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Itís Not the Cow Itís the How | Bobby Gill | TEDxBigSky

Jun 11, 2021
sixty years according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that's how many crops we have left that's 60 years of food production based on our current rates of soil loss until we can no longer grow food on Soil is the source of all life on this planet and it is disappearing at such an unimaginable rate that in a few generations we may no longer be able to even feed ourselves, why is that so? If you look at a map you'll see that 1/3 of the land mass of the Earth is grassland that's 5 billion hectares or 12.5 billion acres of grassland grassland grassland whatever you want to call it and under all that grass is Think of the Sahel in Africa or the Mongolian steppe, the pampas in Argentina or the Great Plains here in the US.
it s not the cow it s the how bobby gill tedxbigsky
All of these expansive open spaces are key players in the balance of our planetary ecosystem when grasslands are thriving and their soils are teeming with life and the soil acts like a sponge absorbing water to recharge underground aquifers is c Creating habitat for wildlife and each blade of grass acts like a small solar panel extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and turning it into organic matter in the soil floor. Convert sunlight into life through the magic of photosynthesis. The problem is that our grasslands are not thriving, in fact, scientists estimate. that up to 70% of them are dying and becoming desert, a process known as desertification.
it s not the cow it s the how bobby gill tedxbigsky

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it s not the cow it s the how bobby gill tedxbigsky...

