BiodiversityDeforestationDesertificationFood ShortagesGlobal Warming/Climate ChangePlant SystemsSoil Erosion & ContaminationSoil RehabilitationTrees

Forests Keep Drylands Working (John D. Liu video)

John D. Liu of the EEMP, who has partnered with us in spreading the permaculture message, has created yet another excellent documentary — this time focussing on drylands, their past function and their present dysfunction through a broadscale loss of forest cover, and its impact on soil loss and on the hydrological cycle.

In this video we travel vicariously with John as he takes us from Jordan to Africa to Asia and the Americas, showing us both degradation and restoration — and sharing the inspirational message we all need to hear: that we can undo the damage we’ve inflicted on planet earth, our home.

Further Reading/Watching:


  1. This is a little off topic but I was just curious how you guys feel about Allan Savory and holistic management. I first heard about the idea of sequestering carbon in soil from Tony Lovell and I’ve been intrigued ever since. Savory’s claims about reversing desertification with livestock though are kind of hard to believe and it seems like half the people I listen to consider it a destructive proposal and the other half think it could save the world. And I’ve seen similar arguments over the use of fire that indigenous populations used to manage land. Obviously it worked for them since they survived in the same place for thousands of years but considering they had only a fraction of our population can similar techniques really help us at this point? Doing the math it seems like the only chance for true sustainability with 7 billion people would be to convert our huge monocultures into diverse food forest systems and relocate people from cities to the land that they depend on. I know that’s not exactly a popular idea but technically something like that could work, right?

  2. Hi Dave,

    You’ve answered your own question. All of these systems (other than mono-cultures) that you mentioned are excellent. They all work to a greater or lesser extent. Animals (including people) are part of the ecology. Fire too is part of the ecology. What these systems all have in common is reduced intensity and they also allow the soils and flora to recover at their own pace, thus continuously building top soil which also retains water in the landscape. Food forests are really interesting because they allow different parts of the food forest to come into productivity at different times of the year which provides produce at different times. Biological systems never evolved to be continuously exploited and that is the unspoken weakness of a mono-culture.

  3. Nice work again John

    As well as C sequestration and the resulting hydrological benefits, another layer which would have been useful to mention are the solar radiation dynamics. The sun’s energy can either power evapotranspiration in a forest system with available moisture (latent heat, no net heat gain) or be stored in the thermal mass of bare soil (sensible heat, re-radiated with net heat gain), each providing very different positive feedback loops.

    Kravcik and Pakorney outline this clearly in ‘Water For the Recovery of the Climate – A New Water Paradigm”, which is summarised in this post:

  4. Hi Dave, it’s how the animals grazed that weakened the system. Over-grazing, or grazing to the nub, before moving the herd is what damages the system. Shorter grazing cycles in each area that will allow the plants to stay alive and recover, utilizing the herds’ wastes, while grazing other areas is the life giving system.

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