Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Desertification Debacle.

Simply put, desertification is the process of turning grasslands into desert land. According to the organization SCOPE (Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment), desertification is happening in about 70% of all drylands, which equals to one quarter of the total land area of the Earth. 
It is a global issue that is affecting countries and regions all over the world. The issue is not the lands that are naturally deserts but the conversion of lands that can't produce large biomass with diversity once desertification occurs. 

Allan Savory's Ted Talk, How to Fight Desertification and Reserve Climate Change, suggested the use of holistic "planned grazing" of livestock as a way to combat desertification. The overgrazing of livestock such as cattle, goats, and sheep has been thought to cause desertification by leaving the soil bare and the methane levels too high.

Savory thinks this is not the cause at all but instead his answer is to bring in more livestock to return drylands back to grasslands. This plan relies on mimicry of the introduced livestock to graze the land in the hopes that their dung will enrich the soil and absorb rain. The enriched soil would hypothetical be able to sequester the carbon dioxide and therefore breakdown the methane that is released by the livestocks bodily functions. This plan sounds too simplified and not realistic in my personally opinion. I am not the only one that has questioned the effectiveness of Savory's "planned grazing" plan. 

James McWilliams wrote the article, All Sizzle and No Steak, that called attention to the flaws of Savory's plan. According to his research, there have multiple studies conducted that contradicted the results Savory roared about in his talk. Some of the issues not addressed in the talk were the cost of producing supplemental feed for the livestock, the stress and fatigue the animals endured, and the weight loss in the animals. The review, Short Duration Grazing Research in Africa, even went so far to state, “No grazing system has yet shown the capacity to overcome the long-term effects of overstocking and/or drought on vegetation productivity."

I applaud Savory for thinking outside of the box but attention needs to be called to other ways we can stop deforestation and climate change. 

Work Cited: 

Savory, Allan. "How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change." Speech. TED2013. Ted.com. Web <http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html>.

Facts on Desertification." Desertification. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2013. <http://www.scope.org.pk/publication/pages/desertification.htm>.

UNCCD COP10 Gyeongnam Korea 2011 - UNCCD & Desertification Prevention - Desertification Prevention - Global Desertification." UNCCD COP10 Gyeongnam Korea 2011 - UNCCD & Desertification Prevention - Desertification Prevention - Global Desertification. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2013. <http://english.unccdcop10.go.kr/sub/02_02_03.jsp>.

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