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CARAVAN: How the Arts can be a Peacebuilder between the creeds and cultures of the East and West.

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A personal note from the Publisher:  It has been my original goal to co-create a collaborative media infrastructure that could help people overcome misunderstandings and work better together.  In organizing this platform, I am personally honored to meet amazing people such as  Rev. Paul Gordon Chandler who is the Founding President of a wonderful initiative that is building bridges between communities.  As we continue this path of overcoming misunderstandings and working better together, we are always seeking stories and editorial contributors from around the world whose words and music, art and media, ideas into action can bring us closer together instead of further apart from one another.  Please join the Movement for Better together when you register for Mobilized here.


Some of our biggest problems and social issues have their origin in misunderstandings. For a society cannot function when it is in a constant state of ignorance; we need to find better ways to overcome misunderstandings and build bridges between us all. 

Mobilized intends to be a platform to enable bridges to be built.

Inventor Nikola Tesla said: “Fights between individuals, as well as governments and nations, invariably result from misunderstandings in the broadest interpretation of this term. Misunderstandings are always caused by the inability of appreciating one another’s point of view. This again is due to the ignorance of those concerned, not so much in their own, as in their mutual fields. The peril of a clash is aggravated by a more or less predominant sense of combativeness, posed by every human being. To resist this inherent fighting tendency the best way is to dispel ignorance of the doings of others by a systematic spread of general knowledge. With this object in view, it is most important to aid exchange of thought and intercourse.”

Mobilized plans to feature weekly dialogues with individuals and organizations who are helping us all by bringing people together to overcome misunderstandings and finding better ways of co-existing peacefully and harmoniously.

“Religion and politics have their own languages but the language of art is universal.”

“The real weapon of mass destruction is ignorance.”

Mobilized spent a little quality time interviewing  Rev. Paul Gordon Chandler, the Founding President of CARAVAN.   CARAVAN develops creative initiatives that use the arts as a catalyst to bring people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs closer together toward building sustainable peace.  They develop, organize, curate and host numerous artistic programs; exhibitions, festivals, lectures, concerts, artist exchanges, collaborations, seminars, symposiums, forums/panels, film screenings, etc.

Their primary program initiatives are their peacebuilding art exhibitions that bring together many of the Middle East’s and West’s premier and emerging contemporary artists around a bridge-building theme.  CARAVAN’s exhibitions are strategically “nomadic” (hence the “caravan” theme) and they are held in a variety of locations in the Middle East, Europe and North America, rather than in a consistently fixed setting, allowing flexibility to respond to world events, arising invitations, opportunities and need.  These exhibitions result in unprecedented gatherings of renowned Middle Eastern and Western artists coming together to use art for intercultural and interreligious dialogue and exchange, and garner attention from the international press, media and art world, attracting many thousands of visitors.


“The Border Song” features the only lyrical passage written by Elton John; found in the third verse, he wrote:

“Holy Moses I have been deceived
Holy Moses let us live in peace
Let us strive to find a way to make all hatred cease
There’s a man over there
What’s his colour I don’t care
He’s my brother let us live in peace
He’s my brother let us live in peace
He’s my brother let us live in peace”


How do you see art and media empowering a healthier society?

Well, I am reminded of that profound statement by Kahlil Gibran, the early 20th century Arab-American poet-artist and author best-selling book The Prophet: “We have forgotten—or have we?—that there is but one universal language and that its voice is art.”

During a time of escalating misunderstanding, stereotypes and violence between religions and cultures in our world today, our experience at CARAVAN has shown that arts can be one of the most effective mediums to build bridges… to enhance understanding, bring about respect, enable sharing, as well as developing and deepening friendships between those of different faiths and cultures…changing negative perceptions and creating lasting change in the quest for justice and peace.

Art is a universal language that has the ability to dissolve the differences that divide us…whether through visual art, film, music, literature, theater, drama, design or animation. For as long as conflict has torn the human family, art has allowed us to see similarity within difference, offering a mode of reconciliation. And it is here that I think that artists can lead the way. With their embrace of greater tolerance, artists provide new pathways of understanding that transcends borders and how we see the “other”. The power of creativity counteracts the demonization of the “other.”

