Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

The ANSWER . . . is DIRT (the question is irrelevant)

July 6th, 2013

   Life Affirming & Life Enhancing

cows save the planet

It is the stuff of Douglas Adams-style science fiction, but what if it were true? That cows could save the planet? Not by themselves, but with a little help from their biped friends–especially everyone who has ever harbored a herding fantasy or wants their children and grandchildren to enjoy special elements of the natural world.

Large-scale rotational grazing would require a massive leap of imagination and concerted effort of collective will.  Humans–lots of us–would have to decide to choose to salvage a living planet rather than continue to pretend catastrophic climate change isn’t happening. While most people delay, many people all around the world—alone and in groups—are already acting on the decision to try.

Coaching for Life: Considerations in accord with permaculture principles

Growing good food requires growing good soil! (Note: not Eggleton)

Growing good food requires growing good soil. (Note: not Eggleton)

David Eggleton is presenting at the Northeast Permaculture Convergence (watch the video!) on the under-emphasized permaculture principle, “care of people.” One of the challenges of inspiring people to care about transforming land to better grow food is making the lifestyle appealing. So far, no go! The aesthetic is monotone: white people playing folk music. This is seriously problematic! As a white lesbian, I have listened to and enjoyed plenty of this style of music, but there is a lot of music I enjoy more, and most of my friends wouldn’t dare be caught with acoustic fook guitar on their iPod! There is an intersection of identities around food, food production and art that permaculturists must begin to take very seriously.

Poop and complementary solutions

It is not a joke that cows and other grazing animals are needed to save the planet. Allan Savory was the first to figure out that desertification is occurring in part simply because vast herds of beasts are no longer trampling their poop into the earth. In a 22 minute TED Talk , Savory shows some remarkable turnarounds of dry arid land into lush green prairie just by moving cows in a systematic way through the ecosystem.

These grass-fed cows near Lake Champlain, VT are generating several inches of soil per decade.

These grass-fed cows near Lake Champlain, VT are generating several inches of nutrient-rich soil per decade.

In addition to generating nutrient rich soil (for growing better food), cattle fed on this grass (no grain at all!) have the healthiest omega levels for human beef consumption, and the soil created by rotational grazing also traps carbon. This carbon capture is significant enough, per square foot, to absorb the current carbon overage if humans all over the planet start using Savory’s holistic management principles now. (The urgency is real, delay increases the odds against success and the truth is that the odds are already long.) Jim Laurie has done the math.

Poop-free local solutions

Herding pilgrimage could become an honorable rite of passage, but if the call of the cow doesn’t moove you (hehe), maybe improving the yield of your own garden does? Make-your-own charcoal is coming back in style for single families and small communities across the globe. (There’s a glimpse of biochar in use at the 42nd second of the Permaculture video linked above-and here too.) Also called ‘horticultural charcoal’ and ‘vegetable charcoal,’ the original technique—called Terra Preta, for ‘black earth’—was invented in the Amazon rainforest a couple of thousand years ago.

No matter where you live (urban or rural), anyone can begin to grow good soil & good food.

No matter where you live (urban or rural), anyone can begin to grow good soil & good food.

The production and soil effects of biochar have a lengthy historical precedent as well as a remarkable ease of global distribution. These factors, combined with collaborative biochar databases, online forums, and outreach projects provide the foundation for what may rapidly become a breakthrough trend in ecological investigation and environmental restoration: do-it-yourself adaptation to 21st century global change issues.
~ Ryan King, Biochar: a brief history and developing future

 KISS: Keep it Sustainably Simple

Soil is the answer that matters most because dirt exists everywhere and is the material substance that allows food to grow. Coincidentally, carbon capture as a side benefit of healthy soil can go a very long way to correcting the increasing hazards of atmospheric imbalance. Engaging in debate about which questions to ask is a dwindling luxury. If unusual, extreme weather has not caught your attention yet, it probably will soon. Weather is the most obvious feature of earth’s climate. Ignoring, excusing or minimizing the trend in storm severity and natural disasters is  a short-term palliative fraught with peril.

There are solutions!

There are solutions!

Can science get us out?

The weak link in the technology chain is food. All of the alternative energy solutions are interrelated  with the care of vulnerable people—whether these are the traditionally vulnerable due to historical, economic factors or the suddenly vulnerable due to a devastating natural disaster. The answers to food production are biological, not industrial. How much of what you buy at the grocery store is imported from another country or transported from another state? There is a reason why (since Hurricane Sandy) the State of New Jersey is posting the new recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that say you need to store enough water (especially), food and medication for every person and pet in your household to last for two weeks!

 It’s time for social resilience

Systemic resilience does not live in individuals, it lives in relationships among us.

Systemic resilience does not live in individuals, it lives in relationships among us.

Worsening storms means that recovery processes will take longer, and more people will suffer negative effects. As if there wasn’t already enough trauma in the world! As frightening as the slow onset realities of climate change are, the opportunities in this challenge are immense. Can humanism triumph over greed and its associated needs for power and control? Can enough of us mobilize, finally and fruitfully, to upend the dominance of speed-driven industrialization and re-frame society’s infrastructure to support what’s best and most beautiful about humans living on earth? New and old networks are finding each other, reaching out across differences and connecting around essential commonalities. It is true that the people in established positions of privilege will not yield easily, but in the end, their literal physical survival is also linked with ours. Forging alliances is not easy work, but it is meaningful labor.

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Categories: Call this ACTION LEARNING!, climate change, Democracy, Learning Resiliency, Reflexivity, Resiliency, Rhetoric and Performance, Series, social justice, the earth

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