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Last month I published a mammoth diary which reintroduced the concept of agroecology and presented the design framework known as Holistic Management.

The premise? Livestock are not inherently destructive to their immediate environment and the climate.

In fact, livestock can play a critical role in ecosystem and hydrological restoration, carbon sequestration, and poverty alleviation when managed properly.

This diary's purpose is to keep Holistic Management and the larger field of agroecology on your radar without swamping your screen with information. If you want the longer version, please see the diary from last month.

Without running to Google, take a wild guess who had this to say about the practice:

Done right, some studies suggest, this method of raising cattle could put much of the atmosphere’s oversupply of greenhouse gases back in the soil inside half a century. That means shifting from feedlot farming to rotational grazing is one of the few changes we could make that’s on the same scale as the problem of global warming. It won’t do away with the need for radically cutting emissions, but it could help get the car exhaust you emitted back in high school out of the atmosphere.
[emphasis added]

Any guesses?

That would be Bill McKibben with "The Only Way to Have a Cow", published in the March/April 2010 issue of Orion Magazine.1 I am glad to know that Mr. McKibben looked into this topic himself and felt compelled enough by the evidence to make such a strong statement in support of Holistic Management.

[edit: After forwarding this diary to Seth Itzkan, he promptly reminded me of the necessity to be precise with language. With McKibben's article, and especially what I emphasized in bold: rotational grazing does not equate to Holistic Management. There are very many grazing plans out there and it is easy to confuse, conflate, or compound them due to seemingly superficially practices. I want everyone to remember that (as I similarly state in the conclusion):  

In all cases, this is grazing based on a planning methodology that deals with many facets, including the animals, the ecosystem, and the needs of people (thus, it is "holistic"). It is not a grazing system, but a planning process.
-Quoted from Mr. Itzkan's email to me

Even though rotational grazing and Holistic Management are not the same, the potential for carbon sequestration via application of Holistic Management's design framework is very real. And it can be argued very strongly that Holistic Management is the most effective of the many different grazing plans around. So let us be aware that there are many ideas afloat and not to assume that one thing equals another. [hat tip to Mr. Itzkan for bringing this to the fore]

1. I heard about this article from Adam Sacks, "The Fight Against Global Warming: A Failure and A Fix." Please note that address for this article is only meant to be temporary, until Mr. Sacks can find permanent publication.

Climate Change, Livestock, and Holistic Management

As many of you may know, I am a fan of very long diaries. Diaries so long that I think most people just look at how small the scroll box becomes and say, "No thanks." My favorite character from the Lord of the Rings will always be Treebeard. I wrote such a long account of American history for my Finnish homework this morning that I missed my bus two buses to school. I am so long winded that... oh ... right.


Sorry about that.

I have three items regarding Holistic Management that I wish to bring to the community this month.

-A nearly eight minute TEDx talk given presented by Seth Itzkan, titled: Reversing global warming with livestock?

-The article I linked to above, "The Fight Against Global Warming: A Failure and A Fix" by Adam Sacks

and lastly

-Occam's Grazer, a documentary recently released by raincrow film.

I promise that this diary appears longer than it actually is.

Reversing Global Warming With Livestock?

In seven minutes and fifty four seconds, Seth Itzkan delivers a very good case for Holistic Management.

Mr. Itzkan spent six weeks with the Africa Centre for Holistic Management (ACHM) in Zimbabwe to study this system's benefits. Within the first two minutes he begins showing side-by-side comparisons which clearly demonstrate the many benefits of Holistic Management. These images are exactly what need to be seen by people to show the healing power of biomimicry (a very important aspect of Holistic Management).

Where his talk differs from the one I presented in the past diary (besides length, of course), is the evidence presented at 2:36.

Screen Capture from 2:38: Surface water level changes at the ACHM ranch

Yes, that is right: nearly a mile up river- 30ft of elevation change, almost as high as the average three story building, the ranch now has surface water during the dry season.

Wait, wait!!! Everyone knows that livestock always guzzle down water like armored humvees blitzing through Iraqi deserts! How can they possibly be restoring hydrological function?

