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THIS WEEK’S PROGRAM: CLIMATE SOLUTION: FROM AIR TO SOIL
No this isn’t another Radio Ecoshock program of doom! Instead, we are going to look at one of several large-scale solutions available. This new/old technology can grab carbon out of the air, and store it back in the soil.
“Desperately looking for a clean way to remove dangerous carbon from the atmosphere, Alex interviews Allan Savory of the Savory Institute. His project to capture carbon into the soil, using intelligent herd management in Zimbabwe, is on the short-list for the Virgin Earth Challenge. We follow up with Abe Collins, a carbon farming leader in Vermont, USA. Plus organizing for local food in North Carolina (even in hard times) – Aaron Newton at ASPO 2011. “
More detail, starting with ALLAN SAVORY AND THE SAVORY INSTITUTE
In 2007, billionaire Richard Branson announced the Virgin Earth Challenge. He offered a 25 million dollar prize to the best method to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, with no harmful impacts. Out of 2600 submissions, Allan Savory and the Savory Institute survived to the current short-list of 11 technolgies to do it.
We talk with Allan Savory, the 76 year old pioneer biologist and agriculturalist from Zimbabwe.
Savory is an fascinating interview. He also won the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge, for a world-changing technology.
Plus, futurist Seth Itzkan (who went to Zimbabwe to see for his own eyes) tells me old Allan went out into the African night with a large rifle, to protect the camp from a pride of lions that had taken a big cow the night previous. That’s character.
Seth’s Africa blog here.
Wanna know what it’s like to sit out in lion country without a gun? Check out this short video with Seth and “Knowledge the lion chaser.”
Yet, as you hear in this interview, Savory absolutely insists we need all the predators, from lions through hyenas to wild dogs.
The behavior of herd animals changes when predators exist. The herd bunches up, fertilizes the ground and works it in with their hooves, and then move on in a tigher group. This benefits the land, as Savory shows repeatedly on his large experimental farm in Zimbabwe, near Victoria Falls. The vegetation roars back, where neighboring lands experience hard packed soil and desertification. Even the ground water comes back, with year-round ponds appearing. His knowledge could literally transform the landscape of the world, if applied.
Forget what you know about animals and land management. Desertification is not what you think. A very old relationship between animals and grass lands could reverse the damage.
It may even be a mega-solution for climate change. In a classic interview, I talk with a world-recognized pioneer in natural land management, Allan Savory, founder of the Savory Institute.
Allan Savory was born into white-ruled Rhodesia. He became a biologist, a game manager, a member of Parliament. Savory resigned and went into exile over the racist policies of that government. Now the country is called Zimbabwe, and Savory has returned often, to teach and to test his methods of restoring water, life, and carbon to the land.
His best known book is “Holistic Management: A New Decision Making Framework” written with his wife Jody Butterfield.
In 2003, Savory won the Banksia International Award, quote “to recognise extraordinary individuals or organisations that have made, or are making a significant contribution to improving our environment on a global level.”
Allan Savory & the Africa Centre for Holistic Management was the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Winner. “Operation Hope” showed a way for permanent water and food security for millions of Africa’s poor.
In November 2011, Allan Savory topped over 2500 others to place in the top 11 finalists in the Virgin Earth Challenge. His project not only reverses desertification, but offers a global technique to removed vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. It may be a low-tech way to stop runaway climate change.
Here is the Savory Institute You tube channel.
But if you read or look at only one thing about Savory’s plan for the soil and the climate, this short paper is it. “A Global Strategy for Addressing Global Climate Change” It opened my eyes.
In 2007, I spoke with Peter Donovan, the publisher of a book by the Australian author Allan J. Yeomans. That book is “Priority One, Together We Can Beat Global Warming.” Peter Donovan is now on a road tour promoting the Soil Carbon Challenge. The idea is to get farmers to measure their current carbon in the soil, so they can know what works to capture and keep more of it.
Then I got an email from a remote outpost in Zimbabwe, in lion country. It’s amazing to connect with someone so far back in the bush. That’s the new world we live in.
It was none other than Massachussetts futurist Seth Itzkan. Seth is and analyst and advocate for sustainable economic development. He’s the CEO & Founder Planet-TECH
Associates. Itzkan went to Zimbabwe to see Savory’s claims with his own eyes.
Seth was amazed by what he found. As claimed new water sources were appearing where the Savory management technique was used. Properly managed land was rich with
vegetation, in an area generally blighted by on-going encourachment by the desert. Hard, hard soil with a few scrubby bushes can be converted back to moist rich grasslands by natural herd management. Savory mimiced nature to recapture the land, and the carbon from the sky. It works.
