“The whole world is in conflict, confusion and chaos, but there’s great news! We can fix it because we don’t have the thousands of problems most of us think we do, we have thousands of symptoms of ONE problem.”
Nature’s knowledge is, without question, intuitive but, if we were to successfully do what we used to do, we’d have to go back millions of years to a time when we had not learnt to control fire and had no technology but sticks and stones, because in nature, there is no other technology.”
By Sarah Savory, Savory Global
The last few weeks have clearly shown every one of us just how intricately connected we all are. And how incredibly vulnerable we all are.
We have seen how one small action, or decision, made on one side of the world can soon affect people on the other side of the world.
It has shown us how our corporate, materialistic, technological, money-driven lifestyles will do absolutely nothing in the face of things if we don’t take care of our natural world and the life-giving soil that all life on earth depends on for survival. Including us.
It has shown us how important local businesses and farmers are.
And, above all, it has shown every last one of us that nature doesn’t give a damn how much money anyone has, what our race, religion, political view, culture, status, or general opinion is: if we don’t look after our natural world, nature can, and will, ultimately have the final say, and when it comes to looking after our environment and addressing biological issues, no amount of technology is ever going to save us. Or stop her.
“All life depends on the plant’s ability, through photosynthesis, to convert sunlight energy into edible forms, so does every economy, every nation and every civilization.” ~Allan Savory, Holistic Management, A Commonsense Revolution to Restore Our Environment
Did you know that almost every problem we have is a symptom of a universal, instinctive decision-making process that every single one of us is born with? Our brains literally don’t have any idea how to deal with the social, economic and environmental complexity we were creating for ourselves as our
technology advanced. Before we learnt to control fire, our technology was simple sticks and stones. Simple tools meant we could do no harm to our environment and this meant that our decision-making could be based on our simple needs and desires without causing problems or having any long-term knock-on consequences. But as our technology advanced, our social behavior began to change, throwing us out of balance with our ecosystems, which resulted in us having the ability to do increasing harm to our environment with almost every decision we made. But our decision-making process has never evolved to accommodate for that change.
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Some people get confused at this point and think that it is being suggested we go back to the stone age: it is quite the opposite – we still make our decisions the exact same way we did in the stone age and now it is vital to update our thought process in order to get our natural world into balance with our technological advances – because while most of us could survive without technology, not a single one of us can survive if we destroy our environment.
What we are seeing globally right now is known as institutional stupidity. We are seeing endless unintended consequences of our outdated, and now reductionist decision making process: causing fear, death and chaos across the world. This latest symptom started with the Chinese Government trying to keep the coronavirus under wraps. But that is just the very tip of the iceberg.
As soon as we understand complexity and what it does in man-made organisations (which are complex) there is little mystery in the stupidities and the ever-increasing symptoms of it surrounding us.
There is a new decision-making process that has been developed which enables us to successfully accommodate for the new complexity we’ve created for ourselves, and though it is simple to put into practice, the change doesn’t come naturally to any of us – it takes a bit of effort to learn how to do it. But before we get onto that, we must understand why this paradigm-shifting change is so vital to our future:
The first key to understanding this is for us to be able to differentiate between things that are complicated and things that are complex: everything we make (technology) is complicated, but not complex. This means that the things we make cannot self-organise and generally won’t work if a part is missing, fuel runs out or a battery goes flat, Things we make don’t do anything unexpected – they do exactly what we design them to do. Problems with complicated things are relatively easy to solve given enough time and money. But everything we manage is self-organising, or complex. For example: if a person leaves an organisation, or if a species dies out in an ecosystem, the whole can adjust and continue, even though it will be in slightly changed form. Unexpected things are happening all the time in complex systems. Which makes problems in them almost impossible to solve. This is why scientists refer to them as “wicked” problems.
Take the world today: if you look at the last 100 years, you will see that when it comes to everything we make, we have had endless successes: our technology has taken off on steroids and we have been so obsessed and impressed with it that nobody seems to be noticing a terrifying fact: at the same rate that our technology is advancing, everything we manage is collapsing. This is no coincidence.
