Episode 40: Allan Savory talks about the global importance of restoring the earth’s grasslands

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Jun 20, 20171h 8m
Episode 40: Allan Savory talks about the global importance of restoring the earth’s grasslands
Jun 20 '171h 8m
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Joining us for this special edition of STEM-Talk is Robb Wolf, who will co-host today’s show with Ken Ford, STEM-Talk’s regular co-host and chairman of the Double-Secret Selection Committee which selects all the STEM-Talk guests. Wolf is the New York Times best-selling author of “The Paleo Solution” and “Wired to Eat.” He’s also a friend of today’s guest, Alan Savory, a world-renowned ecologist who advocates for the restoration of the earth’s grasslands. “I’ve known Allan for years as a passionate advocate for restoring the health of the earth, especially grasslands. So when Ken invited me to join him and co-host the podcast with Allan, I jumped at the chance,” said Wolf, who is filling in for regular STEM-Talk co-host Dawn Kernagis. Grasslands take up a third of the earth’s land surface. And, as you will learn in today’s podcast, they are in serious trouble. Seventy percent of grasslands have been degraded by global trends ranging from deforestation to droughts to agricultural and livestock practices. As more and more of earth’s fertile land rapidly turns into deserts, Savory travels the world promoting holistic management as a way to reverse thousands of years of human-caused desertification. Savory is an ecologist, international consultant and the president of the Savory Institute, which promotes large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands. Desertification, which Savory says is just a fancy word for land that’s turning to desert, directly affects more than 250 million people worldwide and has placed another billion people at risk, according to the United Nations. Savory was born in Southern Rhodesia, which is now the nation of Zimbabwe, and went to college in South Africa where he majored in zoology and biology. He went to work as a research biologist and game ranger in what was then known as Northern Rhodesia, but is now the nation of Zambia. Later in his career, he became a farmer and game rancher in Zimbabwe. As a game ranger in the 1960s, Allen made a significant breakthrough in understanding what was causing the degradation of the world’s grassland ecosystems and became a consultant who worked with groups on four continents to develop sustainable solutions. Most of his time as a game ranger was spent in the country’s savannas and grasslands among antelopes, elephants and lions. It was then that Allan started to notice that the healthiest grasslands were those in which large herds of wild grazers stayed bunched together and were constantly on the move because of predators that hunted in packs. It was this insight that led Savory to develop what he refers to as a “holistic management framework,” a planning process that mimics nature as a means to heal the environment. Once an opponent of livestock, he grew to believe that increasing the number of livestock on grasslands rather than fencing them off for conservation was the way to stop desertification. But when civil war broke in Rhodesia in the ‘60s, Allan ended up leading an elite military squad to fight communist guerrillas. In the latter days of the civil war, Allan became a member of Parliament and the leader of the opposition to the ruling party. He was exiled in 1979 as a result of his opposition to the ruling party and immigrated to the United States. In 1992, Savory and his wife, Jody Butterfield, formed the non-profit Africa Centre for Holistic Management and donated a ranch that serves as learning site for people all over Africa. He and Butterfield then co-founded the Savory Institute in 2009, whose mission is to promote restoration of the world’s grasslands through holistic management. The couple lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and have co-authored books together, including “Holistic Management: A Commonsense Revolution to Restore Our Environment,” which came out last year. In 2003, Allen received Australia’s International Banksia Award for the person or organization doing the most for the environment on a g...

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