Seth Itzkan

Planet-TECh Associates
Somerville, MA, United States

About Seth

Bio

Futurist
www.planet-tech.com

My TEDx Talk
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOpoRdpvlh0

Email
seth.itzkan@gmail.com

Areas of Expertise

Future Studies, Ecological Restoration for Carbon Capture

An idea worth spreading

Holistic Management

My TED story

Gave a TEDx talk in 2012
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOpoRdpvlh0

Comments & conversations

181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
This is also true for plants Anthony, as I assume you know. Plant diseases and plant pestilence is a major problem and has been a cause of famine for millennia. Nothing new there. The healthiest ecosystems will have a robust variety of plants and animals, as is exactly what the Savory method helps achieve. Perhaps you should learn more about it.
181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Hi Bash, Thanks for your interest. I think, however, you are missing the point, so let me help to elucidate. It isn't Allan who is responsible for the death of the elephants, but the scientific paradigm he was raised in that believed that desertification was caused by overgrazing of animals, in this case, even wild animals. He was just a product of a system, and many scientists and the government concurred with his assessment. The fact is, unfortunately, many scientists and governments still concur with this opinion and a great deal of policy reflects it, both in the management of wildlife "reserves" as well as on range land. Savory, at least, had the wherewithal to break from that paradigm and to acknowledge that overgrazing is not the cause of desertification and that after the culling, the land just got worse. . So, he is now, tragically, ostracized by both the scientific community that justified the culling, and still sees the process as warranted, as well as the environmentalist community that despises it. We should be saluting him for recognizing the error and dedicating his life to correcting it. Regarding paying attention to what he says, his methodology is reversing desertification around the world, bringing back biodiversity and wild grazers and their predators, as well as helping villagers to regain their livelihoods. I've seen this myself in Africa. If "the gods" had any say in this, it is obvious that their opinion is for us to pay heed. We are all better for it, I believe. You will see many examples of restoration on the website www.savoryinstitute.com. This is also a key issue for climate change mitigation, because we have to reverse desertification and soil formation is a prodigious sink for atmospheric carbon. Thanks again for your interest.
181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Hi Anthony, Thanks for your interest. There is lot to learn from permaculture, and the example you point to in the URL above, truly is impressive. I would request, however, that you better familiarize yourself with what Savory is actually advocating and doing because I think you will be impressed and change your tune a bit. It is completely in tune with permacultural methods and philosophies and be complementary and work side-by-side. I have been to Africa and seen the villages and spoken with the villagers who have benefited from this process. They have improved land that supports improved biodiversity, and water cycle, they have higher yield for their crops, and they have increased animal and vegetable products. The important thing to realize is that livestock are already completely embedded into the culture, economics and sustenance of a great deal of the world's population. They aren't just going to go away. This method shows how to use them better. It doesn't necessarily call for more, just better management of what is there. In Africa they form what is called a "community herd" that is a combination of all the small family collections. So, instead of twenty families with one to five animals each, or so, just letting them graze randomly, and deleteriously, they form a single herd of approximately 100 animals that are managed for beneficial environmental impact. Note, there aren't any more animals, they are just managed differently.
181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Hi Steve, Thanks for your interests. There are two issues here, 1) the management of livestock, and 2) the management of wild animals. Let's start with the first. It is well understood that the mismanagement of livestock, and land to suit grazing, has contributed to desertification through a) killing off wild animals, b) cutting down forests, and c) grazing inappropriately. Savory is the fist to acknowledge this, which is why he hated livestock and ranchers for so long. What he discovered, however, is that if you manage them differently, you can have a different outcome. As he said, he adopted this approach to mimic nature in areas where there were no more of the great herds that used to exist. So, he was using livestock to reverse the damage that was already done. As the grasslands recovered, so did the biodiversity - the birds, the bugs, etc., and the habitat for wild grazing animals and their predators expanded. So, the wild animals are benefited from the restorative effect of properly managing the livestock. Seeing as villagers in Africa and ranchers in the US depend on the livestock, they may as well learn to manage them properly. So, this is what is happening. As they do, the land recovers benefiting all creatures, wild and domestic. Regarding the wild animals. These, of course, can't be managed like livestock. You can't just tell a herd of wildebeest to do what you want. Interestingly, though, it is true that the Native Americas, to some extend, did direct the movement of buffalo with fire. They would intentionally burn areas, because they knew the buffalo and other grazers would be attracted to the new grass that would grow after the burn. So, this was a type of management of wild herds. That works where you have healthy grasslands and robust herds, but where there is widespread desertification and only remnant herds, you need something to help with restoration, and Savory has learned that livestock, properly management, can achieve this.