Now why is that good? symbiotic plant-animal relationships for grasslands that symbiosis is with the ruminant the grazing herbivore think of the great wildebeest migration in Africa or the 75 million bison that used to roam North America these huge grazing herds would remain very tightly packed together to keep themselves safe from predators they would graze on some grasses and trample the rest their urine and dung would act as a natural fertilizer for the soil and move on to fresh grasses and then not return to that same piece of land until those grasses and their deep roots perennials have fully recovered.
it s not the cow it s the how bobby gill tedxbigsky
The problem is that we have domesticated most of our wild herbivores, killed most of their natural predators, and erected cities, roads, and infrastructure that prevents those movements that are co-evolved grazing and pastoralists with the problem‚ÄĒthere aren't that many that would lead you to believe that cattle are inherently destructive to the earth, quite the opposite, cattle are necessary for healthy pastures whether it be cattle bison goats sheep whatever when a cow comes and bites a blade of grass it encourages growth and stronger growth for that blade of grass rather it's us we're the humans we're the ones who've messed everything up we've upset the natural order but it doesn't have to be that way you see cattle are essentially a tool think of a hammer a hammer is neither good nor bad you can use hammer to build a house or you can use hammer to hit someone on the head depends on how you use that tool the same goes for cattle you can mismanage the cattle on your land and totally destroy that ecosystem or you can properly manage your cattle and regenerate the health of that ecosystem to put it in simpler terms it's not the cow it's how is this photo of a big ranch in south africa once you notice the difference on both sides of the fence on the right side all that bare soil on the left side all those lush grasses well on the right side you might be thinking well that must be overgrazed in fact , i'm going to throw you a new term it's actually under grazing you see on the right side of that fence all the animals have been removed, there's no grazing at all.
it s not the cow it s the how bobby gill tedxbigsky
Mother Nature has been left alone to do her thing, and while that sounds good in principle and convenient, the reality is that when you divorce grasslands and pastoralists, you have broken nature. to the cycle and because of that the land starts to die now on the left side of the fence that is what we call holistic management. I work for a nonprofit organization, The Savory Institute, and we work with farmers, ranchers, and pastoral communities around the world. to help them with their grazing so they can get such lush pasture regeneration as seen on the left side of that photo holistic management is careful and intentional animal management is matching the number of animals to the amount of available forage If you're respecting the recovery rates of those pastures, you're creating grazing plans that are in line with the natural rhythms of the environment, and you're adapting those plans based on changing conditions by properly managing livestock in this way, we have the potential to actually regenerate all those dying grasslands and in the process, we can sequester massive amounts of CO2 from the air and store it underground in the soils where it all belongs While creating nutrient-dense food, restoring wildlife habitat and much more, but not creating on my word. and improve soil health are finding that when you switch to holistic management or multi-pasture adaptive grazing, as some of them call it in the literature, you can sequester an additional three to eight tons of carbon per hectare per year.
Now why is this important? if you've been paying attention to rising levels of atmospheric CO2 you know we recently hit four hundred and fifteen parts per million and that's well above pre-industrial levels of 280 experts generally agree we need to get back to 350 if we're going to stabilize this mess we're in but business as usual if we don't change anything it won't get fixed and there is a lot of enthusiasm around renewable energy and renewal. Energy is great and it's wonderful and we need to get to net zero emissions, but we're not going to fix this with just electric cars and solar panels because we're already so far away, we need to get all that excess CO2 out of the atmosphere. and put it back underground where it belongs, so let's see what it might look like.
I mentioned three to eight tons of carbon per hectare per year in the literature. We'll take the lower end. We will be conservative. We'll say three tons and apply that. to 20% of our global grasslands so that's a billion hectares if we can combine renewable energy if we can decarbonise our energy system and at the same time carbonize our soils this is what atmospheric CO2 may start to look like now this is not something concept crazy this is actionable right now it doesn't require any fancy technology just a little holistic thinking and determination the solution is literally right under our feet and there is a growing global movement of farm ranchers and rs herders starting to implement these practices.
This is an example. This is a photo I took last year in Kenya at the Savory Institute. We work all over the world. We have scattered training centers and our local training center in Kenya. is working with the Maasai at Enon Kishu Conservancy because even they as herders are feeling the effects of desertification, their land is getting worse and worse as time goes by, now as herders they all have cattle so there are small scattered herds all competing for the same grass so if I don't graze it someone else better do it first now in this situation where everyone is competing for the same grass the land never gets a chance to take a breather, never has a chance to recover, so we.
I have worked with the Maasai and instead of all those little scattered herds, they combined their animals into one big herd and moved them around according to a communal grazing plan and what it has done is, for the first time at Enon Kishu Conservancy, their land has had a chance to rest and recuperate and because of that the grasses are growing back and the streams are flowing again and the coolest of all african wildlife has returned if you notice impalas in the background of this photo and gazelle, wildebeest, wild boar and much more outside the picture frame, plus all the wildlife returning to their lands has allowed the Maasai to participate in and benefit from ecotourism. benefiting from all the funding and the prosperity that brings back to their local tribes is truly an amazing model and for all conservationists it demonstrates that wildlife and properly managed livestock can coexist peacefully, in fact they don't just coexist with each other , but they actually benefit from each other because those cattle are creating the habitat for wildlife, this is Will Harris, he is a fifth generation farmer in s southwest Georgia, he is a good friend of mine, years ago, he had four employees earning minimum wage, he ran his farm according to conventional practices, as everyone does, and saw his land and health diminish as everyone does with those conventional practices. coping with very thin margins that were getting thinner and thinner really with nothing else to lose he said well I guess I'll try this hippy dippy holistic management which is exactly what it sounds like I swear to god and he's a good friend of mine so I'm allowed to do that accent today Wills Farm White Oak Pastures employs one hundred and sixty-five people who earn twice the county average This is in one of the poorest counties in America His farm is so productive both ecologically and financially that he's buying old dilapidated buildings to be converted into a restaurant a general store administrative offices employee housing you have taken a city on the verge of collapse and you have transformed it into a thriving ecosystem thanks to the way you manage your land and livestock together.
Now at this point some of you might be thinking ok this all sounds good but we all know that cows burp methane and methane is 25 times more harmful to the environment. environment than co2 well if you're asking that wonderful question question shows you're paying attention shows you don't give a fuck and that's more to say than most of us need more people asking questions not just about what food does to you to their individual bodies, but what it collectively does to our environment, but secondly, those statistics that we seem to hear all day, every day, about how cattle are destroying the planet, come from batches of food, from the factory farming, the industrialization of agriculture and have nothing to do with What are Will, Masai and so many others around the world doing just to drive that home?
I want to show you a life cycle analysis that was done recently at White Oak Pastu. res is run by a third party company they went in and looked at all the greenhouse gases going in and out of the farm they looked at things like fuel use transportation slaughter even methane methane is included here that's important but look at the reduction of soil carbon Look at all the CO2 they are able to absorb from the atmosphere and convert to soil organic carbon because of the productivity they have made of their land. White oak pastures are removing more carbon than they are emitting.
They have created a net carbon sink for every pound of beef that leaves white oak pastures they are removing three and a half pounds of CO2 from the atmosphere to the ground because of cattle now this life cycle analysis was done by the same company that was hired by impossible berger to analyze its impact you know impossible berger is that new fake meat made from ultra-processed soybeans is starting to appear and places like burger king and celebrity instagram feeds you know reliable sources of information so anyway Let's compare protein to protein in their net carbon footprints, so we'll start on the left side of this graph with conventional beef.
Conventional beef essentially grows grain and feeds it to the cows on the feed lots they sourced. plus 33, which means for every pound of conventional beef that is produced, 33 pounds of CO2 is released into the atmosphere, which is not a good thing, now we move on to pork and chicken, it's a little less , but then let's move on to counterfeiting. meats we have beyond steak and impossible burger have a plus four and A plus 3.5 now that's better than conventional beef but they still have a positive number they are still hurting the environment because essentially what used to be grasslands have been plowed up and turned into crops all that bare land between the rows of crops releases CO2 into the atmosphere may have a smaller footprint than conventional beef but this still occurs from an industrial monoculture it is not industrial animal husbandry, but these fake meats are still factory farming of plants and still causing a problem but look at the far right wills holistically managed white oak pastured beef flips the negative axis 3.5 of all these proteins is the only one with a negative imprint of all these proteins it is the only one that is creating an ecosystem instead of destroying an ecosystem you know they keep telling us what and eat less meat thanwe need to get rid of all our livestock but when we accept this logic, which is very convenient, we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and ignoring the enormous potential that lies in regenerating our global grasslands, we are missing out on opportunities like this before and then in australia or this one in mexico or this incredible regrowth in zimbabwe we should all agree that factory farming and the industrialization of agriculture is a huge problem both for our personal health and for our planetary health and we need to do something about it, but the holistic management of grazing animals on our world's grasslands should be welcomed with open arms by environmentalist farmers vegans soccer moms conservationists anyone who cares about life on this planet regardless of what you eat our continued existence on this planet depends on us taking care of the t entirety of this planet which includes its forests its oceans its rivers and yes even its grasslands and those grasslands need to be grazed oh and last thing remember those 60 years the UN said we had left they said that six years ago so that the clocks tick

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