Sustainability Sushmainability: Hey Vegans, How Does a Dozen Grassfed Cattle Per Person on Earth Sound?

Allan Savory: How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change

I can't recall when I've ever felt so serendipitously fortunate to happen to catch a video and spend 20 minutes enthralled with it. You know, nowadays, everyone's always telling you to watch this and watch that and unless it's like a minute or 2, I'm usually gonna pass.

This time, don't. I had no idea of the problem—that fully two-thirds of the earth's landmass has turned to desert and it's accelerating. It's been accelerating for decades because everyone was wrong about what causes desertification, and the ways they used to manage it made things even worse. And the culling/killing of 40,000 elephants made it even worser, except that Allan Savory is a man of conscience. He had a part in that awful deed that he recounts, and it changed his life and since then, many lives and who knows, maybe the world someday.

Guess what's the only, the ONLY solution? One chance, and one chance only. Huge, and I mean ENORMOUS herds of livestock, and tightly packed just like African herds do to defend against predators. And it works like insane. Here's a before and after from a [former] desert in Mexico.

Screen Shot 2013 03 04 at 8 40 33 PM
Before
Screen Shot 2013 03 04 at 8 41 07 PM
After

This has huge implications. And it's all to the good. Green, healthy land—billions and billions and billions of animals grazing on it, trampling it, peeing and defecating on it, and more meat than any 10 billion people could possibly eat.

Vegans, you stupid, shortsighted, brain shriveled amoeba, yooz...you're toast. :) Now watch the video and the next time you catch wind of a vegan whining "sustainability sustainability sustainability," just have yourself and laf and cure their ignorance.

Now watch this video.

Update: Seems to me that his research, conformed by experts, that let to the culling of 40,000 elephants to "improve things," only to make them worse, had a profound effect on this gentleman of conscience. And here's another, longer Savory video, about an hour.

Update 2: A couple of more links:

Comments

  1. I have to say, that is so profoundly simple that it should be obvious, and yet runs counter to what we usually read and hear. Yet another example where biomimicry is the best course of action, perhaps. It’s also especially interesting to me, having a couple family connections.

    1) I’ve a cousin who raises cattle in Kansas, and rotates them in a very organized fashion, striving to achieve this same end. He doesn’t want to feed them anything; the grass should be enough. I should also say that he finds this method more profitable, since there’s very little paying for food, less sick/dead cows, and you get to charge more since it’s grass fed.

    2) My younger brother is in Zambia at the moment with the Peace Corp, working with the forestry department. His job deals largely with trying to help achieve sustainability and self sufficiency in agriculture and food sourcing there. I’ll certainly pass this his way, as I really don’t know much about their methods.

    One other thing to consider, is that if this sort of thing becomes more common, I hope we leave room for the predators. People (justifiably) get protective of their livestock, but if we’re going to aim for a pre-human ecosystem of sorts, I think it would be best to go all the way. We can’t insist that these ruminants exist solely as a human food supply. I was happy to see that, in the video, this was addressed, and that the lions (etc.) were allowed to eat.

    But would people be willing to allow, say, a surging wolf population in American? I don’t know that people would. Furthermore, I don’t know that any herds, no matter how massive, could last. The plains here once had billions of bison, and nearly all of them – and their predators – were killed in fairly short order. No matter how big the numbers, 10 billion people could certainly eat that much. We, as a people, have quite an appetite, and very little in the way of restraint. But perhaps we’ve learned our lesson. I’d like to hope so, but I can’t convince myself to think so.

    • Fortunately, the reasons the native livestock on the plains were decimated so quickly don’t imply that new herds would be short-lived today.

      Bison were slaughtered for their fur, their humps, for trophies, for bounties, and carcasses were left to rot by the millions. They were seen as an endless resource needing no respect, conservation, or management and the culinary appetites of humans for bison had little to do with their “harvest” in that era. Add land-management oriented towards grain production eliminating their old environment and encroaching on what was left, and you get the picture.

      Modern, reintroduced herds brought about in the interest of rehabilitating the land and providing high-quality sustainable nutrition for humans would undoubtedly see much better management. Even if the population swells to 10 billion or above, think about it:

      A decent-sized cow yields 600-800 pounds of conventional “meat,” plus even more offal, fatty tissue, bones to boil, etc. If we had one harvest-ready cow per person per year, each person could eat 2+ pounds of meat a day if they wished. At 10 billion people, that’s 10 billion cows. We’re talking a lot more livestock than that, ideally, plus the ecosystems they nourish yielding excellent fruit and vegetable crops, both integrated with grazing lands and in separate plots, not to mention that grazing systems work best when you rotate in other species, like sheep or goats or poultry, add some pigs to eat the scraps as they used to, and the whole model is even very wildlife-friendly… the mind boggles when one considers the abundance that earth can sustain (and has in the past) when not subjected to some short-sighted primate’s immature conception of “progress.”

      Eh, whatever. We’re figuring it out, piece by piece.

    • “But would people be willing to allow, say, a surging wolf population in American? I don’t know that people would.”

      Hunters with illegal magazines would.

    • Great video, Richard. And I think ranchers/farmers wouldn’t be so aghast at having natural predators on their land if they didn’t have to pay so much to FEED (grains, etc.) their stock (and compete against the price of oil for ethanol), which they wouldn’t have to do in this scenario. In fact, having natural predators might be a blessing in disguise (to help control the numbers of animals).

      On the other hand, I was a little disappointed that he feared the fossil fuel bogeyman. :(

      PS: All my magazines are legal! It sez so in the Constitution.

    • “On the other hand, I was a little disappointed that he feared the fossil fuel bogeyman.”

      My attitude for a decade has been to abstain from argument. He’s right. Technologically, the power from the sun in 1 single day dwarfs all energy we’ve ever produced in human history from fossil fuels and it’s fucking stupid to not figure out how to harness it. Fuck fossil fuels. Drill drill drill until we’re there, of course. But this is just another reason why I hate almost everybody. Nobody has the ability to think beyond a political line drawn. So I basically think everyone is a moron but me and I just told you why I have good reason.

      It’s (fossil fuel) no bogeyman at all. But I know a lot about photovoltaic (having seen a home install as early as 2001 and being interested ever since) and there are billions of power plants (residential and commercial rooftops) out there just waiting to be hooked up, soon as the price is right. I’m predicting it’ll go along about the same pace as from the original Philips’s flat screen TV at $15K to what now, 300% better in all respects sells for $695.

    • “He’s right”

      About what? That energy from fossil fuel is to be feared?

      bo·gey·man

      1: a monstrous imaginary figure used in threatening children
      2: a terrifying or dreaded person or thing

      Fear of fossil fuel energy is irrational. It is indeed an “imaginary” fear. And mostly a religion these days, with certain “scientists” as clergy. Fuck Mann. Fuck Hansen. The popes of “global warming.”

      Prediction: solar energy will never become a practical energy source. Ditto wind turbines.

      The U.S. has the world’s largest energy reserves. It would be criminal (not to mention really stupid) not to use them to the fullest extent possible.

    • Another method that doesn’t get as much attention is passive solar heating and cooling.

      You can significantly reduce the amount of energy consumption heating and cooling air and water using the suns energy without the expense of PVs or any other method of converting some energy into electricity and back into an energy to heat or cool.

      It’s much simpler and less expensive to reduce your heating and cooling needs by 50-90% and then installing a PV system to meet the rest of your needs.

      Things like Trombe walls and solar collectors are great ways to conserve at little cost I wish got more attention.

    • “About what? That energy from fossil fuel is to be feared?”

      [sigh]

      I was giving benefit of the doubt, but I guess I was mistaken. No, he was right about soon, we’re not going to need to light our homes with rendered whale blubber.

    • Oh, and Joe, I almost forgot.

      “But this is just another reason why I hate almost everybody. Nobody has the ability to think beyond a political line drawn.”

      …I submit to evidence that you didn’t even acknowledge that I wrote drill drill drill until we’re there.

      “Prediction: solar energy will never become a practical energy source. Ditto wind turbines.”

      You’re conflation of the two exposes your ignorance.

    • Finally, Joe.

      Have you ever sat and watched an electricity meter run _physically_ backwards on a home with photovoltaic cells one the roof?

      I have. That was 2003 where the installation skill was almost unknown and it took my geek electrician friend plenty to figure it out. Now, I have a neighbor who goes door to door and offers to install them for free, and the price of an average 30% drop in the electric bill.

      You are so ignorant you’ve passed the point of being able to recognize it.

    • “Another method that doesn’t get as much attention is passive solar heating and cooling.”

      True. This was the old way of solar pretty much, with those big tubes covered by black fabric or plastic on a roof.

      Super inefficient and I doubt cost ever got made up for, though I could be wrong.

      Nowadays, I try to go with the flow. Now that it’s springing here in CA, I’m content for the house to be in the lower 60s throughout the day so I just turn down the heat and open it up. Same in the fall. It’s only winter that costs. I have no central AC and don’t want it. I have one of those portable units for the bedroom, and I stick the exhaust tube out the doggie door and close the door to the room. Here in the Bay Area, we usually get 1-2 heat waves and so I end up using that 6-12 times per year, to cool one single room we’re sleeping in.

    • BTW, I lives in an old style Japanese home with tatami mats and sliding interior doors to section things for 5 years in the 80s. You used kerosine space heaters, but closed off space that didn’t need to be heated.

