Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Ever heard of force majeure? I love that term. I do.

Being a language lover and an avid writer who also lectures English/Literature aside my activism and communications career, I have always derived an intense pleasure from tweedling semantics and expressions. Hate me all you may, but I also studied French and Spanish, read a bit of Latin (poor though), and I can speak, read, and write them well, albeit not rapidly.

Force majeure (French). Fuerza mayor (Spanish). Casus fortuitous (Latin). Act of God (Legalese/legal language). These all refer to the same thing, which Wikipedia –bless their heart – defines as “chance occurrence; unavoidable accident”. Now in that case, why are human beings NOT ALSO a force majeure? God knows we are an “act of God”, and what an act! Such an accident – the humankind, and totally avoidable too. The Man Above should never have created human beings. Sometimes, I think he did just to give himself the challenge, and not have to spend eternity in boredom. We are that accident, that flaw, that tiny stain on what should have been a peaceful world, and to me, we are that unfortunate force majeure that climate, wildlife, and the environment has to deal with – unavoidably.

In legal situations (contract-making), the term has very deep connotations and relevance; is used to fore-bargain for the right to be excused if one fails their part of the contract due to certain “unavoidable occurrences/accidents” out of their control, and so on; in military terms, the same term is used to give a vessel or aircraft access to a normally restricted area without penalties. You really should read more about this, people.

So why am I going on about terms and languages, and plotting the total extermination of mankind à la Pinky&Brain, and boasting about my skills?

 It has to do with our celebration of Earth Day (22nd April each year) here in Accra. Many NGOs, organisations and environmentalists celebrated it their own way, but all focused on the climate, environment, eco issues, and our attitude. The day after, 23rd April, which was yesterday, the US Embassy in Ghana (Accra) also hosted some of us at a small forum for the purpose, and once again, we paid tribute to Mother Earth. There were several representations and enthusiasts of environmental and climate efforts in Ghana there at the Embassy, though the official presentations were made by:
  • Deputy Chief of Mission (DCOM) Mad. Patricia C. Alsup
  • Allan Savory (via a TEDTalk video made in Feb 2013 in California and showed to us)
  • Mr. Kyekyeku Yaw Oppong-Boadi (EPA’s UN FCCC Focal Point in Ghana) 
  • Mr. Robert Bamfo (CC/National REDD – Forestry Commission).

Mad. Patricia Alsup (Deputy COM) opened the program graciously and briefly. She re-iterated the rising sea level along the coastline, the rate of desertification, the inception of Earth Day in 1970, which has now swelled from the little efforts to a worldwide movement – from Iowa (USA) to Wa (Ghana), just to para-quote her. She shared most of Obama’s large efforts to cut down on carbon emissions via strong policies and executive directives, and pointed out that Ghana was at the forefront of  number of US-Africa efforts to reduce carbon emissions and climate change, concluding with a quote from Obama’s 2nd Inaugural Address : that the obligation was not just to ourselves but also to posterity, and our responsibilities extend to our children and the generations to come. And equally importantly, that the evidence that nature is radically changing for the worse shows in recent natural disasters, in spite of our reluctance to accept majority of the science-based assertions on climate change.

My favourite part of the event was the TEDtalk video by Allan Savory on what he called “the one ultimate solution to Climate Change, the world over”.  Oh, I was sold! I sat tight. For sure, we were still interested in growing better and bigger Renewable Energy and Natural Energy platforms; still interested in Sustainable and Progressive efforts for all businesses, building, and bodies. But an ultimate solution for Climate Change, albeit a bit isolated, veritably grabbed my interest too! Here is a rendition of the video in a mix of paraphrases and my own terms, and to me it points to one question, “What is in an act?, What is in your action, and my action?, What is in the act of Man?”:

We are facing a ‘perfect storm’, and it is bearing down rapidly on us. We see it coming, yet amidst our mix of worry and disbelief, we are also arrogant in our view towards it, believing that we can meet it with the force of our amazing technologies. We must think again.

