According to research from Savory, it will even be counterproductive to eliminate all livestock farming. It will be better to use managed grazing methods to restore grasslands and decrease atmospheric CO2 levels. Restoring grasslands stores CO2 from the air into plant material. Grazing livestock, usually not left to wander, would eat the grass and would minimize any grass growth. However, grass left alone would eventually grow to cover its growing buds, preventing them from photosynthesizing and the dying plant would stay in place. A method proposed to restore grasslands uses fences with many small paddocks and moving herds from one paddock to another after a day or two in order to mimic natural grazers and allowing the grass to grow optimally. Additionally, when part of leaf matter is consumed by a herding animal, a corresponding amount of root matter is sloughed off too as it would not be able to sustain the previous amount of root matter and while most of the lost root matter would rot and enter the atmosphere, part of the carbon is sequestered into the soil.
Some scientists even estimate that increasing the carbon content of the soils in the world’s 3.5 billion hectares of agricultural grassland by 1% could offset nearly 12 years of CO2 emissions! Allan Savory, as part of holistic management, claims that while large herds are often blamed for desertification, prehistoric lands supported large herds and in areas where herds were removed in the United States, desertification is still going on. Additionally, global warming is inducing thawing of the permafrost. This permafrost is a natural sink for the potent greenhouse gas methane. It’s estimated that earth’s permafrost contains about two times the amount of greenhouse gas we currently release into the atmosphere. When this methane is released it is feared to lead to a tipping point called runaway climate change. A method proposed to prevent such a scenario is to bring back large herbivores such as seen in Pleistocene Park, where their trampling naturally keeps the ground cooler by eliminating shrubs and keeping the ground exposed to the cold air. When well performed, this permaculture farming will increase the fertility of the soil. Dutch research about the future of polder grounds show similar results.
So there is no excuse to keep the ‘factory farms’ open, where animals never go outside. Herds of grazing animals can be good for the soil and if we have these herds of animals walking around anyway, we may as well use them to produce milk and meat. Besides using our farm animals for food and improvement of the soil, they can also be used to earn an additional income through rural tourism. When I travel with tourists through Peru and Bolivia the local lamas are very popular photo models while the local farmer receives ‘their salary’ for posing. The Dutch black and white cows tend to be popular with Asian tourists. On a funny note, the past years a new wellness trend from the Netherlands is spreading around the world. It’s called Cow Cuddling and as the name suggests it invites people to visit the countryside and cuddle with cows to calm down and relieve stress.
Currently society is far from following the recommendable Shared Socio-economic Pathway with low impact on our environment. If we humans continue a ‘business as usual scenario’ the future for us and the planet doesn’t look good. On the internet, you can find many doom scenarios, one even worse than the other. You can also find many solutions aimed to save ‘our planet’. Popular ‘solutions’ include: invest more money, stop flying, stop driving our cars unless it’s an electric one, become vegan, complain to our governments and big corporations to do something, only use energy from renewables, plant trees and of course, protect nature. The truth is, some solutions aren’t realistic, while others on their own aren’t going to save us. The popular solution of almost blindly investing in so called ‘green projects’ is often more about paying for a better conscience or image. Combinations of the solutions mentioned above are good, but still, we will have to keep in mind that each of these solutions come with their advantages and disadvantages. Let´s have a look at some possibilities we have.