Science & Institutional Behaviour Dangers

Jun 3, 2017

Severe & dangerous reality involving “science” & institutional behaviour.

We operate globally through our organizations.  Institutions or organizations reflect the beliefs of the society in which they are formed, and they assume a life of their own once formed. They do not behave as any normal human would.  Society, almost universally, believes technology will solve our problems.

So, any new technology to solve the problem of feeding the world’s growing population that is proposed by institutions (universities, corporations, etc.) is almost automatically accepted by the bulk of people and moves forward, despite the warnings of a minority. This we see once more with the latest making of GMOs

We saw this fifty years ago when influential U.S. universities advocated using large machines that crushed vegetation down and indented soil surfaces to reverse desertification in the US and globally.  Because this was a technological “solution”, not a soul called for the “science” behind it or questioned it. Millions of dollars were spent on such machines by governments and international agencies, and even environmental groups readily accepted it. Today most such machines lie rusting having achieved nothing, nor could they ever have done so because there was only beliefs behind the idea and no science.

That we have concerns about feeding the world is entirely because of what is taking place in agriculture.  Agriculture, as I continually point out, is not crop production.  It is the production of food and fibre from the world’s land and waters.  Crops, forestry, livestock, fisheries, etc. are all agriculture. We are concerned at feeding our growing population because agriculture is producing over 75 Billion tons of eroding soil per year.  To get this conservative estimate (because it is largely from croplands that constitute 20% of the world’s land area) in perspective, that is 20 times as dead eroding soil as food we need per person alive today – every year.  This is entirely a management and biological problem, not capable of solution by any technology even imaginable in science fiction – but we believe in technology!

I too believed in technology coming to our rescue from my university training.  In my TED Talk  I talked of a terrible blunder I made because I like society, and as taught, vilified livestock and believed the “science” my exceptional caring and good professors taught me.  In that talk, and in countless talks and years of teaching, as well as in my book Holistic Management: A Commonsense Revolution to Restore Our Environment, I have pointed out in every simple and clear way that I can the simple fact that only livestock, properly managed, can reverse desertification and help regenerate the world’s cropland soils. Because this truth flies in the face of centuries of belief so deep that it has assumed scientific validity, may saying and demonstrating this new scientific insight launched half a century of institutional ridicule, rejection and opposition. Throughout this long period, despite all appeals to do so, not a single scientist has indicated where either the logic or science is incorrect. I know a simple Google search throws up endless academic criticism – simply part of the institutional outrage, because not a single author ever even attempted to study either the holistic framework or Holistic Planned Grazing that constitutes proper management of livestock.

With global desertification and climate change so desperately serious for the future of all humanity (and most higher life forms) such institutional behaviour muddying the water surrounding “science”, and institutional behaviour is tragic. No one is to blame and that is important. This is simply how complex soft systems (organizations) function and is one of what Systems Scientist call wicked problems in institutional behaviour.

I do not have any solution to such behaviour – that is why it is called a wicked problem (meaning almost incapable of solution). However, I wish there was some place or platform where we could in the interests of future generations discuss this. I know we could on a blog site such as this, but being realistic it will not happen. I just do not have the clout to get this out to millions of people as celebrities do, nor have I the capability of expressing it in some form of entertainment which we see can easily go viral in a moment.  Do any of you have suggestions?


11 Responses

  1. Nathan Eames says:

    Money makes the world go round. Holistic management will become widely accepted as the superior decision making framework that it is when the investor community recognizes it.
    A social outreach to the young gives you the best marginal reaction over time, but the majority of the networking efforts should be with the investment and business communities.
    Directing more liquidity into firms that use holistic management can have a compounding affect. The crowd funding tools made legal thru the JOBS act can serve as marketing and financial tool.
    The ultimate goal will be a shift towards seeing greater economic value in holistic managed firms, both rural and urban.

    • Megan says:

      Oh good, we just have to wait around for the financial sector, in their great wisdom, to lead us into ecological salvation. They do so well recognizing and addressing the needs of society in everything else that they do. No need to suspect failure if we wait for a solution through the context of a lord of the flies themed monopoly game.

      I apologize for the rudeness and sarcasm, but money does not make the world go round. You seem to be mistaking money for the natural forces of the planetary ecosystem we all call our only home, earth. If this planet and our species go to shit because we “didn’t have the money” to do what’s necessary and technically possible, how incredibly stupid we will be considered by future generations, if there are any left at that point.

    • Spot on Nathan. This is our strategy for speeding up adoption of sustainable and regenerative practices focused around place and what we have built over at We are just starting to reach out to our initial markets (infrastructure and agriculture) and would love to work with the Savory Institute to craft the structure that aligns with the holistic management framework, so when we come out of beta in a couple of weeks we can be well on our way to driving interest in investment opportunities that focus on regenerative agriculture. Please feel free to email me at to set-up a time to discuss.