And we see the transformational power of art both here in the West through our various CARAVAN initiatives and in the Middle East and North Africa. As the dynamic former Tunisian Minister of Culture, Latifa Lakhdar, said: “Creativity is the greatest way to [approach] our battle against those people who would destroy even the most elementary principles of life.”
Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian novelist sums it up profoundly: “The task of art in enormous… Art should cause violence to be set aside. And it is only art that can accomplish this.’”

In your experience, what are some of the most effective bridge building solutions that help people work better together and overcome misunderstandings?

Well, certainly, in the midst of the all too often widening divides of discord and misapprehension, our day calls for a whole new kind of movement: not of belief, or of cultural or religious unity, but one that quite simply builds on what we hold in common. Hence now more than ever, creative demonstrations of dialogue and peacebuilding are needed.

At CARAVAN, our mission is to build bridges through the arts between the peoples, faiths and cultures of the Middle East and West. Our artistic initiatives profoundly embody a fundamental message of intercultural and interreligious harmony, seeking to serve as a common starting point on which to build, toward seeing the development of societies that inherently respect and honor cultural and religious diversity, living and working peacefully together. We see the arts as offering strategic resources for everything from facilitating discussion, dialogue and education, promoting further understanding, to nonviolently reducing conflicts, transforming relationships in the aftermath of violence and building the capacities required for peace.

For us, the aim of art is always higher than art…as we believe art can help us see someone different than ourselves for whom they really are…that they are actually like us. As Kahlil Gibran so powerfully wrote: “Your neighbor is your other self dwelling behind a wall. In understanding, all walls shall fall down.” In this sense the arts for us aren’t only about encouraging intercultural or interreligious dialogue and exchange, but about something much deeper…they are about facilitating intercultural or interfaith friendships — establishing sincere human relationships that cannot be broken by the words or actions of others.

And one of the most transformative aspects for us, is that our artistic initiatives become “Encounter Points,” bringing people together that would normally never come together, to gain insights into the “other,” listen to and learn from the “other” and alleviate fears that exist. We are all changed by experiences we have. So, our goal is to give someone an experience of the “other” through the transcendent nature of the arts. This is essential to our mission, because it is through directly encountering people of other faiths and backgrounds that long-held incorrect views and stereotypes are challenged, as new friendships are formed.

One of the secrets of using the medium of the arts in peacebuilding, especially in the intercultural and interreligious arena, is that art is “indirect” in its approach to addressing very difficult and challenging issues. And as a result, the all too often defensive walls are not raised. As an indirect catalyst, art creates a safe and equalizing space in which to begin real dialogue, and sensitively addresses negative stereotypes of the “other,” as well as even healing old rifts.

At CARAVAN, we strongly believe that it could not be timelier for the arts to play a central role in promoting peacebuilding and a sectarian-free world.

What is it about your project or initiatives that separate you from others in the same field or sector?
Well, first of all, CARAVAN one of the few non-profits involved in peacebuilding through the arts between the Middle East and West. However, what makes us even more distinctive is how we go about this.

Our flagship initiatives are our CARAVAN art exhibitions which are focused on facilitating East-West dialogue and furthering understanding, toward building bridges. These strategic exhibitions have resulted in unprecedented gatherings of premier and emerging Middle Eastern and Western artists coming together around peacebuilding themes, using art as a bridge for intercultural and interreligious dialogue. And these exhibitions have garnered attention from the international press, media and art world, attracting many thousands of visitors.

There are three distinguishing features of these CARAVAN exhibitions:
1 -First, they are nomadic. They “caravan” from the Middle East to the West. So, they originate in the Middle East, and then are showcased in varying locations in Europe and North America, rather than in a consistently fixed setting, allowing flexibility to respond to world events, arising invitations, opportunities and need.

