Slate Piece on Earth Day
It has been a long-running quest of mine to debunk the myth of “rotational” or “holistic” grazing. Allan Savory’s recent TED talk drew fresh attention to the issue in a way that seemed to evoke rabid salivation in those who think they can eat animals as a way to ameliorate climate change. Savory’s talk went viral, foodie environmentalists everywhere started sharpening their steak knives, and I leaped headlong into the fray with this piece, published today in Slate, a venue that—to its everlasting credit—is fearless about taking on the status quo. If you are so inclined, express your opinion about the article there. It helps.
The underlying premise that renders moot all efforts to graze animals holistically is the fact that humans cannot, no matter how eloquent they are, create ecosystems that replicate the shifting relational matrix that we call nature. It almost seems absurd that this limitation would even have to be pointed in the first place, but every time I look up there seems to be another old white man claiming that he has the key to capturing and mimicking the infinite complexity of global ecosystems. These people call themselves environmentalists, but their approach to the ecosystem is as arrogant and aggressive as that of any corn-growing, GMO-using monoculturalist. The best thing we can do to any ecosystem (he said on Earth Day 2013) is leave it well enough alone. Back off, human.
Removing domesticated animals from the planet is the best way we can do this. Livestock emit more GHG emissions than cars. They use more water than any other aspect of agriculture. They trample potentially healthy land into hardpan. They take up one third of the globe’s arable land. They are a menace to the environment and no amount of theorizing about how herds and predators once kept carbon-sequestering grasslands safe and healthy will rectify the reality that the reason those grasslands are no longer safe and healthy is because humans domesticated animals to eat them.
The complexity of the earth is beyond us. What we need on Earth Day is a recognition of this reality. Some call it humility.