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Thursday, April 2

It's Not Either Or

Closeup of vegetation on left side of fence 

The left side of the photograph is evidence that properly managed grazing of prairie plants by free-ranging herd animals is the bulwark against desertification. It might well be that the photograph could also be entered in evidence as the key overlooked factor in the fall of several civilizations in ancient times.

The management process is the brainchild of White Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) Allan Savory; it's been replicated many times with success:
Savory has made significant breakthroughs in understanding what is causing the degradation and desertification of the world’s grassland ecosystems. He eventually coined the methodology “holistic management,” which The Savory Institute promotes around the world.

“When something is going wrong on such a global scale, and when so many brilliant minds have worked on it for centuries, you’ve got to say we’re not stupid, we don’t lack knowledge. There’s something systemically wrong. And I accidentally hit on what that is, and it’s profoundly simple to begin putting it right, "said Savory.
his book, The Grazing Revolution, Savory presents a solution that’s radical, yet simple: mimic the behavior of natural herds that once grazed the grasslands.
(Hat Tip to Santiago Miret's 2013 essay at Berkeley University Energy And Resources Collaborative blog,)  

But why, then, has there been so much resistance to Savory's simple method? I think the answer can be intuited from one of his statements:
And very early on I saw the direct evidence in the field that floods and droughts were the result of land degradation rather than any change in rainfall as many scientists were claiming.
And from this statement by Aslam Perawaiz, a disaster management expert at the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Center during a discussion of increasingly severe floods that pound modern-day Bangkok (Asia pays watery price for overdevelopment; Associated Press, October 2011):
“I don’t think we can go back to living in harmony with nature as in the past. What is now necessary is huge investments and long-term planning by governments to mitigate such flooding.”
Mon Dieu! IMF-Worldbankia Civilization under attack from a bunch of Nike-wearing primitives! To the ramparts!  What do they want us to do?  Put skyscrapers on stilts?  Build shopping malls from bamboo cane? Tear up the pavement and run water buffalo herds through the financial districts?

Well, maybe not fill with concrete the canals that had always carried flood waters out of Bangkok. There are lo-tech methods of dealing with malaria-carrying mosquitoes that infested the canals that could have been deployed.  But where's the profit for cement manufacturers and construction companies in, say, putting mesh screens over canals?

The trouble with lo-tech is that it doesn't generate billion-dollar contracts and supports a relatively small number of paying jobs in an era dominated by giant enterprises.  So better to go on erecting humongous Rube Goldberg systems to make a cup of tea. That these systems slurp up oceans of water and fuel to erect and maintain -- this is not a perfect world.

Unfortunately it's not a very forgiving world, either.

In any case as with "stacked" silvopasturing, as with King Bhumibol's "New Theory of Land and Water Management," Savory's method is a melding of age-old land management best practices and modern techniques.

So at the bottom of resistance to such common sense solutions, which combine lo- and hi-tech, something is at work in addition to dislike of the inexpensive approach to problem-solving.  I think it's the fear of technocrats and economists that in the internet era the solutions will lead to highly decentralized societies that have very limited need for national governments and their trillion-dollar global trade schemes.

But the fear is also Either-Or thinking.  It's the product of minds that have been conditioned by their education to think of humans as collections of ciphers. It's the collectivist mindset taken to the point where to save their own lives and their families, hundreds of millions of people around the world can't factor in the individual's intelligence and efforts when they do planning for government. 

What's to be done with such blinkered people?  Pundita reader B Doran, in commenting on Rise of the New Vernacular (thanks to Piercello for locating one of my earlier references to the new vernacular) argued:
That's not gonna work in America.
We're not going to be allowed to escape.
It's our turn in the 20th century barrel.
See-- Ukraine if they can.
Ireland 1840s already baked in, save that pesky 2d Amendment.
Here's my reply. Those people who won't allow us to escape are working to the best of their capacity. See that you work to the best of yours.


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