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 9 2013: Usually my strongest reaction is reserved for those who have zero credentials, yet are certain. And you will, in the US, find many who are certain there's nothing to climate change, that it is just liberal propaganda. I am fairly open about new information, as it is my perception that the details (climate change) need to be better understood, and that there is room for error.

    This same perspective makes me hesitant to fully embrace Savory's conclusions. Not that I disagree, but as a layman I would like to see his work and the work of others who support his position, evaluated by an independent and apolitical group (maybe this has been done) and given more air time among policy makers. This is potentially a huge thing, and appears to have some credibility, so seems to me very risky, given what little I know, to ignore.

    I am skeptical also that even if he is correct on all accounts, it will make a huge difference. We have known for decades that some of our activities are harmful - clear cutting in South America and Asia, for instance, to create cattle ranches or mono-cultures which feed the west. Much of this feeds into climate change as well, and is easier to grasp, yet these activities continue.

    So, with solutions in hand, how do we get them properly prioritized and implemented broadly enough to make a difference?

    David Attenborough makes a good point about the pressures of population growth being the root problem to many of the worlds ills. I think he is correct, yet, as he points out, it is not openly discussed. If population pressures did not exist, we wouldn't need to heed Savory and other like him to the same degree. Nothing real is being done to curb population growth even though the problems it brings are many and obvious.

    worth watching
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      Mar 9 2013: Scary, you talk about population growth. I am not suggesting that population has not contributed to many of our global crises. I am very afraid of the methodology of controlling population. If a giant meteorite strikes and there is massive loss of life. that's one solution, but, if we take it upon ourselves, who makes the choice and who makes the sacrifice?

      Please don't consider my response to climate change as nothing or that is is propaganda. Climate change is real and it is ongoing. My "problem " is with those who say that it was caused by Western Industrialized Nations and if they stopped burn fossil fuel and let the rest of the world burn fossil fuels, the climate would stabilize and all will be right with the world.

      PS. NASA scientists report that they are concerned because of the fall off of sun spot activity. Sun spots have recently followed an 11 years cycle high and low peaks. In some cycles there were double peaks some two years apart. 2013 was supposed to be a peak year and little activity is shown. The concern is that in the 500 year record of sum spot history, a long period of inactivity correlated with the mini ice age that affected the northern hemisphere is the middle ages. Extremely harsh winters in Europe and North America, if we start a long period of inactivity?
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        Mar 9 2013: I don't actually think we (those supposedly in charge and making policy) will do anything. But getting to the root cause of global issues, and the strategies which might be used to make positive changes, are two different things.

        As for choices, they are already being made, and often by those who do not make the sacrifices. The choice to let things play out, to make no changes, once one knows the cause and effects with reasonable confidence, also has consequences and carries with it moral responsibility
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          Mar 10 2013: There are a great many good ideas tossed around the TED pages. Just maybe one of them gets to someone who is about to make a choice. A good choice that has positive effect, even a global effect. May never happen, but it could.
          The glass is half full.

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