Why Cows Save the Planet?

I anticipate this question because the common assumption today is that cattle are ecological bad news, due to overgrazing and the methane they emit as a result of their digestive process. Cattle (and other grass-eating animals) do have an effect on the environment--but how they're managed determines whether the impact is destructive or beneficial. I chose this title, first, to make clear from the get-go that I'll be taking a different perspective, noting surprising, even counterintuitive, ideas and practices in service of resolving some of our most difficult global problems. Secondly, as a nod to Holistic Management, a land management approach that uses livestock as a tool for large-scale land restoration and which informs many parts of the book. 
Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory, then a biologist and park ranger in Southern Africa. He observed the deterioration of the land and wildlife compared with back when large herds of animals moved across the savanna. He concluded that grasslands needed grazing animals just as the animals needed the land. Over many years he developed a planning framework to manage livestock to behave like their wild counterparts. That's a snapshot version. Here, courtesy of the Savory Institute, is a video that provides a clear, succinct explanation of how Holistic Planned Grazing works, as well as why it's so important to the world's ecological--and by extension, economic and social--health.
Recommended Sources
My book introduces several of what soil carbon maven Peter Donovan calls “artists of the possible” (as opposed to those who say “we can’t do it”). Each shares insights on how the way we treat the soil can tilt us toward environmental and economic resilience. This is a list of organizations that provided ongoing inspiration as I worked on the book, and whose ideas inform its pages.
Savory Institute    
Soil Carbon Coalition  
Quivira Coalition  
New Water Paradigm   
Biotic Regulation    
Bionutrient Food Association    
Burleigh County Soil Conservation District     
New Economics Institute   
New Economics Foundation (UK)    
The Slow Money Alliance   

Cattle at work at a Grasslands LLC ranch in Montana

© 2013 by Judith D. Schwartz