Well, when managed properly, the ecosystem services they provide include increasing water infiltration of the soil through hoof action as well as increasing biomass in the soil through organic fertilization and plant growth stimulation. It works so well that:

There's new watering holes for cattle and they no longer have to run the pumps during the dry season.
[emphasis added]

I urge you to watch the entirety of Mr. Itzkan's presentation. I believe he makes the case for his "takeaways":

1. Changing livestock management can restore grasslands.

2. We need to restore grasslands to reverse global warming.

[emphasis original]

The Fight Against Global Warming: A Failure and A Fix

Mr. Sacks is a veteran climate activist who is truly worried about our future. In this article, Mr. Sacks not only argues that we need to begin storing carbon in the soil now, but he challenges us- us being environmental campaigners- to remove the ideological blinders we have regarding livestock in order to make use of their rapid soil carbon sequestration ability.

His most challenging idea, however is that:2

While we should at least make an effort to aim national treasuries at survival strategies,
here's another idea as well, albeit perhaps unpalatable at first glance: big bucks from the
coal, oil and gas industry.

Whether it's a good idea or not is something we should consider and debate.

Now, if you are having a hard time imagining that livestock could possibly play a role- let alone a key role- in fighting climate change, this suggestion is probably not going to go over well. I am not sure if I agree with it or not. I must admit the notion is still unpalatable after chewing for a while.

But I should note that he is not aruging that we should accept money from the fossil fuel industry as a means of white washing the industry's environmental impacts. He gives five specific reasons why we should consider approaching them to help sequester carbon as a means to:

Pull out all the stops and put carbon back into the ground - the way nature does it3

We can do this, but only if we begin to challenge some deep rooted ideas held within our movement. Mr. Sacks' article is well worth the read- very stimulating and I very much, again, urge you to take the time to engage with it. Hopefully it will be published on its own sometime in the near future.

2. Sacks, 11. Emphasis original.
3. Sacks, 12. Emphasis original.

Occam's Grazer & Conclusion

At 46:32, Occam's Grazer is anything but short. Kind of like my diaries. But I am happy I put this diary off in time for it to be posted over at Permaculture News. The documentary crew follows four ranchers and farmers in the Pacific NW to ask them about their experiences with Holistic Management.

If you think you have seen it all by now- between Savory's lecture and Itzkan's talk, let me assure you that you have only just scratched the surface. What you will discover in this documentary is that Holistic Management isn't just about moving livestock around paddocks.

Holistic Management is a decision making framework which helps farmers and ranchers (and even non agriculturalists) develop their goals and gives them the tools to help them accomplish them.

Holistic Management brings hope to those who see their enterprises, family owned farms, and lives spiraling out of control due to the inherent unsustainability of modern industrialized agriculture. These individuals, along with thousands of others, have begun to turn around their financial situation. They often see results within a few years.

Passion, joy, and contentment return once again when these methods are faithfully employed.

Desertification can be halted and reversed. Centuries old cultures can be preserved.

Lives are saved. Not just human, but animals as well. Let us not forget the plants either: diversity and health return. Insect populations begin to balance. Ecosystem health and functions can and are being restored with these methods. That means more water underground, in our rivers, and ultimately- a greener planet.

The very roots of anthropogenic climate change- ecosystem malfunction caused by human activity- are severed and the seeds of regeneration of ecosystems and culture are sown.

This is Holistic Management.

Additional Resources

[I really need to clean this up, perhaps by my next diary.]

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 Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 10:41 AM PST.

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

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Comment Preferences

  •  Whoops, just noticed. (6+ / 0-)

    I had attached a comment to be posted when the diary was published. But I must have goofed it up.

    Just wanted to remind everyone that I live in Helsinki, which is 7 time zones ahead of EST. Therefore I will not be able to stick around as long to respond to comments.

    Especially tonight as 1) its Valentines Day and 2) I picked up a bug from the school where I study Finnish. So the combination isn't optimal!

    I will return tomorrow sometime to respond to comments.

    Thanks for reading and I hope that we can begin to see some changes in the way we regard livestock, range land management, and the possibilities for combating the root causes of climate change here on Daily Kos.