    • Allan Savory says:

      Nathan you are correct I believe in that we have to shift public opinion and do so through all possible routes – corporations and institutions are showing the first hints of change as they see greater returns possible from working with science and nature through Holistic Management. People involved in the movement toward healthy nutritious food are making headway in getting information to urban families, and the more we can do with youth the better. Just have to keep plugging away at all avenues. A great pity that hundreds celebrities are using their status and money at present to support current public ignorance in condemning livestock, as well as coal and oil, for causing global desertification and climate change. Just given an ounce of commonsense should tell anyone these are resources, and no resource can ever cause a problem. Only management of resources can cause a problem. And it is that management we need to focus on to offer any hope.

  2. Alex Howe says:

    Hi Allan,

    My suggestion would be to keep going with what you have done so far, at the very least. I read this article ultimately because of your TED talk, and I have built on my understanding in both instances. Speak, Speak, Get others to Speak and so on. Keep up the great work.


    • Allan Savory says:

      Alex thanks. I certainly will keep on giving keynote talks and interviews where they can be arranged – which is greatly helped by others making recommendations to various organizations seeking new ideas and speakers. My recent talk in Brussels to the European Land Owners was such a talk that got through to many people. Even had major corporations tweeting and retweeting about it (Syngenta and Monsanto) and that amazed me. We have never had any cattlemen’s organization or environmental organization do that! Time and again I note the simplicity and commonsense in the holistic framework breaks through when presented to people. Just as my TED Talk on desertification going viral to millions made more progress in twenty minutes than fifty years of struggle against academic ridicule and resistance. Also now need many more people collaborating and putting out good science and commonsense, and that is happening at last.

  3. Jerry Turnbull says:

    As always Sir, you ask the difficult question. Although, I do not have an answer I am willing to help find a solution. I am n line for only a few minutes now but will follow up. I have been impressed with “crowd funding” and its impact on social issues. I was trained old time science and am cautious with any social approach. I do understand we need support but the correct support.

  4. JAMES Boak says:

    I feel your pain and the only advice I have is keep on doing what you do and challenge doubters to prove you wrong.
    We designed our soil management and
    harvesting equipment around the width of horses and oxen and yet the only farmers left farming with horses in North America are the Amish.
    Plants dont want to grow in rows – we want them to grow in rows. The beneficiaries are not consumers, not farmers, not the environment. The beneficiaries are the of precision equipment needed to efficiently convince and manage plants grown in rows.
    There is nothing I can think of in the way of soil and crop management that is more harmful to soil health and the environment than growing crops in rows.
    If we combine solid seeding and livestock grazing we can reverse the decline but it will take a lot more of us to turn this train around.
    Best regards

    • Allan Savory says:

      Yes Jim, it will take lots more of us speaking up for truly regenerative practices, but also to do so in a more thoughtful manner where possible. By this I mean if we keep talking about different practices we invariably end in arguments with people favoring other practices. No one wins and all lose. The one thing I think no one will argue against is if we speak about our management – here there are two choices. Management can be reductionist, as is all mainstream management and policy development today. Or it can be holistic using the holistic framework. Reductionist management has got us into today’s mess in which agriculture is producing twenty times as much dead eroding soil as food we need every year. Using the holistic framework for management and policy, using all available science as it does, gets us out of today’s mess albeit gradually – because it addresses the root cause of almost all our problems which is reductionist management. Just as soon as people do actually manage holistically the debate over different practices resolves itself without anger and argument as I have learned. Practices that are socially, culturally, economically and environmentally sound in our own self interest float to the top. Practices that are not stand out and people can see they are not going to lead to the lives almost all humans want..

  5. Craig McAvoy says:

    I think getting the word out to the youth and educating them about Holistic Management is the long term approach. The youth are still learning and they are open to more ideas. Planting a holistic way of thinking into the youth will keep hold in life during times of decision as practice.

    • Allan Savory says:

      Craig I do believe you are correct and that getting new information over to younger people is the best hope, although that will take time. I have never found ignorance blocks learning over many years of teaching and coaching. What does block learning is our egos and what we already know for certain and young people are not hampered by those problems yet. Also important is getting information to women. I say this because change always involves moral courage and not only have I found that women understand Holistic Management quicker than men, but they also generally have more moral courage and deeper care about their children and grandchildren. Men are far more influenced by peer pressure tragically. I know these are generalizations, but over a long life I have found them largely true, although there are of course men who do lead in new directions as true leadership involves.

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