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John Liu’s Green Gold Documentary

May 24, 2012

Here’s John Liu’s recent Green Gold Documentary (below). The film offers a good glimpse into a few large-scale restoration initiatives around the world (China, Jordan, Ethiopia). Truthfully, I haven’t followed Liu’s work/films in the past. I came across this and thought visitors to this site might find portions of it interesting. Admittedly, one problem I have with this film is the total lack of mention of pre-Colombian swidden-fallow agroforestry (permaculture’s precursor) as offering the best working example of a historically sustainable land management and resource renewal system.

Another point which I found highly problematic and illogical is at 42:23 when, in conclusion, Liu offers an overview of what he perceives as a potential solution to the persistent human-induced land degradation around the globe… Liu highlights two major types of terrestrial biome – arid climates and tropical climates. He then goes on to suggest that since there is so much biomass in tropical climates and so little biomass in arid climates, then (and I quote) “why not generate huge amounts of organic material there (tropics) and move it here (arid climate).” He continues, “if that (biomass) came here, you’d create an industry there, instead of them using slash and burn agriculture to grow crops which they can’t even feed themselves with and destroy what is the most valuable thing about their system, they would have money, and a job. And then here, you’d have another industry to do restoration. So this would create two huge industries, employ untold numbers of people and put us on a pathway towards sustainability.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I consider biomass as being the most valuable substance on earth, and for the most part John Liu seems to be very thoughtful and articulate, however the idea of creating major industries based around the export of biomass from tropical climates to arid climates strikes me as utterly preposterous. Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but in Liu’s quest to inform people how to sequester carbon and create sustainable economies I am confused how he arrived at large-scale biomass import/export as a solution. Anyhow, the above critique aside, I think this documentary offers a positive message. Watch it if you have a chance.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 10:08:50 pm

    I guess there are always people postulating about some extreme form of environmentalism without the backup of actual scientific data, but thats the coalface of sustainable agriculture I guess…its just funny that scientists on the coalface appear to only want to postulate about prospective future solutions without going back to learn from the past. I guess there are no money making opportunities or kudos in reworking the atom…

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