  •  thank you so, so much for sharing with us (7+ / 0-)

    I read your diaries with a great deal of interest.  Keep on educating us!

    Best Wishes

    We Must DISARM THE NRA The next life you save may be ONE OF YOUR OWN!

    by SeaTurtle on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 04:52:48 PM PST

  •  Brilliant again my friend (7+ / 0-)

    Appreciate all the great resources you assemble in this series, and the laser focus you bring to what actually works in terms of attacking climate change.

    People have ideologies about what is right and wrong, and I am as guilty as anyone.  I believed for decades that animals were the cause of everything that I hated about American society.  And, in truth, who can argue with that when feedlots and corporate farming are held up as the exemplar of how meat is produced.

    But, now that I am farming, and I have to balance inputs with production, think about how to grow soil, figure out how to create high quality food, there is just no doubt -- it is plain as day -- the role that animals play in the health of our eco-system, the services, the savings on fossil-fuel.  

    We have ruined Nature's great cycle of resources, perverted that and thus, trashed the delicate balance of soils, plants and animals.

    But, it ain't over yet.  And if we want to preserve a world where so many people can enjoy life, we need to figure out how to work with Nature's processes, the microbes, the fungi, -- it's really about the communities themselves, the patterns, the wholes, that's how Nature works, that's how this place evolved into the abundant planet that it is.

    Keep on bringing this message, even when some find it disturbing.  Because, in fact, it is the truth and our last, best chance at preserving the semblance of civilized life that we now know.

    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 Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 05:10:41 PM PST

    •  Thanks! (2+ / 0-)
      People have ideologies about what is right and wrong, and I am as guilty as anyone.
      Got me there too.

      I was borderline depressed a few years ago when all I was reading was doom and gloom- from the economy to our empire and climate change. It seemed nothing was going right, that all we were up to was destruction.

      Then I started gardening. Reading about our food system and how things could be. I discovered broad scale restoration of ecological function by the likes of Sepp Holzer & Geoff Lawton and the work documented by John D Liu.

      Changed my life for the better. I found that we can make positive changes. We will never bring back extinct species, but we can do our best to preserve what is left while still producing enough for ourselves. I am absolutely convinced that if we were to abandon the corrupt, immoral, and devastating subservience to the financial and military institutions that we would be able to regenerate vast areas of the planet in less than half a century.

      Strangely funny how if a documentary or film depicting life outside the industrialized world is shown, that people will remark "oh look how happy they are without stuff."

      Without realizing that we could all be happier with less. And that if we in the West would do well with less, if we would stop debasing other ways of life, that perhaps people could feel fulfilled doing something other than consuming.

      Many people suffer from depression and don't ever show outward signs. Behavioral problems are through the roof. Lots of people feel that there is little point in doing anything, that it has all been done before, that someone somewhere else is doing it better.

      But you put these people in a working ecological garden or farm and the behavior changes. Maybe not everyone, but there is a reason schools are planting now. They find that most students, especially those with "problems" suddenly become entranced with nature and try to find out how it all works.

      I sincerely believe that humanity has a deep, subconscious instinct to be a force for good in the natural world. And we rip people out of it at an early age and force them to sit in sterilized rooms to be dictated  to by some corporate pedagogy. Utterly ridiculous.

      Anyway, I hope to see you write some diaries about your farm, Mi Corazon!

  •  It was indeed a mammoth diary, that first one, (3+ / 0-)

    and I am appreciating every bit of it, and delighted to see this one.

    I joyously anticipate the missing of many buses as I work my way through all your material and links.


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

    by DawnN on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 07:56:20 PM PST

  •  Great Diary! (6+ / 0-)

    I have used some various methods of farming with livestock for 30 years.

    Currently I have two pint sized cows, 4 angora goats and 50 chickens.

    My clear acreage is divided for rotation. The larger animals spend their winter in the orchard grazing and fertilizing and have two other large pastures which they pass through over the courseof a year each pasture is 10 acres as is the old orchard. Since I have been using the orchard for grazing I have noticed both the quality and the quantity of the fruit from the old trees has improved. This is also born out by the amount of new growth on the trees. When I started this new growth averaged less than two inches per year,I am now getting almost a foot.

