Monday, December 19, 2016

New Perspectives

I am not prone to hero worship. People are people no matter their accomplishments. I make two notable exceptions to this rule, and both are because of their brilliant minds, minds capable of looking at an old problem with new perspectives and then using that perspective to recombine and innovate. I adore people who excel at this sort of thinking. I even aspire to do it myself. The first person I would call a hero of mine is Paul Stamets. Seriously, if you haven't heard of him, look him up. His work with mushrooms is world-changing, and that's not even an exaggeration. The second person I would call a hero of mine is Allan Savory. Again, this is someone who has looked at the world with an open mind and developed better ways to doing things that absolutely have the potential to change how we live on this planet.

Two weeks ago I had the extreme fortune of attending the Savory Institute's hub gathering. Allan Savory spoke and as one can expect of such a mind, he offered two different viewpoints that really changed my perspective. I would like to share them here.

Resources vs. Management of Resources

The first is the concept of the difference between resources and the management of those resources. It is often said that cows are the (or one of the) biggest causes of global warming in the world. Yet, the grasslands of the world were dominated by massive herds of ungulates, cows included, that numbered in the millions. So how is it that a massive population of large, hoofed animals 100,000 years ago was an integral part of a healthy, regenerative system, but a similar population of these animals today is a major threat, a significant cause of global warming? What has changed?

Quite simply, these herds are no longer being managed by natural cycles of rain and drought, summer and winter, predator and prey. They are instead being managed by people. Put another way, the cows are a resource. It is our management of this resource that is the problem, not the resource itself. To blame the resource is to shift the blame off of where it needs to lie and onto a red herring.

Using Chemicals to Manage a Biological System

We live in a culture that has forgotten that are are a part of the ecosystem and the ecosystem is a part of us. We cannot be separated from it. We are tied to the circle of life by the food we eat. This food comes from the land and is a part of the natural ecosystem. But all too often, industrial agriculture fights against the natural processes. The soil is depleted from poor practices. Natural relationships between predator and prey are disrupted, leading to a population boom in the prey (pests). All this causes problems with the crops, resulting in reduced yields.

As a society that doesn't understand our connection to nature, it is perhaps unsurprising to realize that we also don't understand the complex interplay of species that make up a healthy ecosystem. We do, however, have a very comprehensive understanding of chemistry. As the saying goes, when the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems start to look like a nail. So industrial agriculture is currently deep in the process of attempting to deal with a biological problem by using a chemistry solution. As you might imagine, it isn't working very well.

I do hope I can continue to learn from Allan Savory. I love his unique perspectives. Every new perspective gets the mental gears churning. That's where all the good ideas come from.

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