Restoring Ecosystems, Preventing Flooding, and Building Soil with John Liu

John D. Liu
Sunday, 23rd February 2014

John D. Liu is an environmental film maker, travelling the world exploring how countries follow natures systems to find solutions to droughts and flooding.

Ranging from China to Rwanda, communities are feeling the effects of a changing climate. Along with intensive agriculture that depletes the soils, farmers are losing livestock and crops due to excessive weather, lack of soil nutrients and poor landscapes.

Here John D. Liu explains how these communities have encorporated various techniques to work with the weather systems.

Terraces are built on hillsides to prevent soil being washed away, swales are created to capture water when it does rain so that crops have water through drought periods and natural vegetation has been allowed to grow back, especially in the ridges, aiding in carbon capture as well as keeping soil healthy and preventing it being lost.

In the Loess Plateau in China, communities are seeing an abundance of crops even though they are in the worst drought for decades. The soil has accumulated organic material from allowing vegetation to grow, which means it now holds nutrients and so holds moisture and carbon. These people have created these areas of living soil, actively producing carbon sequesting fields.

One man in the film explains it perfectly, "We have properly understood the miracles performed by trees."

As John D. Liu concludes, "Restoration can sequester carbon, reduce bio-diversity loss, mitigate against flooding, drought and famine, it can ensure food security for people who are now chronically hungry. Why don't we do this on a global scale?"

After the wettest winter on record in Britain, there is much that Europeans can learn from these approaches to absorb high levels of rainful, stabilise topsoil and prevent flooding. Dredging is like anti-biotics: It may (in some instances) solve a short term problem by sending water faster into the ocean, but it does not offer a long term solution, especially when high tides back up that water lower down stream. We need to look at whole ecosystems and what is happening on hillsides, not just at the crises points in the valleys.

Further resources

John D. Liu features in Green Gold - How can we regenerate large-scale damaged ecosystems?

What has nature ever done for us?

Permaculture: Pioneering Amazon rainforest regeneration

Cows Save The Planet: and other improbable ways of restoring soil to heal the earth

How to green the worlds deserts and reverse climate change: hope for the future

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