      A little more work, not as luxurious as the central heating I grew up with, but it made me feel more alive, more human, and better about myself as a part of it all.

    • …Alright, now you got me started. Here’s another thing.

      My 2-story, 3br house in Japan (2 of us initially, then just me, but for $400 per month…) had a “hot water heater” that was 1 foot high by 10″ wide. Tankless. When you turned on the hot water, pressure drop would ignite the flame over a network of copper capillaries in which the water was passing to heat it on the fly.

      You could take an infinitely long hot shower. And you never run out of hot water because you’re not trying to keep 150 gallons hot with a dip tube (that’s a ref so you all know I know what I’m talking about) to keep that 150g as hot as you can for as long as you can under heavy use.

      When I remodeled our fist home in San Jose, one of the very first things I did was switch out the hot water tank for a Bosch tankless (The very same model Walt used in his install in Breaking Bad).

      I used to go to sea for months at a time. It was cool to know I wasn’t keeping 150 gallons of water hot. Yea, could have put it to pilot only, or even shit it off. But i so preferred the milieu I was in.

    • Yeah, things have come a long way in not a lot of time. Depending on the sun exposure you get it is possible to meet all your heating needs (air and water) with just a passive solar system. The same for space cooling.

      There is a cool site called Build It Solar that has free plans for solar hot water heaters and the like. The people who own the site document the changes they’ve made to their home that has reduced their consumption by over 60%. All of the renovations they made had a pay back period somewhere in the five year range. They live in Montana I believe, so offsetting heating is likely a bigger savings than in Arkansas where I am.

      But, there are very few universal solutions out there, so this can help a tremendous number of people, but then there are a lot of people who won’t benefit nearly so much.

    • When I lived in Japan as a child our house was also the wood frame with no insulation. I remember it being very drafty. Which is ok I suppose since it kept it from being miserable in the summer and not so bad in the winter.

      I have read some blogs that have referenced changes in Japanese homebuilding practices to get on board with more efficient homes. Before passive solar, PV and all that the easiest way to reduce consumption is good insulation and a solid building envelope to prevent unwanted heat loss or gain.

    • “All of the renovations they made had a pay back period somewhere in the five year range. They live in Montana I believe, so offsetting heating is likely a bigger savings than in Arkansas where I am.”

      This is why I only talk about PV, because at a point when cheap enough, almost everyone lives where there’s enough sun to offset E significantly. And PV is essentially a savings account. Say you only have 4 viable months. You could get 4 months of credit on your electric bill that just carries forward. Send the electric company $600 next time and see how it works accounting wise.

      Interestingly, PV could reinvigorate development of electric space and water heating, because electric in a PV environment is going to be cheaper than gas.

      (Don’t tell Joe; none of this can work. We need to keep burning whale blubber.)

    • “I have read some blogs that have referenced changes in Japanese homebuilding practices to get on board with more efficient homes.”

      The problem is that the Japanese have looked at efficiency in what I would say is a fully integrated, Eastern, YinYang way. See, they accounted for earthquakes, tsunamis and all of that.

      To simplify, I said earlier, 5 years. It was actually 4. My old dear landlord, Mr, Komeni, lived right next door in a house far more frail than mine (mine was quite modern, probably no more than 10 yrs old when I rented it in ’84). At a point, his house had to come down so he evicted me so politely, so gently, so respectfully it was almost a pleasure.

      I moved a few miles down the beach. The day after I moved out, he and his wife moved in, and they tore his house down. By hand. Vehicle access was about 30 yards. They carted it all off by hand.

    • “I was giving benefit of the doubt”

      That’s not how it sounded to me.

      And having never heated my home with whale blubber, nor know anyone who has, I miss your point.

      Do you have one?

    • “…I submit to evidence that you didn’t even acknowledge that I wrote drill drill drill until we’re there.”

      Is acknowledgement what you’re after? Okay. I acknowledge you.

      And I didn’t conflate anything. We have enormous amounts of fossil fuels, and we should use them until something better comes along that doesn’t require crony government handouts to produce (e.g., Solyndra).

      Solar energy may someday be practical, but until it is (if it ever is), as you say, drill, baby drill. Plus, solar will always (at least for the foreseeable future) require an alternative source of energy for when there is no sun available.

    • “You are so ignorant you’ve passed the point of being able to recognize it.”

      Thanks for all the gracious replies, Richard! But I decline to respond in kind.

      Your example of solar power use is exactly how I see it. As a supplement, to be used in those rare places where it is efficient and feasible. My prediction: There won’t be many of those applications. To heat a pool might be another. But an efficient, reliable fossil fuel source will be our destiny for the foreseeable future.

      And that’s where we should be paying the most attention. With “alternative” energy sources getting no more favorable tax treatment than fossil fuels.

      “And may the best man win.”

    • (Don’t tell Joe; none of this can work. We need to keep burning whale blubber.)

      Way to battle those straw men, Richard!

      Geez.

    • Joe:

      Counting for the 3 replies in one.

      Here’s why I count you ignorant, not a real thinking person, not anyone that matters to me in this issue. Someone who molds himself to say yea, OK, supplemental.

      You have yet to say a single word about PV, their efficiencies, cost structures, etc. You mention Solyndra and I drive by the empty building all the time on the Nimitz in Fremont. Did no oil company ever go bust, perhaps because they relied on government favor too much and got taken down by those who don’t (the Chinese, in this case and good for them)?

      I have no interest in what you have to say because you are not thinking. I asked: have you ever sat and watched an electric meter turn backwards? No answer.

      And then you criticize and demean for its virtue. It is already a viable supplement. And the efficiency is growing so quickly that someday, PVs will generate power even in overcast and if you do that math, it’s billions of acres and all the power plants are already in place. They’re called roofs.

      I believe you are spouting an ideological party line and that you don’t really care about what’s the best path.

    • “I believe you are spouting an ideological party line and that you don’t really care about what’s the best path.”

      I have no party line, but you apparently do. You’re a Greenie, right? All you can think about are “alternative” energies, when we have right under our feet the largest fossil fuel reserves in the world.

      Yes, oil companies have went bust (bad business practices affect everyone), but they weren’t essentially funded by the government, like Solyndra was. Had there been no government loans and subsidies, there would have been no Solyndra. Why? Because it’s a BAD INVESTMENT at this point. It’s not ready for prime time; if it were, private investors would be lining up on both sides of Highway 101 to invest in it. There have also been two other Solyndra-like companies, also essentially funded and subsidized by the government that went belly-up. Yes, for the same reason. SOLAR ENERGY IS A BAD INVESTMENT.

      But fossil fuel energies are already here, they’re proven, they’re reliable, they’re safe, they’re efficient, they’re available round-the-clock, they’re CHEAP, and they provide MILLIONS of badly needed jobs. And we have enough of it to last HUNDREDS of years. And PRIVATE investors are lining up to invest in them. No GOVERNMENT handouts needed.

      Plus, that’s not “demeaning” solar power; it’s just being honest about it. If and when it ever becomes more than a minor supplementary player, good for it. All power technologies should be welcomed and should compete on a level playing field with fossil fuels. Solar, wind, wave…hell, even dark energy. But there’s no rush, is there? And certainly no need to have the government pay for it, while enriching government cronies.

      So battle all the straw men you want (and you’re apparently addicted to fighting them). It’s obvious now that you’re as ideological about this as they come. Otherwise fossil fuels wouldn’t be such a bogeyman for you.

      “I believe you are spouting an ideological party line and that you don’t really care about what’s the best path.”

      Unless you’re one of Obama’s cronies, the “best path” would be to DRILL, BABY, DRILL.

      Q.E.D.

    • “You’re a Greenie, right?”

      Ha, now that’s funny. You might search my blog for things like ‘environmentalism’ ‘global warming’ stuff like that.

      Assumptions assumptions.

    • I’ve followed your blog for a couple of years now, Richard, because it’s often interesting (usually when you’re not off on yet another rant). Which is why I was a bit taken aback by all the venom directed at me, simply for praising fossil energy over solar.

      I thought you were a libertarian (small “l”), so why you would support a technology that requires government funding to stay afoot, over one that doesn’t, surprised me. Not the venom, per se. That’s your style. I get it. But over solar energy? Yeah, that was surprising.

      Allan Savory’s presentation was very good, and very interesting. I still don’t understand his disapproval of fossil fuel energies, especially as an African. It’s the only kind of energy that poor Africans are probably ever going to have available to them, so you’d think he would be more supportive. Perhaps the nightmare of knowing that he was directly responsible for the slaughter of 40,000 elephants(!) keeps him awake at nights? Anyway, it was nice to see him trying to make up for it. I hope he succeeds. It’ll help the environment, and keep me in ribeyes. A win-win.

    • “Because it’s a BAD INVESTMENT at this point. It’s not ready for prime time; if it were, private investors would be lining up on both sides of Highway 101 to invest in it.”

      http://www.sj-solar.com/about_us/

      ” We were founded with investment from New Enterprise Associates (NEA) to commercialize materials science breakthroughs pioneered by our founders while at Stanford University. Their CPV market-enabling breakthrough was an Adjustable Spectrum Lattice Matched sub-cell material, exclusively licensed to Solar Junction. We have productized this breakthrough and are delivering increased cell efficiency under the highest concentrations with > 40 % mean efficiency at 1000x. Our technology drives a long-term sustainable industry-leading efficiency roadmap while maintaining the current lattice match paradigm that has served as the basis for high-efficiency cell reliability.