When we speak of desertification, we define it in long sentences, but it is really only this: ‘too much bare ground’. There is no other cause for desertification than allowing or creating too much bare ground, and it is this simple. Months of humidity followed by months of dryness escalates the situation, by allowing algae to grow on the bare crust, which permits any rain water to run off immediately, and also causes rapid evaporation of whatever little rain soaks the soil; evaporation with a lot of carbon dioxide.

Mankind has gone through this 'force majeure' before. We were once just as certain that the world was flat. We were wrong then, and we are wrong now. Moving around the USA after Africa, I saw national parks desertifying just as badly as places in Africa, where the issue was attributed to huge herds of wildlife passing/living there; yet these US parks had had no wildlife for over 70 years. I was learning, and prior mistakes I had committed in Africa (in attempting to restore the plant-life, Mr. Savory had at a point insisted 40,000 elephants be killed to help succeed; he was wrong, the desertification worsened, and he has lived with this tragedy all his life) made me even more determined to correct this situation of desertification and climate change.

Basically, when one allows/makes the spaces around them to be bare/made/left bare, they have created a microclimate. Multiply this by the number of people doing the same thing, or caring just as little, and you have the picture in your mind. Now, my solution is in our return to mimicking nature – with LARGE MOVING HERDS of animals. What large, moving herds of wildlife or animals does is this: they urinate and drop dung as they move along (grazing or not grazing), which is trampled over INTO THE GROUND by the herd themselves as they move along. Any grass in their path is also flattened, and since they are grazing as they move along, bits of unchewed grass is dropped all over – forming NATURAL MULCH. Combine this with the trampled-into-earth urine and dung, and you have NATURE’S OWN COMPOST AND MULCH process. With a little bit of dew and/or rain, you have exponential increase in grass and plantcover in a month or two.

In creating his solution to climate change, Savory picked this natural ‘antidote’ to desertification, studied it, applied a plan to it, and formed what he called the HOLISTIC MANAGING & PLANNED GRAZING approach to desertification and climate change.

Hence, he has taught communities in Africa and other parts of the world how to ‘pool’ their animals and move them as in a herd for a carefully planned and controlled (holistic) grazing across bare/desertifying swathes of land for a length of time, with the aim of regrowing their plantlife back. Where the land is seriously desertified, the moving large herds of animals are made to pass over it in a planned schedule WITHOUT GRAZING, until the trampled-over urine and dung and a bit of humidity/rain causes grass and plantlife to begin growing. This is also monitored. As they grow, the herds are permitted to begin grazing still under a plan, and on and on it goes. And this, Savory said, was at absolutely low cost to both the communities and bodies (international and local) involved in such efforts, and PROVEN to work in several countries and communities, safeguarding both animal life and plantlife.

Please watch the video via this link:

What does this Holistic Grazing concept have to do with Climate Change? Savory said, burning 1 hectare of grassland releases more carbon dioxide than 6000 cars burning fossil fuels; and bare land releases much more carbon dioxide than one with plant cover. Carbon dioxide is drastically affecting the climate. Yet we have more forests rapidly being cut down, less efforts to plant AND maintain trees, and many people burning grassland to clear it off weeds and also for planting. MORE CARBON EMISSIONS. Holistic Grazing counters the effect of such acts, even whilst it returns the space to its natural balance, sustains wildlife and animalife, and is at a VERY low cost to all involved.

My one main question was this: where are those cattle-nomads? They should come to school and learn a new business initiative: Roaming Ambassadors of Green Life. Of course, that means we have to school ourselves, school those around us, have our chiefs and community leaders begin planning land use much better, and having nomads and ranchers learn how to co-exist peacefully in communities in a more … well, holistic way.
As one of the panelists at the forum said yesterday, “Let’s go BACK to the FUTURE.” Our indigenous people and our grandparents knew the way, and reserved things for us. Today, our arrogance and stupidity makes us the most destructive force ever on earth. Force majeure? Act of Man? Maybe an act of God should strike us down, and our contract with the universe revoked for thoughtless acts. At this rate, the earth could do without us. But wait, perhaps that is it – climate change is an act of God to wipe us out by force majeure. Do we wait for it, or change our ways and renew our contract with the universe? Hmmmm?

24th April, 2013.

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