Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Desertification: is grazing really the fix?

Allen Savory's TED talk on how to reverse and prevent further desertification was very inspiring and left you feeling hopeful for our future. He began by saying "the perfect storm is bearing down on us and that we as humans are always trying to fix things with technology." He then tells us the perfect storm is desertification aka "land turning to desert." He then explains that for many years he and many other scientist believed that desertification was mostly caused by over grazing. He even tells us an incredibly sad side story of how he and a team of experts shot and killed 40 thousand elephants because they thought they were causing the desertification. He now believes that he was completely wrong and that grazing is the answer to reversing and preventing further desertification. His story of the elephants is such a sad thing to admit that I truly believe he thinks he has the cure to desertification otherwise who would admit to such a horrific failure many years before? The rest of his talk includes before and after pictures of many areas that were experiencing desertification and what they look like now after intense grazing by livestock. His talk is so uplifting that everyone gives him a standing ovation with their applause.

After seeing Allen Savory's TED talk, reading the blog by James McWilliams, is a total fairytale mood killer! Even though he crushes our "perfect fix" idea that Allen Savory just delivered, James has some good reasoning and facts to back his argument.

He starts by explaining that all of Allen's research is "on a 6,200 -acre spot of semiarid African land and that it seems silly to make conclusions for all the different types of desert lands throughout the world based of one very small land type in retrospect. He then states that Savory had "problems during the Charter Grazing Trials," which were never discussed in his TED conversation. James explains that the "cattle that grazed according to Savory’s method needed expensive supplemental feed, became stressed and fatigued, and lost enough weight to compromise the profitability of their meat." 

After watching the TED conversation and reading the blog post by James McWilliams, I was thoroughly confused and frustrated. Who was right? Who was wrong? These were the questions that filled my brain and so, I started researching myself and found that I am still don't know who is right! The only real way to find out if Allen Savory is correct is to try it on several other desert land types and see if we are successful in the next decade or so. Though I want a cure to desertification, climate change, global warming, and every other "perfect storm" we are encountering. I am hesitant to believe that getting livestock to "mimic nature," is the key. I feel that bringing animals to a land type that are not native to may cause other problems not to mention they will completely change the habitat from what it used to be whether that be good or bad. We cannot "mimic nature." At least not exactly and because we can't do this I fear what consequences are in store.


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