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: Humans are feeling beings first, then thinking beings. This has been hard for me to accept, but the recent wide rejection of the scientific consensus on global warming and the role of our policies and habits has made me a believer. People rationalize facts into their comfortable belief systems. The most appalling perhaps is “God made us do it so the end of times can arrive”.

    On ecosystems science and “management”: these are complex systems just as are our living bodies, and our societies and organizations. The best interventions I have seen in my work are present in Savoy’s work: respect for and effort to understand existing system dynamics, agile strategies for influence, flexible and participative decision methods, and respect for feedback. Hard science only plays a role in the “understanding” bit, and the initial design of strategies, and suggestions for response to feedback. The rest is a wild and wooly ride. You know your systems “lives” when you audit it for results, and this is proof enough. Look at quality management, rejected in this country until so many success stories caused almost all big companies to adopt the system of management that was working.

    Population growth goes down with improved lives, and green land growing good food can do that. Sign me up.

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