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This is not a vegan rant - a couple of days ago I came across some very violent, aggressive and disturbing militant-vegan posts that have resulted in me writing this. I couldn’t believe the hatred in the posts. I can fully understand people being anti-corporate, factory farming of animals (or anything we eat or use.) It goes without saying that that must stop. But to be anti-genuine farmers (who are the people that keep us alive and fed) and supporting the environmentally lethal big corporations who are manufacturers of fake meat, fake cheese, fake leather, etc, is just total insanity.
I am so sick and tired of the incessant arguments on social media about which practices are better or who has the moral high ground about something. Hunting, veganism, planting trees, controlled burning, no till, culling, translocating, permaculture…the list is endless and so are the arguments. And so often it is people sitting behind their computer screens telling people who live on the other side of the world what they should eat, or what they shouldn’t do, or how they should act or behave, when they have absolutely no idea of, or respect for, the life, cultures or contexts of the people they are castigating or cyber-bullying. So I am writing this in the hope of uniting people, because we are all in this together and our petty and selfish arguments are just making everything far worse while our natural world quietly dies. And if she dies, we die.
This it all comes down to management. What is management? It is making decisions every day to improve our lives, or the lives of other people or of animals and improve their environments. And if we look at the state of our world, it’s not going so well for us, is it?
That’s because early humans used simple tools and based all their decisions, or actions, on meeting needs, desires, or to address problems: I need food. I want shelter. I need water. I have to keep warm. I have to keep safe. Their world and technology (sticks and stones) were basic, which meant that their reasons for making decisions were basic.
Those sticks and stones became today’s elaborate technology and those, combined with fire, gave humans great power to do damage. Modern humans use infinitely more sophisticated technology, yet we still base every one of our decisions, or actions, on the same basic needs, desires, or to address problems as our primitive ancestors.
Buy food, buy a house, buy a coat, buy a car, take a holiday, make a profit, grow potatoes, plant trees, raise chickens, get an education, kill weeds, stop erosion, prevent drug use, control immigration, preserve a species, secure borders, mitigate climate change, deal with poverty, poaching, violence, droughts, mega-fires, floods, social breakdown, etc.
Modern human’s world and technology have become increasingly complex but our reasons for making decisions have remained basic. Advancing technology resulted in our social behavior within ecosystems beginning to change, which resulted in our reasons for making decisions becoming too simple, which started to have unintended knock-on effects on our environment. Which left us trying to manage symptoms of this.
Now, let’s take a look at the state of our world today:
We have endless successes and advances with technology and everything we make…planes, computers, cars, phones, dams, chemicals, spacecraft, buildings, bridges, machines, power stations, etc.
At the same rate that our technology has advanced, everything we manage has experienced a breathtaking decline: croplands, grasslands, forests, air quality, fisheries, water supplies, water quality, economies and finance, institutions, wildlife, human relationships, human health, etc.
Coincidence? Of course not.
Our technology advanced but our decision making process remained the one we have genetically embedded into us for a basic world.
So I need your help with something before I start: we collectively have to solve a problem that no human has solved since before Galileo’s time (he was put on trial and forced to recant his ideas of a heliocentric universe because of the ingrained scientific dogma that the earth was the centre of the universe. And it took many decades to dislodge it.)
That problem is known as Paradigm Paralysis, which is our refusal to think or see outside or beyond the current framework or way of thinking, seeing or perceiving things. It is used to indicate a general lack of cognitive flexibility and adaptability of thinking. There are many, many examples of experts who become deeply entrenched in the existing framework. If we don’t find a solution to urgently overcoming this problem, we are in unimaginable trouble. Somebody out there must have the answer to this major flaw in human psyche. Right now, the fate of humanity hangs on a paradigm shift. And that shift involves us understanding the distinction between our practices and the management that determines what we practice. This post will explain how we will just continue to cause devastating damage to our environment, social behaviour and economies with our current management by continuing to endlessly and pointlessly change practices based on highly trained professional advice. Unless there is a paradigm shift in how we make decisions, the adoption of new practices (without being rooted in a shared framework for collective decision making) is redundant.
Right now we are in the early stages of the second biggest paradigm shift in history, but, like goldfish in a bowl, we cannot see the bowl. The first major shift in world view was from a flat world, with the sun going around us, to a round world, orbiting a stationary sun. Now, we are shifting, gradually, from centuries of having a mechanistic worldview, to a holistic worldview. This is why we have to find the answer to overcoming paradigm paralysis and stop our world being in such a mess. Full of chaos, confusion and conflict. Common sense is almost non existent. Institutional Stupidity is an actual thing. The Law of Unintended Consequences is another. We are in constant argument and conflict about which practices are the best while ignoring the management which decides when, where and which of those practices are appropriate. Changing practices without changing the management that got us into this mess in the first place is no different to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while we continue headlong into the proverbial iceberg.
