How many people are familiar with issues of grazing and overgrazing of landscapes? Here in the Southwestern United States we are all too familiar that uncontrolled livestock grazing degrades land. We see it as evidence in landslides, lack of vegetation, and deepening gullies. We see the cows, the sheep, the goats all looking for something to eat and the bare soil all around. Some of us might even know of places where it is very evident as there may be something like a fence that keeps livestock on one side only. The livestock side is bare while the other side of the fence without livestock has some weeds, maybe a few grasses, a tree, or a shrub. It is only natural that we assume too many animals trampling and eating their favorite plants are to blame.
What if our assumptions are wrong? In the following video, Allan Savory, the founder of Holistic Management once thought the very same thing. As a ecologist he began with the same science showing that overgrazing of animals causes erosion, land degradation, and really desertification. He began his career removing livestock and other herbivores from landscapes in order to let the land heal. What shocked him was that in all cases, the landscapes actually got worse and became more desert like. With about 2/3 of the world’s land classified as arid, much like San Diego, his findings might be of use to us here. Allan began to think holistically about landscapes and noted that dryland grasslands worldwide actually evolved with more herbivores than they currently have on them. These highly populated areas were known for their great abundance and fertility like much of the central US.
For the last 30 years, Savory has began to try to recreate the fertile conditions of these areas by rotating large numbers of herbivores over landscapes much like the way wolves would herd bison or lions would herd gazelles and other animals in the plains of Africa. The results have been shocking. Rather seeing landscapes get worse, the land was actually repairing itself and getting better!
Watch the video and see for yourself the greater implications of Allan Savory’s findings. According to Savory, the key to mitigating climate change is actually by increasing livestock on arid lands, but doing so with a little insight. What do you think?