181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Hi Jacob, Thanks for your interest. I would like to suggest that actually Savory is trying to protect all ecosystems, including forests and fisheries. This is because the mismanage of grasslands, not just for grazing, but also for agriculture, is causing deforestation and the devastation of fisheries (through drainage and runoff). So, by using domestic ruminants, as Savory suggests, we are directly restoring grasslands, but also indirectly restoring fisheries and protecting the surrounding forests. It's all connected.
181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Yes, certainly, we must also stop burning fossil fuels. Both need to happen, and obviously both need to be scaled. The emissions need to scale down, and the carbon capture through soil formation needs to scale up. Regarding the wiki article you cite, I think there is a lot of confusion and uncertainly about that. What does it mean to be saturated? Soils in the Midwest used to be meters deep. In places now it is only inches. Do you think if we started restoring it would just end in 15 to 30 years, even if it was only restored to a quarter of what it once was? Time is not the salient factor. It's % concentration of soil organic matter (SOM). If a soil was 6% SOM and now it's 1% SOM, then the issue is how long (or how quickly) can we restore it back to its native level, i.e. 6%. If we could do that in 15 to 30 years it would be awesome. The quicker the better. The deeper question is, could we achieve a SOM level even greater than it was. That seems unlikely, but it would be a glorious thing to even restore half of what we once had. The point is grasslands offer a prodigious opportunity for carbon capture, on par with what is need to significantly lower atmospheric levels, assuming we also cut emissions. But to activate this store, ruminants are essential. There is no future without grassland restoration, and there is no grassland restoration of the scale needed, without recreating the beneficial ruminant impact grasslands evolved with. Thanks again for your clear thinking and curiosity. It's refreshing to actually discuss this matter intelligently and respectfully.
181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Hi Ben, Thanks for the vote of confidence. Here are a couple of points to add to your excellent summary Q&A above. Regarding the burning. You are pretty much right on, but there is more to it. The burning also exposes bare ground and that leads to erosion and oxidation of soil organic matter, so the total carbon lost is greater than what is burnt or recaptured in plants. Much of the eroding soil carbon goes to the oceans, and, as you eluded to, over time, the soil organic matter is lost and desertification ensues. The grasslands must have the trampling and biological decay provided by animals. Regarding Carbon Capture In order to get to pre-industrial levels of atmospheric CO2 we need to get down below 300 ppm. For all practical purposes, let's say we're now at 400 ppm. That means a reduction of 100 ppm. This is approximately 200 gigatons of carbon (GT C). So, we need to capture that amount. Is it possible? Let's see. There are approximately 15 billion acres of degraded range and agricultural land around the world, of which about 10 is in range / prairie / savanna and 5 is developed ag land. If we have 15 billion acres to work with, that means we can achieve our goal if we are able to capture 13 tons of carbon per acre. Thus, a net increase of just 13 tons of carbon per acre on the world’s 15 billion acres of range and ag land would sequester the equivalent of all the atmospheric carbon that separates us from pre-industrial levels. Seeing as some prairie soils have (or had) hundreds of tons of carbon per acres, this is not an outrageous goal. Grassland restoration can sequester all the “legacy” carbon in the atmosphere. It is prodigious sink we need to engage. Thanks again for you excellent points and questions. BTW, feel free to write me directly. My email address in on my profile.
181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Hi Phillippa, Thanks for your interest. I came to this through my own interest in climate change mitigation, because grassland restoration can be an important approach to atmospheric carbon capture. I spent six weeks at the center in Africa in 2011 and saw some of the places shown in the talk. I also met with local villagers that are benefiting from the process. First, as a point of clarity, HM is a decision making process. It is not a fixed regime. The focus is on proper animal management, and this may include a greater herd density, but not necessarily more animals. Very quickly answers to your questions as I understand it: Methane Again, we are talking about better livestock management, forming herds from small groups and moving according to a well-monitored plan that restores land, not necessarily more animals. When livestock are managed properly, they contribute to soil formation and grassland recovery. This builds habitat for bacteria that metabolize methane. These bacteria live in the top layers of the soil that are aerobic. The deeper this layer, the greater the habitat for these helpful creatures. Semi-arid regions Again, HM is a decision making process to achieve optimal results for the given environment. As far as I know, this has yielded beneficial ecological results in all the areas it's been properly applied (not just increasing density, but doing the planning and monitoring). These areas include semi-arid regions of the Africa, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia, and North America, including west Texas, Colorado and the Chihuahuan Desert in Mexico. See http://planet-tech.com/blog/land-restoration-holistic-management Drought: Remember that as the land improves, it also become more tolerant of drought. Non-the-less, in a severe drought, as you say, changes will be necessary, and the decision making process will help inform proper action.
181813
Seth Itzkan
Posted over 1 year ago
Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change
Well, seeing as you inquired, sort of, my future endeavor of choice is to return to Africa to continue to observe the HM practice in the villages there. I was there for six weeks in 2011 and what I saw was truly inspiring. I wish everyone could go and see for themselves. I have a YouTube playlist from my visit you might be interested in. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL79210F920CC4EF1F&feature=view_all