A conversation with Rodger Savory, ecologist, land manager, and ranch owner, about scale and cows, how to kickstart regeneration in desert situations, changing local weather patterns, abundance, soil bacteria, conventional agriculture, WW2 and much more.
Many millions of hectares of agricultural land around the world have turned into deserts, and many millions are about to turn into deserts with current agricultural practices. Brittle environments (with a rain and dry season) won’t regenerate by themselves when you remove humans, animals. Temperate climates do, they turn into a jungle. And we have a lot of brittle environments around the world.
Our current belief is that a desert will always be a desert, and there is no way to turn it around or regenerate it into abundance. What if there was? What would be the business case? And even more extreme what, if done at the right scale, like at least 150.000 acres in South Eastern California? How would local weather patterns change and would exponential abundance be possible?
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This is an interview about scale and cows Many, many cows. How do we kickstart regeneration in desert circumstances? Many millions of hectares in agricultural land around the world have turned into desert and many millions are about to with current agriculture practices. Quick lesson here Brittle environments with a rainy or wet and a dry season won't regenerate by themselves. When you remove humans and animals, temperate climates do, they turn into a jungle, and we have a lot of brittle environments around the world. Unfortunately, our current belief has that once a desert, always a desert, and there's no way to turn it around, regenerate it into abundance. But what if there was? What if there was a business case? And, even more extreme, what if done at the right scale, in this case, at least 150,000 acres in southern eastern California? How would that impact the local weather patterns? How would it bring back rains and create an exponentially abundant local ecosystem? All questions we ask ourselves today. If it's true that water vapor accounts for 60 to 70% of the greenhouse effect, while CO2 only accounts for 25, why do we rarely discuss it? Still, we choose to ignore it because it means we literally need to re-vegetate the entire earth. Bring back the marshes, the mangroves, superannual pastures with trees and re-grow real forests that can bring back rain in strategic places. In short, bring back life, lots of plants, trees, animals back to many places on this earth natural climate engineering. It is time we take our role as keystone species super seriously. In this special water cycle series, we interview the dreamers and the doers who are using the latest technology to figure out where to intervene first. They are making, or trying to make, the investment and return calculations and plans. So what's missing? What's holding us back? Maybe we lack the imagination to back them and try regeneration at scale? We're thankful for the support of the Nest Family Office in order to make this series. The Nest is a family office dedicated to building a more resilient food system through supporting natural solutions and innovative technologies that change the way we produce food. You can find out more on the NestFO. That is nestfocom. Welcome to a very special episode. It's the last one of the water cycle series and I have, with great pleasure, welcome Roger Seire to this. I was going to say channel, but it's not a channel to this podcast series we already started previously. I needed to hit record because there's so much to discuss, ranging from restoring, restoring, fixing deserts, which is actually the website it will put it down as well to discussing the role of experts, quote unquote and doing air quotes here. And why is it so difficult to restore large water cycles or get that thinking across? I'm very happy to have you here, roger. We have a lot to discuss, so let's dive straight in. Welcome, roger, thank you, thanks Good, and I mean you grew up in, let's say, holistic thinking and acting from basically birth or almost, but still that could have led to many other paths in your career. You could have run away and started the engineering consulting career or something else. What led you to or back to, I don't know, maybe you did that actually as well what led you to soil and work and soil and make it your life's work.Speaker 2:
Kun, you're right, I grew up with it through osmosis, but I was lucky enough. I did have adventures. I did my soldiering, I did my university, I did adrenaline. If there was something that was dangerous, I did it. I've had a lot of fun.Speaker 1:
I've got all the injuries, so you were lucky that you're still here.Speaker 2:
You really are. I've got me around to campfire and we've got long stories to tell, but I made it. And after 20 years of having adventures I realized now it's time for me to settle down and have a family. And then, and now, with kids, it just becomes abundantly clear that I am not here for myself. I am here to make a better world for my children and my grandchildren, and so that's what drives me. I am currently living in Florida. I'm raising my boys, but I do have a rather large ranch in Zambia, in Africa, and I could be living a very comfortable life just taking care of myself. But a friend of mine brought me back from Africa to America and he said the knowledge you've got is too important. No one will listen to you in Africa. You've got to be in America and you've got to get this knowledge into the world and the people. And I'm grateful. I was doing a big project at the Africa Center for Listic Management at the time. It took me a year to wrap that project up and then, once that was up and running, then I returned to the States. And there's an old saying be careful what you wish for, one day you shall receive it. Because I'm bald now, I think, from batting my head against the wall, but it's too big a project, it's too important for the world and I set myself a really high goal. There's that book, seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and one of the things is you write down what you want to achieve and if you've written it down then you'll work your life to try and achieve it. So I wrote down what my goal is and don't bother asking me. I've never told anyone what it is, but it was a difficult to achieve goal. In other words, I gave myself a real challenge in life and I've just steadily been working towards achieving that and the view that that's now taking place is this fixed deserts feeding the future project that I've launched under the auspices of the X Prize for the carbon sequestration and the small target area to begin with is on the what's that? The western shores of the Salton Sea in California, as the worst piece of land, most difficult place to start. If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere on the planet and let's prove to the world that we can turn the two thirds of the world's deserts back into grasslands.Speaker 1:
And how did that come like? Did you just start looking for like the worst and the worst and the worst place? Like how did that project or that landscape, let's say, or that watershed come to you or come, came on your radar?Speaker 2:
So I you know it's really hard to believe, or is there like at least?Speaker 1:
some of worst places that you just say, okay, it's no now there, but this is the.Speaker 2:
No, no, it's. You know. If I tell you that I'm 53 and I started on this project when I was 17, does that put it in perspective? I've really been studying and looking at this for a long, long, long time. When I was in university, I did a lot of studying. In university. I studied many fields and I did geography, geology and satellite imagery, you know, amongst other fields of study. But when I was doing that, you know I was looking at you know the satellite imagery. I was looking at you know the deserts of the world. I was studying and I was studying weather patterns and the area of the Salton Sea was it was important and I knew it was. The other area that was quite important was the Sinai Peninsula. That's an important area.Speaker 1:
We had to stop over on yeah.Speaker 2:
Okay, yeah, so they're kind of, they're kind of global levers for a larger area of land. So the Salton Sea, it's near 10 or 20 million people, depending on how you count San Diego and Los Angeles. It's within two hours' drive of that. It's on a, it's on two weather systems, it's on the trade winds and then the bar, the bar winds bringing moisture in from the ocean. It's sandwiched between two irrigated agricultural areas, so to get feedstock to begin the process of biologically carpeting the desert, to begin the process of jump-starting the life cycle. Yeah, so it's a low-hanging fruit, but I've also identified places in Nevada, new Mexico, arizona, texas, utah.Speaker 1:
Which are sort of next on the list, like if you show it here. Those should be not only easier because we've shown something that is I'm calling it looks like magic it's not, but like bringing back a desert, or regenerating which is not bringing back, but actually regenerating something that's so deep in our psyche of seeing something where there's hardly any life and then regenerating. That will make a lot of other things possible Because they're probably slightly easier or not as difficult. Because you said I picked the worst and worst and worst just to show that it's possible in the US and just to describe it, in this case, for people. Of course, I will put the websites below, but if you had to describe it visually, because we're in an audio medium when you say it, in this case the restoration or regeneration of that area what do we have to imagine? What would be the?Speaker 2:
work. We have to imagine temperatures. I'm not talking shade temperatures, I'm talking temperatures of 160 degrees. You have to imagine that's Fahrenheit, probably what 50, 52, 53 centigrade. You've got to imagine really hot temperatures. You've got to imagine Chinook winds and really strong blowing winds. You've got to imagine the Salton Sea drying up. I think I heard a figure that 30,000 acres of new land get created each year as the sea shrinks. So we've all seen pictures of the sea in Russia that completely dried up till it was gone. Yeah, that's happening. You have to imagine only a three and a half inch rainfall. You have to imagine seven years where they're lucky if they got any rain, and then the El Nino and La Nino years. So you have to imagine a mountain range that either blocks wind, blocks precipitation across or can be a great funnel and channel for moisture to come down into a valley, but basically not a very nice location. And then you have to imagine the dust from the stairs that blowing over into Los Angeles and San Diego and causing heat issues in the cities and asthma and human health issues. And then you have to imagine all of that and just look at the pollen records and realize, oh my God, once upon a time not that long ago, there were mammoths and giant bison and beavers and willows and elm trees and all these other things, and that was only 38,000 years ago. So it's a man made desert. It's humans who created it, and it's such a moonscape now that you can't even wrap your head around that it ever had abundance of life. It looks so bad.Speaker 1:
And then what does the if you had to this? Of course there's this way, more to that, but how do you kickstart that? You mentioned the bio carpet before. Like how do you, when it's so bad and so deep in the degenerated state, where do you even start with an intervention to kickstart something Like what's the lever, what's the node in the system to start, let's say, the process to the other, to swing to the other side, let's say in terms of abundance.Speaker 2:
So that's what it took me 20 odd years of research figuring out. And I came from a normal scientific background. I mean, one of my degrees is biology and I studied desert field biology at the University of New Mexico. In the desert, I went and I studied at the long-term ecological research station down where was it? I want to say it was where, anyway, down in the south of New Mexico, where they'd been studying one study plot for 70 years. So by now it's 100 years, and the only thing that was doing well was some kind of rat. Other than that, there wasn't much life left. So and all the academics were getting all excited about, look, the cryptogrammic soils are protecting the desert sands. I'm like, no, you idiots, this used to be a grassland. Don't get excited about the fact that it's about to become a blowing sand dune. So but people get on group think and everyone huddles together and they all tell each other how smart they are. And it's the obvious is staring you in the face. And I think the obvious is stared humanity in the face for 10,000, 20,000, 200,000 years. Yeah, I think all humans have faced this. And when everything in your belief system and everything in your DNA is belief system and everything in your shared memory is that once desertification starts, there's no stopping it, and we always go from abundance to lack of resources, to war over lack of resources, to desert sands, to blowing. Yeah, yeah, there's this trend and it's happened globally. And if it was a brittle environment, it's turned to pure desert. And if it was a non-brittle environment, once the humans have died off, the jungles have returned. So, depending on what's happening with atmospheric moisture, if there's year round atmospheric moisture, it returns to jungle. If there's a wet season and a dry season, it turns to a desert.Speaker 1:
And most of the burn has a wet and dry season. That's also not to be understood.Speaker 2:
Yeah, most of the world, yeah, and so, and that was what we didn't understand as humans. We didn't understand that there was this vast difference. And if you look at all the big civilizations that collapsed, they all started in areas where there was abundance of grazing animals. We figured out how to funnel, trap and kill them by the millions. That gave us so much excess protein food, which humans needed for survival. We've got two eyes in the front of our heads and in size of teeth, so we're in omnibore. So when we had this abundance of food, then we were able to kill, kill, kill. And that's our motto throughout history Humans is kill, kill, kill, kill, kill. And then, when those animal numbers finally dropped to low enough numbers because we didn't understand how vital they were for a brittle environment when they died out, then the grasslands died. When the grasslands died, well, now we built a big city based on the animals, so we had a huge human population to feed. But now the animals will no longer there because we'd over harvested them Once. We over harvested them, well, now we have to change as an omnivore, with one of the few species that when we kill out our food source, we can change food sources. So then we had to change and we had to invent agriculture to feed ourselves grain, not knowing that. Then, when we invented the plow and plowed the land, that was the final nail in the coffin, because we didn't understand that soil was a living organism. And when we killed the soil by turning it over to plow to get more seeds in it, when we killed the soil, the microorganisms in the soil dying released the nitrogen in their bodies and that gave us the and you can see it. You can see the plants grow darker green, they're healthier. So that told us, this was good plowed the soil, you get better crops. Not