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Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield
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Summary prepared by Tom Davis

Often - overpopulation, poor farming practices, lack of financial support – are attributed with being the sole cause of environmental problems. However, Allan Savory posits that these problems are caused and exacerbated by inadequate decision making processes; which, in turn, leads to the mismanagement of these problems and their solutions.

Savory suggests that in order for more appropriate solutions to global, local and personal problems, a new framework for making these decisions is necessary. This framework builds from the idea that humans, our economies, and the environment are intertwined and need to be managed from this paradigm. Savory's decision making and management process is known as Holistic Management.

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IMHO, this book is one of the greats. Its template for decision making goes way beyond farming, and truly proposes a whole new mentality for problem solving. Its discussion of climate and environment is tremendous, but that is really just the tip of the genius iceberg.

Holistic Management has impacted my life profoundly, and I cannot reccomend it highly enough.
Damn, this book is great.

I'm still early on into it but think that this is one that could end up changing lives. From my internet trawling I thought I had an handle on it, but was very very wrong... This is not a book about grazing, this is a book about living.

My situation at present ( new family, one child... Just establishing ourselves... ) is crying out for an holistic goal. We have hopes and dreams that get touched on in passing but are never really brought to front and center and discussed. I guess the unspoken hope is that things will just work out for the best.

I'll be forcing this book on my wife (and extended family!) and look forward to drawing together an holistic goal that resonates with both of us.

Even if you will never own an animal larger than a cat in your life I think this book is worth devouring - it has deep meaning for everyone.
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here are two articles that help support the science behind "Holistic Management"

Elephants Landscaped Ice Age Europe Into a Park

Rewilding: Bring in the big beasts to fix ecosystems
Duane - I think you mean "Holistically Planned Grazing".

What I found interesting is that "holistic planning" works for ANY organisation and ANY goal. Savory's work has become so tied up with grasslands and cattle that the distinction has been lost. I tried to articulate this in my previous post, but the approach of planning holistically is so valuable I think it needs to be promoted separately from all the discussion of grazing patterns.
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Michael Cox wrote:
What I found interesting is that "holistic planning" works for ANY organisation and ANY goal. Savory's work has become so tied up with grasslands and cattle that the distinction has been lost. I tried to articulate this in my previous post, but the approach of planning holistically is so valuable I think it needs to be promoted separately from all the discussion of grazing patterns.

I agree totally Micheal. At first when I read something online about Savory, I was thinking this guy is another cattleman with his own angle to keep the cows, when in the back of my mind I'm thinking: "the cows are the problem", but the guy who wrote the article said he had had the same view as me, and I had a lot of respect for him from past meeting him and reading. He had me interested because he was so articulate in describing Savory's ideas, so I read more, and more. It's not very often that my mind is changed, but I felt it happening. It wasn't long before I was on Savory's own site, trying to get more info. I asked Savory a few questions in an email. He responded promptly. I knew from everything that I gathered that this book was going to be worth it's price, and when I ordered his book, I was even more impressed. Then I ordered another copy to give away to a friend.

Like you said, the cattle/grazing aspect is important, but it has taken over from the greatest value of Savory's book which, like the foundation concepts of permaculture, stands as a blueprint for designing anything, and is much simpler and at the same time more structured than that which are presented in permaculture texts.

It should be included as recommended reading to anybody who takes a PDC, or the price of the PDC could be increased so the book is handed to them at the end. That's how important are the ideas presented on the various holistic units and how to create goals which make them function.
Has anybody read the electronic books available on the Savory Institute's website?
Wondering if anyone knew the difference between Holistic Management and Savory's older book Holistic Resource Management. The latter is much cheaper online. Thanks!

Josh Fast wrote:Wondering if anyone knew the difference between Holistic Management and Savory's older book Holistic Resource Management. The latter is much cheaper online. Thanks!

Based on an interview I saw with Allan Savory, he sees Holistic Management as an emerging process that will continue to change based on contributions from the many people involved. I think there were significant changes between the older book and the more recent one.

That said - the most up to date version is the ones being released as ebooks through the Savory Institute website. If I hadn't bought my copy of Holistic Management and read it, and was just starting out (and read things on 'devices'), I'd recommend getting that version. Part of what changes is that every time, they are trying to make all the concepts easier to get. For instance, what used to be called a Holistic Goal (integral to Holistic Management) is now (in the ebooks) being called Holistic Context - and (again from an interview), this was because Allan was seeing that people were misunderstanding what was meant by the term Holistic Goal.

