A Lecture Lover’s Laud: Sustainability Talks at Tufts

Do you know that heavy cattle grazing can rejuvenate grassland and reverse desertification? I didn’t either – until I attended a presentation at the Fletcher School called “Reversing Global Warming and Desertification with Livestock? Counter Intuitive Thinking: A Futurist’s Inquiry.”

The talk given by the President of Planet-TECH Associates, Seth Itzkan, opened my eyes to the revolutionary new idea of Holistic Management, which has already been implemented in farms around the globe to astonishing success. The system, developed at the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe, allows for (and may actually require) four times more cattle on a normal amount of grazing acreage than traditional ranching methods and quickly replenishes the soil fertility and water table to boot. All that’s required to transition to this system is additional manpower to rotate livestock in a pre-determined pattern.*

My point in sharing these fascinating “planned grazing” factoids is that I may never have encountered these ideas had I not gone out on a limb to visit Fletcher that day.  Everyone, including freshmen like me, can take advantage of speakers brought in by different organizations to the Tufts community, as events are generally open to the public. Many of these lectures focus on sustainability and discuss reforming current systems to pave the way for a better future. With such important and timely content, the talks tend to be eye-opening and in some cases groundbreaking, as Mr. Itzkan’s presentation was for me.  Who knows what a similar lecture could be for you? It could be anything from a fun supply of “brain candy” to the opportunity of a lifetime.

Regardless of what you do – whether you teach, study or work at Tufts – you won’t know what you are missing until you step out of the box and look around. There’s no shortage of chances to broaden your horizons. The Office of Sustainability promotes many events related to sustainability on our blog and website.

Check out some of the programs here at Tufts that sponsor ongoing lecture series:

The Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP)

CEIRP’s Focus: International environment and resource issues
Upcoming Talk: Sustainable Development Diplomacy & Governance Program –  “International Resource Politics and Minerals: How does the Resource Nexus come in?” (Mar 1, 7pm)

Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE)

GDAE’s Focus: Integration of economics, policy, science and technology
Upcoming Talk: Brown-Bag Lunch Series – “The Global Food Crisis and the Future of Agriculture” (Mar 5, 12:30pm)

Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE)

TIE’s focus: Environmental education, research, outreach, and service
Upcoming Talk: TIE Talk – Mary Davis, Tufts UEP Professor, on her research in economics and public health (Mar 7, 4:30pm)

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI – US)

SEI’s focus: Changes in sustainable development by bridging science and policy
Past Talk: “The Social Cost of Carbon” (Sept 29, 2011)

Environmental Studies Program (ENVS)

ENVS’s focus: Training in social and natural sciences, engineering, and humanities
Upcoming Talk: Lunch and Learn – “Groundfishing in New England: Have the Managers Finally Gotten it Right?” (Mar 1, 12pm)

Water: Systems, Science and Society (WSSS)

WSSS’s focus: Interdisciplinary management of water related problems
Upcoming Talk: “Water in a New Era” (Mar 27, 3pm)

Each of them has its own specialties and flavor, so pick a lecture from each and see what fits your fancy!

*Want to learn more about the nuts and bolts of Allan Savory’s Holistic Management? Visit www.savoryinstitute.com to expand your world.


  1. Hi Anne,

    Thanks for blogging about my talk at Fletcher. I’m glad you found it informative.

    I wanted to quickly address one slight misconception in your writeup. You say “All that’s required to transition to this system is additional manpower to rotate livestock in a pre-determined pattern”. Unfortunately, that’s not quite right, although we wish it were that easy. What’s required is to follow the Holistic Management planning process, which I touched on briefly, but didn’t really have time to get into in detail. This includes setting a holistic goal, creating a grazing plan (following prescribed steps), and then continuously monitoring the health of the grass and cattle and being adaptive as needed. I’m sure for the purpose of blogging, this is distinction is barely worth mentioning, but there’s been a lot of misconception about this process being simply a matter of more cattle and man power. It’s quite more complicated. The point is that it requires proper planning and that, in time, the land can heal when livestock are managed in a way that replicates the wild herds that grasslands evolved with (and not allowed to overgraze). This will ultimately enable the land to support more cattle and enable more jobs for herders, but always the planning and monitoring are at the core. Thanks again for your interest and enthusiasm on this topic.

  2. Hello Mr. Itzkan,

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog post. I apologize for oversimplifying the process you have worked so hard to promote. My mistake is now clear in my own mind and hopefully in the minds of readers as well.

    I would like to reiterate how much I enjoyed and benefited from your presentation. I wish you the best of luck in disseminating your revolutionary — if not straightforward — idea around the world, as many are deeply in need of such a change.

    I greatly appreciate the explanation you provided to correct my misconception. Not only does it enable me to understand the subject matter more thoroughly but it lends a depth of understanding to all others with an interest in your work.

    Again, thank you,

    Anne Elise

  3. Hi Anne,

    fyi, I recently gave a TEDx talk on this topic.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.