Over the course of the inquiry that began in 1995 when I was assigned to document the rehabilitation of China’s Loess Plateau, I have learned many things.
Specifically, I have observed that there are powerful long-term evolutionary trends that have provided and continuously renewed the atmosphere, the hydrological cycle and the fertility and productivity of the soils. These trends are principles and they are understandable, measurable and predictable.
The three trends that I have observed and study are:
- The trend toward total colonization of the Earth by biological life.
- The trend toward differentiation and speciation leading to massive biodiversity.
- The trend toward the accumulation of organic matter as each generation of life lays down its body to nurture the next.
There is evidence that these trends are based on billions of years of evolution and as such are extremely consistent, powerful and compelling. Human history can be seen as an accidental experimentation of what happens when these trends are interrupted. When these long-term trends are broken, it changes the positive accumulation of biodiversity, biomass and organic matter into a negative spiral that depletes the earth of the systems that regulate air, water and fertility.
These observations have been subject to peer review at serious academic forums -- such as Rothamsted Research, Oxford University, The Royal Society, The World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme -- and scientifically they do not seem to be in dispute.
What has been especially important in my research is observing that it is possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems by restoring ecosystem function. This was clearly shown in China’s Loess Plateau, and subsequent investigation in other parts of the world have shown that this is not specific to that region but based on understanding and that it is repeatable. It has also been important that many of the poorest people have visibly changed from being the ones degrading these systems and functions into becoming the solution -- when they are educated to understand the previous negative impacts and the potential positive impacts of their actions.
This is of profound importance for the future of humanity and the planet.
In January, I traveled to Nairobi at his invitation. During this time I was able to share "Hope in a Changing Climate" with several audiences and to discuss the implications of the understanding with Mutuma Marangu and others. This first visit heightened awareness in Kenya of the potential of "Integrated Poverty Eradication and Large-scale Ecosystem Rehabilitation." During the visit, I was interviewed by Jeff Koinange, Anchor and Host of Capital Talk and Chief Reporter for K24, Kenya’s 24-hour All News TV Station.
I also spent three days (Feb. 5-Feb. 8, 2010) in Kigali, Rwanda, hosted by the Rwandan Environmental Management Agency (REMA), where I met with several offices of the Rwandan Government, including the Rwandan Environmental Management Agency, the Personal Secretary to the President and the Permanent Secretary for Science and Technology of the Ministry of Education. I returned to Kenya in March to present and participate in the Kenya Youth Empowerment and Employment Summit (March 2-3, 2010). I engaged in a series of meetings at the Summit, including Food for the Hungry, the Kenyan Forestry Research Institute, and Kenyan Vision 2030 and then departed from Nairobi on March 9, 2010.
These trips brought the subject of "Integrated Poverty Eradication and Large-scale Ecosystem Rehabilitation" to Kenya in a definitive way. There was a great acceptance of the information by all who heard the message. My feeling is that there will be a gradual period of digesting the information and then it will be seen in many ways to begin to permeate the societal consciousness in Kenya.
There is a question of whether Kenya will lead or whether Kenya will follow in understanding and implementing strategies based on this knowledge. Certainly the sooner that Kenya absorbs this knowledge, the better the outcome will be for the country. Based on this understanding, it is clear that there is no future in reducing biodiversity, biomass or accumulated organic matter. That means that firewood, charcoal, dung burning, de-vegetation, deforestation, unsustainable agricultural, unsustainable urban design and unsustainable industrial practices all must change.
The key to making this happen is seeing that this is an opportunity and not a cost. Billions have been allocated for climate mitigation and adaptation from global sources. How much of that will come to Kenya depends on how well Kenya understands and can design projects that implement what I have been describing.
It has been correctly noted that large amounts of labor are needed and that there are large amounts of unemployed young people in Kenya--500,000 high school graduates who will not get college placement or jobs. This is twice the size of those that will find places. Could this be tapped as a "Kenyan Conservation Corps" on the model of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the United States in the 1930s? This type of integrated planning could be very important for Kenya.
I’m very grateful to Mutuma Marangu for bringing me to Kenya and East Africa this time. I’m ready to assist Kenya and the Kenyan people to take up this understanding in any way that I can.
John D. Liu (March 10, 2010)