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Perspectives on Allan Savory's Work  RSS feed

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Allan Savory's work appears to have been getting a lot of runaround in the media since his TED talk.

I propose that in this thread we might examine the points that have emerged from media responses to the talk.

My own position is that I would very much like it to be the case that what Allan is saying is true, and would very much like to play a part in rolling out his grazing practices all over the planet and sequester carbon back to preindustrial levels while regenerating damaged land if that is indeed the case.

Today I followed a link in the comments of a Guardian article called 'Peak soil: industrial civilisation is on the verge of eating itself' where Mr Savory's work was being discussed. It seems that awareness of his work is starting to go mainstream.

Having read this link and a number of other pages it links to, I see that there are quite many people pointing to evidence of where Allan's techniques have not worked out in practice. There likewise exist academic papers claiming the same.

For many, it seems that this has been enough to discard everything that Allan said. Given how important this work might be, I feel that it might be worth examining what these things are that are being pointed to.

Clearly, this is an emotive issue, and many will probably object to what Allan is saying out of principle, without even having looked at any of the evidence. It is also understandable that when one experiments a lot, a certain proportion of experiments will fail.

With all this considered, what I'd like to do is to be able to get a better understanding of what has gone on in the instances where people are claiming to have been disappointed by the application of Allan's grazing techniques.

Of all the pieces of commentary I have seen so far, this one probably features most of the points that people have been making in criticism of HM.

Anyone want to share their thoughts/feelings/experience on this matter?
Adam Ormes
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I also include an excerpt from an interview where Allan responds to some of these criticisms:

Q: Your theories are undeniably innovative and have therefore been criticised by “official” science. Those who criticise your studies claim that the supporting data don’t have a scientific basis. How would you reply to that?

A: Holistic management involves addressing social, environmental and economic complexity both short and long term in any management situation from government or international organization’s policies to managing a crop farm or rangelands to reverse desertification. In all situations we use a modification of the universal underlying framework of conscious decision making, and wherever livestock are involved or required to reverse desertification, we then use the holistic grazing planning process to address that complexity.

Clearly management needs to be holistic and can never be reductionist, and using the holistic framework we transcend scientific disciplines while obviously using knowledge and scientific principles gleaned from all disciplines and even traditional knowledge for example in agriculture. As such holistic management lies outside the paradigm of range science believing that grasslands or rangelands can only be managed by various rotational and other grazing systems prescribed by range scientists. Prescribed by “experts” such management systems have, as I indicated in my TED talk, accelerated desertification even in the United States.

While there are a great many peer-reviewed studies supporting all of the science applied using both the holistic framework and it’s planned grazing, I am not aware of a single peer-reviewed paper that is critical of this process. There are I know many peer-reviewed papers published by range scientists critical of many of the short duration, rotational and other grazing systems that they believe and claim represent holistic management. None of those authors made any attempt to either understand or study holistic management lying as it does outside the paradigms of their profession.

The latest and most up to date paper allegedly critical of holistic planned grazing is one by Dr David Briske et al summarizing previous range science literature. But none of the papers cited bear any relationship to holistic management as outlined earlier. And Briske et al has been refuted by other academics, including one of the authors of the paper.

Unfortunately such “expert or authoritative” opposition is normal whenever a major paradigm shift occurs in science and it would be abnormal if this was not happening as has been written about since Galileo and is well described in “The Structure of Scientific Revolution” by Thomas Kuhn.

What we are experiencing is nothing but a paradigm paralysis problem. It required many years, and deaths, before brilliant cavalry officers could comprehend that barbed wire, machine guns and trenches had rendered horses impractical in modern tank and infantry battles. In like manner brilliant range scientists have yet to come to terms with understanding the replacement of all past rotational and other grazing systems prescribed by “experts” disregarding social, environmental and economic complexity. In this case tragically millions more men, women and children have been dying as the institutional paradigm shift gradually takes place.

As one respected American range scientist wrote recently in his blog, “I have no question that there is strong scientific support for holistic management.” There is considerable peer reviewed research supporting all the science applied in holistic planned grazing available to anyone interested, as well as a simple explanation of the Science & Methodology available at
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I'll share my feeling. I first of all like Allan Savory based on the few videos i've seen of him speaking. Do i believe what is now agricultural or barren land can be turned into locking up carbon and providing solutions to the greatest problems we face? I would hope so. I view Allan's work as a process. It's like any course you take whether it be in uni or in a more humble environment, you will only succeed if you trust the people who are teaching you. You can argue this last point to death, but what good? I've given up on competition at least consciously. I consider my mind like the cross section of a tree. I got to watch the woody part as of course there could be destructive habits in there, but we'll say if the living part or cambium is my consciousness, there i'm looking for non-parasitic ways to exist in this world. If someone wants to beat me, go ahead and waste your energy.

It's a process we can all take, adapting our habitats to give both ourselves and the rest of the living planet a future. It's got to be set as a goal, whether you call it holistic management, permaculture or something else, and figured out along the way (this was pretty much what he said in one of his talks). Maybe you should check out more of his videos, as he's by no means an arrogant man. Why don't you actually focus on particular aspects of his holistic management? Not everything he says can be wrong. Every piece of land will be different, but looking at it continuously in a multi-faceted way is surely better than commiting to an optimal monoculture approach in the most extreme case, a static one trick pony that's bound to lead to too much waste and not enough opportunitty to get an evolving natural system of recycling energy harmlessly or beneficially going. I don't fully dig holisic management, or how it can work for an exponentially growing population, but i'm all ears to hear more from the likes of Savory, Shepherd and other guys that have been mentioned a lot on this website. What would happen if every community had this goal? Perhaps we'd be too busy overpopulating the planet with beneficial ecoystems than overpopulating ourselves till there's nothing leavt.

As regards grazing if that's your main point, it certainly is innovative to use animals on barren lands, and makes sense that there's some kind of non-linear curve whereby different levels of grazing or none are applicable to create the right overall outcomes. I need to read more of your points before i comment any further.
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Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I have a very positive view of the system, and so far I have decided to take it into account and link it to some people's project here. I describe here the call for people who want to migrate to the Canary, around such a project. Well, this is not only for people who want to breed animals, but the persons should include it at least in their way of living the project.
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