understanding that. No, we were killing the life in the soil that was releasing nitrogen that made the plants grow greener. Three years of doing that, the soils finally dead and that's why we had slash and burn agriculture as we killed soils, not understanding that soil was a living organism. So now, coming back to the biological carpet, what I realized and that wasn't that long ago, it was maybe seven years ago what I realized when being questioned was that no, the enemy is ultraviolet light, and that is what we had never understood. And as soon as we can protect the sand, the top millimeter of sand from ultraviolet light, then life can begin in the top millimeter. And we know from the electron microscopes and the DNA analysis of soils that they talk about a shovel load of soil having over a trillion life forms in it. But what we now know is that the life forms that live in the top millimeter only live in the top millimeter, only live there. Third millimeter only live there. Well, if you take a plan, turn soil over, the ones from the top are now 10 inches down and the ones from 10 inches down are now up on the top and they will die. So now, if we've got to now jumpstart the life cycle again, it's like okay, how do we protect the microorganisms in the top millimeter from ultraviolet light?Speaker 1:
Because they're still there even in like such harsh conditions.Speaker 2:
No, they're mostly not there, but we can jumpstart the life cycle. So, remember, air is full of every time you breathe. I think you breathe in and out 50 or 60 fungal spores every breath you take. So the spores are there, the bacteria are there, but it can be there. And then as soon as we have a biological carpet protecting that top millimeter from ultraviolet light, then life can at least begin. Now, what is the source of a lot of that life? It's the dung itself. So it's the dung from cattle that carry the life that can then start on that top millimeter protected by the dung itself, and then it can start. It can start. So, remember, some bacteria double every 10 minutes. So if we give them the moisture from the urine, the bacteria needs moisture to live. It's a single cell, amoeba. So the bacteria need the moisture from the urine and the fungi need the protection from the sunlight and the bacteria need the protection from the sunlight. Remember to sterilize bottled water. Everyone drinks bottled water and plastic bottles. The last thing in the bottling processes goes past two ultraviolet lights. We know we use ultraviolet light to sterilize stuff. Well, what would make you think it's any different in the desert?Speaker 1:
And so how do you? The question then becomes how do you carpet a large area with manure that's the. Of course you don't want to bring it in with a truckload from a CAFO operation I'm imagining I'm making assumption here. But and look how, how do you? But it has to be equally spread. How do you bring that? The right amount, not too much, not too little over a vast area? Because if you do that, a few square meters or even a few square kilometers, it's just not going to do it.Speaker 2:
You pay me a lot of money and I do it because that's what I've spent 20 years figuring out how to do. But in simple terms it's a you know excuse. I'm going to be full of shitty jokes now. It's a shitload of shit that has to go on the ground and, if you figure, one cow eats 12 and a half kgs of dry matter per day, so that 12 and a half kgs of dry matter that goes into the cow comes out the rear end at some point.Speaker 1:
And you're going to production regions like irrigated ariculture regions, because you need to bring in the feed.Speaker 2:
You need to bring in the feed, because there's no you know, I mean cow, cow, god, you desert sand. So so we need the cow to break up the crusting in the desert. We can talk about crusting later, but we need the cow to break up the crusting and then to mix in the dung into the soil and then and then we need a particular layer at the end. In other words, it doesn't do us any good to just mix it together with the cows hooves. We have to mix it together and get a layer and, like you said, it's got to be level. So we also use chickens with the cattle, because while they're scratching around looking for maggots, they're also leveling it out and making it a good even, even even playing field, so to speak, and turning it into a carpet. And then and then it'll dry up. It'll dry like a solid vegetative carpet, it'll dry like a layer of paper or cardboard across the whole desert. And by my calculations, looking at how much dung is delayed by per cow and how fast we can move, basically, in rough thumbs up figures, you need about 600,000 cattle to carpet 150,000 acres a year. It's not, you know, when we're looking at 81 million acres in America alone, 150,000 acres is not very much per year for a herd of 600,000. But on average your big cities of 10 million will consume that much beef. So if we've got a Houston or a LA or a Salt Lake City or an Albuquerque and Santa Fe, if we've got those populations, that figure of 600,000 cattle being used for biological carpeting and for feeding people, it kind of works.Speaker 1:
And so the quantities, I mean the 12 and a half kg that will reduce over time, I'm imaging. But how much of a cost, but also a stress or barrier, is it that you have to bring in that amount of feed from not that far, because you're moving quite a bit of water.Speaker 2:
Yeah, it's really not. There's a business model that everyone knows and understand. That's called a CAFA Confined Animal Feeding Operation. Cactus feeders in Texas has 500,000 cattle in their feed lots, so this is something humans know how to do. We're very good at it. Grow feed feed cows. The only difference is the CAFA grow feed feed cows in pens.Speaker 1:
Does it matter what kind of feed In this case like, is there a so?Speaker 2:
yeah, it does so because I want the land that we grow the feed on to improve at the same time as the land that we fix. In other words, most CAFOS use a centipivot irrigator and grow a monoculture of corn. I've got a mix of about 120 different species of forage that we grow together and when we feed that to livestock we find the nutritional density of their meat is exponentially higher. They've done some recent studies on this high biodiversity thing and the omega-3, omega-6 ratios are just absolutely fantastic. So we can produce a far more nutrient-dense organic beef animal than the CAFOS are currently doing and heal the land that's growing the feed. Because in that 120 mix I'll give you an example one of them is beetroot. But the combine harvest is not pulling the beetroot out by the root, so after it's grown for, let's say, 90 days, and then we come in and cut all these things, you know, in one cut, you know, with a silage cutter, the beetroot is left behind. Well, that huge root now has nothing to do but rot in the soil and feed the worms and the nematodes and the bacteria and everything, whereas on your monoculture of corn or maize, you know it's grow the corn, there's nothing in it. You know now you've got rows of 12, 18 inches between the rows. It's bare soil. And current conventional agriculture, every and I do mean every decision in current agriculture is about killing. It's kill, kill, kill and kill. I hate conventional agriculture. The mindset of a human is the mindset of a flea. Everything is about poison, kill, burn, pull out by the roots. You know, if you look at every robot that's in conventional agriculture, every decision is about how do we kill it? If it's a fungus, kill it. If it's an nematode, kill it. If it's an insect, kill it. If it's a bird, kill it. If it's a rabbit, kill it. If it's a deer, kill it. If it's an elephant, kill it, kill. That is the only thing that happens in conventional agriculture. And then we wonder why we've got global human populations with health issues. We wonder why we've got biodiversity loss and extinction issues. We wonder why. You know it's like humans, are we that foolish?Speaker 1:
It's a no brainer.Speaker 2:
It's a no brainer. Everything in conventional agriculture, the only decision a human knows how to make well is how to kill something. So you know, my thinking is OK, how do we build soils, how do we keep things alive? How do we, you know, get the deserts growing again? And it's about abundance and regenerating life. But I'm no different than every other human. I am programmed for kill, kill, kill. I've done a lot of it in my life. But when you realize that what you're doing is wrong, that's the beginning of the journey too. Ok, I used to do that. But now how can I do it differently? So, for example, on my ranch I used to burn about 45 kilometers of fire breaks. Now I know that a single acre of fire kills about 6,000 animals. Well, it's really hard to burn a fire break once you have that image of 6,000 animals having a torturous, horrible last few moments on the planet. But you'll find everyone oh, we got to burn fire breaks, we got to burn, we got to kill, we got to get. No, there's other things we can do to stop fire without killing everything. And that's just a silly, small example, but it it makes the point. We're just programmed for killing and that's the biggest thing about regenerative agriculture and, you know, this project to fix the deserts and turn them back into functioning ecosystems is they were created because all our Ancestors had that same philosophy kill, kill, kill. That's why there's no mammoths, that's no, why there's no giant bison, that's you know. That's why all these species are gone, because all of our ancestors had the same DNA genetic code kill, and that's what we've got to bring to an end.Speaker 1:
There are many places to go from here, but I want to throw in this one. So what makes it different now? What makes you I'm not going to tell you the positive, etc. But what is different now that, even if it's in our genetic code to kill, kill, kill, that we can be that positive keystone species or beneficial keystone species? I heard somebody say like what, what was that switch in you going from kill to, let's say, facilitator, support life? And how can we make sure that a good minority at least of us go through that same transition?Speaker 2:
Okay. So I've got two parts to this answer. If I if I only answer one, please remind me to come back to the other part. So the first is you know we're evolutionary programmed for We've got pioneers who go out, invade the new area, kill everything, cut down the forest etc. Etc. And if they survive, then the rest follow. So we've got this instinctual, what I call instinctual fear mechanism. That's part of our DNA. So the humans from this group, you know we get overpopulated, so we send pioneers out to the new area and oh, there's new foods. And well, if we try this mushroom, if we die, then whoops, you died. But if the pioneers try that new mushroom and they live, then the next generation will also. You have five percent of them will try it and the next generation. So we've got basically an instinctual fear mechanism that's in our DNA. We're five percent of the pioneers and the risk takers and they will be the pioneers and the risk takers for three generations, if nothing goes wrong in the three generations. So we're talking 60 or 70 years. Well, up to sorry, up to 90 years. But if, if, if, if nothing goes wrong, then the rest of the 95 percent will say oh, that mushrooms Edible. We've always eaten it and and we act like we've always done that. But it took, you know, and you can look at the research, whether it was the doctor I think was dr Stamps figuring out that Lyme stopped scurvy. You know, it was 90 years before the 70 or 90 years before the British Navy adopted a policy that every ship would have Lyme's on board. And then it was another 60 or 70 years before the British merchant Navy adopted the same policy. Your Dutch seafaring nation how long did it take before the Dutch adopted the same policy? You know, so we're, we're always where we're a we're a fear and a risk adverse species. So we have to have this long delay. So we I'm now the second generation of regenerative or holistic management thinkers. So I think, about 60 years out, you know, we might actually have massive adoption. So I'm not too worried about the fact that we're not getting much traction, because I now understand that this is natural Evolution. I just look at the grid, you know, look at the data on human population growth, environmental malfunction, and I worry that, hey, will we make it and get over this hurdle before it's too late? So that's the one thing, but the second thing is on this. I think it was the 6th of August 1945. We had a brown groundbreaking day and followed up by the 11th of August 1945. You know what happened on those two days.Speaker 1:
I'm Guessing Something with nuclear.Speaker 2:
Yeah, two big nuclear bombs. Now what we had always done was we had destroyed our habitat in our environment. Then we had gone, conquered other people and taken over their land. And that has been human modus operandi, for I can find research going back 250,000 years that we've been doing this, and so this is what we always did destroy our environment and our ecosystem, then go and conquer someone else and take over theirs, because all stuff still growing there In 1945, for the first time in human history, how do you fight a nuclear bomb? How do you fight a hydrogen bomb? You can't fight it. So for the first time in human history, we had to now live within our boundaries and there was no longer the option of going and having a war. We had these little skirmishes, what I call a human population control skirmishes, whether it's in Iraq, afghanistan, rwanda. We go and kill a million people and then we say, okay, that's enough people removed, okay, we can be at peace now For another 50 years till we breed up again. Then we'll go and kill another million people. Sadly, I think it's about to happen to the poor people in In the Israeli area. But yeah, this is standard. We've done it for quite a few years we have these little skirmishes, a million people get killed, and then we say okay, quits. And we say quits because we can't afford an atomic war or a hydrogen war, because that, you know, I think American couldn't blow the planet up five times. I think Russia can do as well. China can, you know, we can all blow up the planet. So for our very Survival we no longer have the option of going and taking someone else's land. Now we have to live within our means. Everything now we have, and in other places yeah, well, what's the good of that?Speaker 1:
I mean, if you think about the work I do in the deserts?Speaker 2:
You know how. How are we going to get healthy soil? And Mars? Which six trillion microorganisms are we going to take with us to start building soil? Which you know? How are we going to do it? I mean, it's a pipe dream. It really is a pipe dream. There's so much complexity and this is the thing humans keep trying to kill, kill, kill till they got something simple. I'm not understanding the complexity. I mean, I was recently at a conference in Vermont where the cellular lab food people and they've already been given three billion dollars for their projects and I was like I couldn't believe the mass psychosis of humanity that these people are saying, oh will grow cell, you know cellular meat, and. And I said, well, what's what's the source of? You know, in this, in the, in the Petri dishes, how you? You know what are, what are the cells feeding on? Oh, no, I'm median, yeah. So I said, oh well, what's the source of glucose? Oh, no, we'll just get it. No, no, no, no, no. What's the source? Yeah, well, sugar beets or sugar cane, okay. So you're going to do massive monoculture agriculture, harvesting sunlight to get the glucose to glow your cell phone meat, okay. Now how much glucose. Are you going to put on your star ships to ship to Mars To feed the cell meat? So I'm like, come on, guys, stop being ridiculous. Yeah, they can see the cell meat, but they won't.Speaker 1:
They won't take the mathematics backwards to Well what's the source of the energy?Speaker 2:
Well, the energy came from sunlight through plants, photosynthesis, creating sugars, you know, etc. Etc. And then, oh, how much petrochemical energy was needed to grow that monoculture, the tractors, the combines, the. You know it's. You know it's. This mass psychosis that, oh, technology. Everyone's praying at the feet of the God of technology. Technology will save us. I'm like, guys, I don't know what, what wacky tobacco you smoking, but it's not good, you know. You just cannot remove yourself from nature. And we keep thinking that we can. And I just I'm like, well, if you go, have fun, I'll make sure my family are safe, understand our nature works and will be the ones who survive.Speaker 1:
You guys are not going to make it, that's exactly a question that would mean you're saying I'm not so worried, like in the next generation it takes three generations to accept something and to survive through that and that we all look like, okay, they're still fine, let's, let's adopt this. Could we take that the other way and see? Of course there's been a 12,000 year or 10,000, whatever the number is, since we invented the plough and agriculture history. But there's also been a relatively recent, extremely industrialized, intensive, chemical driven fossil fuel driven since more or less, let's say, the Second World War. Like, are we still in time to call that experiment? To say, like we actually are not surviving that experiment? Let's not do that because maybe we are not at the 30, at the three time. Like the three generations of risk takers are now risking their lives on chemical poison farms. They probably are suffering. We see that in the numbers. Like, are we still in time to actually not call conventional the normal and actually say this was an experiment. It just let's, let's not continue with this because it's not working out, or is that sort of? Is that the same trend that happening because it seems to be crumbling in front of our eyes? Basically, the extremely high input, extremely high industrialized, fossil fuel driven agriculture sector.Speaker 2:
You know, we, it is crumbling. I've been out of college nearly 30 years. When I was in college, we were studying it and we were studying how the soils are dying and, yeah, we figured out that fertilizer was like cocaine, you know, and etc. Etc. And and we could see that the amount of fertilizer needed was going up exponentially and the yields were going down, and and we could see all this, and that's 30 years ago. It's now just 30 years worse. But oh, but now we've got precision agriculture, now we can do this. And you know, yeah, we keep trying to, we keep digging the hole deeper in this belief that technology will save us, and and that's all we're doing. We're just digging the hole deeper and faster. You know, since and you're right, it's since the end of World War 2. If you read the book Soils and Health by Sir Ernest Howard, yeah, I think he wrote it in 1938 and he said, okay, we figured this out, we can make compost, we can increase soil fertility and human health, and life's gonna be great. And then we went into World War 2. We came out of World War 2 with bunches of ammonia nitrate from the munitions. We needed to dump it, you know. So, hey, dump it on fields, hey look, you know. And, and what people didn't understand was it was the salt is killing the life, and when the salt kills the life, it releases the nitrogen, you know. So, even that we misunderstood. And then we had all these bulldozers left from here, from military production. Oh, bulldozers, all that's a tractor. And then we had all these planes oh, well, that's, you know, spray crops. And then we had all these poisons, cyclone bee and stuff. Oh, that, that's great stuff, you know. So World War 2 never ended, it just went from fields. It just moved to the fields and and you know, we've got the cancer rates. Now we've got the bare soil, we've got the blowing fields, we've got the, the second dust ball here in America. You know, I was recently in one of those dust storms and I mean it was just, it was it was scary and it was like, oh my god, you know how have we gone so wrong? From the soil conservation service of the 30s, where we got, we started to get this under control, to we're back here again and yeah, just the, the lemmings are running off the cliff and and the lemmings at the right, at the back, the hesitant ones, will be the ones who don't go off the cliff, and that's that's it.Speaker 1:
And so, looking at the salt in sea and from, like, an investor point of view or from an entrepreneurial point of view, you're saying we need about 600,000 cattle to kickstart them. For sure, a lot, a lot of chickens as well like, how small can you start, of course, running on, let's say, the beef, the selling beef prices, which is an interesting business model if you do that. Well, there there's, it can run on that. But how small can you make it before? Like being too small to have the outside effect on not only the macro, the micro water cycle which is happening under the down or within the down, but also the smaller water cycle? Like, how how big do you need to be before you influencing and literally wetter patterns, which is, I think, when we get into this realm of people go, that sounds like magic, but that's exactly the conversation we need to have yeah, so my, I did my math.Speaker 2:
You know part of my training my grandfather was a civil engineer. When they're building a dam, they do the planning backwards. So they want the dam ready on this date. Then how long does the concrete take to set? Okay, come back to that date. How long does it take to make the form come back to that date? How long and they? How long does it take clear the land? Come back, and then they get a starting date from the ending date they want. So I was trained in that, that methodology. So, and I looked at all the data of all the places in the world where we've increased rainfall and there was a magic number it's a hundred and fifty thousand acres. So my math is the hundred and fifty eight thousand acres. Back to the six hundred thousand cattle, because we have to change weather patterns. So that is the smallest we can start. However, to train humans, I can't start with six hundred thousand cattle in a desert. There will be a gong show. So I need to start with five thousand acres and five thousand cattle. When I've got my keep, my humans, trained, then I can go up to ten thousand and fifteen thousand and twenty thousand and forty thousand and a hundred thousand and two, and you see how it goes. It's not because of the environmental factors, it's because of the human factors. We've got to train the humans in in a new way of doing things. And I actually find it interesting. I've read the Bible five times. I'm not religious but I've read the Bible kind of as a historical document for me to understand deserts, because they were living through it. You know Cain and the land of milk and honey. Okay, you know, etc, etc and and so when you read this, I think it's the book of numbers, but they talk about all the, the 12 families of Judaism. And you know, this guy had. I always found it funny. You know, if he had 144,000 cattle, they always had twice as many sheep and goats. So if you had a hundred and forty four thousand cattle, he had 280,000 sheep and goats and they always had 16,000 donkeys. And I just laughed at that that all the families had 16,000 donkeys. That must have been the number of donkeys you needed to move the whole family. But humans have had these large numbers before. I don't know why we're scared of them. You know, if guys 4,000 years ago could run these big herds, why can't we? Or were the 4,000 year humans cleverer than us? Can technology not help us?Speaker 1:
Yeah, so from the technology in that I mean we bashed it a bit earlier on. What do you? What do you?Speaker 2:
see there Ear tags and walk over weighing scales. So when the animal gets up to the right weight for slaughter it separates itself out of the massive herd and walks on to a truck to go for slaughter.Speaker 1:
It just makes your life a lot easier.Speaker 2:
It just makes your life a lot easier. Yeah, how do you find the big ones that are ready, or an animal that's sick, goes through the scales and it's lost weight? Pull it separate because you want to isolate it as quickly as possible now, it used to be the wolves that did that, but you want to do it from a management point of view. Get it, you know, treated so that it doesn't spread like wildfire through your herds. So, yeah, those kind of things. That's what we use, technology because, to be quite honest, we have very few cattlemen left, you know, on the planet who even know how to run big herds, and so that's why I said, you know, training the people is the delaying factor. But yeah, we want to minimum. Yeah, we want minimum herds of 600,000. And you know one of your questions you were gonna ask me, it was the magic wand and a billion dollars well, there's my billion dollars spent. Wasn't that odd? And that's just one thing.Speaker 1:
What would the effect be, of course, difficult to imagine even. But you talked about the current state. It's difficult to imagine a worse place to be in terms of temperature, winds, smell, just general lack of life, let's say sufficiently, size, hurt of 600,000 or more has been a quote of working or have been being their queso species life there. What would the effect be? And take us on a vision trip.Speaker 2:
So the visual trip is the first thing that goes down as the biological carpet and there's a bit of dust while we put it down, but not too much, because it's kind of a wet process done is quite wet, so the leading edge has dust and but immediately behind it it's, there's no more dust. And I'm gonna take you through a worst-case scenario a year where there's not much rain. So we have the dust, we lay the carpet down. We have the dust, we lay the carpet down, we have the dust, we lay the carpet down and at the end of the year, on the big one I'm not talking about the little 5,000 acre you know to start the learning process, but when we're up to 600,000 cattle. So so we get 150,000 acres covered. Now how big is Holland?Speaker 1:
That I would have to Google. And then you see it Life on the show.Speaker 2:
ladies and gentlemen, what would we do without our beloved Google?Speaker 1:
Yeah, Ecosia. In this case it's 41,000 square kilometers.Speaker 2:
So, yeah, we could do the whole of Holland in three years 16,000 square miles. Yeah, but 41,000 square miles, so we could do the whole of Holland in three years.Speaker 1:
And then we have to come back regularly. How does it work.Speaker 2:
Oh, it's a one-off, so okay. So now let's say we've done the chicken. So the Catalan chickens have come across and the whole time we're doing this. Catalan arriving every day, catalan leaving every day. As, in, small ones are arriving, big ones are leaving off to the slaughter plant. That meters nutrient dense organic grass, finished local beef. It's going to the local meatworks at Brawley and the meatworks are 40 minutes away, so it's close. So it's going to the meatworks and then an hour over the mountain into Los Angeles to the school system to feed our children nice, healthy protein, instead of importing it from New Zealand or Tasmania or wherever it currently comes in from. And so the biological carpet is there. It doesn't smell because it wasn't high enough concentrations of urea to build the smell, so it's kind of soaked in where it was it's been churned in. Now, over the year a very large dung beetle population will start to develop that will follow the herd. Those dung beetles, you know, some of them are bearing dung 10 foot deep. So there's all these holes, you know, swiss cheese going deep into the sand. Now, that's important later on. So now the whole carpenter is here without rain.Speaker 1:
This is a year without rain, worst case, yeah.Speaker 2:
So while the dung is wet, the dung beetles are bearing it. But you know, but you know, enough is staying on top as the carpet. Now we wait. Now the herd's keeping on going forward. Now we've got a hundred and fifty thousand acres of basically it's got like a thick one inch paper, you know, on top of it, but underneath it's completely churned up and the sand and the dung is mixed, and then below it are the channels going down where the dung beetles buried their, their, their balls. Those larva hatched out, crawled to the surface and they flew off to go and join the herd again. But the tunnel remains. So now the first rain comes and let's say it's only half an inch. Traditionally, that half inch of rain would have fallen and evaporated within 30 minutes. 84% of precipitation that falls within a desert evaporates within 30 minutes of falling. Psh steam gone. But now, instead, that rain falls and it's like it fell onto a sponge. So you get a dry sponge in your kitchen and just turn the faucet on or the tap on and see what happens. It goes into the sponge. Right Biological carpet is the sponge. Now, five days later, 10 days later, the next bit of rain comes and we get another half inch. So now, not only did the sponge hold the water so the seeds that are in the biological carpet can expand and germinate, but now if there's any excess water beyond what would be held in that carpet, it goes through and it goes down those dung beetle channels. So now it's really going in Now those seeds. It's like a chia pet. So now the fungus, they take off and they do their thing and the fungi go and tap on any of the seeds in the dung or in the sand. And when the fungus taps on the carapace of the seed it says hey, time to wake up, time to germinate. So there's moisture. A fungal, you know, sends an electronic message to the seed. It tells it it's time to germinate. So about 10 days later you have this carpet of fungus germinating. The fruit body of the fungus happens. But you would also have like a chia pet of green forage, you know, start to germinate and grow. Now, because that water went down the dung beetle channels and because that water was stored and didn't, you know, 84% didn't evaporate, it got held. Now those plants have moisture to grow for longer. But whatever water did just go beyond the sponge and kept going down. Now those plant roots have an open channel to follow the water down quickly and without much resistance. So now you're getting a deep root in the desert, and so that three and a half inches becomes what we call effective rainfall Probably you know the majority of it gets to be used by the plants. Well, now, as soon as the plants have started growing up with this additional moisture that they've got, well, now they start shading the ground even more. Now the desert's cool because the ground is really being cooled now. Well, now you don't have the hot air going up the mountains causing the evaporation of the clouds that are trying to come in from the ocean. So now the clouds are used to hit the mountain range and get turned around and go back to the Pacific or back to Baja. Now the clouds can make it over the mountain range. Well, now the big water cycle can get going. So now even more rain falls. Well, now, once even more rain is falling, now the little micro water cycle can get going, which is in the afternoon. The bit of evaporation from evapotranspiration creates its own cloud mass, so between the two mountain ranges. So now you've got the micro water cycle working, you've got the little water cycle working and you've got the regular big water cycle working. And that was all because you've got enough land cool enough that it could affect the weather pattern. Now, if we did it below 150,000 acres, we wouldn't get those additional carry-on benefits. So now we've grown all this forage.Speaker 1:
What happens with all this forage? Are you coming back with the forage?Speaker 2:
No, no, no, the forage is still going on. Now we've grown all this forage. Now let's say our three months of wet weather because it's a brittle environment our three month wet season is over. What happens to the forage? It dies and it dries up. So now it's standing dry matter. While standing dry matter in the desert, what does it do? At night? It captures dew. Dew point gets reached at about five in the morning, four or five in the morning. So any moisture that was in the air now gets captured by the leaves because dew point happens and on the bottom side the leaf comes and it comes down. So now that additional moisture is also going in, and because there's a biological carpet there, the fungi. There's fungi that have hyphae on them. And we've actually dug up grass in the desert where, below the sun's heat, we found little balls of water held and stored by fungi. So now the fungi can trap the overnight dew. So that's additional. That's the micro-water cycle continuing to function months after the last rain. Then the biological carpet herd is still going forward. It's now doing another 150,000 acres higher up the valley. Now, within a year or so, we have to now all that 150,000 acres. We have to now have a breeding herd, cycle that carbon before the next year's growing season. So all that standing carbon now has to be grazed and or trampled flat on the ground. When it's grazed or trampled and flat on the ground, then instead of it going gray and oxidizing or chemical oxidization or burning, it gets trampled flat on the ground. The fungi can break it down. And we've basically created the seed bank because remember, all those dry plants went to seed and if one plant goes up it drops 500 to 1500 seeds each. So now we have a massive seed bank that now goes in and the grazing herd or the breeding herd tramples those seeds into the ground, cycles that carbon, grow their own carbs. So we have a biological carpet herd that's the meat industry and we have the breeding herd that every seven years doubles in size and we've been managing holistically for over 30 years. We have not had a single breeding herd that's ever kept up with the speed of the regeneration of the land. So now that's a whole other industry. Now you've got 150,000 acres of new ranch land for families to manage, ranch, maintain herds on, get out of the cities. You've got no dust, you've got a normal functioning ecosystem and then the grazing gets planned based on we've got to cycle this carbon before the next growing season and then in the growing season how do we manage the animals so that we grow the maximum amount of forage the next year? So then it comes into all the holistic planned grazing stuff and that's the industry everyone already understands. So that's where the two marry up.Speaker 1:
And then, if you look at it from like an entrepreneurial or investor perspective, I like to ask the question what should investors remember? But I will get to that in a second. But what is the node like in this case? The node or the kickstarter in, or the lever in the system to restore, the kickstarter, restoration, regeneration of this ecosystem is the the rumen and the cow plus the chickens well managed, etc. But what is the, the nodes to unlock this, this project, from an investor point of view or from a money? Per interview, is it the schools in Los Angeles that I don't know do a purchase agreement for the meat? Is it like, what's the, the entry, what's the node that unlocks this from a more, from a money perspective? Well, you just said it.Speaker 2:
You just said it, where we're. The guy who currently has to supply LA with all their grass finished meat by law brings his meat in from Australia and he's. But his contract he's meant to source meat locally. So as soon as we're up and running, we've got that contract and that that begins the process. You know everyone wants to see well, how's it going to work. So you're buying an animal in for $800 to $1000. You're keeping it, feeding it, at some point you retail it and an animal retails for about $8000. Now obviously everyone's got their finger on the pie and they're all trying to make their bit of money. But there's enough money in that that you know the investor gets his money back. That's the one thing. The second thing is, to begin with, we need to do it on private land. But the vast majority of land in Western United States that's desert is federally owned or state owned. So while I would like to say that there's a profit thing from land going from $2000 an acre up to $10,000 or $30,000 an acre because you've created good ranching land with deer and turkey and you know, et cetera, et cetera, unless the government goes back to its old policy of selling Western range lands to people, which is like the constitution they meant to do. But you know, they've all kind of held on to federal lands. But there was the Homestead Act and all of that. So unless that happens, the government would have to pay for ecosystem services. Not sure the government wants to pay for ecosystems services, but they would have to and then. So it's a meat model in the beginning and then, because it would mostly be done on federal land, who owns the carbon rights for carbon sequestration? That would have to be nutted out. But if you throw in a billion dollars at a project, it seems to get people's attention. You know. Suddenly they can negotiate how the pie is going to be squabbled over and divided. But the bottom line is, if you are a wealthy investor, this is the only project you should be investing in. If you have children, plan on having grandchildren and great grandchildren, because if we don't stop so, in America we've got 81 million acres of pure desert. We've got 200 million acres at risk of turning into desert. So you know, and that would only you know. So we have no option. Population is going to go up. We've got to increase the area and we can't you know, we can't hope that conventional agriculture will save us. It's what's turning the 200 million acres into desert. So that's not a winning solution. That that that you know. You see in California then plowing up all the orchards and just mulching them and and running out of water, and you know this is all the water cycle. You know if you have that bare soil between rows, you're going to have, you know, evaporation. If you don't have healthy soils, if you don't understand that soil is a living organism and you treat it like a group. You know I think someone described it well. They said, look, we're doing hydroponics and we just plant the animals in sand. But it's, we're running a hydroponic operation. We just need the sand to hold the plants upright. Yeah, and that's basically what they're doing Not understanding that soil is a living, breathing organism. You know, with immense complexity. So we have to do it for our grandchildren's future. Yeah, that's the bottom line. Investors just have to do it. You know, if you're worth a billion dollars, say, okay, I'll put 30% towards this, but you have to do something. But as a business model, it makes money in its own right, just on the meat. You know profitability and Paul Engler is a friend of mine. He's the one who owns Cactus Feeders and he's got his own holistically managed ranch with 6,000 animals but he's got 500,000 cattle in his feedlot. And he said you know, many years ago, when I asked him for support, he said he just smiled at me and he said, roger, you go ahead and do what you're going to do. And he said, the day that what you're doing is more profitable than what I'm doing, he said I'll happily go out of business. He said, but as long as I'm making money, I'd be silly to stop what I'm doing. And I think Paul, you know, was worth about $50 billion. I mean, he's worth it all. For what? And that's from the meat business. So you know, the meat business is a profitable business and grass, finished organic meat, is more profitable than feedlot meat, that's corn fed.Speaker 1:
So what a quality product.Speaker 2:
Yeah, he's pretty old, my dad at the same age, and, like I said, he's got his own 6,000 cattle managing holistically. But no, he and I, I mean he stayed with me for two weeks in Africa and he was like, oh, imagine if I was here I'd turn the Zambezi idea. And I was like no, paul, but just plugged into that conventional agricultural mindset. Paul Engler Jr has said the same thing. You know that, as you know, they've got to keep the business going because it's so profitable. How did he describe it to me? He said to me, he said how much profit do you think the average beef has made since the 1960s? And I knew it was worth $50 billion. So I was trying to calculate and he just stopped me in my tracks and he said a quarter of a penny per beef. And I was like Paul, don't bullshit me, there's no way it can be a quarter of a penny per beef and you're worth $50 billion with $500,000. He said no. He said the beef doesn't make more money. He said I make money convincing farmers to turn healthy yellow fat into unhealthy white fat and they pay me $60 per head per month for the honor of doing that.Speaker 1:
That's also a business model, yeah.Speaker 2:
Yeah, so you know how has this been landing with like investors?Speaker 1:
Because from one part I think they can wrap their head around. Of course there's discussion on the role of ruminants and there's a lot of education needed, let's say on the positive of that. But I think that there's a lot out there. People can educate themselves and can visit and smell and taste et cetera. So there's this sort of relatively straightforward business case on the meat, but then there's this gigantic piece on literally rain, weather patterns changing, like how is that sort of duality landing with investors?Speaker 2:
or you just don't know in the second part. No, no, investors don't care about the second part. You know, that's what's good for humanity part. That's something a politician would get excited about, that's someone a bureaucrat would get excited about. That's one of the positive unintended consequences. But that's why I said, if you care about your grandchildren, I mean the droughts in Kansas, oklahoma, texas, or because the water doesn't come over from California because it's too hot crossing the Imperial Valley and you can't say anything because you come across like a bullshit artist. So I kind of keep it toned down on that point. But, as you said, alphalo's interviewed me, et cetera, et cetera. So the people in the water industry who study this for a living, they've confirmed what I've known for a long time that yeah, if you do that, it'll have this carry on effect. So those will be positive unintended consequences, but they're vital positive unintended consequences. So someone who's investing his money in, or his family money, or his family officer's money or the pension fund just needs to know that they will get a return on the investment. But I need to be honest here. You actually won't get a dividend paid. There's a word in the investment world for it. Basically, elon Musk is the master of this. If you buy a share, the share will go up in value but we'll never pay a dividend because we've got to keep increasing. So if we're doing 150,000 acres, then we've got to go up to 300,000 acres, then we've got to go up to 600,000. Then we've got 81 million acres. So I've only done my business development plans for 20 years. Then I'm tapping out, then I retire. But we can do 20 million acres before I get old and that's the plan. So remember I said there's the feedlot model, so that pays for itself. Once we're up and running it actually pays for itself and we just keep expanding. And then the grazing herd model. That comes behind a bit slower but it's exponential growth and we can do sheep and goats with the cattle on that. And a cattle herd doubles in size every seven years. Sheep and goats can have twins twice a year. That's best case scenario, but let's just say it's twins once a year. You can see how exponentially, within a much shorter time frame, they're going exponential. Hence in the Bible they always had twice as many sheep and goats as cattle. And so we've got to produce. There are already a billion hungry humans on the planet and a human diet needs 200 grams of protein and animal fats per day. So we already need we're already behind the eight ball, so we already need massive more production of animal protein. So there's a guaranteed market because we're already a billion animals behind, but over the next 20 years we will add between one and two billion additional humans to the planet. So at the same time we're growing this desert herd to feed people. People are breeding up faster than we can do it. So there's a, there's a. In business, there's a thing called the law of supply and demand. There's going to be way more demand than the supply, but the consequences of Of course now taking into consideration the lab grown meat people and their supply.Speaker 1:
Now, I'm joking, but in there, that's it.Speaker 2:
Well, no, but they Calculations.Speaker 1:
I mean even that is a drop in the ocean.Speaker 2:
So, but this is where their calculations are wrong. They know that they're going to need increased glucose, but we know conventional agricultural fields are becoming less and less productive. So where's their glucose going to come from if their fields are dying from all the poison and chemicals?Speaker 1:
I know I always ask the input question and I never get a satisfactory answer, but it doesn't keep the techno optimists, let's say, from from being optimistic about technology. I want to be conscious of your time as well and, and wrap this up, it's been an absolute pleasure. I want to thank you so much for bringing the optimism and bringing the enthusiasm and the focus to not only this specific region but in like, in the worst of the worst of the worst, showing what is possible is an absolute. It's also the 5% of, in this case, the second generation but, still the 5% of risk takers I would say entrepreneurs definitely fit in that and only the 5% of investors that dare to take a risk as well. So thank you so much for coming here very early morning for you, I know, and I know you're going to be very happy to be here and, instead of going fishing, help us with sharing this project with the world. So thank you so much for coming on here, for sharing and, of course, for the work you do.Speaker 2:
Thank you, colin, I appreciate it.Speaker 1:
Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. For the show notes and links we discussed in this episode, check out our website Investing in RegenderWaggerConcerncom. Forward slash posts. If you liked this episode, why not share it with a friend or give us a rating on Apple Podcasts? That really helps. Thanks again and see you next time.