      “In addition to the initial investment by NEA we have received follow-on investment from NEA, Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ) and Advanced Technology Ventures (ATV) for a total investment in excess of $33 Million. Solar Junction is a 2010 recipient of a $3 Million Department of Energy PV Incubator subcontract.”

      Their last round NEA, DFJ and ATV was a Series D round and if you know anything about VC funding, you only get to C & D rounds by meeting performance metrics. Their cells are now 44% efficient. A gasoline engine delivers 25-30% efficiency.

      As to why Solyndra failed, it was because of the Chinese and Taiwanese and specifically, that Solyndra developed a new tech that didn’t use polysilicon which costs $400 per kilo in 2008 but has since fallen to $50, thus allowing the other technologies to way undercut price. Other reasons too.

      http://techcrunch.com/2011/10/04/why-did-solyndra-fail-so-spectacularly/

      As to subsidies, red-herring, they are no longer needed, but of course government programs rarely go away. And I’ll remind you that local government all over the place give people government rebates for updating their appliances to more efficient models. And how about the deals available for buying a hybrid car? You really think fossil fuel isn’t subsidized as well, because it’s in the State’s interest to have its tentacles in everything so it can claim credit for any good that every happens anywhere? And what of the bailout of GM? I could go on and on.

      Solar technology will get better and better and cheaper and cheaper and there’s really no point in looking at any alternatives like wind and sea currents, or even nuclear, probably (the Sun IS nuclear fusion), because the Sun is the fundamental energy source for everything on earth, it’s sustainable and inexhaustible up to achieving 100% efficiency at every point of any hemispherical section of earth exposed—at least for the next 800 million years until it quenches all life on earth.

      For me, none of this _anything_ to do with environmentalism, saving the planet, preserving fossil fuels. It’s only about technology, efficiency, cost efficiency and coolness. I just got an Eton Rukus Solar.

      http://www.etoncorp.com/en/productdisplay/rukus-solar-1

      Fabulous bluetooth wireless sound from my iPhone. The solar panel provides enough to both keep the battery charged AND charge my iPhone and if there’s no sun the backup lasts for 9 hours. Cool. That’s what it’s about for me.

    • “support a technology that requires government funding to stay afoot”

      First of all, you are mistaken if you think that PVs get subsidized because they are less efficient, too costly, or anything like that. They principally get subsidized in order to incentivize people and businesses to install systems.

      Second, you are way behind the times. Japan has already eliminated all subsidies and Germany is in the midst of doing so.

      http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/germany-finally-compromises-on-pv-subsidies_100007509/#axzz2MmkWTYO7

      “A new inclusion to the EEG is the fact that photovoltaic subsidies will be stopped when a cumulative capacity of 52 GW is reached. After this point, no new photovoltaic systems will receive support, “because the overall development goal is reached”.”

      And even greenies are calling for an end to subsidies.

      http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/02/death-to-pv-subsidies

      Death to PV Subsidies
      By Tim Keating, Contributor
      February 3, 2012 | 29 Comments

      Candidates should pledge to end all Federal subsidies for all forms of electricity generation by the end of 2016.

      Unsubsidized solar photovoltaic (PV) systems already produce electricity – in some parts of the world – less expensively than coal and gas-fired power plants. As PV system prices decline it’s inevitable that subsidies will end. Rapid decline or outright disappearance has already been seen in all the major solar markets except China and India.

      The usual strategy for subsidized industries is to fight to increase or extend their subsidy. I suggest that the opposite approach is the right one for the U.S. solar industry to take in the run-up to the 2012 elections. The PV industry should ask candidates for President and Congress to pledge to end all Federal subsidies for all forms of electricity generation by the end of 2016.

      ~~~

      And yes, I think the rest of that article about the externality costs of coal counted as a subsidy is rubbish.

      “It’s the only kind of energy that poor Africans are probably ever going to have available to them”

      These kind of categorical, shortsighted statements amaze me. I can imagine the same thing being said about the village telephone exchange 10 years ago (a central place where people go to place phone calls) and now they all have cell phone, leapfrogging the whole cost of running wires everywhere.

    • Joshua says:

      Minor point – The chinese subsidize their solar as bad as everybody else. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/12/us-chinesesolarcompanies-shares-idUSBRE8BB16B20121212 I don’t mind though. You want to take a loss on something you sell me? Sounds great to me!

    • “As to why Solyndra failed, it was because of the Chinese and Taiwanese and specifically, that Solyndra developed a new tech that didn’t use polysilicon which costs $400 per kilo in 2008 but has since fallen to $50, thus allowing the other technologies to way undercut price. Other reasons too.”

      It doesn’t matter why Solyndra failed. What matters is that HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of taxpayer funds were wasted. You’re still missing my point. The GOVERNMENT has no place in funding energy sources, especially not when we are already AWASH in fossil fuel! It only makes sense to the government and Obama’s cronies.

      “For me, none of this _anything_ to do with environmentalism, saving the planet, preserving fossil fuels. It’s only about technology, efficiency, cost efficiency and coolness”

      We already have a technology, that’s both efficient, cost efficient, etc., and virtually UNLIMITED. It’s right under your feet – fossil fuel.

      Who cares about whether it’s “cool”? Surely not the people who enjoy its heat, air-conditioning, and the FREEDOM it affords us. On the other hand, fracking is definitely “cool.” Amazing technology!

    • “First of all, you are mistaken if you think that PVs get subsidized because they are less efficient, too costly, or anything like that. They principally get subsidized in order to incentivize people and businesses to install systems.”

      But why??? We already have all the energy we’ll likely need for hundreds of years! In case you haven’t noticed, we’re BROKE, and $17 TRILLION dollars in debt.

      Fossil fuels can provide jobs now, not in the future. HIGH paying jobs.

      “These kind of categorical, shortsighted statements amaze me.”

      Shortsighted? Geez. Africa has unbelievable potential for fossil fuel development. There currently is an oil and gas “Gold Rush” in East Africa. It’s cheap to develop, the technology is already proven, and it’s about the only energy source that poor Africans can afford.

      Trust me, people still living in mud huts and ramshackle housing don’t care how “cool” their energy is, as long as it keeps them cool, cooks their food, keeps them warm, and allows them to get from Point A to Point B without hoofing it. Most African countries can’t even afford to feed their own people (as Savory illustrated).

      You’re the strangest sounding libertarian I’ve ever encountered.

    • Yes, but these subsidies are of a different sort. China is swimming in cash. Their subsidies are not because PV isn’t efficient, it’s because it is and they want to capture as much of the world market share as they can.

    • Joshua says:

      Richard, I love solar & it totally wins out in coolness, but do you really think it’s cost competitive now? I can’t find anything from anybody who isn’t either selling PV or a green advocate saying solar PV can seriously compete. The subsidies for production may not be subsidized any more, but isn’t CA at least still subsidizing installation?

      Conventional sources of electricity are indeed subsidized, but the proportion of cost per KWH that is subsidized is minuscule compared to PV.

      I fully acknowledge the fallibility of wikipedia, but it just doesn’t look like PV can compete yet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

      As for Africa, I have to wonder what Joe is smoking. Rural areas will be PV’s biggest growth market. The biggest advantage of PV is that the “plants” can be smaller and localized to rural locations. It’s much harder to run conventional electricity lines out to remote villages than it is to truck in a bunch of PV cells.

    • Frankly, I don’t care much what China does. Or Germany. Or Japan. I do however care about MY government wasting money we don’t have, on “potential.” The marketplace will let me know when that potential becomes practical, affordable, etc.

      I repeat: We’re BROKE, and $17 TRILLION in DEBT.

      :(

      PS: I’d like to have a Bugatti Veyron. It’s really cool, has amazing technology, and is really, really fast. But I can’t afford one. Would that the government could figure this stuff out. Math is hard!

    • “What matters is that HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of taxpayer funds were wasted.”

      Wow, really? The government WASTED taxpayer funds? Tell me it isn’t so.

      “The GOVERNMENT has no place in funding energy sources, especially not when we are already AWASH in fossil fuel! It only makes sense to the government and Obama’s cronies.”

      The government has no place period, doing anything. They should stop subsidizing conventional energy too.

      http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/

      Your ignorance is mind-bogglingly astounding.

      “Who cares about whether it’s “cool”?”

      The only person who’s opinion means a shit to me.

      Yes, fracking is fracking cool.

      To clarify, I am for unlimited drilling on all public lands/offshore and unlimited drilling with the permission of any property owner.

    • “But why???”

      I told you. Government wants to get bigger, have more influence, cater to special interests, etc.

      Why does government ban smoking in privately owned bars? Because it’s catering to a special interest. Nothing government does is any different.

      “Fossil fuels can provide jobs now, not in the future. HIGH paying jobs.”

      You continue to be dishonest in implying that I am against fossil fuels when I emphatically wrote drill drill drill in the first couple or so comments.

      “You’re the strangest sounding libertarian I’ve ever encountered.”

      You’re pretty run-of-the mill conservative, to me. I have no argument with you, or with those trying to develop solar. You’re argument contra solar makes little sense. On the one hand, you say “develop it” and on the other, don’t because we have plenty of fossil fuels.