I will use veganism as an example throughout, not to single it out because this goes far, far beyond any individual practices, but it is a good way of showing how narrow and reductionist our world view is and how important it is to change that.
I also use veganism as an example to point out the importance of staying connected to nature with a sense of balance, practicality and, above all, respect for the fact that absolutely nothing in nature can function in isolation. It will take all of us putting our egos, or differences, aside and for us to learn and accept the fact that we can no longer be zooming in but zooming right, right out so that we are all focusing on a far, far bigger picture. More and more people are becoming so focused on practices, or so narrowly trained in their fields of expertise - they literally learn more and more about less and less. Even experts themselves cannot understand the jargon of other experts, it’s all become so specialised and separate. Paradigm paralysis gets deeper. People constantly argue about absolutely everything and we go around and around in circles.
I love all animals big or small, wild or domestic and have dedicated my entire life to making a difference for all life on our planet. And I eat meat. But not just any meat. I don’t touch meat or products that have come from barbaric, cruel and environmentally damaging factory farms. Those, without question must end. But, being practical, as nature is, all animals have to die and in nature, death is almost always cruel: by predation, disease, starvation, or accident (seldom will an animal even get to old age) and none of these deaths are quick, or humane, in our eyes. I make sure I know exactly where the meat I buy comes from and I only buy meat from animals that have been holistically managed, which regenerates soils for native wildlife and the communities that live amongst them, and I know that those animals have lived a natural, happy, healthy, cruelty free life with a quick, humane end to it.
But my awareness doesn’t end just knowing where the meat, or animal products, I buy come from because I don’t differentiate between species and I care about ALL animals, from elephants to bees, birds and reptiles, right down to ants, dung beetles and earthworms. We are naturally omnivorous and I’m all for trying to stay connected and in balance with nature and what is natural, a part of the circle of life, not ignorantly, arrogantly and dangerously separating myself from the natural world. What would happen if we tried to get a chimpanzee or baboon to change its diet and stop eating meat? It would start behaving unnaturally and it would change their social behaviour, which would result in damaging knock-on effects to their ecosystems. The more our technology has advanced, the more things we do out of step with what’s natural, the more unnatural behaviours and practices we bring about and that ends in total imbalance and more and more devastating knock-on consequences on our environment. And the more our natural world suffers, the more we will suffer.
For me it is all about being practical and staying in balance...not manipulating things and certainly not going to unnatural extremes because if I just stop eating meat, or animal products, it won’t actually help animals at all in the grand scheme of things. By doing that, we are just making ourselves feel better, turning a blind eye to the horrific deaths of billions of other animals going on out there: a severe case of “out of sight out of mind.” And that’s especially easy for people who live in cities to do because they have become entirely disconnected from the natural world (that they forget is what actually keeps them alive) and live in an entirely artificial world that has, terrifyingly, become their normal. Artificial lights, artificial temperature control, artificial air, artificial technology, artificial plants, artificial leather, artificial meat, artificial boobs/nails/hair/lips/butts/makeup/bodies, artificial social structure, artificial fabrics, artificial supplements, artificial cheese, artificial milk, artificial baby formula, artificial pretty much everything. So an artificial and unnatural diet fits right in.
For people who live in cities, it is easy to just chop and change to from fad to fad as it’s trending. But there is far, far, far more to it all. Decisions you make today will inevitably have effects on other things further down the line and while your current decisions might well make you feel good right now, many of those decisions are highly likely to end up doing the opposite of what you set out to achieve when you made the decision in the first place. But you won’t see it, it won’t affect you directly. Especially when it involves concern for animal welfare and the environment because every decision we make comes with an inescapable web of social, cultural, economic and environmental consequences. We all have to start considering the long term effects of our actions, or decisions and not just the feel good factors of today.
This is the crazy, unbalanced world we have created for ourselves because of our reductionist decision making that has resulted from our absolute belief in technology. What many people don’t even know is that without healthy agriculture, we cannot even have cities, we couldn’t have banks, or churches, or schools, or shops. Agriculture is the foundation of civilisation. And our agriculture cannot continue as it is now because it is based on chemistry and the corporate marketing of oil and technology, which is completely ludicrous as agriculture is biological and must be based on the biological sciences. And an agriculture based on chemistry and technology will ultimately destroy all life on this planet.
