TED Conversations

Linda Hesthag  Ellwein

Communications, Change, and Photography, Oikonomia, Inc.


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How attached are you to your deeply held beliefs? If solutions to global problems challenge your worldview, how do you react?

Allan Savory's recent TED Talk introduced an unlikely and politically incorrect solution to reversing global desertification and climate change with the use of livestock as a tool, and different decision making.

Well-meaning laws, bureaucracies, and activists at the mercy of public opinion have stifled this work from moving forward on a large scale in the US. Belief systems and the fear of being wrong often prohibits change.

How do you respond to ideas that challenge your belief system? How do we stop our paradigms and prejudices from unfairly shaping decision making, and allowing us to take real risks for lasting change? What's your reaction to cows helping save the world? What idea have you believed and been completely wrong?


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  • Mar 6 2013: One purpose of paradigms and beliefs is to keep us out of trouble, and they generally perform this function very well. So we cannot discard them easily. Changing to a new paradigm of this scale requires data and thorough analysis. I do not doubt that Allan Savory has found a good way to reverse desertification, but his talk did not even mention how much it would cost USA ranchers in lost profits. Another consideration is unintended consequences; after all, Allan Savory admits that he was wrong once before.

    Mr. Savory's ideas will be quickly adopted In areas where the deserts are taking over and the land is not productive, where there is little or no risk. In other more established areas, where the land is still producing, even if below optimal levels, further analysis and time will be required.

    This is a tremendous achievement, but people are slow to change, generally for good reasons.
    • Mar 9 2013: Hi, Barry.

      Thanks for these thoughts.. I'd share, though, that after 22 years of working with people involved in planned grazing and Savory's Holistic decision making process, although there may be a small investment in training and some modifications to infrastructure at the beginning, many of the people in the less deteriorated areas and commercial areas using this process have produced significantly greater returns. When you can double or triple your stocking rate, the economics of this approach play out well. It also buffers you from drought and downturns in the markets - because you are spreading your costs across a much larger number of units. In the more destitute and poorer lands and economies it can be quite challenging to get launched. Increasingly, though, people in those landscapes who are livestock holders are considering this approach and adopting it. (Shannon Horst, co-founder Savory Institute)

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