What? TED vectoring pseudoscience? Unpossible! In one recent particular instance, though, a TED talk firmly grounded in bullshit — literal and figurative — is gaining a mortifying amount of traction with people who really should know better.
The lecturer is Allan Savory, who for the last couple decades has been pushing his own brand of Maverick Science despite hidebound opposition from “scientists” with their “peer review” and their “evidence” and their “reproducible results.”
Savory’s thesis: every desert in the world is caused by insufficient grazing. We know this because of reasons. All those desertified former grasslands in Africa and the Middle East that have been turned to dusty parking lots by cattle and sheep and goats just didn’t have enough livestock on them to churn up the soil, shit everywhere, and then move on to the next patch of land in a rotational grazing approach.
Savory’s approach can work in theory, on marginal grassland with very close monitoring and if your management goals do not include protecting species that are intolerant of cattle. Can work. Doesn’t necessarily. And that’s irrelevant to actual deserts, yet Savory wants to push his approach onto ancient desert landscapes anyway.
The biggest problem for me, as I point out this morning at KCET, is that Savory doesn’t distinguish between actual deserts — stable, diverse yet fragile habitats — and ruined grasslands. He conflates “desertification” — a term that needs to be abandoned — with actual deserts, then misrepresents the basic science of desert ecology, for instance calling cryptobiotic crusts a “cancer.”
None of this is a surprise to anyone who has followed Savory over the last few decades. Same shit, different day. But TED has helped him go viral, and there are people who are taking him at his word to an embarrassing degree. Even though he says stuff in the talk like “There is no other option” but to follow his program, a phrase that should cause any sane person to back away slowly with her hand firmly protecting her wallet.
But environmentally concerned people, even here in California, show a disturbing willingness to believe any negative shit they hear about the desert. The TED audience laps Savory’s crap up to a disheartening degree.
Anyway, I debunk what I can of Savory’s crap here at KCET. What I can given time and space, that is. It’s only a 13-minute video and one could write a book about the wrongness.