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 10 2013: "It's what you know for sure that just ain't so that gets you in trouble." (attribited to Mark Twain, Will Rogers and others). The coming "Perfect Storm of ecological/economic/social collapse" Alan warns of is caused primarily by a disconnect between human cultural (including scientific folklore) expectations and beliefs and the facts of nature.

    The following is as plainly and calmly stated as I can make it. The unquestioned, uncritical, emotionally-held belief that "simply leaving nature alone to heal itself" will solve most nature-related problems in the seasonal rainfall lands described in the talk is nothing but a self-ssued licence to kill nature--without limit--in any way the myth's adherants believe is "Natural".

    I--and everyone else I know with long experience and/or scientific awareness of successfully solving problems in nature (whether they know it or not) are in fundamental agreement with what Savory's actually saying.

    If we let go of our culturally-issued "License to Kill Everything As Long As Somebody Says It's Natural" and find out what dynamics actually heal and kill ecosystems--the terrible awareness of the "coming storm" sets in--as ability to tell life from death increases. Example: Severe-intensity forest fires are measurably (and almost always) up to 3 orders of magnitide WORSE in terms of soil loss, soil sterility, habitat loss, species loss, downstream aquatic organism and aquatic habitat loss etc.--than CUTTING and HAULING OFF EVERY TREE. Please question the assumptions driving governmental and NGO policy and driving skilled rural people off the land.
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      Mar 13 2013: Hi Steve :) It's great to see you here at TED Conversations! Agreed on everything you say above. The 'natural' fire trend has been devastating, but not nearly as devastating as our decision making and the entropy of our bureaucratic processes. An old friend once said, "You can measure the entropy of an organization by the weight of its manual." So true. The inability to practice sustainable and creative decision making, so often driven by 'popular opinion' has been the most devastating of all. We have the tools we need for restoration..."the pieces are laying around in plain sight." Quote: Steve Rich :)

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