2- Secondly, our exhibitions are most often held in heavily trafficked “sacred spaces” or public spaces, as opposed to traditional art spaces, in order to maximize viewership from the widest possible demographic. For example, they are often held in cathedrals. We have held exhibitions in cathedrals like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., that receive thousands of visitors daily. Or in renowned public spaces, like at Ground Zero in New York. Additionally, within “sacred spaces” there is already a contemplative nature to the atmosphere which facilitates the deeper message of the art exhibition.

3 – Thirdly, the visual art serves as a catalyst for the development of a wide range of programs and events around the exhibition to stimulate discussion, dialogue and education, promoting further understanding (such as talks, forums, lectures, concerts, symposiums, literary readings, film screenings, panels, field trips, etc.).

What are some of the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
Well, there are always logistical challenges, while organizing and hosting these major artistic initiatives internationally. But those are the normal challenges. However, without a doubt our greatest challenge remains finding the needed funding. We continually receive requests, invitations, from throughout the Middle East, Europe and North America, to come and assist them strategically through our artistic peacebuilding initiatives. However, as we are not a foundation or an endowed entity, we are constantly limited as to what we can do. The need is tremendous, the potential is unlimited, and the doors of opportunity wide open. But finding the adequate resourcing is a major obstacle. Our experience has shown that the individuals that support CARAVAN’s peacebuilding work are educated, world-traveled, have a passion for the arts and see the critical needs for building bridges between those of other cultures and creeds. We just need many more of them!

What are some of your new and upcoming projects that you could talk about?
We have a new exhibition coming up that is most timely. Titled “ABRAHAM: Out of One, Many” (playing off of “E pluribus unum”), the exhibition is a creative response to today’s climate of increasing prejudice and stereotyping, which has resulted in the rise of “tribalism,” populist nationalism, antisemitism and continuing anti-Muslim sentiment. It is an exhibition that reminds us that all Christians, Muslims and Jews have the same family heritage–their ancestor Abraham. Abraham is a spiritual figure of distinct significance within the three primary monotheistic faith traditions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, who has much to teach our world today about welcoming and embracing the “other,” and living together more harmoniously. For this exhibition, three globally acclaimed Middle Eastern contemporary visual artists from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith traditions, have each created five paintings that interpret Abraham’s life journey for us today, serving as a guide toward creating cultures of peace, harmony, justice and healing. The exhibition will premiere in Rome, Italy the first weekend of May 2019, and will then be showcased in the United Kingdom over the summer of 2019, before touring the US through the end of 2020.

We  just launched an international online exhibition of contemporary art celebrating the rich diversity of our world called “Global Mosaic.” As a juried exhibition, it is an appeal to visual artists everywhere to join us in our belief that human diversity is our greatest strength. By embracing our differences and respecting each other, we enrich our own lives as well as build more compassionate communities and a better world. With this online exhibition we aim to illustrate artistically our fundamental human connectedness which supersedes creed, culture, gender, race and any other background. And by being part of the same human family, we need to resolve misunderstandings, treat each other with respect and embrace our differences, realizing it is our diversity and unity that enriches us. Each participating artist will submit one artwork reflecting their best representational or abstract interpretation of the theme, adding their voice to a celebration of our wondrous “Global Mosaic.”

How do you best overcome misunderstandings of your work and efforts?
We actually haven’t experienced many misunderstandings per se, as what we are and do is quite clear. This of course doesn’t mean people always agree with our mission. Some, quite frankly, just can’t bring themselves to join our peacebuilding “caravan,” to commit to journeying together with those different than themselves. There is a sense that some find security in having an “enemy.” And it becomes quite unsettling to them when they learn that this supposed “enemy” actually isn’t an enemy at all, but is rather someone just like themselves.

On a positive note, we often tour these peacebuilding exhibitions of Middle Eastern artists in areas in the US that are known to be the most prejudiced against Arabs, Persians and Muslims. And we have found that at the end of the day, most people, whenever they have a positive experience of the “other,” are gracious and hospitable, and are able to increasingly look more kindly upon them.