      Unless it has escaped your notice, to develop it, you have to actually develop it.

    • “I repeat: We’re BROKE, and $17 TRILLION in DEBT.”

      And green energy subsidies aren’t a drop in the bucket. Fossil fuel subsidies are far bigger. Go after them first.

    • “As for Africa, I have to wonder what Joe is smoking.”

      The stupidest thing I ever did in my life was to start smoking. The smartest thing I ever did was to quit. Period.

      “It’s much harder to run conventional electricity lines out to remote villages than it is to truck in a bunch of PV cells.”

      I disagree. If they want to DEVELOP as a country (and join the modern world), they need the same things that we need – for example, a reliable power grid. Sure, solar can help out in isolated areas (just like it does here), and they should use it wherever they can – provided they can afford to pay for it with their own money, and not with ours. Because we don’t have any money. We’re broke.

      The oil and gas boom now underway in Africa should provide African workers more $$$ in one day than they can usually make in several months. Then they can spend that money on anything they want, even PV. Win-win.

      But the Africans themselves should decide this. Not Americans. Not Chinese. Not Germans. And, God forbid, not the UN.

      Africans.

      Period.

    • “I can’t find anything from anybody who isn’t either selling PV or a green advocate saying solar PV can seriously compete.”

      Compete with what, when, where, for whom and for what?

      I don’t understand these questions. It’s non sequitur. Right now, PV exists for the purpose of capturing energy you’re already getting, the sun beating down on the roof of your home, business, factory, etc. Why not capture it? I can’t recall what the economics are that my former neighbor told me, but if you buy a system outright, depending on where you are and depending on whether you have A/C or not, it can pay for itself in 10-15 years, I believe. Back in 2003 when my electrician friend installed his own, saving on the labor (he only had to buy the panels) I think he said his payback was about 20 years. It’s getting better.

      But now you don’t even have to do that because the companies will come in an install for free. You don’t get all of the savings, but you get most of it.

      The only time “compete” will be relevant is when solar can completely replace fossil, which it can’t. To do so would require a storage system and battery tech probably has a long way to go.

    • Fossil fuel companies receive no federal subsidies. They essentially receive the same tax treatments that any industrial or manufacturing company enjoys (including Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc.). Fossil fuel companies also pay ROYALTIES. Solar companies pay BUPKIS.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/energysource/2012/04/25/the-surprising-reason-that-oil-subsidies-persist-even-liberals-love-them/

      Now, if you want to pick on the fossil fuel companies, and punish them, but not other kinds of companies, well, that’s pretty unfair, no?

      And the ethanol subsidy (a REAL subsidy to farmers) should be abolished forthwith.

      Imagine…we’re burning our food, while others are starving. :(

    • I have no idea why this debate has taken on a role of either fossil or solar exclusively. I certainly never said or implied any such thing.

      It wasn’t horses and carriages OR automobiles. They existed side-by-side for decades until such time as it made no more sense to have a horse & carriage. It’s exactly the same way solar and fossil will go and just as today there are still application for which horses, donkeys or mules (or camels) are better suited to a task than a motorized vehicle, there will probably always be some applications that will be better for various fossil fuels.

    • “I told you. Government wants to get bigger, have more influence, cater to special interests, etc.”

      And people like you are the blame. You don’t seem to care.

      “You continue to be dishonest in implying that I am against fossil fuels when I emphatically wrote drill drill drill in the first couple or so comments.”

      There’s nothing dishonest about it, Richard. I’m just debating the merits of one technology with another.

      “You’re pretty run-of-the mill conservative, to me. ”

      I’m a classical liberal.

      “I have no argument with you, ”

      You haven’t stopped arguing with me since I made my post.

      “On the one hand, you say “develop it” and on the other, don’t because we have plenty of fossil fuels.”

      Ah. More straw men.

      Do you understand the difference between GOVERNMENT funding and PRIVATE funding?

      I think not.

      I don’t care what private citizens do with their money. I do, however, care what the GOVERNMENT does with MY money.

      So should you.

      You are to libertarian what fish are to bicycles. :)

    • The government subsidizes fossil fuels.

      http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/

      “What is a fossil fuel subsidy?
      A fossil fuel subsidy is any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production, raises the price received by energy producers or lowers the price paid by energy consumers. There are a lot of activities under this simple definition—tax breaks and giveaways, but also loans at favorable rates, price controls, purchase requirements and a whole lot of other things.”

      http://priceofoil.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/koplowtypesofsubsidy.pdf

      $2.4 Billion: subsidies to the Big Five producers debated and defeated in the Senate in 2011 and 2012

      The Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act, sponsored by Senator Menendez (D-NJ) was debated and defeated by the Senate for two years running, and would have eliminated $2.4 billion in annual tax deductions for the five major oil companies: BP, Exxon, Chevron, Shell and ConocoPhillips.

      $4 Billion: Subsidy cuts President Obama proposed in the 2013 budget.

      President Obama has proposed cutting fossil fuel subsidies every year he’s been in office. The projections for savings have varied slightly each year but always hover around $4 billion annually. Congress has never even proposed voting on all of them.

      $10 billion. Low end credible comprehensive estimates. Several recent independent estimates of U.S. fossil fuel subsidies all arrive at roughly this number, although they consider slightly different things. Recent studies include those conducted by Management Information Services, Environmental Law Institute, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – OECD. (The OECD numbers compiled and analyzed here.)

      $52 billion. Highest credible comprehensive estimate. Includes some costs associated with defending pipelines and shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf. Earth Track, an NGO that specializes in subsidy valuation, estimates that annual oil, gas and coal subsidies total about $52 billion annually.

      ~~~

      Now, add in all the costs of our military presence and wars in the Middle East to keep the world safe for oil. I’m not saying that’s probably not in some measure necessary given the reality of things, but it is taxpayer subsidization of an industry that would not apply to solar.

      I think it’s probably a wise move to assume that in terms of big business and special interests, the government subsidizes everything.

    • “But now you don’t even have to do that because the companies will come in an install for free. You don’t get all of the savings, but you get most of it.”

      Free?

      Riiiight.

      There are no free lunches.

    • “I’m just debating the merits of one technology with another.”

      Then you’re debating with yourself, because that’ snot what I’m doing. Different applications. The only thing I really see any value in right now is PV and it’s a great and viable technology that will get better and better and cheaper and cheaper. I doubt drilling and exploration is going to enjoy similar economies of scale. I think wind is ridiculous, way too moving part intensive and is an ugly eyesore. Hydroelectric? Meh, kinda ambivalent.

    • “I have no idea why this debate has taken on a role of either fossil or solar exclusively. I certainly never said or implied any such thing.”

      Because that’s precisely where you pushed it. Presumably for mentioning that fossil fuel is not the bogeyman that Savory makes it out to be.

      “It wasn’t horses and carriages OR automobiles. They existed side-by-side for decades until such time as it made no more sense to have a horse & carriage. ”

      And they managed to do that without one penny of government subsidy.

    • Absolutely free equipment install, and you start saving on your electric bill immediately.

      I already explained how they do it. As I also already put up data regarding subsidies for fossil fuels. So, you are not reading my comments clearly.

      Accordingly, this discussion is over.

    • “Then you’re debating with yourself”

      Tru dat.

      Because you’re basically just insulting me and calling me names.

      And arguing with straw men.

    • Did you read the Forbes link regarding “subsidies”?

      I didn’t think so.

    • Solar for residential use is not all that hard, just expensive, but residential use isn’t the hard problem. That’s industrial use, which is huge. No alternative to hydrocarbons for that except nuclear.

    • We’re already “tolerating” a surging wolf population. The EPA’s been trying to revive the wolf population for years now.

    • Joshua says:

      Joe – I don’t recall reading anywhere in his comments where Richard is advocating for government subsidies for anything. I’m not sure I agree with him that solar is a cost effective option (absent subsidies), but I think you both agree that nobody should get any kind of subsidies for anything. You’re talking past each other.

      Whether or not big oil is receiving subsidies is a more complicated issue than you make it out to be. I suspect that in the system that you, Richard, and I would advocate, businesses would pay no taxes on income at all, thus removing the opportunity for distortion altogether.

    • Um, so, why invest in something that will break even for you in 10-15 years, when you can invest in things that will earn you a profit right away?

    • “You’re talking past each other. ”

      Apparently. :(

      “I suspect that in the system that you, Richard, and I would advocate, businesses would pay no taxes on income at all, thus removing the opportunity for distortion altogether.”

      Yeah, I’d support that. Because corporations don’t really pay taxes in the first place They just pass their costs on to consumers.

      Just like Richard’s p0wer company didn’t install those PVs for “free.” The costs are already baked into the rate Richard is paying.

      There are no free lunches.

    • “so, why invest in something that will break even for you in 10-15 years, when you can invest in things that will earn you a profit right away?”

      I wouldn’t, nor would I recommend it for average joe. Prior to companies beginning to do the free installs such as Solar City does (the installation and equipment lease is paid for in the spread between what they pay the electric company and what they charge you) I chalked the whole thing up to the flat screen TV phenomena, figuring it’ll be some years still until it’s viable as the early adopters, geeks, ideologues bring economies to scale. Philips’ first flat screen was $15K. I jumped in at $2,700, for a 30″ LCD (tax free from Amazon with $100 shopping. Exact same model was selling at Fry’s for $3,800—I asked about price matching but at the time they didn’t do it for Internet).