SURE, I HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS…
The limitations to this technique are several. The main problem: humans need to change their conceptions of agriculture, their opposition to herd management, and the inate social demand to rid the planet of dangerous animals. And we’d have to re-educate millions of poor farmers. I’ll consult a leading climate expert on the role of soil carbon in a coming program.
I have to overcome personal resistance too. I’ve been taught, as millions have, that over-grazing by animals is turning the world into deserts. Now we learn that is due to our unnatural way of raising animals, and killing off predators and the wild spaces they require.
Personally, I’m trying hard to become a vegetarian. North American meat is poisoned with anti-biotics and other chemicals. Red meat is know to raise cancer risks, especially of the bowels. The feed-lot meat production chain is just a giant prison for animals and their suffering.
But that is not at all what Allan Savory, and our next guest, are promoting. Their solution to climate change does involve animals, and meat eating – but it is the most Nature-based geoengineering plan out there.
Here is what these new agriculturalists are telling us: we don’t need to darken the Sun. We need to manage grasslands, to use cover crops when growing grains and vegetables, and we need the help of animals and their predators to restore the carbon cycle.
My thanks to Karl Thidemann for pushing me to learn about Savory and soil. Karl’s been gently emailing me for years, telling me to look into it. It only took four or five years Karl! I just wasn’t ready, or I’m a slow learner.
I’m just glad we got Allan Savory on the air on Radio Ecoshock. You can download or listen to that 24 minute Allan Savory interview here.
I should just add the importance of grass fires when it comes to climate change. In the interview, Savory clearly explains how damaging slash and burn agriculture is. All over Africa, and all over the world, subsistence farmers burn the fields over to clear them. This releases more carbon than millions of cars. Some of it is recaptured by new growth, but the overall
impact of the black carbon, and the burst of carbon during fire season, further damages both the climate and the soil. I haven’t said it as well as Allan does. Please listen to the interview.
PRACTICING CARBON FARMING IN VERMONT – ABE COLLINS
Then to Abe Collins, a farmer in St. Albans, Vermont. He uses methods to capture carbon with agriculture. Collins started out working with the Navajo in Arizona, applying techniques learned from Allan Savory, to reverse the deterioration of Navajo land. They all learned together how to use animals to reclaim desert land, rather than creating more of it.
Collins returned to Vermont, and converted a former dairy farm to a beef operation. He measures soil depth, and carbon content, to see improvements as they develop.
It takes nature about one thousand years to create an inch of soil. The modern farmers hope to do it a lot faster, without using a lot of fossil fuels.
The extra soil also helps with flood control. Vermont surely needed that, when tropical storm Irene flooded towns and wiped out roads. We discuss how proper soil managment can help with extreme rainfall events accompanying climate change.
We also talk about the “Keyline” system developed by P.A. Yeomans in Australia. His son, Allan Yoemans published a book in 2007 on ways to save the climate using agriculture. It’s called “Priority One”. You can order the book, or download it from this site.
Collins was part of a crew, including Peter Donovan, who attempted to get “carbon farming” recognized in the New England carbon trading scheme. Why pay big companies to off-set emissions, or even worse, fake green geoengineering, when farmers can capture carbon – AND feed us sustainably?
At the end of October 2011, Abe Collins kicked off “the Soil Carbon Challenge” in Vermont. Video here.
Or check out this: Part One of a five part You tube presentation by Abe Collins: “Presentations from the Quivira Coalition’s 9th Annual Conference, November 10-12, 2010, in Albuquerque, NM “The Carbon Ranch: Using Food and Stewardship to Build Soil and Fight Climate Change”. The rest of the talk will pop up on the right side of the You tube screen.
To keep up with the whole discussion of carbon farming, Abe recommends this site: managingwholes.com
Download the Abe Collins interview (17 minutes) here.
A MODEL FOR LOCALIZING FOOD, AARON NEWTON FROM NORTH CAROLINA
The program wraps up with a new presentation from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas conference in Washington D.C. in November 2011.
Aaron Newton is the Local Food System Program Coordinator for Cabarrus County, North Carolina. He tells us how to develop your local food-shed, even in hard times. And why the most important crop may be… new farmers.
It’s a really helpful short presentation from Aaron. The ways the County used the tax structure to both keep farmers, and to fund community organizing around local food. Lots of good tips for localizing your own community. The Newton talk is dead-on for how to create a local food-shed getting ready for Peak Oil.
Our D.C. correspondent Gerri Williams was at the ASPO conference, and sends this recording. My thanks to ASPO USA for sharing the audio, and for getting localization on the Peak Oil menu.
Listen to/download the Radio Ecoshock broadcast of Aaron Newton at ASPO 2011 here.
We’ll be doing a second show on sequestering carbon in the soil in two weeks time. Next week, we look into a different sort of growing: winter gardening (and why extreme climate change may make you do it…)