And how can the focus only be on livestock - that is just completely ignorant. Because there’s something far more cruel to all life going on in the world: mainstream agriculture as a whole, which is the production of all food and fiber from the earth’s land, rivers and oceans. It is the most destructive and extractive industry on the planet. More than mining or any other extractive industries. Our agriculture produces 20 times more dead, eroding soil than food.
Crop production alone kills billions of animals a year. Which means, that the more vegans there are, the more crops need to be grown, the more wildlife, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects will die…through habitat loss, fertilisers, chemicals, pesticides, gm’s, protecting crops from pests, etc. This is the knock-on effect further down the line of not thinking things through in the long run. Of not keeping things in balance. Every decision we make effects something else and starts a chain reaction: one obvious and terrifying example is the monumentally damaging environmental effects there will be of the factories that will be opened to grow and process artificial meat and other environmentally lethal and synthetic vegan products to make billions more dollars for our corporate-run world.
And what about the massive pharmaceutical, chemical, unnatural industry that will boom because of all the supplements people will be convinced (by those industries) that they need to take if they change to a plant based diet? Protein supplements are made out of wheat, soybeans, rice…let’s look at the potential knock-on effects of that alone: A scientific analysis from the University of NSW...”25 times more sentient beings die to produce a kilo of protein from wheat than a kilo of protein from beef”.It’s not all black and white. The supplement industry alone is a multi billion dollar industry. Trust me, these massive corporations have seen all this all coming a mile off and have been a huge part of manipulating the public opinion and are now rubbing their hands together in glee while many vegans still think that choosing this lifestyle is doing our planet good. Think again.
I’m not in any way saying that you have to eat meat or use animal products - if you don’t want to, then don’t - your diet is entirely personal choice and absolutely nothing to do with anyone else. And without question people shouldn’t buy anything that comes from factory farms. That should be a no-brainer if you care about animals, or the environment. But just because you don’t eat meat, it doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean you are living a cruelty free life, or even close to it, so try not to preach about that to anyone else. It is so hypocritical. And properly managed ungulates (both wild and domestic) are vital to the health and regeneration of the world’s grasslands. Without their help, we (along with all animals) will have no future.
We all need to stop pointing fingers, because a life that is kind to all animals is just not possible in this unnatural, technology based world we’ve created. However, a life that is far kinder to ALL animals IS possible, but not until we realise that it is our universal advance in technology that changed our social behaviour, which has resulted in our decision making and management becoming reductionist and that is what is causing all these knock-on effects...we should all unite with one common goal: healthy, regenerative, humane agriculture across the board: from wildlife, to rivers, to crops, to livestock, to forestry, to clothing, to fisheries. Right now, it is the way all these things are managed that is causing the horrific suffering to all life: human, plant and animal. With far worse to come if we don’t act now.
We have all failed to understand that ever since our technology advance and changed our social behaviour within our life-supporting environment, every decision we have made from then on has always effected something else because all people, economies, plants, land, waters and animals are connected in an intricate web of complexity and none of those things can possibly be manipulated or managed on its own without causing knock-on problems somewhere else in the web. Trying to separate and manage any of them on their own is no different to thinking you could leave your brain or nervous system at home and still be able to successfully go out for a walk. That might sound silly, but our current, and universal, way of making decisions or developing policy does exactly that. We all constantly separate and manage things which cannot possibly function in isolation and that has resulted in our natural world and anything we are managing (natural systems or man-made organisations) collapsing all around us.
We need to all clearly understand 2 fundamental things:
1. Our advance in technology drastically changed our natural social behaviour. This resulted in all our ecosystems starting to struggle because we started behaving unnaturally and that threw them out of balance, and,
2. With that change, our decision making and management automatically became reductionist because we had created social/cultural, economic and environmental knock-on consequences with every single decision we made but we were still automatically basing our actions on a context that had become too simple for the change: I need food. I need shelter. I need water.
We still use those simple contexts to this day and that is what’s causing all these knock-on effects on our planet. Everything we are trying to fix now are just knock-on effects and symptoms, so focusing on them is a waste of precious time. And changing practices but using the same decision making is a waste of time. Yet we train more and more experts to deal with all these new things that are going wrong, which inadvertently makes it far worse. People are zooming further and further in, literally learning more and more about less and less. Until we zoom out and focus on a far bigger whole, we will all just continue to go round and round in circles, in our separate fields and bubbles, constantly arguing about who has a better idea or way of doing something or who has the solutions and nothing significant will ever get done.
