In the TED Talk above, ecologist Allan Savory explains how we're currently encouraging desertification, and how to not only stop it, but reverse it, by dramatically increasing the number of grazing livestock.
According to Savory, rising population, land turning into desert at a steady clip (known as desertification), converge to create a "perfect storm" that threatens life on earth. Most people think technology is required to solve the problem.
Not so, he says. While we do need novel technology to replace fossil fuels, desertification cannot be reversed with technology. For that, we need to revert backward, and start mimicking nature and the way things were in the past.
How Grazing Livestock Impacts Our Land and Water
According to Savory, we not only can, but indeed MUST, use grazing livestock to address desertification. In his talk, he explains how we can work with nature, at very low cost, to reverse both of these problems.
By some estimates, grazing large herds of livestock on half of the world's barren or semi-barren grasslands could take enough carbon from the atmosphere to bring us back to preindustrial levels.
"Nothing offers more hope," he says.
Desertification happens when we create too much bare ground. In areas where a high level of humidity is guaranteed, desertification cannot occur. Ground cover allows for trapping of water, preventing the water from evaporating. At present, a staggering two-thirds of the landmass on earth is desertifying. As explained by Savory, water and carbon are tied to organic matter.
When you damage the soil, allowing it to turn into desert, it gives off carbon. We've been repeatedly told that desertification occurs only in arid or semi-arid areas, and that tall grasslands in areas of high rain fall are of no consequence. But this is not true, Savory says, because if you inspect the ground in tall grasslands, it is bare and encrusted with algae, which leads to runoff and evaporation.