In March and July, 2013, I posted articles on Allan Savory and Bill McKibben. I subsequently added a number of postcripts. Here’s another, posted as a stand-alone article.

If you don’t know of them, Savory promotes intensive livestock grazing systems, and McKibben is the founder of climate change campaign group, 350.org.

I was prompted to post this article by a high-profile critique of Savory’s work by Guardian columnist, George Monbiot, published on 4th August, 2014. (Monbiot covered much of the material that I had referred to in my own article.)

I was criticising Savory for the lack of scientific evidence to support claims that his form of intensive livestock grazing could reverse climate change and prevent desertification. I was similarly critical of McKibben for his lack of evidence and detail in promoting intensively grazed systems.

McKibben was supporting Savory’s approach during a 2013 visit to Australia. He also seemed to be doing so in a 2010 article in Orion Magazine, but did not specifically refer to Savory at that time.

Some time back, I became aware that supporters of Savory appear to have taken credit for much of the material used in McKibben’s article. They did so in an April, 2010 discussion within the Soil Age Google Group.

The discussion included or referred to Adam Sacks, Seth Itzkan and Jim Laurie. You can see them pictured with Savory on the Savory Institute Hubs page.

A note from Itzkan to Sacks within the Google Group discussion indicated the extent to which group members and/or acquaintances had assisted McKibben:

This article is a direct result of your [Sacks’s] interaction with him and the subsequent correspondences that you, me, and Jim [Laurie] had with him in the following weeks, both the general theme, as well as the particulars and specifically all the language about electric fences, dung beetles, predators, and of course ‘methane-loving bacteria’.  He was profoundly influenced, and grateful for our influence, and I’m thankful to you for helping to make that connection.

As explained in my article on McKibben, the research on “methane loving bacteria” that Sacks referred to in a January, 2010 Grist article was subsequently found to be out by a factor of 1,000. A seemingly inadvertent error had occurred in reporting milligrams instead of micrograms.

I’m not aware of McKibben, Orion Magazine, Sacks or Grist correcting the articles. If they have not, then perhaps they should, particularly on such a critical issue.

Author: Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Slideshare and Sribd)


Mahony, P., Livestock and climate: Why Allan Savory is not a saviour”, Terrastendo, 26 Mar, 2013, https://terrastendo.net/2013/03/26/livestock-and-climate-why-allan-savory-is-not-a-saviour/

Mahony, P., Do the math: There are too many cows!, Terrastendo, 26th July, 2013, https://terrastendo.net/2013/07/26/do-the-math-there-are-too-many-cows/

Monbiot, G., Eat more meat and save the world: the latest implausible farming miracle, The Guardian, 4th August, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/aug/04/eat-more-meat-and-save-the-world-the-latest-implausible-farming-miracle?CMP=fb_gu

McKibben, Bill, The only way to have a cow, Orion Magazine, Mar/Apr 2010, http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/5339/

Sacks, A., The Climate Solution: Got Cows?”, Grist, 31 Jan, 2010, http://grist.org/article/the-climate-solution-got-cows/

Image: Cattle at sunset © Anthony Brown | Dreamstime.com