      But with the free install of PV there’s no downside unless you plan on selling soon (it converts to a purchase then). You begin saving on electricity right away and if you have A/C the savings can be quite substantial, for 2 reasons: the panels add an extra layer against the hottest part of the sun on your roof at the hottest time of the year (so you don’t need as much A/C) at the same time they’re the most efficient at generating power.

      Back of envelope calculation, suppose you save $50 per month and you can get a 3% ROI on your money now (safe, like CD, Money market, T-bills, etc). It would take $20,000 to get a $600 return, so I’d guess that when systems get to around $10K to get a $600 annual savings it would begin to make real sense.

      …OK, so I just Googled. Of course, this is all going to depend on where you live, what the rates are, etc.

      http://solarexpert.com/solar-electric/solar-faqs/

      Notable things:

      – In California the average residential customer purchases 6,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. There is enough sunshine falling upon on the average home to produce this and a system can be designed to offset all electrical needs. … The most economically feasible size is usually between 50% and 75% of your annual household needs.

      – A solar system using batteries for storage can “ride-out” utility blackouts. Batteries add significantly to the expense of a system while providing no payback, need weekly maintenance, are hazardous and will need replacing every five to ten years. For this reason most city dwellers are opting for a “grid-tie” system.

      – A system composed of the very highest efficiency monocrystalline cells will produce 1kW per hour for every 60 square feet.

      – As systems get larger, the cost per watt is lower. A two (2) kilowatt system may cost between $12,000 and $14,000 ($8.00 to $7.00 per watt), while a five (5) kilowatt system may be installed for as little as $30,000 to $25,000 ($6.00 to $5.00 per watt).

      – The savings will depend on the size of your solar system and the amount of electricity you would normally have consumed. A 2kW PV system which is replacing electricity at 30 cents a kWh might save $1,125.00 per year (CEC Consumer Handbooks “Buying a Photovoltaic Solar Electric System,” p.7 or “A Guide to Photovoltaic System Design”, p. 8 and 9). Rates in California are increasing dramatically – so savings will also increase proportionally. The highest tier in Edison territory has reached 32 cents, not including state and local taxes.

      – It is more instructive to think of solar as an investment that yields an annual return, much as a bank savings account provides interest. A solar PV system may generate savings that would equal an annual Return on Investment (ROI) of 7% to 15% per year at today’s electric rates. These savings is not taxed as would be the interest earned from a bank savings account. Thus you would have to find a bank account or investment yielding 14% to 28% to equal the return on a solar electric system. No matter what ROI your system would generate, this is ultimately a choice about how you will be buying your power – not whether or not you will be paying for it!

      ~~~

      So I appear to have been off by half, in favor of a PV system. Looks like we’re there now if you have the cash. And at those rates of return, it would make sense to finance the purchase if you can get a low enough rate.

    • Do any of you live places where they’re currently drilling or aiming to do so? Some of these things get a little more perspective when you’re talking about letting Mr. Smith up the road put risks on YOUR water table because it happens to run below his property.

      This isn’t scaremongering, there are documented communities with undrinkable water.

      I tend to run towards a “libertarian” stance in most arguments but on fossil fuel extractions far too many (you and joe both here, I feel) ignore the externalities involved. Does Mr. Smith’s right to let gas companies frack his shale cancel out my right to drink from my well and expect not to be consuming benzene etc?

      Our communities are too fractured for anyone to expect a man to choose NOT to poison his neighbor for a profit, as much as a true “libertarian utopia” would be possible otherwise.

    • For the record, what’s not to like about the idea of distributed point and nonpoint power production from all available technologies on all scales duking it out in a non-subsidized market? Solar of multiple kinds, cleanly-extracted fossil fuels, biogas, geothermal, wind, kinetic capture from moving water, etc. Hundreds of technologies could be developed, and would be if fossil fuel prices reflected their actual costs of production. Fracked gas and dirty coal would be priced way out of the market if their producers had to contain their messes and be held accountable in any serious way, which would make me happy, and you could all be happy that the invisible hand is free to run amok.

      I think the most sensible high-production single-point energy producer would be thorium-based nuclear reactors. Why has no one ever heard of them? They don’t produce weapons-grade byproducts and don’t give an excuse to mine uranium, and thus were not favored by the cold war.

    • “Mr. Smith up the road put risks on YOUR water table because it happens to run below his property.”

      But that constitutes damage to someone else’s property, which is an infringement. What I mean when I say “unlimited” is that government nor anyone else gets to stop you kn a whim or based upon politics and special interests, wild eyed hand wringing of doom, etc.

    • “For the record, what’s not to like about the idea of distributed point and nonpoint power production from all available technologies on all scales duking it out in a non-subsidized market?”

      You got me. And the cool thing about PVs is it distributes the generation network down to millions of nodes. Imagine houses in Phoenix supplying a good portion of the juice running back into the grid to somewhere else far across the country.

    • And that’s why I’m saying that fracking is irresponsible. The owner of the property being fracked is not the only party at risk. There are people experiencing the consequences of that irresponsibility right now, and thanks to the labyrinthine legal situations that arise from mineral rights trading, there are even those whose property is being fracked without their consent. Were energy companies required to operate in such a way as to ensure that other properties are not infringed upon, it would not be cheap or even competitive energy.

      I find it frustrating that reasonable precaution is frequently conflated with the “wild eyed.”

    • Yeah, PV has a lot of potential. The “what about when it’s cloudy” argument always amuses me, as a carpentry mentor of mine lives up in the hills here in western NY state and has two solar panels, maybe 10’x10′ total, hooked up to a few marine batteries powering his whole house year round. Now, given, he’s a smart guy who built for and lives efficient energy use, but he’s also far from a luddite. He’s got netflix like everyone else, and he can watch it anytime he wants despite the fact that we have cloud cover for more than half the day for most of the days out of each year. It doesn’t take that much sunlight.

      The much-derided wind power is actually fairly viable here, as well. PV in Pheonix, turbines in WNY, wave-driven buoy arrays on the oregon coast, all the above and more feeding into the power grid would probably make our present network of powerplants look pretty clumsy and dated.

      Also interesting (though less distributed) is the work that’s been done on designing voltaic cells that respond to radioactive decay rather than solar radiation. There’s talk of batteries filled with radon in a honeycomb of radiovoltaic material that would outlast your lithium-ion AAs by a couple of years, but I’ve wondered about the possibility of drawing energy off our many tons of hazardous, currently useless nuclear waste using similar technology. Turn Yucca Mountain into a giant powerplant, or something.

    • Every situation is different. Fracking fracking way out in the wilderness, go for it. If there are improved properties over the area, caution is warranted and for me, I’d want a sign off so the property owner gets a stake in exchange for the risk.

      But still:

      http://fracknation.com/

      http://www.youtube.com/user/noteviljustwrong

      Yea, I know there’s that stupid typical hollywood tearjerker with Matt Damon and Susan, who probably formulaically get redemption by the end, repent of their sins and so on. Barf.

      But it’s a lie.

      It’s situational, and it depends on who’s willing to take the risk.

      And by the way, you can check out all the videos where it has been known forever in families and small towns that certain ground could be flammable.

    • Eric:

      Is there anything left for Whale Blubber? :)

    • Erik, those are all valid and important concerns. But today’s fracking fluids are virtually food-grade quality and getting cleaner by the day. They’re essentially drinkable themselves.

      I’d like a reference to where those communities are where the water is undrinkable due to fracking. I hope you’re not conflating fracking with the blarney contained in the movie Gasland. That water was always undrinkable, even before the WATER wells were dug, because they drilled into pockets of biogenic methane gas. For the truth, watch the documentary film Frack Nation.

      And I have to disagree. I think a lot of this is indeed “scaremongering.” And the movie Gasland is a great example of it.

      I’m all for a safe and clean environment, but some give and take is sometimes required to live in a modern society. Clean water is important. Jobs are important. Energy is important. We can have our cake and eat it, too, but scaremongering, as you rightly put it, isn’t helpful.

    • This makes me smile. Nice to know there are people like this out there.

    • We already can harness the power of the sun. It’s called a nuclear fission reactor.

  2. The reactionaries were right. Modernity is built on a tissue of lies. Lies everywhere.

  3. phreebie says:

    Thanks Richard! Fascinating stuff. I’m going to have to search out the complete answer to that final question, because that was bugging me the whole way through too. :)

  4. FrankG says:

    Alex, I welcome predators as signifying an healthy ecosystem.

    Rather than aiming for “for a pre-human ecosystem of sorts” I think we would do better to recognise that humans have been an integral part of the ecosystem for many millions of years… sometimes we mistakenly think of pristine environments to be free of humans but we have been part of the picture since “forever” :-)

    It’s very likely that there are just too many of us, our population artificially buoyed up by fossil fuels… we risk bankrupting the system at the same time as we face the end of these fuels. On the other hand this video does suggest how to make better use of what resources we have… growing grain ain’t the answer!

    As I recall Joel Salatin (a grass-fed cattle pioneer) at Polyface Farm, describes himself (in Food Inc.?) as a “soil farmer”. Cattle, well-managed on pasture, leads to an increase in top-soil (the plains were built and sustained by the vast herds of bison)… while industrial agriculture, with chemical fertilizers, continues to strip the soil… leading to run-off and erosion.