It is because complex systems can only function in wholes, which means that no part can function, or have decisions made for it, in isolation of that whole without eventually affecting something else within that system (or organisation.) But due to our instinctive decision-making ‘software’ we are unable to account for that – we simply haven’t known how to develop policies in a way that takes complexity into consideration, which has resulted in centuries of our governments and organisations causing devastating knock-on consequences on our planet across the world. Every policy decision made like this starts a ripple effect, which may seem small and insignificant at first, because they have achieved the initial objective of the policy, but further down the line there will inevitably be negative impacts on our environment, which will cause knock-on negative impacts on our societies and economies. And the more symptoms we create, the more problems we think we have to try and solve, so we focus on those, and the more we do that, the more we speed up the damage and collapse. It’s a vicious circle but we can stop it.
We are going to be able to stop this from happening as soon as enough of us have understood that no man-made organisation, or government, thinks or acts like an individual – as soon as we form any organisation, which is a complex system, it automatically takes on a life of its own and because the instinctive way we make decisions never takes complexity into account, every decision, or policy, that comes out of any organisation will lack humanity, empathy and/or common sense. For example, does it make any sense for America to produce oil to produce corn to produce fuel for vehicles? Of course not, yet thousands of institutional scientists are doing it.
It doesn’t matter what happens as a result of any organisation’s actions or policies: from people getting sick, or dying; industrial agriculture causing mass environmental destruction; mass poisonings; murder; genetically modified food; chemicals sprayed on our crops; to factory farming animals, the organisation can ever be held accountable, no matter what they do, or how much damage they cause. And even though most individuals who work within organisations will have good intentions, there is nothing they can do about the outcome, regardless of how hard they might try to change it.
Because of this, when things inevitably go wrong, organisations end up protecting the organisation itself and as a result will often go against, and cause damage to the very thing they were set up to help with in the first place: a good example of this is the Catholic Church, which circled the wagons and ended up protecting the priests and the organisation, not the children who were being abused.
No natural or man-made system that we manage will ever be able to develop sound or balanced policies for anything in the long run until the decision-making process is updated.
- Communism – FAILED
- Fascism – FAILED
- Capitalism – FAILED
No political or organisational ideology has been, or ever can be, successful in the long term. We need governments to practice a completely new way of thinking and we need them to do it urgently, and it has to be based on science, not on opinions.
The good news is that a new decision-making framework has been developed and has been thoroughly put to the test and proved to be conclusively and consistently successful. It is already being used more and more amongst forward thinking individuals all around the world and is now beginning to be practiced successfully by communities and taught in schools. But incremental change is not fast enough to save us: we urgently need it being practiced at organisational and government level.
The greatest news is that we don’t have thousands of problems to solve. We have thousands of symptoms of ONE problem:
There is only one -ISM in the world that can save us now, which will work for every single person, plant and animal on our planet, and that is HOLISM.
“Holism is the science of recognising that the parts of any whole, or system (from man-made to natural systems) are in intimate interconnection, such that they cannot exist independently of the whole, or cannot be understood without reference to the whole.”
There is far more to it than just understanding what holism is. Many people over the course of history have recognised and understood this, and many have tried to take a “holistic approach,” which failed because, until fairly recently, no-one had understood that we all instinctively revert to a genetically embedded decision-making process at the point where the rubber hits the road and the decision is being made. We do this no matter how holistically we have looked at the situation – it is subconscious. Making decisions holistically is not something that comes naturally to anyone – we have to consciously re-train our brains to be able to do it and it takes a bit of practice before it gets easy: think of it in terms of needing a software update – it takes some time to get used to it. This new ‘software update’ is now available to all of us and it is so exciting.
The new ‘update’ in our management is ground-breaking. When we use it, every single one of us is able to consistently and successfully manage the unavoidable web of complexity in any situation: this framework enables everyone, from household to governments, to test whether their decisions or policies will be consistently and simultaneously socially, culturally, economically and environmentally sound for them at any given time. And, as I said, it has already been thoroughly put to the test and is being used by more and more people all around the world every day.
It is called Holistic Management and was developed in 1984 by Allan Savory, an independent Zimbabwean scientist who dedicated his entire life to finding answers to reversing desertification and land degradation, which is by far the biggest threat to all life on earth. The Holistic Management Decision Making Framework makes sure that with every decision we make, or policy we develop, we are always considering the whole under management and putting the health of our life-supporting environment first, which is intricately tied together in that web of complexity to our cultures, societies and our economies.
We cannot just “copy and paste” an idea/action, or policy, just because it has worked for someone else, somewhere else, because nobody is ever dealing with the same complexity twice. A perfect example of this is happening in the world right now: Governments in Africa are taking advice from experts in first world countries and doing whatever they suggest to curb the spread of CV19 without taking into account the completely different social, cultural, economic and environmental complexity we are dealing with here in Africa. The knock-on consequences of that could be devastating.
