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How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change TED Talk  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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This video is very interesting if not a little scary.   Planned grazing reverses desertification and it may be the only option on a Macro scale.  

 
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Ruminants are the best tool for bringing back brittle grasslands, and there's a tremendous potential to sequester carbon this way.  I love when he says it's the best way, even if you don't eat the cattle.
 
Scott Foster
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Julia Winter wrote:Ruminants are the best tool for bringing back brittle grasslands, and there's a tremendous potential to sequester carbon this way.  I love when he says it's the best way, even if you don't eat the cattle.




I found the burning statistic amazing.  Burning 1 hectare of grassland is the equivalent of 6000 vehicle emissions. Just in Africa, they are burning a billion hectares a year.  I also find it amazing that all of the desertification is changing our climate on a macro scale.    I was not aware that the impact was this big.
 
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Greening the deserts seems to occur to people who think that deserts aren't doing the planet any good.  It couldn't be further from the truth.  The notion that if people can't live there, everything else that does live there, doesn't matter is not a very planet-healthy notion, is it?

A desert is not just a functioning zone all its own, which is crucial for the plants/animals/insects that live there,  but the hot air it produces that actually helps bring rainfall to the green lands bordering it.

--------
Mojave desert in California:

"Low humidity, high temperatures, and low pressure, draw in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico creating thunderstorms across the desert southwest known as the North American monsoon. While the Mojave does not get nearly the amount of rainfall the Sonoran desert to the south receives, monsoonal moisture will create thunderstorms as far west as California's Central Valley from mid-June through early September".  - Wikipedia

The Central Valley of California produces huge amounts of the whole World's produce.  It is what gives California the 6th or 7th largest economy In The World.  Change this, and food production falls, people starve all around the world, and changes the weather.

----

Gobi Desert:  The heat that is created by this area rises and meets the surrounding temperatures and creates green, farmable lands on its edges.  Without it providing the kind of heat it does, there wouldn't be the kind of rainfall in the areas bordering it.  

If we back ourselves out and look at the planet like a spaceship would, we could easily see how all of the different regions are connected, they live and breathe together, because of each other, and populations have grown around the areas that can support human life.  To yank one or two or three of these deserts out would utterly change the neighboring areas, and even the whole planet.

Is this what the ecological balance has been all about?  Humans know better than Mother Nature how to run the planet?   Haven't seen much evidence of that so far.

About the burning....cars spew out chemicals which are extremely more detrimental to the atmosphere...and the soil if you include diesel....than the smoke of burning wood and grass, which is a temporary event.   The particles created by wood smoke rise and disperse once a year, usually summer in fewer areas than areas where there are cars and industry.   Chemicals coming out of vehicles and industry, don't forget,  hovers over areas, can be trapped in a basin-type geology, because the chemicals are spewed into the air daily, not just once a year.
 
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First off, it took me two days to watch this video. I had to stop after "40,000 elephants" and mourn for the rest of the day.

Second,

Cristo Balete wrote:Greening the deserts seems to occur to people who think that deserts aren't doing the planet any good.  It couldn't be further from the truth.  The notion that if people can't live there, everything else that does live there, doesn't matter is not a very planet-healthy notion, is it?



Despite understanding this point entirely, it just doesn't work out for me in practice. When we bought our parcel in the desert my thoughts went immediately to stewardship. Basically, keep the ATV and dirtbike enthusiasts out, stay primarily on a few trails to contain damage, don't cut down trees or dig out "inconvienient" plants, enjoy the birds but don't put out feeders, etc.

After a couple years of observation though, my thoughts have changed. Open range grazing takes a massive toll without any doubt. We only saw up to 6 cows at a time, grazing through for 3 to 4 days before making it to the next property. Then another small group (or the same one) would come back through in a week. I didn't think this was such a burden to the land until the following year, when the rancher ended his lease and rounded up the heard. What a difference it's made! Grasses and flowers are growing all over the place. During the monsoon, it looks like a green municipal park. There are "new" plant species pushing up that we had no indication whould even grow here.

It would seem that the Sonoran desert to our south and the Mojave to the west have spread with the cattle to areas like ours that were never meant to be desert. (As "spreading desertification" is explained in the video.) My thoughts on land-care now align with restoration. This area is severely damaged by human hand, and will not heal on it's own.