     The chickens rotate among 4 acre pastures 1 per year followed by cover crop, garden, then fallow.

    My garden can feed 12 families and I add very little, just a bit of lime and some phosphate in the form of bone meal as our soil tend to acid and lack phosphate around here.

    I consider them an integral part of my system not sure how I would do it with out them.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Thu Feb 14, 2013 at 08:51:25 PM PST

  •  get well soon (2+ / 0-)

    i spent valentine's day on my back with a one-day flu bout, yuck...glad to be on my legs again!

    this is epic stuff you're putting together for us kossaks, thankyou so much!

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

    by melo on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 04:54:06 AM PST

  •  Thanks so much for this! (2+ / 0-)

    You are one of my favorite diarists. Sometimes I get tired of the endless negative politics on DKos.  Your posts bring me hope and inspiration and get me out into my little urban permaculture plot with renewed zeal.  A friend turned me on to perennial onions, so they are my project for the upcoming year!  That, and I want to try to grow lentils and chickpeas.  

    Our dirt is just a miserable half inch of topsoil spread out over clay, so as we expand our garden (i.e. get rid of grass) we are planting things we hope to compost and build dirt with.  We have also discovered that one of the local sewage treatment plants gives away a thing they call 'tegro' which is a post-treatment solid that is a great source of nitrogen and allows us to 'complete the circle' so to speak.  Then we'll work on our rain barrel system, with my long term goal being that we can store enough water to keep from having to turn on the faucet other than in the dryest month.

    Hope you feel better, and Happy Valentine's!

    For every vengeance there is an equal but opposite revengeance

    by mothnflame on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 09:01:28 AM PST

    •  Very kind words mothnflame. (2+ / 0-)

      I agree, I rarely read many of the politics diaries. Strange how a site for electing Democrats can have so many other topics to keep us busy!

      I would be interested to hear about your experiences with the perennial onions. I have my eye on them for my parent's place back in the States, but my success with regular onions has been, well- zero. Then again we have a policy of watering only if absolutely necessary (like during establishment) and onions require a lot of water.

      Garlic, on the other hand, has turned out to be an excellent "fire and forget" plant! There are probably 300+ bulbs growing in the garden by now- especially since my parent's forgot where they were planted haha :)

      Our garden is established on NC red clay too, so just keep at the soil building. We are building habitat for beneficial organisms, establishing fungal networks, filling out the nectary calendar, pumping carbon into the soil, fixing nitrogen, and drawing up nutrients from the lower soil horizons for another three years.

      That will be almost five years of cover cropping the permaculture way before we plant any expensive food producing specimens. Hopefully by then we'll have established an evergreen screen to keep the highway out of view so we can take down the remaining pines within our fenceline... ah to be there!

      All I can do is dream and read emails from my parents about the frogs in the ponds. I miss being able to walk out the door and immerse myself. The allotment garden I can take care of is currently buried under snow and is a good 10-15 minute walk from here.

      Keep us updated on your doings and share some photos sometime if you can!

  •  Holistic Management (3+ / 0-)

    Saw Allan Savory at Tufts a few weeks ago and spent a little time with him a day later.  He refuses to talk numbers, for reasons I understand:  he has limited time now and does not want to get bogged down in a numbers game.  However, Seth Itzkan and Jim Laurie and others are working on nailing down the numbers on carbon uptake from the atmosphere by regenerated grasslands.  Should be interesting.

    One big question is methane in relation to larger numbers of animals on the land.  Grassfed produces less methane than cornfed but it would be good to get those numbers as well.   There is strong objection to holistic management by vegetarians and animal rights people that I've heard but I'm not sure they've considered the ecology and reality of animals on the land.

    Been going to the Harvard/MIT geoengineering colloquium that began this year.  There has been no discussion of ecological design at all from the podium and few questions from the audience.  Their response is purely mechanistic rather than systemic.  Maybe next year we can get Savory to speak to them when he comes back to town for the longer seminar Seth and Bill Moomaw at Tufts are working on.

