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Lesley White
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Sydney & Mudgee, NSW, Australia
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Transformation of quarter-acre block from depleted ornamental garden to abundant food forest in the semi-arid zone Mt Maunganui Urban Food Forest
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Savo(u)ring Learning

Posted by Lesley White about 10 years ago

Courageous city-dwellers critical to address & resolve complex natural and human-system problems

I’d heard that Allan Savory would be visiting Australia.  Having learned of his success through Holistic Land Management many times, as well as the positive start to controlled cell grazing on my friend Penny’s farm down near Canberra www.caroolafarm.com.au, I was keen to learn more about HLM and its decision-making processes.

Alan Savory

Allan Savory

As I’m watching my pennies so that I can focus on building on my block, I was super excited to receive the email to say that I’d won free tickets to hear Alan through Milkwood Permaculture‘s newsletter (big thanks to Kirsten, Nick!)

So it was down to Sydney on the train, meeting up with my permie buddy Victor and into the auditorium for a welcome from the inimitable Costa.  Then onto Alan himself.  If you aren’t familiar with Alan’s work you may like to check out his recent TedTalk.

On this particular wintery Friday evening in Sydney, however, his message had a different emphasis.

Savory seemed almost eager to gloss over the specifics and technicalities of his important work on Holistic Land Management ‘HLM’, perhaps because he would be teaching a more in-depth course later that weekend.  He seemed acutely aware, albeit not rushed, of the preciousness of the time he had before potential future influencers.  Therefore, after the briefest of introductions, he launched into the main point of his talk:  that city-dwellers – with their access to centres of power and resources – will play an integral role in shaping ag management and policies in the future and that these individuals will play a particularly critical role in shifting dialogue (and mindset) towards sustainable land management and models that truly address the challenge of climate change and carbon sequestration.

Allan introduced us to the concept of different systems, and the challenge of addressing ‘complex’ problems:

Complicated versus Complex Problems:

- hard systems:  ones which rely on technological solutions, he identified that these involve ‘complicated’ problems. Factors are known and fixed (ie they do not change mid-stream), eg when Boeing had a problem with its engines it only took a matter of months for devoted and talented individuals to identify the cause and respond accordingly.  Yes it was ‘complex’ but solvable or resolvable through traditional scientific, mathematical, engineering and technological means.

- natural systems:  certainly with natural systems there are many known factors, however, as nature is adaptable and ever-evolving working with and within these systems introduces ‘complex’ problems.  That is, with so many variables, the options to resolve any given natural-system conundrum are much more difficult to grasp, requiring more observation and flexibility.  As a result one cannot employ purely technological solutions to address natural system challenges.

- human systems:  as with natural systems Alan described human systems as ‘complex’ problems. Indeed, he said that addressing the challenges of human systems would be the most important for our future.  While, in his opinion, individuals and particular small groups of individuals can change the world; groupthink (my analogy with hat tip to Aldous Huxley) creates a tendency for institutions and organisations to generate suggestions, programs and ‘solutions’ that are beyond common sense or non-sensical.

Savory made a point of stating that while many individuals within organisations and institutions are highly-qualified, passionate and intelligent, by simple virtue of the fact that these individuals operate within institutional or organisational strictures - that categorically avoid controversial or emergent solutions - outcomes will ultimately be flawed.

So what was his key message?  Savory urges committed individuals, especially those from the cities with access to power and resources, to articulate and act on positive possibilities, even in the face of institutional resistance.

Allan quoted Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

He called upon courageous individuals to think, act and articulate a new paradigm until mainstream organisations and institutions perceive a reduced risk in moving towards these new tacts in their quest to address the critical and ‘complex’ challenges of our time.

Savory emphasised that without brave and prescient people to tackle the very pressing challenges of natural-system and human-system 'devolution' (my term), positive change is neither possible nor probable.


Savory Institute:  www.savoryinstitute.com

Complex versus Complicated: Using program theory to evaluate complicated and complex aspects of interventions, Patricia Rogers, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia

Allan Savory Sydney talk made possible by by Heenan Doherty and Milkwood Permaculture.

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My Badges
My Permaculture Qualifications
Pri verified
Permaculture Design Certificate Course
Type: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course
Verifying teacher: Geoff Lawton
Other Teachers: Bill Mollison
Location: University of Melbourne
Date: Sep 2012
Other course verified
Permaculture Urban Landscape Design
Type: Other
Teacher: Geoff Lawton
Location: PRI Australia, Zaytuna Farm
Date: Feb 2013
Other course verified
Permaculture Earthworks Course
Type: Earthworks
Teacher: Geoff Lawton
Location: PRI Australia, Zaytuna Farm
Date: Jan 2012
Other course verified
Bio Intensive Gardening
Type: Gardening
Teacher: Kay Baxter
Location: PRI Australia, Zaytuna Farm
Date: Mar 2013
Other course verified
Food security through nutritional resilience & seed saving
Type: Other
Teacher: Kay Baxter
Location: PRI Australia, Zaytuna Farm
Date: Mar 2013
Other course unverified
Food Forest Design & Practicum
Type: Gardening
Teacher: Dan Harris-Pascal
Location: Permaculture eXchange, Caroola Farm, Mulloon, NSW, Australia
Date: Apr 2014

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