Regreening the World
How Permaculture Could Help Fight Climate Change, Conserve Wildlife, and End World Hunger
I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of him or not but a guy named John D. Liu is probably the most important person in the entire world. In 2017 he founded Ecosystem Restoration Camps, a worldwide movement that aims to restore damaged large-scale ecosystems. This couldn’t be any more necessary. With the effects of global warming getting worse and worse with each passing day this makes the work of Dr. Liu and his colleagues the most valuable work there is. What they’re doing is nothing short of miraculous. Words can’t even begin to describe how important regreening really is. Bringing the land back to life is essential to the well-being of Mother Earth and to the very survival of the human race. In the image above, the desertified ground on the left has been regreened to make the grassland on the right. Now, imagine this being done the world over. I’m talking about making changes so big they could be seen from space. The “pale blue dot” needs to get a lot more “green” or it will end up just like the “red planet”. Who knows? Once Mother Earth is restored to her former glory then maybe someone can restore Father Mars to his as well. Only time will tell though. For now, we have to focus on terraforming this dusty old planet first. Just look at this. What a hot mess!
Still, in spite of how hopeless things may seem, there are fairly simple ways to fix this. The world isn’t completely doomed, no matter what anyone may have told you. As unbelievable as it may seem, with enough help, the whole world could be transformed from a barren desert into a tropical paradise, and it could be done in less than a decade if it were done right. The world could go from being 2/3 desert to 2/3 grassland, or better yet farmland. Plus, the acclaimed ecologist Allan Savory believes that grasslands hold the potential to sequester enough atmospheric carbon dioxide to completely reverse the effects of climate change. So, if he’s right then regreening could easily save the world. This is exactly what the permaculture consultant Geoff Lawton, and many other people across the planet, are all doing to help literally rebuild the world from the ground up. As you can see in the image above, Earth is a very dry, rather lifeless place, but it doesn’t have to be. Great Green Walls stand as testaments to this, as you can see in the image below. Year by year we can just cover all the brown up with green, and in so doing totally transform the landscape.
Of course, for her to be as presentable as possible, Mother Earth needs to “put on her face”, and the fact of the matter is that she needs our help to do it. Then, once most of the deserts have been turned into grasslands, and the ecosystems have all returned, wildlife needs to be conserved. The model nation for this is the Kingdom of Bhutan. The royal family has even received international acclaim for having a commitment to the maintenance of biodiversity. Plus, as if all that wasn’t cool enough, the country of Bhutan is so green that it’s actually carbon negative, not just carbon neutral. Leaders of the world take note, this is how environmental protection is meant to be done. The Bhutanese are eco-warriors like no other. Their national constitution is a veritable manifesto. The country maintains at least 60% of the land area under forest cover, designates more than 40% of its territory as national parks, reserves and other protected areas, and identifies a further 9% of land area as biodiversity corridors linking the protected areas. All of Bhutan’s protected territory is connected in a vast network of biological corridors, allowing countless animals to migrate freely throughout the country, like the elephants in the picture below.
The thing is that, once people like Dr. Liu prevent the world from turning to dust, humanity then needs to put an end to desertification, once and for all. Drought has led to famine for millennia and the time has come to end world hunger. Food and water security is the most important thing in the world, and it always will be. Scarcity can become a thing of the past though, but everyone has to work together to make it happen. Fortunately, there are easy steps to follow in the regreening algorithm. To begin with, work needs to be done in every place that doesn’t stay humid all year round. Every area in the world that has dried up, or is drying out, must be fenced in. Overgrazing leads to exposed ground, which leads to damaged soil, which contributes to climate change. This does so by releasing carbon and more importantly dihydrogen monoxide, or water, into the atmosphere. The same problem is also caused by slash and burn style farming. Improper herding and farming are detrimental, so everything has to be managed properly to avoid any further damage.
Some areas have miles of desert and have been totally swept clean all the way down to the geological bones of the Earth, so they need special attention. On occasion, areas need to be plowed and tiered in order for the land to form and water to flow in just the right way. Nonetheless, any and every landscape can be perfectly tailored to fit any needs. Even the harshest, most arid environs can be made lush and habitable. In only about five years or so, any overgrazed or desertified plot of land can become fully rehabilitated. Sometimes ancient species, long thought to be extinct, have even been known to return in certain areas. This is what the Princess of Jordan, Basma Bint Ali, and her people experienced not that long ago. In the worst case scenario, though, seeds will need to be planted for the process of rewilding to begin. Either way, this allows the land to be reclaimed by nature. Grass cover and the perennial root system then prevents the soil from being irradiated by the Sun, which allows water to accumulate and eventually flow out into streams. This changes everything. Hydrology is the basis of biology. Where there is water there is life, and life feeds on life, so food chains form. This is the basic lesson of survival, and it is the key to preventing desertification, as well as everything that comes with it, including starvation.
In summation, once most of the soil covering the planet has been turned to grassland, then most of that needs to be turned into farmland. This will require the use of holistic planned grazing and harvesting. Then, in most cases, the sustainable growth of vegetation can be made to occur in a number of different ways. Ideally, though, the goal in all of this is to have Mother Earth grow our food, not Monsanto. To do this, permaculture farming emphasizes patterns of landscape and species assemblies, such as corn, beans, and squash which should always be grown together, not as separate crops. This provides the maximum benefit to the local environment and produces a high density of goods at a minimal cost. So, it really is possible to turn every brown wasteland into a green oasis, no matter how big or small they might be. As a perfect example, the Loess Plateau restoration project, which is pictured below, is proof positive that this can happen, even on a really large scale. Ultimately, the sky, or rather the ground is the limit when it comes to “regreening the world”. With that being said, I whole-heartedly believe that we can become a Permacultural Planetary Paradise, at least some day. Hopefully, not long from now, everyone will turn the Earth into a real-life “Garden of Eden”. The thing is that to make it all happen we must first become the great stewards of nature that we were always meant to be. Such is the destiny of humanity…
This essay was inspired by and is dedicated to, my friend Ethan.
Thanks for reading.