How do you stay inspired?
The greatest inspiration is seeing the transformational aspect of the work we do. There are numerous inspiring stories that come out of CARAVAN’s peacebuilding artistic initiatives. One example, in the interreligious arena, is how one of our exhibitions led to a pioneering initiative that involved Muslim imams and Christian priests and pastors visiting each other in their own faith communities (i.e. staying with each other and their families over the weekend, attend their worship services, etc.). The whole focus is on seeing them becoming ambassadors of peace in their local communities. The program has been immensely successful…with hundreds of imams and priests having gone through it. And you should hear the stories and see the depth of friendships that have developed between them. All because of a CARAVAN art exhibition that first brought them together and expanded their worlds.

There are many inspirational stories like this of both personal and societal transformation. Personally, I am also deeply inspired by the artists we work with – most of whom are from the Middle East – who use their creative gifts to challenge the status quo, calling us all to live on a higher plane.

If ever you thought of handing in the towel and giving up, what did you do or who did you turn to, to get your focus back?
Even though I am an American, I grew up in Senegal, West Africa, which is a majority Muslim country. So, I have always been passionate about finding ways to creatively build bridges between peoples of different religions, cultures, ethnicities and nationalities. It is part of my DNA so to speak. It really has become a calling for me…a “raison d’etre.” So that deeper dimension to all this helps me persevere in the midst of all the challenges that do exist, whether they be from the peacebuilding work itself or in finding the resources to enable it.

What words of advice would you offer others who have some sort of dream different than those of their peers?
Well, first of I would make sure that the dream, whatever it is, really is an integral part of who that person is. It has to be something that flows naturally out of them…almost as if they have no choice but to work toward realizing that dream. Secondly, I would make sure that dream corresponds to a genuinely felt need in our world. This is important, as it is hard enough seeing a dream realized when most believe it is needed. Thirdly, I would encourage them to seek out others with similar dreams and learn from them. I love the words by the Italian writer Luciano de Cresanzo: “We are all angels with one wing; we can only fly by embracing one another.” Working together with others towards a common goal is more impactful and much more fulfilling.

———————————————————–
Paul-Gordon Chandler is an author, art curator, Episcopal priest, social entrepreneur and authority on the Middle East and Christian-Muslim relations, who has lived and worked in the Middle East and North Africa for many years. He grew up in Senegal, West Africa. From 2003-2013 he was the Rector of the international Episcopal church in Cairo, Egypt. He is the Founding President of CARAVAN, an international peacebuilding non-profit that uses the arts to build bridges between the creeds and cultures of the Middle East and the West. He is the author of four books, with his most recent book titled IN SEARCH OF A PROPHET: A Spiritual Journey with Kahlil Gibran (Rowman and Littlefield), in which he explores the all-embracing spirituality of Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet.
For more information on CARAVAN, see: oncaravan.org. Further information on Paul-Gordon Chandler can be found on his author website: paulgordonchandler.com

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A web of Life for ALL Life

Rich nations “must consign coal power to history” – UK COP26 president

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Climate change talks this year aimed at keeping global warming in check need to consign coal power to history, the British president of the upcoming United Nations’ conference said on Wednesday.

By Nina Chestney

Tagline: This story originally appeared in Reuters and is published here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

Britain will host the next U.N. climate conference, called COP26, in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

The meeting aims to spur more ambitious commitments by countries following their pledge under the Paris Agreement in 2015 to keep the global average temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius this century. The measures are aimed at preventing devastating and extreme weather events such as heatwaves, colder winters, floods and droughts.

“I’ve been very clear that I want COP26 to be the COP where we consign coal power to history,” Alok Sharma, UK president for COP26, told journalists in an interview with Reuters and other partners of the global media consortium Covering Climate Now.

Coal is the most polluting energy source if emissions are not captured and stored underground. While that technology lags, most coal units around the world produce not only carbon dioxide emissions, responsible for global warming, but other pollutants harmful to human health.

