B2 High-Intermediate Other 15795 Folder Collection
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This is shit
or rather cow manure.
One cow produces 25 tons of manure every year.
And that's great because manure is a fantastic organic fertilizer.
It's chock-full of nutrients to grow our grains and vegetables.
Humans have been using animal dung as fertilizer for 10,000 years.
Without it, agriculture would have never been possible.
And that was true until about 100 years ago
when we started using petrochemical fertilizers like nitrogen.
Soon after that, manure as a fertilizer started to become much less valuable.
Today, manure looks more like this
- this is a manure pit in Switzerland -
or like this: a manure lagoon in the United States.
Now, a lot of these farms
or let me call them what they are, animal feeding factories,
don't grow the food for their animals themselves anymore.
So to them, manure is not a precious fertilizer,
instead it is just a problem that has to be managed.
This is but one of many aspects of how our industrialized agriculture today
has become so broken
that many now believe that our only ethical response may be becoming vegan.
I'm here to tell you:
please do keep eating meat and cheese.
We need animals for a sustainable agriculture,
but please stop eating
meat and cheese from animals that were fed on human food
like grains, and corn, and soybean.
Instead, only eat meat and cheese from cows that were fed on grass
like they were meant to.
I am going to tell you how that one choice is going to allow us
to tackle some of the greatest challenges we're facing today: climate change,
global soil degradation and world hunger.
In Switzerland, farmers still tried to use manure
as an organic fertilizer as best they can.
But in winter, pastures are covered with snow
so the cows are being kept indoors.
So the farmer has to store the manure in a manure pit
until he can bring it out in the springtime.
The problem is that, after a while, manure starts to rot,
and all those precious nutrients start
to turn into toxic substances like ammonia and evaporate.
Puff! And all those precious nutrients are gone.
In Germany alone, 600,000 tons of ammonia evaporate like this every year.
Standing next to one of those manure pools can feel like you're inhaling acid.
And in fact ammonia causes acid rain.
And when brought out to the field,
that manure seeps into our groundwater and rivers
and causes massive greenhouse gas emissions.
Let me take a step back and tell you how I got mixed up in all this shit.
I originally studied economics in China where lived for three years
until I got dangerously ill from the food I was eating there.
I had to take a timeout
and I was getting really paranoid about food,
so I decided to move
from a country with probably the lowest food safety standards
to... well, here, Switzerland.
I went to work on an organic farm close to Bern
and that was the first time that I got wind of this problem:
organic fields being sprayed with half rotten manure.
I always assumed that organic agriculture
is equal to sustainable agriculture.
But spraying fields with half rotten manure
didn't fit into my idea of sustainable agriculture.
And in fact, this whole manure business is not very sustainable at all.
Let's put aside the fact that I came home smelling like shit,
and taking one shower wasn't enough to get that smell off me.
That manure, when brought out to the field
is so aggressive it literally burns the plants,
and the soil takes a real beating as well.
Earthworms, that are the backbone of a healthy fertile soil,
come rushing to the surface suffocating,
only to be picked off by birds.
I thought there's got to be a better way to do this,
a better way than spraying our organic fields with half rotten manure
so I did some research and I came across an interesting master thesis
where I really thought this is something we ought to try out.
Oktoberfest is just behind us
so I'm sure you've all had a chance to eat some nice 'sauerkraut.'
But have you ever wondered
why everything in your fridge will go bad at some point,
but sauerkraut will stay good, basically forever?
Well, the reason are these fantastic bacteria called lactic acid bacteria.
They take the sugar in the 'kraut'
and convert it to lactic acid making the 'sauerkraut' sour,
and thus stopping all other rotting bacteria.
In sauerkraut production, we end up with these leftover juices,
sauerkraut juice, that is chock-full of lactic acid bacteria.
Now, some people like to drink that.
It's supposed to be great for your digestion,
but let me tell you, I've tried it and I prefer a cold beer,
and so the most other people,
so this juice ends up as a waste product.
Millions of liters of it in Switzerland alone.
So I thought: why don't we take that sauerkraut juice
and put it into the manure to conserve it,
and stop all the nutrients from getting lost?
I told some friends about this idea and got them all excited about it.
We met with some top scientists in Switzerland
and put together a concept to actually implement this.
So I called the CEO of the largest sauerkraut factory in Switzerland
and told him about this idea,
and he was actually quite open to it.
Now I just need to find a farmer who would be willing to join us on this.
I ended up getting an invitation to give a pitch at the annual meeting
of the Swiss Organic Pastor Beef Association.
I was all excited and told the group of farmers
pretty much what I had just told you now,
and I asked them if anyone would be willing to join me on this.
And the room went silent.
No one put up his hand.
It was not very encouraging at all.
But after almost everyone else had left,
one courageous farmer from the Alpine region of St. Gallen,
Mr. Pirmin Koller, came to me and said:
"You know what, now that no one else is listening"
"I'll give this a try with you."
So, together with the Zurich University Applied Sciences,
we put together some research parameters, and within a few weeks,
we were pouring thousands of liters of sauerkraut juice into Pirmin's manure.
And you know what? It worked!
That manure didn't smell anymore,
and all those precious nutrients didn't turn into toxic substances
like ammonia anymore and evaporated.
And Pirmin's grass turned just a little greener as well,
making his neighbor's little bit jealous
- I guess sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence -
so suddenly, this wasn't just a crazy idea anymore.
A whole bunch of people got really excited about this.
The World Wildlife Foundation awarded us a grant,
and at the Falling Walls conference in Berlin,
we won the first prize out of 1,000 projects.