    Interestingly this may even be another thing to blame of Herr Hitler; because it was during WWII in Britain that the nation faced deprivation with the U-boats effectively cutting off supplies. The boffins decided to have a mass cull of livestock to devote more land to grains… a short term “quick fix” measure to hold off starvation but not a long-term or sustainable solution.

    For vegans I’d just say that all life is valuable and we are all part of that same genome — plants and animals… I don’t accept that a 1,000 year old giant sequoia is somehow less than a 6 month old calf. Living without taking “life” is simply not possible… what goes around comes around. I do not support the ill treatment of cattle OR the ill treatment of the soil… or for that matter the ill treatment of humans! :-)

  5. Bernardo says:

    There is something about the truth that touches me profoundly. Everything has been converging lately – animal fat, wholegrains, carbon, sunscreens, quantitative easing, and now this. Experts suck, this guy on the video is a hero for explosing ir (one more). This kind of thing gives me goosebumps.

  6. By the end of it, I couldn’t help but think of what a cool business opportunity this could be. Buy up some private land that’s been subjected to desertification, throw on a few groups of cattle for however many years, and resell at a much higher price due to the enhanced usefullness of the land. Obviously details would be a bit more complicated, but it’s a promising idea. Win-win for the businessman and the ecosystem.

    • Paul

      Hadn’t even considered that. But still, my mind reels at all the opportunities, here. It could ver well be this that eventually sees to the peak of farm production in terms of clearing land for crops. One of the most striking things to me is how much of earth’s surface is desert or barren.

    • Samuli Pahalahti says:
    • Thanks Samuli.

      Added that and the link from Galina to the end of the post.

    • That’s one of the first things I thought of, partly because I’ve been trying to think of ways to make money off of making deserts bloom for years, due to the inverse correlation between real estate prices & freedom. Generally, the higher real estate prices are, the less freedom you have, until you reach the point where there’s so little freedom it kills off the economy. So, to maximize your freedom, move somewhere real estate’s really cheap. Problem with that is that you need to make a living there, & real estate’s generally cheap in places where it’s hard to make money.

    • The essential question then is how long does this take to accomplish, because not only do you have to buy the land, you have to buy the animals and it takes time for them to reproduce to the herd size you need.

    • Jordan says:

      What a lot beginning ranchers do to build their ranch size and herd is to lease land and act as a custom grazer, saving the time it takes to acquire land and breeding a herd. A custom grazer will take other people’s cattle and put them out to pasture for a fee. So if a someone knows how to more efficiently graze pasture than their neighbor it can make more economic sense for the neighbor to pay that someone to grow their cattle on grass. The money the custom grazer makes can be used to buy land or cattle for themselves. A lot of grass-fed producers will do this as well to supplement their income if they’re still building a customer base for their grass-fed beef.

      If some is just starting out, a lot of the more arid places out west have programs to attract new and beginning farmers and ranchers to build and restore rural communities. I know that in Nebraska, a landowner can get tax credits for their state income tax if they lease land to a beginning rancher.

    • Jordan says:

      Paul,
      The process you’re describing is being done by some people on old mine tailings in the arid west. The guy in the YouTube video below explains how he does it and has written a book on it as well. So it can be done on some of the worst land with fantastic results.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSIJsudP76Q

    • Excellent video, Jordan. Cool guy.

      I passed it all around.

  7. Peggy Holloway says:

    I have done several cycling trips through the Nebraska sand hills. Those experiences always come to mind when vegans start their whining I ask “what would you do with all those herds of cattle? And of what use is that land for anything except animal grazing?” Of course the vegans have no good answer.

    • Jordan says:

      The Sandhills are one of my favorite places on Earth. I love imagining what it would have looked like centuries ago as nothing but sand dunes and how it’s amazing that grass and large grazing animals can come in and thrive together. I know a number of ranchers out there, and there are some who’ve converted their entire operation to mob grazing. They are seeing more vegetation and productivity on their land than they’ve ever seen.

  8. Galina L. says:

    No matter how often I linked to the so-called “brown revolution” in Zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/01/brown-revolution-brings-new-hope/ during discussions with vegetarians, they were never ever impressed. I hope you Richard would have more success. I wouldn’t mind some people being vega-nuts, but it annoys me their questionable diet is being promoted health and Earth saving. I remember how my son told me about the mother of his roommate tryed to lecture him about the irresponsibility of eating stakes everyday.

    • Well, stakes aren’t very nutritious, Galina. :)

      Sorry sweets, couldn’t resist.

    • Galina L. says:

      I am afraid my son didn’t care much about nutrition when he was making his “stake” choice, he just found out it was cheaper and faster than any cafeteria meal in his college, so he unintentionally practiced all-meat diet , especially during busy times. He also told me buying meat was very convenient for a person without a car – not much to carry from the nearest grocery store. He doesn’t mind eating potatoes at all, but complains the 10 lb pack doesn’t last long. Lazy brat.

      Sometimes I think that we , cooking nuts, should be grateful that prime meat was not abandoned during human history – it definitely contributed to the art of food preparation, or who in a right mind would make 90% of traditional heritage dishes, chaise frogs, collect snails, stretch meat with rice and veggies making staffed cabbage or bell peppers?

    • Gabriella Kadar says:

      “but complains the 10 lb pack doesn’t last long. Lazy brat.”

      LOL! The mother in me resonates with that comment.

    • Galina L. says:

      I did what I could – raised him without cavities, taught him that cooking food could be as easy or as difficult as one wish , and explained how to manage one’s health. As a parent I can’t stop worrying.

  9. Lauren says:

    Oh richard, If only…
    We really could wake up and save ourselves and the Earth.

  10. This kind of information will make lots of heads explode. Who is going to be responsible for cleaning up that mass? Huh, Richard?

  11. Jordan says:

    I’m glad that you find his presentations as fascinating as I do. I’ve found that spreading the word about his methods is very easy as both environmentalists and cattlemen respond very positively to the outcomes. This is especially important in the western United States because the federal government is becoming increasingly reluctant to give out grazing leases as they are worried about the negative consequences of livestock.

  12. Matthew Jones says:

    There are some serious errors with this article. Firstly, “two thirds of the earth’s landmass has turned to desert”. This quite simply is gross exaggeration. The issue of desertification is a very real one, but not on the scale that this author suggests. I would be keen to see any evidence that supports this outlandish claim?

    Secondly, whilst the article declares livestock as humanities saving grace in terms of sustainability, I fear it may have overlooked the issues with the methane emissions. The greenhouse gas emissions that would result from this “solution” would intensify the greenhouse effect, thus influencing climatic change which would subsequently worsen the desertification issues globally.

    • And yet, plant biomass is quite effective at sequestering carbon and keeping it out of the atmosphere. Less desertification = more plants = more carbon sequestration.

      I’m willing to bet that mother nature has a much better mechanism for maintaining homeostasis, a system which far exceeds the imperfect wisdom and knowledge of homo sapiens, in terms of efficacy.

      Either way, I suspect melting permafrost would be a far more dangerous and immediate threat than cow farts.

    • “This quite simply is gross exaggeration.”

      No, it’s not. Look at the photo in the video. It’s desert or pretty barren, not green.

      “The issue of desertification is a very real one, but not on the scale that this author suggests. I would be keen to see any evidence that supports this outlandish claim?”

      Cool, you want to see evidence, for once? Get off the vegan sites and Google away.

      “I fear it may have overlooked the issues with the methane emissions. ”

      Addressed in the video. You didn’t watch it, did you?

    • It’s like evolution is mindless. What will we do with all the experts?

    • There would be a balancing act between the two.
      More cattle is more emissions, however you have reduced emissions from using less fertilizer, using less machinery, using less pesticides, and increased biomass leading to more carbon sequestration.
      The result would be a net reduction in emissions.

    • CW

      Nope.

      Zero fertilizer, zero machinery, zero pesticides.

      That is the model he’s talking about.

    • That’s what I’m meaning, there is a significant reduction in emissions without their use.

      Other permaculture methods not involving livestock have significant reductions as well through companion planting and those sorts of things.

      Then if you have a situation where everyone can produce enough food for themselves in areas where they haven’t before you have an enormous savings from not having to transport foods across the world.

    • Cool, CW. Wanted to make sure there were no open issues for others reading these comments.

    • Jordan T says:

      “Approximately one-third of the Earth’s land surface is desert”

      http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/deserts/what/

    • he cearly didn’t WATCH…
      GRRRRRR!

    • This is silly splitting hairs. Anyone can see plainly the photo in the video. About 2/3 brown. Desertification is not equivalent to _A_ dessert. Desertification is a long process that end in a dessert, at which point it’s probably too late.

    • Jordan T says:

      I’m not referring to mistakes made in the video, I’m referring to the misstatement in this article.
      The author says, “that fully two-thirds of the earth’s landmass has turned to desert and it’s accelerating”

      This is a misquote of the Ted talk and it’s a patently false claim.

      Allan Savory states, “2/3 of the world is desertifying I would guess”

      way different than having been turned to desert.

    • “This is a misquote of the Ted talk and it’s a patently false claim.

      Allan Savory states, “2/3 of the world is desertifying I would guess”

      way different than having been turned to desert.”

