Can This Surprising Discovery Fix Climate Change?
You know how gloomy the global climate picture looks: temperatures are inching up. Droughts are on the rise. Populations are growing. Forests and grassland are disappearing. And about a billion people live on land that is threatening to turn into desert.
But is there a simple fix for desertification — and has it been under our noses the whole time?
Allan Savory thinks so. An award-winning biologist and land management expert, Savory gave what was widely seen as one of the most astonishing talks at the TED 2013 conference in Long Beach last week. (You can see it in full, above).
The solution? Put thousands of animals onto land that is threatening to turn into desert. Bunch that livestock together as a herd and move it around at speed, in a way that mimics the great herds of ages past.
What you'll find, as Savory has time and again, is that with all that trampling and fertilization, the grassland will bloom again, fast enough to make your head spin.
A climate bonus: you'll take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by preventing the release of carbon from the soil, and removing the need to burn grassland so next year's growth can come through. Savory says employing this technique globally is the equivalent of removing 6,000 cars from the road every second.
The livestock fix is completely counterintuitive for biologists, who long believed that animals were causing desertification, not fixing it. Savory himself insisted on this for years. Based on his recommendations as a young researcher, African national parks killed around 40,000 elephants.
"That was the saddest and greatest blunder of my life," Savory says. "I will carry that to my grave."
But it also gave him impetus to figure out how to really fix the problem. Now he has it, Savory says, "I can think of almost nothing that offers more hope for our planet, for our children, for their children, and for all of humanity."