Chapter 12. “A Little Bit of a Big Amount”

Even though he is hunting humans he is constantly observing and thinking about the condition of the land over which he pursues his quarry. He tracks people over game areas, tribal areas and commercial farms. Everywhere he inspects plants and soils, looking for the signs of human passage.

Allan Savory, with Jody Butterfield, Holistic Management Handbook: Healthy Land, Healthy Profits (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2nd ed., 1999), “Ch. 5: The Predator-Prey Connection.”

The original passage, which I’ve paraphrased, reads:

“Over the next few years I spent thousands of hours tracking people over all sorts of country, day after day. This discipline greatly sharpened my observational skills and also taught me much about the land, as although I was hunting humans, my thoughts were constantly on the state of the lands over which we were fighting. I doubt many scientists ever had such an opportunity for learning. I tracked people over game areas, tribal areas, commercial farms and ranches, and over all different soil and vegetation types in all rainfalls. Often Iecovered many different areas in a single day as I flew by helicopter from one trouble spot to the next. Everywhere I had to inspect plants and soils for the faintest sign of disturbance by people trying to leave no hint of their passage.”

Page 223

Agricultural debt has increased from just over ten billion dollars in 1994 to nearly sixty billion dollars in 2009.

N. Burgess, “Agricultural Debt from 1994 to 2009,” sourced from Westpac Economics & Reserve Bank of Australia, 2010.

Many of the farms we drive past on our journey are surviving on ‘drought assistance’ payments handed out by the government.

“Assistance Guide: Drought Support Workers,” New South Wales Government pamphlet, August 2010. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/emergency/drought/assistance/support/nsw-drought-assistance-guide

Some believe the only way for the country to survive is with a reduced population.

Sandra Kanck, “Gillard on Population: An Outbreak of Commonsense?” Sustainable Population Australia media release, 28 June 2010. http://www.population.org.au/index.php/publications/media-releases/media-releases-2010/552-gillard-on-population-an-outbreak-of-commonsense

What he said was extraordinary. The panel was ‘hugely impressed’.

“The Manchester Report,” The Guardian, July 2009, Post event booklet sent to attendees. p. 13.

Page 225

A widely quoted statistic is that one farmer kills himself every four days. That figure is actually a decade old but things have hardly improved in the intervening period.

Transcript, “Episode 3,” The Decade Old Headline, Australia Broadcasting Corporation Television MediaWatch, 2007. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s1869891.htm

Page 228

it’s a glove made of neoprene rubber with an inbuilt beer bottle holder

“About the Stubbyglove,” Stubbyglove website. http://www.freewebstore.org/StubbygloveEnterprises/storepage225698.aspx

Page 230

The last warm period should have ended two thousand years ago says Ruddiman, but agriculture has warmed up the atmosphere and held it off. ‘Farming is not nature,’ he writes, ‘but rather the largest alteration of the Earth’s surface that humans have yet achieved.’

William Ruddiman, Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate (Princeton,N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005).

According to the UN’s ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ report, the total area of land given over to grazing amounts to twentysix per cent of the ice-free surface of the planet.

Henning Steinfeld et al., “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options,” Livestock, Development and Environment Initiative (Rome: UN Food and Agricultural Organization, 2006). ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e00.pdf

Methane is indeed twenty-three times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas and the UN estimates that livestock contribute eighty-six million tonnes of it to the atmosphere every year

Ibid., p. 95.

Page 234

…when it comes to per capita emissions, Australia is one of the world’s worst offenders, with figures nearly triple that of your average European

“CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion: Highlights” (Paris, France: International Energy Agency, 2009). http://www.iea.org/co2highlights/CO2highlights.pdf

…the Blackstone Ranch in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, sequestered over 13,600 tonnes of CO2 over ninety-four hectares in just one year (that’s nearly 145 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year), while doubling its livestock and increasing gross income by 395 per cent.

Ann Adams, “Carbon Neutral Ranching: Blackstone Ranch,” Land and Livestock Magazine (March/April 2010):15–16.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates there are 3.5 billion hectares of agricultural grasslands on our planet.

Eleonora Panunzi, “Are Grasslands Under Threat? Brief Analysis of FAO Statistical Data on Pasture and Fodder Crops” (Rome: UN Food and Agriculture Organization, July 2008). http://www.fao.org/ag/agp/agpc/doc/grass_stats/grass-stats.htm

In July 2009, the Portuguese government introduced a multimillion-dollar soil carbon offset scheme based on dryland pasture improvement covering forty?two thousand hectares and compliant with the Kyoto Protocol. The scheme pays farmers to establish biodiverse pastures to increase soil carbon.

Tiago Domingos, “Carbon Sequestration in Sown Biodiverse Pasture,” Project Terraprima—Portuguese Carbon Fund, presented at UN Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, 10 Dec. 2009.

Page 236

The average cost of production for a kilogram of beef in New South Wales is Aus$1.60. Ken has just told me his costs are ‘about fifty-three or fifty-four cents.’

Cost of beef production, 2009 figure from Holmes and Sackett. http://www.hs-a.com.au/index.htm

Page 238

According to the Soil Carbon Coalition, an Australian non-profit that works to spread soil carbon knowledge, ‘organic matter can hold four times its weight in water.’

Peter Donovan, “The Calculation: Soil Organic Matter Needed to Bring Down Atmospheric Carbon,” Soil Carbon Coalition website: http://www.soilcarboncoalition.org/calculation

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