The Group of Seven (G7) nations have pledged to scale up technologies and policies that accelerate the transition away from unabated coal capacity, including ending new government support for coal power by the end of this year, but many countries still finance and plan to build new coal plants.

After catastrophic floods swept across northwest Europe last week and as wildfires continue to rage across southern Oregon in the United States, energy and climate ministers of the Group of 20 rich and emerging nations (G20) will meet this week in Italy to try to increase emissions cuts and climate finance pledges.

“I think the G7 has shown the way forward,” Sharma said, adding that island nations he has visited this year such as in the Caribbean, want the biggest emitters of the G20 to follow suit.

A tracker run by groups including the Overseas Development Institute shows the G20 has committed at least $296 billion for fossil fuel energy support since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, and $227 billion for clean energy.

“Many of these countries are already very ambitious in terms of abating climate change. But for it to make a difference in terms of the weather patterns that are hitting (countries), they need the biggest emitters to step forward and that’s the message that I’m going to be delivering at the G20,” he added.

One of the biggest challenges facing the UK COP26 Presidency will be to persuade countries to commit to more ambitious emissions-cut targets and to increase financing for countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Long-held disagreements over the rules which will govern how carbon markets should operate will also need to be overcome. The rules, under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, are regarded by many countries as a way of delivering climate finance.

“I’ve said to ministers that we need to move beyond people restating their long-held positions. I think we have to find a landing zone,” Sharma said.

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Oceans and Water

Time To Flip the Ocean Script — From Victim to Solution

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By Virginia Gewin

The ocean was once thought too immense to fail, until bleached coral reefs, ocean acidification and depleted fisheries transformed it into what seemed a hopeless, depleted victim.

Now the ocean is primed for a new role, with emerging evidence pointing to a more hopeful narrative that the ocean offers untapped climate, food security and economic recovery solutions.

That’s the case being made by Jane Lubchenco, former administrator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who spoke Sept. 23 at the Society of Environmental Journalists’ virtual conference.

Former NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco spoke about the future of oceans at SEJ’s virtual 2020 conference on Sept. 23.

At a workshop on oceans, climate and the 2020 election, Lubchenco pointed to the work of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, a diverse partnership of heads of state, including 14 world leaders, prime ministers and presidents — representing 30% of the world’s coastlines and 20% of the world’s fisheries — who have committed to transition to a sustainable ocean economy.

The panel has published an analysis that highlighted five ocean-based options able to meaningfully decrease global carbon emissions:

  • ocean-based renewable energy (wind and wave)
  • decarbonization of ocean-based transport
  • conservation of existing blue carbon in coastal and marine ecosystems
  • shifting of diets to sea-based protein
  • carbon storage in the seabed (the only option that requires further study)

Implementing all five actions could deliver roughly 20% of the greenhouse gas emission cuts needed by 2050 to keep global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the panel’s analysis.

“Most of the international climate policy world focuses on land-based mitigation — transportation, buildings, energy generation,” Lubchenco told the virtual workshop participants. “The ocean has been out of sight, out of mind; based on this analysis, it needs to be squarely at the table.”

 

Future of food from the sea

Lubchenco further highlighted how ocean-based food security is on the rise. The 2006 overhaul of fisheries reform, she noted, is one of the least appreciated environmental success stories of the last few decades. In 2000, there were 92 overfished stocks; by 2019, that number had been slashed to 46.

“It is possible to end overfishing,” Lubchenco said. In addition, as of 2019, 47 stocks had been rebuilt amid a 21% increase in catch.

The ocean panel also looked at the future of food from the sea to publish a white paper (and subsequent peer-reviewed Nature study) that calculated the ocean could supply over six times more food than it does today — as a result of fisheries reforms as well as aquaculture, namely for bivalves such as mussels, oysters and clams.

To that end, Lubchenco mentioned an innovative new partnership among 10 top global companies called SeaBOS, or Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship, which is working to realize sustainable seafood production.

