The Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness
Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
June 20 to June 24, 2005
|June 22 am||
Workshop Report 2203
Holistic Land Management and Soil Health Restoration
Allan Savory, Pioneer in Holistic Management, USA
Dick Richardson, University of Texas, USA
Pat Richardson. University of Texas, USA (Moderator)
Rapporteur: Peggy Mahon
Holistic Decision Making with respect to
land management and soil health.
Innovative Practice or Strategy
Allan used the example on his ranch with using animals and grazing as the main means of soil restoration.
Mechanistic Decision making. One common denominator that lies between all situations where the environment has deteriorated — clearly not culture, technology or any of the many differences — only one common denominator — humans make the decisions that lead to degradation. They have made those decisions based on a number of factors such as past experience, expert opinion, research, intuition, peer pressure, cultural norms, expediency, cost, etc and added to that technology, use of fire, rest, and this had led to mechanistic goals/objectives and "mechanistic decision-making."
There are recognized symptoms of environmental degradation such as: soil erosion, rising frequency and severity of floods and droughts, increased diseases, resource scarcity, etc. There is a "global scientific view" that degradation in Africa is due to overpopulation, overstocking and overgrazing livestock, communal ownership, poverty and no access to capital, lack of education and training, and lack of western extension services and excessive corruption. These "known causes dominate education, environmental thinking, policy and scientific writings. Yet, when compared to Texas where some of the above "known causes" do not exist, the same degradation is taking place. Therefore, Allan has challenged these "known causes" as the reasons for degradation.
He also explained that humans have been relatively successful at managing "hard systems" that are "complicated" such as transportation, communication, space exploration, computers, medical technology etc. Where humans have had problems is in managing the "soft systems" that are complex such as management of forests, economies, human relationships, agriculture, oceans, fisheries, biodiversity loss/desertification/poverty/violence, human organizations, and governance
When managing according to a holistic focus, both land and water are restored. Allan has demonstrated this through modelling it in practice.
Mainstream scientists and governments did not believe Allan's challenge to their way of addressing the degradation problems. He experienced personal persecution. He has persisted in his belief in an alternative through modelling how it can work in Africa and in Texas.
“The change is coming”
QuickTime Video Clip
Moving from the Fringe to the Mainstream:
Now over 20 universities are embodying these ideas into their curriculum and "it is staggering how quickly this is catching on." Through teaching/education and through modelling, others can see that this works in practice. Lessons Learned:
QuickTime Video Clip
Fundamental Change to Managing Holistically PowerPoint (4MB)
Innovative Practice or Strategy:
Using "Discovery Learning" in an academic environment (university setting) to challenge students to think critically about what they are learning. Each student develops a holistic goal related to what they are learning, they are encouraged to try it out and learn from their mistakes. They are graded for "making mistakes and learning from them", their learning portfolios and for collaborating with each other. In traditional educational settings this would be considered "cheating." The professors create a "sceptical situation" to challenge students to think critically about what they are learning.
Changing the template of how students are learning about the environment. Part of this is "investing heartbeats".
Getting new ideas across is difficult and it is important to understand that "change is fundamental to managing holistically." It is important to pay attention to what happens when managing holistically and to be ready to do something different. You need to be ready to ask questions rather than give advice (to students). Change is slow and is made when people are enabled to think independently, therefore it is important to know what accelerates change and transforms individuals and groups.
Key success factors are:
Overcoming resistance to change
|Q||Do you feed your animals supplements or do they just graze?|
|Allan||No – I bunch the animals (not rotate). It is the planning that is important. The animals have to get to the right place at the right time and for the right reason for this to work.|
|Q||What about predators?|
|Allan||We do not kill predators. We put all the animals in predator proof enclosures at night.|
|Q||Overpopulation? Is this an issue re: soil erosion?|
|Allan||This would be only looking at an objective not the holistic approach or the holistic goal of including the environment.|
|Q||Is oil the problem?|
|Allan||No – we would have been in trouble without oil re: global desertification. I advocate nothing today but to change the way that you make decisions about how you are managing your land.|
|Q||Asked about how to begin in Mexico.|
|Allan||We are actively working in Mexico training extension workers at the university.|
|Comment||Need to promote links between the university and the community.|
|Q||What were your turning points?|
|Allan||There were many turning points. What I learned as an academic and in real life were totally different. I cared. That is my critical turning point. I did what I did because I cared and I had to ignore condemnation and abuse.|
|Q||To what extent do you use "swales"?|
|Allan||You can't use mechanical ways to holding water - it lowers production on both sides of the swales.|
|Q||Why are animals so important?|
|Allan||You need to think of a deciduous tree. It grows, leaves grow, fall to the ground. tree is "grazing itself". Similarly with grazing animals - their digestive system breaks down the massive vegetation. Need to increase, not decrease livestock.|
|Print PDF of original report|
|Next:||Workshop Report 2204: Sustainable Forest Management|
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