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

    by gmoke on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 11:07:29 AM PST

    •  Gmoke- glad you dropped in! How was his talk? (2+ / 0-)

      Was it very similar to the one I linked to in my previous diary? I haven't seen any video from Tufts yet.

      In regards to methane, here is a study regarding pre-Columbian methane from wild species in the geographical area of the USA:

      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.;
      Whether or not the grasslands are inhabited by domesticated species or wild ones, plenty of methane is going to be emitted. Since grasslands require herbivores for health in humid regions and survival in dry/brittle ones, I don't think the issue of them emitted methane is anything to be worried about.

      If the choice is between dead grasslands which will turn into deserts to avoid methane emissions and rejuvenated ecosystems inhabited by ruminants- be they wild or domestic- I know which I would choose in a heart beat.

      The fact of the matter is, grasslands need herbivores. And they have been inhabited by herbivores for thousands upon thousands of years- vast herds emitted methane close to if not equal to the level we see now from domesticated herds. As far as I know, the climate didn't warm uncontrollably then either. Probably because these healthy ecosystems were storing so much atmospheric carbon that it offset the greenhouse emissions from the herbivores.

      As far as objections from vegetarians and animal right's activists, well, I guess I would have to hear them to respond to them.

      •  Lecture Notes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Tufts Fletcher School
        Allan Savory

        Leading the brown revolution:  to address climate change and produce more food than eroding soil

        No Nobel prizes for environment or agriculture
        1 billion out of 7 billion go to bed hungry every night
        Biodiversity loss leads to desertification leads to climate change leads to hunger - they are all related
        Agriculture is producing food and fiber from land and water
        18% of our land is cropland
        Agriculture is causing climate change as much as fossil fuels
        Total rainfall versus effective rainfall - the soil is the greatest reservoir of fresh water in the world if treated properly
        Carbon follows water
        We classify lands by species rather than soil profile
        Areas with perrennial high humidity don't suffer desertification
        Armies change civilizations.  Farmers destroy them.
        Leaving it to nature doesn't work any more because it is no longer natural.
        Resting the land is the cause of desertification.
        We scientists had the bull by the udders.
        Andre Voisin:  timing not number of animals (1959)
        We have to maintain a cycle of birth, growth, death, and decay.
        Dried dead grass left alone will decay chemically by oxidation rather than composting or biological decay
        Smuts book on nature (1920s) which can only be understood in whole systems (Holism and Evolution)
        Livestock will crop the grasses, turn over the soil, manure it and allow it to grow back if the livestock is moved on as in migratory patterns
        Holistic management has never had a single failure on five continents in four decades
        Curbing fires and 400% increase in livestock and planned grazing brings land from bare ground to biodiversity
        He keeps bare ground for wildlife uses by keeping grazing animals off it
        The key to climate change is Africa just because of its sheer size
        Trees play a role in the ambient cycle of carbon while grasslands sequester carbon in the soil
        Likely to take entire legacy load of carbon into grass and soil sequestration with holistic management and this will increase soil life's ability to break down methane
        Nb:  working with Heifer International? (yes)