 

Report suggests big payoffs to ocean investments

Pivoting to how the ocean offers opportunities for an equitable, sustainable blue recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted that the ocean panel released a report in September detailing how investments in coastal restoration, seaweed or bivalve aquaculture, sewerage for coastal communities, renewable energy and zero-emission marine transport could pay off five-fold.

‘The ocean is so central to our health, prosperity and well-being, it’s too big to ignore.’

— Jane Lubchenco, former NOAA administrator

“The ocean is so central to our health, prosperity and well-being, it’s too big to ignore,” said Lubchenco.

She added a teaser for the Dec. 3 release of the ocean panel’s final report and a major policy announcement. Interested journalists can register for a Dec. 1 embargoed press conference by contacting Lauren Zelin of the World Resources Institute.

Later in the SEJ workshop, Lubchenco fielded questions on a range of topics including the scientific integrity of NOAA, the future of aquaculture, greater protections for marine reserves and U.S. readiness for sea level rise.

Ocean-related actions to mitigate climate change. Image: High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. Click to enlarge.

Asked to comment on the appointment and nomination of climate change deniers to key posts at NOAA, she expressed grave concern.

“When there are people in high-level positions that have the power to suppress, cherry-pick or distort information, it undermines the confidence Americans can have in NOAA,” Lubchenco said. Scientific progress, she noted, requires dissent or thinking out of left field, but it must be credible.

“The people nominated and appointed recently are not even in left field, they are miles from the ballpark,” Lubchenco  said, adding they posed a real threat to the nation.

She encouraged journalists to stay alert and file FOIAs to unearth any shenanigans that might be playing out.

 

Aquaculture needs clearer governance

Lubchenco also highlighted the status of aquaculture. Fish farming — specifically aquaculture that must be fed, such as salmon — continues to face significant environmental challenges.

In recent years there has been progress to reduce the amount of wild-capture fish needed to feed carnivorous farmed fish, she noted, but it is not yet considered sustainable.

Fish farms have also made modest improvements in dealing with diseases and waste. Lubchenco argued there’s so much more potential and so many fewer problems with bivalve aquaculture — for example, mussels, oysters, clams — because they feed on plankton in the water.

“The future, especially with climate change, will be on non-fed species,” added Lubchenco.

That said, she highlighted how it’s become clear that there is ambiguity over which federal agencies have the authority to manage aquaculture in federal waters — specifically to what extent the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the law that governs fisheries, also applies to aquaculture.

 

‘We are not well prepared at all for

sea level rise, as a nation or as a world.’

— Jane Lubchenco, former NOAA administrator

 

In the end, Lubchenco predicts Congress will have to weigh in and create a law to govern aquaculture.

Lastly, Lubchenco responded bluntly to a question from Portland-based journalist Lee van der Voo, about U.S. preparedness for sea level rise.

“We are not well prepared at all for sea level rise, as a nation or as a world,” she warned. While some states — notably California and New York — are addressing the issue, Lubchenco said the country needs to take parallel actions to mitigate the consequences of sea level rise in parallel with rapid efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And to that end, she added, “we need federal government that is enabling that to happen, not preventing it from happening and not making it worse.”

The workshop was moderated by Robert McClure, co-founder and executive director of InvestigateWest, and an on-demand video is available to registered conference goers on the #SEJ2020 Whova app. Plus, check out this page of additional links and resources.

Virginia Gewin is a freelance science journalist based in the Pacific Northwest who covers climate change, agriculture, conservation and diversity in STEM. Her work has appeared in Nature, Science, Discover, Popular Science, Washington Post, Modern Farmer, Portland Monthly and many others. Follow her on Twitter at @VirginiaGewin.


Source: Society for environmental Journalists

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Allan Savory: A holistic management shift is required

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"We need to findmore effective ways to amplify the stories of solutions"

 

Mr. Savory we know historically that the deterioration of food production systems in past civilizations and their inability to cognize encroaching complexity of population growth and governance in a holistic context leads to unbroken chain of civilizations’ collapsing. Do you think we still have time to avoid this on a global level now? Is there a way to create a new hope and new vision?

