Holistic Management – The Battleground

Last summer I read the book Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life by George Monbiot. A good read in itself, the author argues that our society has become too civilized where we are dominated by technology and industry and we need to ‘rewild’ ourselves in order to gain deeper meaning and appreciation for the natural world. In describing his life, he says that he has become “ecologically bored”.  And not only is he making a call for rewilding the human life, he is making a call for rewilding our landscapes.

The book takes the reader through Monbiot’s journey discovering how human beings have intervened in the wild, ecological processes. The story that sticks with me is his example of an elephant species that once roamed Europe. He digs into the ecological impacts of this species and how the shrubs and bushes adapted to their harsh impact and became very tough and resilient to physical damage. (This is why these european shrubs make such good material for traditional hedging). I appreciated his grasp on these ecological processes.

He also describes the reintroduction of  top predators. He notes that in our conservation efforts, we are quick to restore a species like the elk but rarely go about reintroducing the wolves. You may have seen a video with his work on it describing the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. I like to think of what the impact would be on re-introducing Grizzly Bears to somewhere like Grasslands National Park.

Throughout the book the author advocates steadfastly for ‘rewilding’, removing all human intervention and lays a heavy hand on humans managing landscapes. While reading the book, I remember thinking I wonder what he thinks of Allan Savory’s work and Holistic Management. Yes there is an argument for leaving spaces to be wild but at our place and time in history with significant human impact on climate change, couldn’t part of the problem be poor management practices. Can’t innovative land management practices be part of the solution?

Today my question was answered as George recently came out with an article criticizing Holistic Management. His main argument, is the lack of scientific studies to demonstrate the benefits of Holistic Management. The article and the comments to follow is a clear example of the battleground to articulate and understand Holistic Management. To me, it demonstrates people’s difficulty in understanding and judging a systems approach to complexity.

With more attention being placed on Holistic Management in the public sphere, I find it important to pay attention to the opposers not so much in preparing for a battle, but in understanding how we can help people develop the capacities needed to understand this work. The courses do a great job of this for individuals and families but how do we build those capacities and understanding among the broader public?

In thinking through this again, I am reminded that humans have co-evolved with nature. We have always had an impact on our ecological surroundings as they have had on us. We need to recognize this and explore our responsibility towards this relationship. We can’t let ourselves become ecologically bored. I fully agree that we need to rewild ourselves, this can lead to a deeper more meaningful relationship with our landscapes – an open ended exploration that can just maybe lead us out of this ecological perile that we’ve created.

Here is Monbiot’s Article Criticizing Holistic Management – Eat More Meat and Save the World: the Latest Implausible Farming Miracle

And thankfully, here’s an article by Hunter Lovins “Why George Monbiot is Wrong: Grazing Livestock Can Save the World

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