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 14 2013: I'm lucky ... before seeing the TED talk I knew nothing about any of this. As a gardener I have always believed in caring for the soil (deep beds, no dig, masses of compost, companion plants, etc) but the greatest amount of livestock I ever managed is three hens.

    So I had no paradigms. At least, not around this subject.

    And I have read Kuhn, and dealt with conflicting paradigms in the past (try submitting a post-grad thesis based on co-operative inquiry, as opposed to reductionist research methods!)

    And I'm an enthusiastic follower of the so-called "paleo" movement (enthusiastic, not religious!) so I'm delighted at the prospect that raising organic grass-fed beef could be an answer to so many environmental ills as well as human health problems.

    Now, how can we put our recent inheritance and life-time delivering management and personal training to good use to help others overcome their paradigm conflicts? Maybe running some co-operative inquiries into the life-changing effects of understanding and implementing holistic decision making into all walks of life.

    Anyone interested?

    In the meantime I'm reading the books.
    • Mar 14 2013: Hi James - Yes I'm interested !! Margriet here from 'Down Under' (Australia). We also have a miracle-working desert re-greener down here in the person of Peter Andrews & his method is called 'natural sequence farming'. Instead of using live-stock initially to rehabilitate degraded land, this method uses WEEDS. The key to rehabilitating degraded land is to revegitate & ANY way of accomplishing this must be done if we are going to save our planet. Literally. I think you agree. Weeds grow the quickest of any vegetation (& the most prolifically giving the greatest biomass in the shortest time) & if slashed at peak growth & left on the surface to cover the surface soil & then allowed to regrow several times, it only takes a few MONTHS this way to re-establish soil moisture & fertility at which point grasses & grains naturally re-invade the area after which this type of vegetation has become established the land can be stocked with whatever type of live stock the farmer desires. After the weed crops have worked their magic & restored fertility & moisture to the soild, in Peter's method this state of affairs is maintained by leaving all of the highest areas of land covered in trees & shrubs, as among other benefits when the area is re-stocked with animals they tend to do most of their resting & dunging up in the high areas under the shady trees AND when it rains the nutrients in the dung & urine get washed down back into the grassy areas.
      Some of the advantages of using weeds initially is that they do it all for free. They only have to be slashed a couple of times. And for the many vegetarians who are pricking up their ears about these fabulous ways of re-greening our planet & reversing global warming at the same time, natural sequence farming doesn't rely on beef production. So you don't have to go out & buy a herd of any kind of meat producing animals to be successful. Peter Andrews learned his method of desert reclamation raising horses. Check it out Cheers

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