In his TED talk, the deliciously named Allan Savory described “desertification,” the process we see throughout the whole world in which formerly green areas are turning to desert.
Some climates, such as Britain, get year-round rainfall and are always green. But the majority of the world’s surface gets episodic rain, heavy at one time of the year and then dry throughout the rest of the year.For years, scientists – ecologists and biologists – have seen these areas turning to barren desert. Everyone knew that was because of overgrazing. They reduced the size of herds of grazing animals but the deserts continue to grow.
Allan Savory was involved with setting aside large blocks of land in Africa to turn into national parks. They moved the native people out, and eliminated the grazing cattle herds. But those very areas then became deserts. Desperate, Savory finally blamed the process on too many elephants, and, grief stricken because of his love of elephants, he recommended that they reduce those herds. In the next few years, 40,000 elephants were slaughtered.
It made things worse.
Savory was determined by this tragedy to find an answer, and he did.
Here is his TED talk:
In nature, grazing animals bunch together to protect themselves from predators. Large herds are the best protection for the individual animal. But these large herds trample the grass and drop urine and feces everywhere, so the herd must move.
What Savory (and other ecologists) didn’t recognize was that grasses have co-evolved with large grazing herds, and without the intense periodic grazing (the herds continually move), the grass cannot flourish.
Without grazing, the grass doesn’t renew itself. When the grass diminishes, evaporation increases dramatically the land suffers. The soil loses the moisture from the periodic rains. Only large herds intensively grazing can renew the land (and sequester our excess CO2). Savory has been rehabilitating lands all over the word by rapidly introducing large herds and intensively grazing, then moving them off that land, giving the grass a time to grow and flourish, thanks to the urine and feces and the trampling.
Joel Salatin has known this for many years. He and his father rehabilitated a Virginia farm that was terribly eroded simply by grazing animals that were moved every day.
You can see him on Youtube.com and listen to his rants about how irrational factory farming is. You can look at Salatin’s website, polyfacefarms.com.
There is another advantage of sticking strictly with grass fed animals. When we let the cattle, the sheep or the goats graze on grass, the meat or milk are much more nutritious, containing both omega-3 PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), other nutrients, and are much lower in saturated fats.
But when we feed the cattle on grains, corn mostly, the cattle are much less healthy, need constant medicine to keep them from dying, and create huge environmental problems. They are jammed together into feedlots, chickens are jammed into tiny cages. Not only is factory farming inhumane, it is unhealthy.
If you buy grain-fed beef at your supermarket, you are supporting the very processes of desertification that are destroying the climate and endangering our future on the earth.
So your food dollar is a vote. When you vote for factory chickens and factory beef, you are voting for damaging the environment and for less healthy food. When you buy pastured (not “free range”) chickens and grass-fed beef, hopefully from a farmer’s market in your area, you are voting for sustainable agriculture. Now we know you are helping to reverse global warming and saving the planet!
In a capitalist society, your money is a vote. In planned economies, you have no vote, so I prefer capitalism. But we have to be smart about how we vote.