        Q:  How to begin and cost?
        It makes money as proved by government monitored trial. Some money for temporary water supply
        Q:  US projects?
        Grasslands project now.  No demonstrations but learning sites.
        Q:  Ethiopian climate change and drought, high population density and low land supplies appropriate?
        Yes, but desertification from over rest not overgrazing
        Q:  Land care?
        Familiar with the ideas
        Q:  Savory Center in Haiti?
        No connections yet in Haiti but interested as well as China
        Q:  Livestock and methane?
        Breaking down lignin produces methane but we don't know how methane breaks down in the soil.  Still there is no other option for natural carbon sequestration
        Q:  How much carbon can be sequestered in the soil?
        No figures because the range of soil profiles is widely various.  The point is that holistic management is the only way to bring carbon down
        Q:  Unintended consequences?
        Screen for social, economic, and environment consequences short and long term and identify indicators of failure.  So far no detrimental effects.
        Jim Laurie:  One ton of carbon per acre in added biodiversity (at least) with millions of acres now brown
        Q:  For game ranching and US bison community?
        Working with some of the biggest bison producers now.  In Africa, run commercial herd animals with wildlife and see increases in animal populations
        Q:  How do you convince ranchers that it will work?
        We're all in this together.  Public opinion must change.  Lord Eric Ashby's study of new info into society in UK and US shows that facts, figures, data doesn't work; public opinion does work
        Q:  Michael Ben Eli and Wadi Attir is another example in Israel?
        Knows of the work and has visited the site.
        Q:  Adaptation to different sites and soils?
        Planning process developed in Africa, US, Latin America and based upon ecological principles and thus works everywhere although details change
        Q:  First week on hard pan with no graze for herds?
        Treble stocking on a thirtieth of the land for a few days allowing the rest of the land to grow
        Q: Water issues and game ranching?
        Run game and livestock together.  They both break and chip capped surfaces, break down vegetation, and the weight of the animals will compact the soils for better seed germination.  Monitor the land to substitute wildlife for livestock when necessary
        Cattle don't need water every day and can subsist on vegetable moisture
        Q:  Biochar?
        Biochar can also be used where appropriate
        Q: How can I in Somerville, MA make a difference?
        Public opinion change.  Nothing has changed since Galileo.  There is no leader, nobody at the helm.  You are the leaders.  Get involved every way you can.

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

        by gmoke on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 07:00:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Republished to DK Greenroots. A well (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kmoore61, FinchJ

    argued and presented diary, and closer to what I somehow feel is a way of approaching our problems.

    Our experiences with local CSA farms and our own small launch into gardening last season, have reinforced the belief in what you are proposing.

    Thank you so much.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 02:05:55 PM PST

  •  Fascinating diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and great links--I look forward to reading more of your work.

    "Teachers are the enemies of ignorance. If the teachers win, Rush and his allies lose." Stolen from Sidnora, 12/15/12 with thanks!

    by kmoore61 on Fri Feb 15, 2013 at 05:09:08 PM PST

  •  thanks for your posts!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks so much for compiling all of this!  I am one lucky girl because I am writing a paper for an agroecology class this weekend on the concept of herbivory as a tool for mitigating climate change/desertification/loss of biodiversity and for feeding the exploding billions on this planet!  I am so grateful to be introduced to Savory’s work!!  Thank you!  Tony Lovell's Ted talk was an eye opener for me, too:

    Tony Lovell on Soil Carbon

    However, humans beings had better get use to eating mostly plant-based diets in the coming years even if we WERE to somehow come together and make Savory’s vision a reality.  Itzkan mentioned that on the Pre-European US prairie there were 35-75 million buffalo.  According to the USDA, in 2008 there were over 9 billion land animals slaughtered for food in the US alone.  That’s a lot of meat eating.  Holistic management is not going to satisfy a world of humans craving meat at the rate it is consumed in the US or Europe. I was trying to find an estimated number of grazing animals that roamed the African savanna in herds before humans came. (end of the Pleistocene?)  Hundreds of millions? Today it is estimated that globally 65 billion animals are slaughtered for food each year.  

    Also, I am trying hard to imagine all these fences that small ranchers will have to build.  There is going to have to be lots of neighborly cooperation as animals move around the landscape appropriately timed to maximize soil carbon.  That’s the fun part I suppose – community building among small farmers!

    Is there any discussion about making sure that there is biodiversity in the breeds of cattle that might be used in these types of systems? Genetic diversity should be a goal among these herds.

    I’m intrigued by the work of the American Prairie Foundation working to restore wild herds of buffalo and leaving them to live their lives.  Knowing that there are old and young animals together in a herd seems the way back to a more natural system whose inhabitants can evolve with the landscape.  (Are  grazing herds in other managed systems comprised of animals under 1 year old?)  

    Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts.

    •  Teeceecee, (0+ / 0-)

      Glad I could help. Here is a list of sources put together by Seth Itzkan.

      I do believe we will be limiting our consumption of animal products in the future. Not only are the numbers limited by carrying capacity, but it just isn't healthy (for humans or the environment).