Right now, we think we have many different types of management: adaptive management, systems science, holistic approaches, etc, some of which may well start off by looking at all social, economic and environmental aspects of a situation, but if you “peel the onion” and get right to the core of it to where any decision is actually made (often with experts called in to help) you will find that they immediately narrow their advice to the problem they are expert in and the exact same decision making process we have used since time began is used and all actions are reduced straight back down to needs, wants, desires, or to address problems, inadvertently separating things into individual aspects again.
Time for a paradigm shift. We need to ALL unite with one common goal: A Holistic Context, which can be used by us as individuals, or by governments who could form a National Holistic Context, which would be developed by ALL citizens for their country and all their future policies would be developed in line with that context. Right now, all policies are developed to solve problems within individual ministries or to achieve the political goals of whatever party is in power. There is no common ground, or context, between Ministries, so the knock-on effects are catastrophic further on. Once all Ministries united towards one National Holistic Context, you’d have a very different policies being developed. And every country should start with agriculture, because that is by far the most important policy: we have to have healthy, regenerative, humane agriculture across the board: from wildlife, to rivers, to crops, to wetlands, to livestock, to forestry, to clothing, to fisheries.
Developing a policy in line with a national holistic context would automatically result in regenerative practices across the board, with the right practices being used at the right time, for the right reasons, in the right situations, including the holistic planned grazing of livestock: even though we have more advanced technology, and can still use fire and rest as tools in some situations, those 2 tools both cause desertification in in arid areas. There is no other tool that can solve a biological problem except the holistic planned grazing process is used to regenerate land in areas that experience seasonal rainfall with long dry periods. This would be used to bring our soils back to life, making our rainfall effective again, so it wasn’t running off the surface, it would be filling up our underground water systems AND we will produce more food than we ever have before.
The Holistic Management Framework and a National Holistic Context will ensure that our policies are always managing and considering the people, finances and our environment simultaneously, never separating one from the other and when we need expert advice, we take it and then we take whatever decision, or action, they suggest and test it for ourselves by putting it through 7 filtering context checks to make sure that it is socially, economically and environmentally in line with our own unique context. And, this framework makes sure we are always monitoring and adjusting for the constant changes within our unique complexity.
And when we start to make our decisions align within our holistic context, we will stop blaming each other, blaming animals, blaming resources, blaming governments, etc. Once we have developed our holistic context, it is much easier to make decisions that are simultaneously beneficial to environment, society and economy.
When our management evolves, we be able to put our differences aside, focus on the far bigger picture and unite towards one profound reason on which to base all our future decisions and policies. When that happens, our planet will truly be on the road to recovery. It is pointless discussing or arguing about using any practice until you have developed your own holistic context and can test your decisions within that and make sure it’s suitable for your own unique complexity and situation.
If we did this, we would very quickly stop all the incessant arguing and conflict about who is right or has the better practices and would be able to just get on with actually changing the world because a National Holistic Context is something that would be developed by all the people of the country in question and unite them.
It would look something like this:
“We want stable families, living peaceful lives in prosperity and physical security, while free to pursue our own spiritual or religious beliefs. We want adequate, nutritious food and clean water. We want good education, health and balanced lives with time for family, friends, community and leisure for cultural and other pursuits. All to be ensured, for many generations to come, based on a foundation of ethical and humane behaviour to all life, regenerating soils and biologically diverse communities on earth, land, and in her rivers, lakes and oceans.”
Don’t you think that that is a context all humans could ultimately agree on, no matter who they are? This framework would reconnect us all to each other and to our life-supporting environment, while allowing us to all operate entirely within our own, unique contexts and not having anyone tell us what to do or not do because we would automatically figure out what is best for us within our own contexts - our governments would be developing policies that would ensure agriculture goes back to the biological sciences instead of chemistry and the corporate marketing of oil and technology. All wildlife areas and communal areas and their livestock would begin to be regeneratively managed, which would stop human/wildlife conflict and increase biodiversity resulting in the return of the wild species of native animals. With desertification being reversed, our rainfall would once again be effective which would see our rain sinking into the soil instead of running off the surface with our precious top soil…this would mean the end of increasing droughts, floods, poverty, poaching, wildfires, social breakdown, mass emigration to Europe, violence and climate change. Factory farms would be history and we would all start to automatically support better practices. Governments would automatically be looking for alternatives to the rapid burning of fossil fuels. The list is endless and the positive knock-on effects of developing policies or making decisions based on a holistic context would be quick and phenomenal.
And on that bombshell, I’m having a break from social media for the festive season! Happy holidays everyone. Let’s come back in January and make 2020 a “united in our differences, holistically managed, respectful, regenerative year” for all life on our beautiful planet.
Together we can. Separately we can’t.Allan Savory