Taking water as seriously as the Dutch have done since the Middle Ages and the Arabs did in Mediaeval Spain

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Colin Tudge writes:

The August meeting of the Savory Institute in London was on what Zimbabwean biologist Allan Savory calls Holistic Management, which in large part means the management of grassland and of the herbivores that graze on them in ways that steadily increase the carbon content of the soil.

His techniques have been tried the world over – in North and South America; Africa; Australia; and China. The results have been extraordinary – the barren uplands of Ethiopia and the crumbling, bare, loess hills of China, transformed within a few years into lush savannah, without irrigation and all the problems it brings; indeed without civil engineering of any kind except some terracing. Below: transformation in Zimbabwe

savory grassland transformation

Contrariwise, farmers in the US whose land habitually flooded have found that if they manage the higher ground as Savory recommends, the floods no longer occur.

With Britain already caught up in an escalating cycle of flood and drought (almost certainly related to global warming despite the deniers) it seems obvious that Defra and BBSRC ought, if they are truly to justify their support from the public purse, to be taking such ideas very seriously indeed. Overall we ought to be taking water as seriously as the Dutch have done since the Middle Ages and the Arabs did in Mediaeval Spain.

But David Cameron’s great contribution during the floods of a few months ago was to promise unlimited sand-bags (until they run out) and, very properly, to praise the heroic efforts of the rescue services, including the army. Since then we have more discussion on the cost of drains and sea-walls and the rest but no discussion at all as far as I can see on possible changes in agricultural practice – even though there is abundant evidence worldwide and through all of history, and not simply from the Savory Institute, that agricultural practice is key to water management.

In short, with 10,000 years of agricultural experience behind us and all the fabulous resources of modern science, we are repeating the mistakes of all the civilizations of the past that brought out their own demise through lack of land management. Yet all the government has to offer is more of the same, while the upper echelons of academe continue to defend the corporate-government coalition that runs the world, with appeals to market forces to make us richer so we can eventually build more drains and sea-defences.

It won’t do. Intellectuals who seem content to be advocates should, as they say in Yorkshire, think on. People at large should be very angry – much angrier than they seem to be at the sheer awfulness of present day governance and the complaisance of academe. Above all, though, we must take matters into our own hands. We must bring about the Renaissance despite the powers that be. It’s sad that this should be the case, but it is.

Colin Tudge, Wolvercote, August 4 2014.

Extract from a post on the Political Concern website.

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