I don't think that Savory or any other ecologist would table that the deserts are not of massive importance to Earth. But the unnatural spreading of them is a different topic altogether. I had a deep appreciation for this land even before realizing how deeply wounded it is, and certainly would not get it in my head to "re-green" it to make it more palatable to humans anymore than I would de-salt the ocean so I could farm on the beach. Walking the surface, meeting the animals, and learning the local cycles change one's perspective.
 
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The food productivity of the Central Valley in California is almost entirely down to the importation of water from far away watersheds and from deep fossil aquifers at enormous energy cost, and it creates some uniquely bad environmental fallout too (Google "Salton Sea".)  Deserts in their current locations and sizes are very often not natural at all; it's stunning how often human activity (usually and most often overgrazing) has created them or caused them to expand.  And that's before you even start considering how agricultural practices half a continent away (cutting down hundreds of thousands of square miles of evapotranspirating forests) may have affected rainfall patterns, resulting in desertification.

I'm not saying it's utterly impossible to distinguish "natural" deserts from human-caused deserts here in 2018, but I am saying that it's very difficult to do so with any degree of certainty.  We often don't know enough about what people were doing thousands of years ago, or where they were doing it.  And in quite a few cases where we do know from history or archeology or geology, the modern deserts weren't deserts 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 or 10,000 years ago.  
 
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I think catchment swales on contour would effectively create lots of 'lush creekbed corridors', allow the flash flood rainfall to sink in vs just flood, decrease erosion (soil, biomass/leaves) and keep the fertility onsite. Nature will find it's own animals to do rotational grazing, but if we have to support herder we can do 45+ days rotational grazing after the paddocks have matured.
 
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Melissa Bracy wrote:Despite understanding this point entirely, it just doesn't work out for me in practice. When we bought our parcel in the desert my thoughts went immediately to stewardship. Basically, keep the ATV and dirtbike enthusiasts out, stay primarily on a few trails to contain damage, don't cut down trees or dig out "inconvienient" plants, enjoy the birds but don't put out feeders, etc.

After a couple years of observation though, my thoughts have changed. Open range grazing takes a massive toll without any doubt. We only saw up to 6 cows at a time, grazing through for 3 to 4 days before making it to the next property. Then another small group (or the same one) would come back through in a week. I didn't think this was such a burden to the land until the following year, when the rancher ended his lease and rounded up the heard. What a difference it's made! Grasses and flowers are growing all over the place. During the monsoon, it looks like a green municipal park. There are "new" plant species pushing up that we had no indication whould even grow here.

It would seem that the Sonoran desert to our south and the Mojave to the west have spread with the cattle to areas like ours that were never meant to be desert. (As "spreading desertification" is explained in the video.) My thoughts on land-care now align with restoration. This area is severely damaged by human hand, and will not heal on it's own.

I don't think that Savory or any other ecologist would table that the deserts are not of massive importance to Earth. But the unnatural spreading of them is a different topic altogether. I had a deep appreciation for this land even before realizing how deeply wounded it is, and certainly would not get it in my head to "re-green" it to make it more palatable to humans anymore than I would de-salt the ocean so I could farm on the beach. Walking the surface, meeting the animals, and learning the local cycles change one's perspective.



I think what Allen fails to mention is that there is a big difference in natural vs conventional grazing. Open grazing as you explain is not meant to be, small heard, maybe spread out, and slow moving... Beneficial grazing would be a larger heard that is tightly packed and moves quickly. The difference here being that an animal like a cow is not constantly on the lookout for predators, thus spread out and not in a hurry. Cows like this are picky when eating and choose the best tasting greens to eat leaving undesirables untouched. What he does mention is trampling which I do think s good. I agree though that this method may not be best everywhere and that individual ecosystems should be mimicked accordingly.  
 
Julia Winter
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^^The effects of Holistic Management on (human created) desert in Mexico.^^

Diego Footer has a nice page about Allan Savory here: https://www.permaculturevoices.com/rhodesia-to-long-beach-50-years-of-struggle-persistence-and-success-with-allan-savory-pvp055/

 
Julia Winter
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There's an IndieGoGo campaign for a new documentary that talks about how ruminants are essential for recreating topsoil in brittle environments, places where for months out of the year, the only moist place is inside a ruminant's stomach(s).  It seems one of the focus points of the movie is pointing out that eating meat doesn't necessarily kill the planet and going vegan doesn't necessarily save the planet.
 
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