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I give this book 10 out of 10 acorns.

Review of Holistic Management by Alan Savory:

This book is essential reading for anyone interested in permaculture, land-management, or making better decisions (that last sub-group should include just about everyone!). I see Permaculture and Holistic Management as perfectly complimentary - one is more focused on design and planning, and other is more focused on making management decisions.

Holistic Management is really two books in one. The first book is about a new approach to decision-making based on including important factors that are not usually considered. It's also a book about applying these well-structured decisions to landscapes, and specifically to working with livestock. These two books are so well integrated that it's impossible to pull them apart.

The reason these two books have to be one book is that Savory came to Holistic Management based on his journey from a biologist with certain preconceived notions about how large herbivores effect the landscape, through to astute observations which led him to throw away these preconceived notions. He collected insights from others that were somewhat obscure, combined them with some of his own unique contributions (such as the idea of a brittleness scale for landscapes), and brought them together into a decision-making method tied to our relationship with the earth's raw materials. His journey is described throughout the book, which helps make the sizable book more inviting.

It's hard to describe just how much impact this book can have on the reader. For me, I put it up there with the Mollison's Permaculture Designer's Manual as a foundational text.

Some may be put off by the shear size of the book: it's a big commitment, at over 600 pages (and audio book version would be amazing). That said, I read it on my lunch break at work over several months - so don't be scared off by the size. Small chunks can be bitten off. One way I would suggest to read it is as a reading group, even if just two members of a couple, taking turns reading it out loud and talking about it. The language in the book is always straight-forward and easy to read. There are a lot of examples for everything that is described, some in the text, but many are photographic as well. These photos show why Holistic Management is important. They are usually comparing two sites in a brittle environment, often on two different sides of a fence. One looks desert-y and awful with almost no plants at all. The other looks healthy, with lots of vegetation. The two places really only have one crucial difference: how they were managed (usually with controlled animal impact over time).

The book is littered with anecdotes from Savory's life - which is a fascinating one, this alone is worth reading the book for.

If the book seems too big for you, start with some of the ebooks on the Savory Institute website. These seem to be chapters of the book that have been revised very recently. They also offer an online class in Holistic Management. Besides that, there's a good chance that somewhere near you there is someone teaching Holistic Management, often as a whole-farm approach to living a fulfilling life that makes the land 'better'. I put 'better' in quotes because an important part of Holistic Management is deciding what the future you want for the land looks like (for all involved). Maybe you want some parts of the land to revert back to a rich forest ecosystem. Maybe you want parts of the land to remain as pasture - but a much richer pasture with active soil organisms and high nutrient density (and trees integrated). Holistic Management is about selecting what 'better' means in the context of the land you are managing, and then working towards that. Once you have established this holistic context, you have something by which to test every decision you make for whether its fulfilling this context you've outlined.

If someone were trying to get into permaculture (for instance, someone finishing high school or college, and not knowing what to do next), one way to go would be to take a Permaculture Design Certificate and a Holistic Management course. Or you could read this book, and the Permaculture Designer's Manual by Mollison. In the long-term, I think Holistic Management will be a foundational text in whatever the field that we currently fondly call permaculture becomes.

If you are worried this book is going to be trying to convince people that eating animals is the only way to fight climate change - you should read it, to make sure of your position. I recall almost no reference to actual consumption of animals in the book, despite much of it being about ranching. My reading of Savory's position is that he feels animal impact informed by human management is essential to reversing desertification. Consumption of meat, or even selling of meat as a product, is not an essential part of holistic management.

Does that sound strange? I can imagine conditions where animals are ranged on the land for reasons of improving it, but are never slaughtered by the land managers. What happens when an unthinned herd gets too big for the available land? That's a question that should be addressed in the context in which it comes up. Perhaps predators of large herbivores are given access to the herd. Perhaps someone is given permission to cull some of the animals, with reverence and respecting their important position in our world, and using their meat to feed meat-consuming animals in a rehabilitation center. This book is the type of book someone who is a vegetarian for ecological reasons (like I used to be) might find influencing their decision to not consume meat.

This is not because it is perfect, but because I think it's essential reading for everyone from small farmers to managers of thousands of acres, and also to anyone who wants to run a beyond-sustainability informed business that will actually heal the earth and its resources, even if they don't directly participate in land management.
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