What works in some countries cannot automatically work in others – each individual/business/country is dealing with entirely unique complexity and needs their own unique solutions. And whether it is the first time anyone has been exposed to dealing with a situation or not doesn’t matter at all when you are dealing with complexity: while the management is reductionist, it won’t matter what decisions are made, because they will inevitably end up causing unwanted consequences later on.
It is inevitable and unavoidable, and it will happen whether it’s the first, or hundredth, time it’s being done, so even hindsight can’t help us when it comes to decision-making, particularly within organisations:
“Governments and Organisations have the same mistake on repeat, over and over and over again – not because their actions, practices, or policy decisions themselves are wrong, but because they aren’t using a management/decision making process that enables them to know when an action, practice or policy is appropriate: and that is what’s causing all the damage.
Holistic Management gives us foresight. It gives us the ability to pre-empt unwanted consequences and when it is put into practice on a big scale, it will bring about the reverse knock-on effect of what we are experiencing around the world right now and we will see our societies, economies and natural world begin to thrive.”
As soon as governments and organisations adjust and adapt to this decision making process, everything will change, because they will be taking any suggested policy ideas they have and, without getting into any conflict about who has the best idea, and instead of zooming in on any problem, they will be looking at it from the point of view of the whole and will test and find out for themselves whether each proposed action will be leading them towards their own Holistic Context, or not. And if they are in doubt about any decision, they use filtering context checks to make sure that it is sound within their own unique complexity at that time. As soon as this framework is put into practice by our governments and organisations, we will begin to see the first ever simultaneously socially/culturally sound, economically viable and ecologically regenerative policies being developed all across the world. And the human spirit will take off.
As we can see, all this is far, far bigger than any one of us, and, we must take this vital cue from nature: let us start to think in terms of the strength of the whole, not the individual: let’s put our individual differences aside and learn to work together, united in collective decision making towards a common Global Holistic Context in order to secure a future for ourselves on this planet. And, let’s collectively insist that our governments and organisations urgently begin to put this exciting new universal decision-making framework into practice so that we can ensure all our actions and policies are sound and in balance with our connected and complex world.
~Sarah Savory, March 2020
An excerpt from a recent interview with Allan Savory who developed this framework:
What is the philosophy behind holistic management?
“Holistic Management is a way of managing complexity. In the 1950s I became concerned as I observed massive environmental destruction in Africa that threatened wildlife and ultimately humans. My determination to find a consistently successful solution led eventually to developing the Holistic Management Framework for management and policy development. At that point (c 1984) when the holistic framework emerged, I realised we had accidentally learned how to manage complexity in any situation: from a single person engaged in a job, to family, community, governance and beyond. At the beginning I had no idea that what I was witnessing in remote areas of Africa was global and that it was just the tip of a large iceberg – mankind’s inability to manage complexity throughout history. As Rebecca Costa concluded, “Early civilisations did not just fail because of their agriculture, but because they could not address the complexity of rising population and deteriorating environment. They shelved the problems for future generations and turned away from gaining knowledge (science) to religion and sacrifice.”
Now we are seeing this on a global scale. More than twenty civilisations have failed in all regions of the world – armies change civilisations, farmers destroy them. And all of this has only one cause: our inability to manage complexity.”
What are your expectations and hopes regarding the practice of holistic management?
“We address major issues through our organisations or institutions, not as individuals. However, human organisations are defined as “complex soft systems” and exhibit wicked problems (almost impossible to fix.) My hope is that we can get enough people insisting that policies (particularly agricultural) be developed holistically in order for our institutions to change in time to save civilisation as we know it. When we heed the research, it shows us that institutions cannot change from reductionist policy development (practiced by all nations today) to holistic policy development, until enough of the public insist on that change. There is not one case I can find of any organisation ever adopting any new paradigm-shifting insight ahead of a change in public perception – no matter what the cost, or how many lives are lost. No amount of data, evidence, danger, cost in money, or lives, changes institutions ahead of the public – institutions will never lead paradigm-shifting change.”
Allan Savory’s paper on Good Governance: https://www.savory.global/news/good-governance/
This video below shows how our decision making became reductionist and how simple it is to update it, before nature has her final say:
And the video below explains how all policies end up being reductionist, using agricultural policy as an example: