Another Side to the Meat / Climate Change Issue
By Don Wilkin, Ph.D.
I try to eat strictly vegan, less out of moral or climate-change considerations than to reverse the ravages of more than 70 years of the standard American diet (S.A.D.) on my arteries.
I can’t judge anyone for eating meat. I still, occasionally, crave a Portillo’s hamburger. Today, I offer a word of encouragement for my meat-eating colleagues. More intensive livestock grazing could actually mitigate climate change. Allan Savory (see his TED talk) asserts that half or more of humanity’s excess atmospheric carbon loading comes from desertification of two-thirds of the world’s lands, releasing long-sequestered carbon and water.
Visualize the badlands of South Dakota. Conventional wisdom is that these former grasslands were overgrazed by livestock rendering them barren, eroded, and unproductive. The standard remedy is to reduce livestock numbers. But, the fossil record suggests otherwise. Before we became proficient hunters, massive numbers of grazing animals, concentrated by predators, trampled, dunged, and urinated on these grasslands, then moved on, letting an enriched range re-grow. We disrupted that symbiosis when we hunted many grazers to extinction 11,000 years ago. Later, livestock added insult to injury, foraging year-round without resting or replenishing the range.
Without reversing desertification world-wide, techno/economic solutions won’t be enough to reverse climate change. Savory demonstrates conclusively that managing livestock to mimic densely bunched, constantly moving herds stalked by predators stimulates vegetative growth and cumulatively stores abundant carbon and water. His demonstrations are irrefutable. Earth needs more intensive wildlife/livestock grazing to restore its carbon balance.
Click here to see Allan Savory's TED talk entitled How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change.
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