Can livestock reverse climate change?

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According to many experts, there’s a perfect storm brewing. Between rising temperatures and drought caused by climate change, nearly one billion people are at risk of watching their homeland turn into deserts.

Many key agricultural areas in the United States are also at risk of falling to this "perfect storm." 

However, according to award-winning biologist Allan Savory, there may a simple – and unlikely – solution to desertification: livestock.

“We know that desertification is caused by livestock, mostly cattle sheep and goats, overgrazing the plants, leaving the soil bare and giving off methane. Almost everybody knows this, from Nobel Laureates to golf caddies, or were taught it, like I was,” Savory said in a recent TED conference.

“Well I have news for you,” he continued. “We were once just as certain that the world was flat. We were then and we are wrong again.”

For Savory, using large herds of livestock to rotationally graze the grasslands mimics the massive herds that grazed that same land thousands of years ago. Their trampling and fertilization allow the grassland to regenerate, retaining water and bringing life back to the soil.

It also helps soil retain carbon, helping reduce global warming.

“We can work with nature at very low cost to reverse all of this,” Savory said. “We can take enough carbon out of the atmosphere and safely store it in the grassland soils for thousands of years, and if we just do that on about half of the world’s grasslands, we can take us back to pre-industrial levels while feeding people.”

As Savory concludes: “I can think of almost nothing that offers more hope for our planet, for your children and their children and all of humanity.” 

Click on the video above to watch the full 22-minute segment.

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Julia Winter    
Wisconsin  |  March, 05, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Anybody working cattle should check into Greg Judy, who is following Allan Savory's methods with beef cattle in Missouri. He came to this from "rock bottom," running cattle on rented land, and now he is very successful and growing his property. He has a long lecture here: You can skim through it if you don't think it is worth an hour, but I will guess that you will end up watching all of it.

March, 05, 2013 at 02:11 PM

Only a complete fool thinks he/she can control climate or "reverse it". Except of course for charlatans like Alan Savory and Al Gore who make gobs of money peddling the snake oil. Let them give us a few sample demonstrations of how they manipulate climate, then maybe we will jump on the medicine wagon. They all make it sound so easy, so certain. Why not a quick demonstration of their power. Maybe roll back the California coastline or bring a nice chill to descend on Las Vegas. Just a little sample of what they are trying to scare us into buying into. Shouldn't be any problem for them at all, simple as they make it out to be.

Australia  |  March, 06, 2013 at 03:44 AM

Actually he has an example property at the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, that property won the Buckminster Fuller Award, with a unanimous vote from the 6 panel judges who flew there to verify it was not snake oil prior to giving the award. Also he is a finalist in the Branson Virgin Earth Challenge, snake oil I think not, But Cliff you sound like a range scientist who backed the wrong horse, my feeling anyways. If you want to do the suggested projects learn from Allan and just do it yourself, it works and anyone can do it, even illiterate villagers in the violent horn of Africa.

NZ  |  March, 06, 2013 at 08:18 AM

So climate is all fixed then? Great news! I guess you can bugger off now Rodger.

Wyoming  |  March, 06, 2013 at 09:45 AM

So Cliff. What is your answer for our current state? You seem to have the criticism down, but offer no possible solutions of your own. What are you doing to improve our current state of hunger and land degradation.

Julia Winter    
March, 07, 2013 at 08:14 AM

Matty, are you a cattleman? If not, what are you doing on If you are a cattleman, and you want to raise more beef, with less money on inputs and a more valuable product to take into a massively growing market (grassfed beef), then check out Greg Judy, whom I referenced above.

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