      I am looking at the USDA 2010 Livestock Slaughter Summary and the numbers there, on page six, add up to just under 148 million cattle, sheep, and hogs.

      To get to the 9 billion number, we must include poultry.

      You are right that this is an enormous number of animals.

      If we take a look at the numbers for Polyface Farms- the ratio of poultry:cattle is about 30:1. (6,500 layers, 24,000 broilers, 500 turkeys : 1,000 cattle [and 200 hogs]). Those are 2007 numbers.

      So if every rancher were following the cattle->short rest->chicken/turkey->longer rest-> cattle methods employed by Salatin- and to the same standards- we would produce (given the number of USDA inspected cattle) 4.4 billion birds. Much less than the current production figures, but still quite a bit.

      Of course that extrapolation would never hold any weight due to the vast differences between farms and climate. While I do believe that we absolutely need to consume less, how much less is a matter of debate.

      That said these numbers do not even take into consideration what is possible on the home scale. There is vast potential for poultry and even small livestock production within "residential" areas.

      On fences- portable electric fencing is key. While many people will still choose to place "permanent" fences, the vast majority is going to be portable electric. And it should be since the size and location of each paddock isn't set in stone. Also, if left to their own devices, permanent fencing can lead to extensive erosion problems (formation of head cuts, for example) in arid/semi arid environments. Not only that, but they are expensive. At least traditional fences.

      Food producing hedges (fedges) are an interesting concept to replace permanent fencing (where appropriate) and offer quite a few benefits.

      Lastly, you are absolutely right about genetics. Many of the livestock lines we have now are bred for feed lot finishing and are inappropriate for Holistic Management. I have a friend who practices HM in Iowa, who is moving to Finland this year. We talked about genetics and breeding while he was here for Christmas. We will once again see regional lines developed because each region is unique and the demands on the animals differ.

      Good luck on your paper!

      •  atmospheric carbon and burning the grasslands (0+ / 0-)

        thank you so much, FinchJ!!!!  That list is jaw dropping.  I first stumbled on to your Jan post that had the Savory lecture from Dublin embed.  I am impressed you are in communication with Bill McKibbin. I think that the most potent cure for decreasing atmospheric carbon N. O. W. has to be putting ruminants back onto the worlds grasslands and thus build soil.  AND STOPPING BURNING.  I was shocked and had no clue that grassland burns were happening as a regular part of land management and how destructive they are.  Why is this not part of every climate crisis / environmentalist's elevator speech????  I am shocked to just be learning of this.

        All environmentalist groups should be looking at building soil and food production as JOB ONE.  I’ve been a member of NRDC for decades.  Took my PDC with Hemenway in 2010 and now am an organic ag student at WSU.  Coming to our senses about food production and soil building is to me most critical in immediately mitigating humanities destruction on this planet and setting us up for some kind of sensible future.  We're going to hit the wall - but I'd rather hit the wall at 40 mph than 70mph!!  

        As far as climate change/desertification/biodiversity loss (the 3 legs of the stool  in Savory’s words) it seems that the most bang for the buck is getting animals back on grasslands.  

        I have to come clean that I am en ethical vegan and it really does pull my sensibilities to the edge to be discussing the importance of livestock on grasslands at this point in this “anthropocene”.   Putting more animals at the mercy of humans?   We’ve got such a great track record ! ☹  There is no disputing the research that shows how a animal protein centered diet causes so much ‘food-born’ illnesses (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers).  Humans would be so much healthier with meat as a condiment, not on the center of the plate, and so would the planet.  However, if this (holistic mangement on grasslands) can be done with ecology in mind, genetic diversity, local regional genetic lines, small farmer-small farmer, out of the hands of corporations, millions of animal (not billions) – we may be talking something good...  (or better, I guess) I am not a fan of backyard slaughter.  We should be teaching people how to grow kale and eat it and like it harrumph.

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my post!!  I am learning so much from your work on Kos!  There is much to be done and I am so glad to know there are folks like you who take the time to educate!   I better get writing!!!!

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