And that caused quite some media attention;
Swiss and German TV did segments on us
and we got a whole lot of coverage in Swiss and German newspapers as well.
And that was great because after that,
farmers from all over Switzerland, all the way to America and Australia,
contacted me,
and within three months, we had six pilot projects up and running.
But, as the results started to come in,
we realized that manure has
a much higher buffer capacity than we originally anticipated.
We needed about ten times the amount of sauerkraut juice
to conserve the manure over a six-month period.
Instead of a few thousand liters,
we now needed tens of thousands of liters.
And that's not great news because it's not Oktoberfest every day
so we don't have enough sauerkraut juice available to really scale this idea.
I realised that if I want to tackle this manure problem,
I'm going to have to understand farming from the ground up,
so I decided to become a farmer.
I'm now in my third year of a four-year vocational training program
to become an organic dynamic farmer living and working on a farm.
But not just any farm.
I work on an organic cattle farm
where they do something pretty special with their manure.
They turn their manure into pure fertile compost.
Now let me quickly explain to you how that happens
and how that is going to help save our climate and soils
and help make the world's most disadvantaged regions
food independent again.
I'm going to have to go back 3,000 years to the Indios of South America.
South and Middle America was home to some highly advanced civilizations,
with cities as large as 300,000 people.
When we Europeans were still taking a dump in our backyards
and dying of the plague,
they had already figured out an intricate sanitary system.
They would use clay pots as their toilets.
When they were done doing their business in the pot,
they would sprinkle charcoal in the pot.
Now this charcoal - today we call it biochar -
is extremely absorbent.
Like a sponge, it soaks up all the nutrients,
stopping them from getting lost.
So when that pot was full,
they didn't just end up with a pot of poop,
but an extremely fertile pot of poop.
They'd probably bring that out to their fields
and plant some beans or corn and have fantastic yields.
But what the Indios probably didn't know
was that biochar has a negative carbon balance
and it stays in the soil for thousands of years.
So they ended up creating the world's most fertile soils:
the Terra Preta.
And we marvel at them even today, [500] years later,
So, at the farm work I'm at,
the farmer has been implementing a system for the past 15 years
that mimics the Indio clay pot toilet.
He would make his cows
a clean bed of wood chips and biochar over the winter,
instead of storing the manure in a manure pool.
Those cows would live and sleep there every day,
and every second day he would add a new layer of wood chips and biochar,
thus conserving the manure.
In the springtime, we would take all that wood chip-biochar-manure
out of the stables and compost it.
Now, composting is just a little bit like baking.
You have to take the right ingredients in the right amounts
and mix them up in just the right way.
So we take that wood chip-biochar-manure,
and we add a layer of freshly cut grass,
and a little bit of finished compost, and a little bit of clay,
and we mix it all up, and that's when the magic happens:
a whole army of microorganisms
starts to take apart all that organic matter devouring it.
That composting process turns really hot
- over 70 degrees [Celsius] for three weeks -
And those microorganisms take apart all the organic matter
including antibiotics and growth hormones,
and whatever other chemicals might be in there.
And the heat sanitizes the manure from pathogen bacteria.
When all that organic matter's broken down to its chemical building-blocks,
a whole new army of microorganisms
takes those building blocks and puts them together to pure fertile soil.
In this form, all of the nutrients are locked up safely,
none of them evaporating or leaching into the groundwater.
I'm now involved in an EU project
where we're turning this concept large-scale on the farm with 1,500 cows.
So this concept is applicable on every scale.
From the Indio clay pot toilets,
all the way to large-scale cattle farms.
With this method, we may turn desolate soils fertile again.
People may grow food locally again
where they have become dependent on food aid
or on multinational fertilizer companies.
And by making soils fertile again,
we may lock up billions of tons of carbon in the soil
reducing atmospheric CO2, and thus, global warming.
Grass and clover grows on billions of hectares of land worldwide,
that is not otherwise usable for agriculture.
These wonderful animals: cows, goats, and sheep,
may unlock this abundant resource to us,
and on the land where we grow grains and vegetables for ourselves,
those crops need lots and lots of nutrients,
so we cannot grow them on the same patch of land every year.
The soil needs time to recover.
Growing grass and clover replenishes the soils nutrients,
So, growing grains and vegetables for humans,
and grass and clover for animals on the same patch of land
is part of a sustainable cycle.
This is called crop rotation.
But growing grains for animals in monoculture can never be sustainable
because it continuously depletes the soils nutrients
making us dependent on petrochemical fertilizers.
So I have a vision for a world where cows only eat grass and clover
from sustainable crop rotation and from pasture.
I imagine a world
where the number of cows on this planet
is not determined by our appetite for meat
but by the amount of grass and clover available to us
through this wonderful symbiosis.
I imagine a world were every farmer
composts his manure with biochar
giving us all the organic fertilizer we need to grow our grains and vegetables
without needing petrochemical fertilizers.
And this vision has already started.
And maybe one day,
we will be able to build up soil fertility to such an extent
that we may lock up all the CO2 in the soil
that we have pumped into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.
So I have a message to you:
please, make buying meat and cheese a conscious activity.
There are few choices in our everyday lives
that may have such a profound positive impact.
Please, only buy locally-grown,
grass-fed beef and cheese!
Thank you.
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【TEDx】This bullsh*t might save the world | Thomas Rippel | TEDxZurich

15795 Folder Collection
Max Lin published on June 21, 2016    Ivy Wan-Yi Weng translated    Mandy Lin reviewed
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