      Thanks, so much. Perhaps you can run cover for me as I assume all the smart people are capable of getting the gist and meaning of what I say.

      You can care about the stupid. I don’t have the time

      So again, thanks. Good on ya. I don’t think you can really fix stupid and so I don’t try, but what do I know?

    • A mom at home says:

      In the comments to the video you linked to, vegan types argue that “even better” than restoring the grasslands would be restoring forests, forests full of fruit bearing trees and edible plants. Pretty much no evidence of any kind will convince them.

    • grassland and forrest are two sides of the same coin.

  13. Just posted an update. an 8-minute video in the field of this guy.

  14. The other argument, and this one is hilariously simple and i don’t understand how vegans don’t get this, is this:

    The healthiest diet only requires about 0.7 pounds of animal foods per day. Do the math; That’s 255 pounds of animal foods per year per person. That’s about half a cow per person per year. So for every human on this planet to consume the most ideal amount of animal foods per year we would only need about 3 billion cows. That’s a biomass of only 320 million tonnes. To put this number into perspective, there’s currently 3000+ million tonnes of ant biomass on this planet. Go check out how many animals are currently inhabiting this planet. The total dry biomass on earth is somewhere around 560,000 million tonnes (not including bacteria, which is an untapped area of nutrition). That’s 1718 times more biomass than required to meet the meat needs of the current human population. In other words, the amount of livestock required to meet adequate nutritional needs of a 7 billion person population is infinitesimally and INSIGNIFICANTLY tiny compared to how much life is on this planet. If a person honestly thinks humans that consume meat are destroying this planet and that switching to a vegan diet will somehow save it, you’re a moron that’s never analyzed the data.

    Logic is tough for most people though.

    • “To put this number into perspective, there’s currently 3000+ million tonnes of ant biomass on this planet”

      I think termite biomass is even greater and if you go ocean, krill dwarfs it all, and feeds the largest mammals on earth.

    • “If a person honestly thinks humans that consume meat are destroying this planet and that switching to a vegan diet will somehow save it, you’re a moron that’s never analyzed the data.”

      The ONLY vegans who aren’t morons are those who admit to the nutritional problem and choose in spite of it to be vegan.

      I have no qualms with that, so long as they don’t try to force it on others. I have no qualms with their cheerleading. Im a Darwinian.

      In the end, vegans can’t compete, which is why they go popular and media and high-profile figured every chance those popes can get.

  15. Gadfly says:

    “Flowers grow best in shit”.

  16. “Nature to be commanded must be obeyed” Francis Bacon

  17. Ummm vegan brain shrived ameoba? Can we talk about the assumption that animals brought in to bring back land must ultimately be food? Because animals aren’t lives of their own or anything… once they’re done making the desert sustainable earth again they must only be good for food. You make a good point but you’re the short sighted jerk here.

    • “Can we talk about the assumption that animals brought in to bring back land must ultimately be food?”

      Assumption? They’re going to be food for something or someone, whether bacteria, worms, maggots, predators or humans, as are we all.

      “And the worms ate into their brains.” – Roger Waters

    • Sean P. says:

      You’re the one pretending like you’re not part of the natural world. Things die. Things become food. In fact, everything living dies eventually and everything that once lived will at some point become food for something else. This is the natural order of things. In fact, the recycling of dead life, and this includes predators killing living things just for food, increases the net total amount of life on this planet. If this circle of life didn’t exist this planet would be a barren wasteland devoid of all life (or at some point in the future it would be). You need carnivores (and this includes bacteria, insects, and other microorganism) to help return resources to the earth so something else can utilize them. Things die so other things can live. Grasp this concept and stop trying to act like humans aren’t part of this natural cycle.

  18. There is a really good book called The World Without Us by Alan Weisman that talks about how big animals like elephants used to go through dense forests and knock down trees, and open the area up so smaller animals would come in behind them and graze. Basically grasslands to forests was a cycle and the animals maintained this natural process from big to small, all important cogs in the wheel. Seemed totally plausible to me.

    • Todd:

      We are fortunate enough to live in a time where so much—but probably far from all—is beginning to be understood and as bonus, it gives us important insight into how we fit into the cog of the machine of purposelessness (except for whatever purpose any individual sets out to make of it).

  19. Joel Salatin on mob grazing:

  20. Gabriella Kadar says:

    This week-end I was reading some of Professor Robert Fogel’s work. The working papers are available free on NBER. He states that the nutritional status of people in India is like Europe 200 years ago. (Prof. Fogel is a health economist, nobel prize 1993… and generally I am loathe to be impressed by economists, but Prof. Fogel is a mensch.) India, he says has issues due to asceticism applied to diet.

    My perspective of this is there are at least (and nobody really knows because hundreds of millions of people are uncounted) 1.3 BILLION people consuming a vegetarian diet (vegetarian meaning mostly starch eating: rice, pulses and wheat) who have under- and malnutrition. A country can’t ever possibly be ‘in the running’ for power and wealth if most of it’s people have malnutrition. Ever.

    This is why America has become so great. Starving immigrants came to New York and gorged on oysters. Zinc: brain food. No wonder New York became such an amazing centre for everything. (I’m not going to go into details here.) People came to Canada from European impoverishment and they ate meat. Right now we have a growing Muslim population from countries where there is malnutrition. These people eat huge amounts of meat. Their children are attending the best public schools in the country with the full encouragement of their parents (male and female students). Whiteys are in for the surpise of their lives when these kids grow up. Brain developed muslims aren’t going to just accept the rubbish spewed by the imams. Wait for it. Nutrition is a prerequisite for revolution.

    The Chinese have suffered through famines of varying aetiology. Food security has been established in China. But in India or Pakistan or Cambodia? Not at all. Too much crass caste-ism and disgraceful bureaucracy, graft, fraud, you name it. But people with malnutrition don’t have the energy to fight. They lack the cognitive ability due to adverse effect to the brain to mount an offensive against oppressive circumstance. And they’ve been brainwashed to eat starches almost to the exclusion of fresh vegetables and animal protein. So Darwinian or not, they are dropping dead during early middle age from the sorts of chronic diseases that Americans manage through drugs and somewhat through diet. A country can get nowhere when its citizens are disabled due to stupid religious dietary restrictions and financial limitations and cultural bullshit. There’s an awful lot of people as a percentage of world population so we can’t just pretend they don’t exist. Their agricultural practices in order to fulfill their weird dietary ‘needs’ degrade the environment just as Richard’s choice of information above indicates.

    This morning a woman was interviewed who has been in all sorts of places in the world and she was refering to Senegal and child marriage which is being snafued by education: When women are educated, the economy improves.

    If you want to think like sheep, eat like sheep. If you want to think like a tiger, you have to eat meat.

  21. Interesting stuff! I have no trouble believing that a thriving ecosystem in an arrid region can easily be screwed up by bad agricultural or livestock management practices, thereby degrading its food production potential from useful to useless.

    But I wonder if it is possible to infer from this that a world of 10 Billion people could live largely from well managed livestock herds?

    In the video, he seems to be talking mainly about arrid regions unsuitable for farming that were lightly populated, but able to feed the themselves from grazing livestock, until something got screwed up. It isn’t clear to me what exactly got screwed up in the first place, only that trying to fix it after the fact by thinning out the herds didn’t work. Can we rule out the possibility that overgrazing of land, coupled with inappropriate herd management, didn’t trigger the initial spiral into disaster? A return to proper herd management might allow restoration of an ecosystem to grazing, but might not allow very high average grazing densities over the course of a year.

    To explain: Just because you have pictures of very large herds of densely packed animals doesn’t mean that you can support a lot of herds like this on a given piece of land. The key is that they have to eat, void, trample, and then move on to other untrampled areas. So maybe to support a viable herd, that large herd can occupy no more than say 0.3% of the available grassland at any one time. That would allow the herd to graze about 1 day at any one site, and thereby be able to survive through the entire year (365 days), to the next seasonal replenishment of the grasses. You really have to understand the average annual production of meat based on the total grazing area needed to support one herd. I heard no statistics on that, and that would seem to be critical to understanding what is possible on a global basis. What kind of population density can be supported on arrid grasslands with traditional/natural grazing practices?

    • I think the more important question is SHOULD we support all the people currently living on the planet or SHOULD we allow natural selection to cull the human herd via selecting for certain traits and not for others? I used to think the answer was yes to the first question and no to the second. Now, after having gone “Paleo” so to speak, I’m not so sure.

    • Joshua says:

      Jen – who is “we”? There IS NO “should” with regard to “we”.

      For me, I have no obligation to support anybody other than my family. I will voluntarily support my friends if they need help, but somebody in Africa is most likely WAY better off without me trying to blindly help them. “For god’s sake, please stop the aid!” http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/spiegel-interview-with-african-economics-expert-for-god-s-sake-please-stop-the-aid-a-363663.html

      Likewise, I have no obligation to allow natural selection to do a god damn thing. Nature is not something separate from me. If a human animal survives by means of it’s brain, I regard that as perfectly natural.

    • “It isn’t clear to me what exactly got screwed up in the first place, only that trying to fix it after the fact by thinning out the herds didn’t work. Can we rule out the possibility that overgrazing of land, coupled with inappropriate herd management, didn’t trigger the initial spiral into disaster?”

