Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cows are not our future.

 In February 2013, Allan Savory, who is co-founder of the Africa Centre for Holistic management, biologist, and president of the Savory Institute, gave a TED talk titled How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change. In this talk, he suggested a simple but unique way to combat desertification. Rather than relying on technology, he suggested we attempt “planned grazing”. The idea was to use large herds of livestock, like cattle or sheep, and have them graze of barren and dry grasslands in order to promote growth in biodiversity and humidity. This mimicry was the key to bringing back life to once barren lands. As great as this looks, does it really work in all areas?

James McWilliams suggests that Allan Savory is bending the truth. In his article, All Sizzle No Steak, he identifies caveats present in his studies. Can Savory’s Charter Grazing trials in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe today) be replicated around the world where habitats, soil composition, and other abiotic factors vary? Well according to an extensive review of the Short Duration Grazing research in Africa by Jamus Joseph et al., suggested the opposite. They found "Short-duration grazing reduced individual cattle productivity in some of the African studies due to stress from heavy stocking and movement of cattle from one paddock to another...” which, “failed to produce the marked improvement in grass cover claimed from its application.”

To make things even more confusing, G.R.H. Allington and T.J. Valone found similar results. Through their analysis, they found that given enough time and the proper removal of livestock, soil properties could improve grassland’s biodiversity.

I personally feel angered and confused. Savory’s method seemed almost full proof; while McWilliams seemed to disprove Savory is all ways imaginable. I still don’t know how Savory claims this works, yet other people proclaim the opposite. At what point through these studies were observation of nature and the use of consistent logic not used to evaluate their results? I personally feel that mimicry can work in certain area, as how Savory proved, but it is not a method that can replicated around the world.

G.R.H. Allington, T.J. Valone, Reversal of desertification: The role of physical and chemical soil properties, Journal of Arid Environments, Volume 74, Issue 8, August 2010, Pages 973-977, ISSN 0140-1963, 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2009.12.005. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140196310000054)

Jamus, Joseph, , et al. "Short Duration Grazing Research in Africa ." UAiR Rangelands Archives. 24.2 (2002): 9-12. Web. 21 May. 2013. <https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/rangelands/article/view/11560/10833>.

McWilliams, James. "All Sizzle and No Steak." Slate. (2013): n. page. Web. 21 May. 2013. <http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2013/04/allan_savory_s_ted_talk_is_wrong_and_the_benefits_of_holistic_grazing_have.single.html>.

Savory, Allan. How to fight desertification and reverse climate change. 2013. video. TEDWeb. 20 May 2013. <http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html>.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, the Slate article "All Sizzle and No Steak" that you reference has been thoroughly discredited here: http://sheldonfrith.com/2015/12/14/why-the-slate-article-about-allan-savory-is-dead-wrong/
    ... thought you might be interested.