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Sacrilege … an environmental solution that requires more cattle ruminating, manuring, trampling, and providing more meat in the diet of ordinary people

9 March 2013
Climate change

At http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/08/a-bridge-in-the-climate-debate-how… … Anthony has become rather excited by a video from a TED talk by an environmental scientist and biologist who has worked around the world, especially in Africa, in what he says has been a largely vain attempt to halt the spread of desertification of savannah grassland habitats. He was fully committed to the consensus belief that native herds of cattle, sheep and goats were responsible for desertification, and at one time was even responsible for an elephant cull that went on to eliminate 40,000 of these splendid animals, all on the basis that 'environmental science' knew best and native traditional landscape management was in some way to blame. After many years of encouraging the idea the land needed a rest from animals grazing and looking at the way these environmentalist programmes had worked out, in a practical rather than a theoretical sense, he found that letting the land lie fallow did not stop erosion. In fact, very often the rate of erosion accelerated. After gnashing of teeth and taking a fresh look at the situation, some thinking environmental scientists have tried a different approach, most notably in Patagonia. This was a typical dry savannah but has in recent years began to erode very quickly. However, instead of removing the sheep they have increased the numbers of sheep and managed the land in a quite different way.

The idea is to mimic nature – a bit like no-dig agriculture. Prior to the expansion of human population, going back to the early Holocene and the Pleistocene, large herds of wild animals thrived on vast savannah landscapes, all over the world. The herds evolved to counter predators – protection of infants in numbers. In turn, over time, the savannah evloved and its microbial world , came to adapt to the fact of large herds. One feature of this was that the animals did not just eat the grasses and herbs, but they urinated and dunged on their food and this led to them moving around. They didn't stay in one patch, like a farm field. Or the corner of a farm field near the water trough. They moved over long distances, and we've all seen the television pictures of huge herds of wildebeeste galloping around the Serengeti, constantly on the move from one feeding area to the next. Well, this is what they hope to reproduce. Large herds of livestock moving around allows the grass to regenerate and die back naturally. Leaving the fields empty of animals forces the grasses to die back more slowly, and the bacterial process is hindered – leading to erosion. No herds of animals = no grassland (eventually). Savannah evolved to accommodate herds of herbivores of various kinds and as such, only thrives when there are large herds of animals (wild or domestic) – but they must move around and not be restricted to field systems.

There must have been one of those eureka moments. Contrary to the consensus the answer to erosion was not to remove livestock but to increase their numbers and move them around, frrequently. Incredibly this resulted in a regrowth of the grassland even where the land had become virtually bare of vegetation – a blooming of the desert. Click the video link and sit back and listen to the talk by Dr Allan Savory in Los Angeles last week. It illustrates how wrong scientists have been over the last 100 years, imposing European ideas on African pastoralists, or introducing mono-culture in a dry environment – even turning their backs on their own farming traditions. Environmentalists are full of advice to farmers. I don't suppose many of them take much notice – but sometimes environmentalist ideas become law. The politcians seem to swallow all the environmental propaganda – especially when they have posh accents. In this country we have a long tradition of keeping livestock. Our climate favours the growing of grass. It is what farmers do best. You wouldn't think so if you listened to the tosh. Pastoralism dominated the Neolithic, developed into intensive rearing in the Bronze and Iron ages, slowed a bit in the Roman Warm Period when arable became popular with the warmer weather, and following the cooling period in the Late Roman/Early Anglo Saxon period came back into its own. For example, the gathering place on the Thames excavated during the building of the Olympic Rowing Lake (Dorney) revealed the bones of countless animals suggesting large feasting events had been taking place. Likewise, the droving trade in the 16th to 19th centuries was economically important to isolated parts of the country, such as the Highlands and the Islands of Scotland, and the Welsh hills, and gave rise to the Sunday roast, the most nutricious meal of the week and enjoyed by all sections of society in the industrialised landscape. Droving was a massive trade and large parts of the countryside around major towns and cities became areas devoted to fattening all these cattle, after their long journeys from one end of the country to the other. For example, large areas of Middlesex and Essex were used to fatten cattle, and the surplus grass used as hay to drive the horse drawn transport system. In the Vale of Aylesbury the Tudor kings owned vast fields where cattle were fattened, and having origins in North Wales a goodly number of those animals would have come from there, providing an income to an otherwise depressed area. It began as a means to feed the army and the navy, and supply the various royal palace households with meat on the hoof, and in time spread first to the middle classes, and eventually the working class employed in industry during the 18th and 19th centuries. If you listen to the tosh you would think there was something inherently evil in eating meat – especially oiks indulging in the habits of the toffs. All this history the environmental lobby want to throw aside – they are convinced they know what is good for us all. CAGW activists rant and rage against keeping animals and eating their flesh, evidence of our over indulgement. The argument is that cows farting causes higher levels of co2 in the atmosphere and because they choose to chew on cardboard instead of meat they consider they must impose that on us all. So there. Do as you are told. You're just greedy and inconsiderate – look at us, we wear lycra shorts and pedal around London streets getting stroppy with cabbies. Meanwhile, CAGW warming is not self evident – whoever is upstairs isn't playing ball. Perhaps they object to tight clingy lycra on skin and bone scarecrows who look like they need a hot meal – with some meat. We shall never know. What is obvious is that nothing has come of the global warming scare – its been parked by the weather. What is also obvious is that sitting out there on the horizon is a greater disaster just waiting to happen. Nobody could see the Russian meteor coming out from behind the Sun but most of use have an idea of the CAGW manufactured one that is ahead – as biofuels are grown on farmland instead of food crops. It won't be 40,000 elephants that are culled in obeisance to the environmentalist paradigm but millions of humans. Nobody will be able to escape it either as it will fill the television screens night after night – but we are just thinking of our childred! Really.

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