      That was pretty well laid out, I thought.

      It was overgrazing from too small herds. The solution is massively larger herds, but kept continuously on the move. Pee, poop, trample it into the ground, knocking down the remaining grass for ground cover, keep moving.

    • We = “the human race as a whole”. What I was trying to get was a lot of people seem to be asking the wrong question here (doesn’t look like this is you though). I was going for more people who ask how do “we” support 10 or whatever billion people with whatever means they come up with are thinking too big and on too large a scale. I, like you now scale it back down to my immediate circle which does not include starving people in Africa.

      Seems to me nature will do the culling anyways, no matter what “we” do. I agree that I am not separate from nature nor will I ever be and if I think I am, I will get selected out of the evolutionary picture.

    • Jordan T says:

      @Jen
      Nature is already doing the culling. For instance, 17,000 children died of hunger today. Finding better and more efficient ways to grow food benefits everybody, even if you only care about yourself.

    • @Jordan T,

      Exactly!

  22. Apologizes for the misspelling above – arid as in dry, not arrid as in deoderant

  23. Your second video link ties in nicely to your recent financial themes. “Money is not really a value.” Allan Savory hits on it exactly: security is a value. If a bit of money helps you get there, great, but it’s meant to be used, not sat on. Best of all, when someone owes you favors, that’s the real value behind money, and when it’s part of a social network so stable that your grandchildren can cash in favors after you’re dead, that’s real security. The whole idea that anarchists are selfish, empathy-handicapped assholes gets me livid — it’s the opposite.

  24. Resurgent says:

    “..And the efficiency is growing so quickly that someday, PVs will generate power even in overcast and if you do that math, it’s billions of acres and all the power plants are already in place. They’re called roofs..”

    Richard – Right in your neck of the woods, there is a company that is now making commercial solar cells that work in overcast conditions and convert non-visible spectrum sunlight as well. Truly revolutionary.

    http://www.sj-solar.com/about_us/index.php

    • A former neighbor is a residential sales rep for Solar City. Basically, what they do if someone doesn’t want to purchase the equipment and install outright is to install it for free in a sort of lease arrangement. They then take over your electric bill and you pay a markup, that markup being the lease payment on the equipment. The install is further protected by a lean on the property such that if you sell, the solar company gets paid off and the new owner owns the equipment free & clear.

      This is going to explode. Here in San Jose, my friend talls me that on average a 3-br house with good solar coverage can save about $130 per month.

  25. Hey Richard,

    I’ve actually been on this knowledge for a few years, first learned of it from a Don Matesz post that is now deleted. I clipped it to evernote on 3/31/11, and so while it’s deleted from his blog now, I’ve still got the text.

    It’s short, but there’s a longer Allen Savory video linked, take a look: http://vimeo.com/8239427

    Geoff

  26. Jordan T says:

    I don’t think most vegetarians would be against letting grazing animals roam, their issue is with the moral implications of then EATING the grazing animals, as well as the moral implications of our system of factory farming. Considering, like was mentioned, that humans are unlikely to let herds of wolves to the level needed to establish a functioning ecosystem, then some level of human culling will be necessary. If we understand the phenomenon of vegetarianism as a response to the factory farming and overconsumption of meat in first world countries, then I would expect a lot of them would be ok with this alternative system. I’ve been a veg for a long time so meat is kind of gross to me, but I don’t mind if other people eat it in moderate amounts from humane sources. I’m doubtful that the system presented in the video is efficient enough by meat/hectare to replace modern factory farming, so it doesn’t really solve the issue that a lot of vegetarians in first world countries care about. People have been grazing cows for thousands of years, I doubt American farmers missed that chance. The implications for low density desertification-threatened regions seems promising, though, so by all means I support Allen Savory in his cause.

    I understand your issue with vegetarians, but the language of this article seems to be propagating the snarky, self righteous vibe of the discussion, rather than helping to mitigate it. Everybody has something they are self righteous about, why don’t we try to find common ground and foster cooperation rather than vitriol? An eye for an eye doesn’t really work in this situation, if you really care about health and the environment rather than one-upping some vegans.

    • “why don’t we try to find common ground”

      There is no common ground to find between those who use animals products vs. those who don’t. Essentially, I really only recognize omnivory or vegan. A “vegetarian” that eats eggs & dairy is using animal products. As a regular vegan reader who tolerates me pointed out in another post, my current raw milk diet where I may eat an egg or two each day and maybe a potato, falls under the conditions of lacto-ovo vegetarianism and yet is 95% animal based.

      We’re omnivores and thus, by definition, veganism harms people and I will never have any common ground with that.

      Oh, BTW, factory farming is changing. You might find this comment with a guy who works with both grassfed and feedlot operations interesting.

      http://freetheanimal.com/2013/03/grass-premium-price.html#comment-396262

    • One-upping … smashing their ethos into little bits. tomato, tomahto.

  27. I will keep retweeting this post for weeks to come…THAT’S how important I think this TED talk is.

    Marc

  28. Gosh, I love this post! At first, I was like whoa… little harsh towards the vegans/vegetarians. I read further, and your overall point makes perfect sense and my mind has been officially blown! Thanks for that knowledge!

    I do believe eating grass-fed meat is the best way to go, not only is it healthier for us; it’s also healthier for the animals. A lot less cruel than what we’re doing to them now in regards to the meat industry. I’m glad to also know that it’s great for the environment.

    …I’m hitting myself upside the head because I never thought of this! D’oh!

  29. Richard, this is similar to many marine ecosystems also. For my PhD I worked in a marine ecosystem in New Zealand and prior to it becoming ‘protected’ it was a barren wasteland, essentially a desert, but they called it urchin barrens. Why? Because sea urchins ate any bit of algae that tried to settle and grow there. When it because a protected marine reserve the fish came back, and with the fish came their teeth, and they like Sea Urchins, so they eat them, and then algae could finally settle and grow, and voila, a fully functioning. flourishing ecosystem. Of course it helps that people can’t fish but there is flow on effects since the marine reserve is so densely populated all those little fish larvae leave the marine reserve supplying fish stocks, and thus fisherman, outside of the reserve.

  30. Holy crap that is amazing!!!! I’m thinking about New Zealand where I am from and all the livestock which are grass fed and they rotate them from paddock to paddock. People always talk about how NZ soil is so good and this may be why?

  31. Karl M. says:

    Mob Grazing is already being used in the US:

    http://www.angusbeefbulletin.com/ArticlePDF/MobGrazing%2003_10%20ABB.pdf

    http://beefmagazine.com/pasture-range/ranchers-sing-praises-mob-grazing-cattle

    It lowers costs, improves the soil, improves grass yields, and increases livestock yields. But it still takes a lot of land to produce meat, particularly in drier places. In terms of calories per acre, it is very hard to beat a well irrigated potato field.

  32. A great Q&A of Savory to add to the required watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxPNPXbVtfI

    Awesome quote from near 35 minutes in:

    “In the situation we face in the world today, let me assure you from all that I know of many years of struggling with this and swimming upstream: there is nobody at the helm. There is no leader. There is nobody that will lead you out of this. The leadership absolutely cannot come from any institution. It cannot come from a government, an international agency, a big NGO, a university. The leadership cannot come from an institution. The research shows you that, because institutions are almost immune to new knowledge.”

  33. Hi,

    My impression is that the arguments presented here have not been thought and/or researched enough before jumping to conclusions just because they conform own convenient (=that support your own status-quo) beliefs.

    Having grown-up on a farm where I’ve see with my own eyes exactly the approach described by Mr Savory applied to our land, I was very, very perplexed, euphemistically speaking, while watching his talk.

    Now, Mr Savory does not even understand the difference between a degraded land and a ecological desert (“algae crust”) which is actually part of the ecosystem and certainly not a “cancer”.

    Yet, let’s take him seriously and we will see that even the scientific community seems to be quite skeptical about it.

    “In short, Savory’s method won’t scale, and some ways he is substantially wrong.”, Michael Tobis (Atmospheric and Oceanic Scientist).

    Symbiosis between grazing herds and grasses has historically worked best to sequester carbon when the animals lived the entirety of their lives within the ecosystem, including the decomposition, and no human intervention, declared Dr. Sylvia Fallon of the Natural Resources Defense.

    I won’t go further but before you or/and the other commentators above shout “vegan heretics” to anybody, let me point out that much if not most of Mr Savory objections and studies disproving his conclusions do not appear to come from vegans.

    Somebody here talked about logic…masturbating their own mind in search of a ideal world which should supposedly fit their own deranged habits better than the ones we have evolved in millions of years is frankly speaking not showing much mental sanity…let alone logic.

    Best Regards,
    Gio

Trackbacks

  1. […] few minutes of it, but I wound up being fascinated and watching the whole thing. Very interesting! Sustainability Sushmainability: Hey Vegans, How Does a Dozen Grassfed Cattle Per Person on Earth Sou… Reply With […]

  2. […] this one. Even in spite of the guy who's greening the world, this has got to be the best TED talk I have ever seen. Perhaps, because it contemplates "greening" […]

  3. […] reminds me of this post from freetheanimal about Allan Savory and his greening […]

  4. […] handringing bullshit about "sustainability"—which is of course bullshit on its face anyway (see Allan Savory). But why argue with idiots and morons? Just tell them that the combined biomass of ants, termites […]

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