by now. There is no disagreement on those facts.

              This disagreement is that we have to eliminate our consumption of all meat and animal products.

              I believe you are incorrect that the only way to eliminate industrial farms is through a drastic reduction in all meat consumption. A drastic shift in purchasing from industrial to ecological meat would also eliminate the industrial farms. Together, people abandoning meat from industrial sources for ecologically produced meat and people abandoning meat products altogether will result in a decrease in consumption.

              We both want the elimination of factory farms ASAP.

              We both want a decline in consumption of meat.

              We both want regenerative agriculture.

              I don't understand why you are so persistent that your way is the only way.

              If you really believe there is only one way to do things, fine. But don't call those of us who know that we can produce meat in ecologically sound ways ignorant of the facts.

              Quite honestly, expect no further replies from me to you. This is just ludicrous.

  •  Thank you for this thought-provoking diary. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beach babe in fl, FinchJ, kyril, Mrs M

    There were a lot of great comments too.

    I live in the middle of industrial agriculture in west-central Iowa surrounded by corn and soybean fields, cattle feedlots, and hog confinements. I live on 5 acres. 200 years ago it was tall grass prairie. Until about 12 years ago, it was an alfalfa field. The previous owner put 3 acres into the conservation reserve program and planted more than 10 kinds of trees.

    I still think the cow is a climate bomb, and we should significantly reduce the number of cattle. The sooner, the better. The vast majority of cattle are being raised in an unsustainable way. Eventually there may be a place for small numbers of cattle in the kinds of ecosystems you describe.

    •  Thank you for your comments too. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, Mrs M

      I agree that we should significantly reduce, if ban, industrialized feedlot production of livestock (and other animal products).

      But I do disagree that the the cow is a climate bomb. I believe the way that we manage cows can turn them into bombs, but that we can alter this management so they wind up being useful elements in a managed agroecological system. I also believe that the time is now, not eventually, for there to be a place for this type of managment.

      Again, thanks for stopping in. I can't imagine living surrounded by that type of "agriculture." The fumes, smells, sights... noxious at best I would think.

      I hope you stay well.

  •  climate change is what scares me (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, kyril, Mrs M

    Thanks for this diary, watched the first video with John Liu.  It really gives me hope.  I've been obsessing on climate change lately and feeling kind of hopeless, will watch the other video tomorrow.  

  •  Allan Savory in Boston 1/25/13 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, kyril, Mrs M

    Further information at

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 09:12:43 PM PST

  •  So much good info my head is spinning! Agroecology (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, kyril, Mrs M

    is a new term to me, but I have been hoping that the knowledge-base existed.

    Thank you for writing this diary.

    Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

    by CA wildwoman on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 11:08:20 PM PST

  •  I can't get the embedded Vimeo (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, kyril

    to play.  Have you got a link?  Maybe it would work if I go to their website.  

    Renewable energy brings national global security.     

    by Calamity Jean on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 01:43:11 AM PST

  •  fantastic diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, FinchJ, Mrs M

    the pix of the restored land look just heavenly.

    i learned a lot from this, and am super-enthusiastic about learning more.

    great job!

    why? just kos..... *just cause*

    by melo on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 03:21:20 AM PST

  •  This is wonderful. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, Mrs M

    It's 4:30 am, but I just couldn't tear myself away from the videos, especially the first one. Thank you.

    Of the many, many places on Earth that could benefit from this sort of treatment, the place I'd most like to see it happen is Haiti.

    "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

    by kyril on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 04:34:57 AM PST

  •  I'd like to thank you for this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, Mrs M

    I am now watching a lot of permaculture videos, especially ones for urban environments, as I am looking to put this into action at the new place I am moving to.

    Cheers!

    I'd cry, cry for the future, but I wouldn't get anything done - 'When the River Runs Dry' - Hunters and Collectors

    by TDP on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 05:38:49 AM PST

  •  Here's the start of a four part youtube (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ, Mrs M

    series about Afroforestry by Constance Neely. She works through the UN with communities in Africa promoting this style of farming.

    "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Mohandas Gandhi

    by cv lurking gf on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 08:09:21 AM PST

  •  Spectacular diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ

    And the comments match up, mostly.

    Thank you.

    "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012

    by bontemps2012 on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 02:33:17 PM PST

  •  I am back to work on your links a bit more - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FinchJ

    I think there is something wrong with the one to Permaculture Research institute.

    Thanks for adding the Land Institute link! My family have been supporters since their founding.

    Babylon system is the vampire... ~Bob Marley

    by sfinx on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 09:50:50 PM PST

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