We we do not know, but Britain did not know if they could survive after the fall of France and most of Europe – but with good leadership, pushing aside egos and personal gain and acting on a war-footing they more than survived. Never has human civilization faced a graver danger than now with global finance and ecological illiteracy of our institutions driving the massive environmental degradation destroying our only habitat. Ordinary people know that all species, including humans cannot survive without suitable habitat. If world leaders (heads of governments and UN) put the massive environmental degradation that culminates in global desertification and the climate emergency on a war-footing and lead we have great hope for future generations.

Can you elaborate on the different impacts that ‘policy’ vs. ‘practice’ has on this impending problem of reforming agricultural systems worldwide?

Yes. Without agriculture there is no city, church, university, army, business or government – no civilization. Without a new regenerative form of agriculture (not crop production, but the production of food and fibre from the world’s land and waters) global civilization will fail. This is because all forms of agriculture historically have led to the failure of civilizations in all regions of the world and now the same threat is global. Few things in my life have taught society more clearly how interlinked our survival is than the present pandemic. Armies change civilizations. Farmers, foresters, fishermen, pastoralists destroy civilizations. So, we face the situation in which mainstream institutional, industrial agriculture led by our universities, governments and corporations supported by global finance, is the most destructive and extractive industry ever in history. And all forms of organic, sustainable, permaculture, grass production of livestock ever known led to failure of many civilizations in all regions long before chemicals and machinery.

 

So, if we keep discussing different practices and people keep vying for validity and funding for their favoured practice we know we will fail. What world leaders on a global war-footing need to do is to address agriculture at the policy level by focusing on the cause of agriculture, throughout history, being so environmentally, socially and economically destructive (while feeding ever growing numbers of people).

By governments and all large institutions addressing at policy level the cause of the ever-growing environmental destruction reflected in global desertification and climate change all nations will rapidly develop the required new regenerative agriculture. Very little new knowledge, not already available amongst the world’s farmers, fishermen, foresters, wildlife and livestock managers, universities and environmental organizations, is required. We do not lack detailed knowledge, we lack the ability to manage the social, cultural, environmental and economic complexity. That ability we only gained in 1984.

“If the Greta Thunberg generation are to have any hope I am again going to use my statement “We have no option but the unthinkable. By every means possible we have get enough public demand to force quicker change by insisting institutions develop policies to address problems in a holistic context.”

 

We know most of the organized structures of our modern world can be represented as silo’s, inhabited by true believers (Eric Hoffer author), and authoritarian demagogues.  Do you believe that Holistic Management training will become widely acceptable at upper levels of organizations or will occur because of collapsing regional agricultural ecosystems at the level of farming being our next crises?

I don’t know. All we do know, from good research and history, is that when counter-intuitive or paradigm-shifting change is involved, it is impossible for democratic leaders or any organization (institution) to lead. No change is possible until public opinion shifts and demands that change. And this holds no matter how serious, no matter how many million lives are lost or what the economic cost. Institutions, including elected leaders of such, take on a life of their own as complex systems. Institutions reflect the prevailing beliefs of society and lead the way with such thinking. However, when truly new knowledge emerges (which has happened very few times in history – Coppernicus, Galilleo, Semmelwiess are examples) institutions lead the ridicule and rejection until public opinion shifts. I cannot find any case in history of any institution accepting paradigm-shifting change ahead of its public.

Addressing the cause of all that ails us involves two paradigm-shifting concepts – known and developed by thousands of people over sixty years, including thousands employed in institutions but acting independently of their institutions – the Holistic Management framework has been blocked from rapidly gaining public awareness by the world’s institutions that became aware of it – environmental and agricultural organizations, universities, governments and international agencies. Only time will tell if programs such as this interview, social networking and the efforts of many people mainly engaged in developing regenerative agriculture will prevail over institutional aggression and inertia.

How is the lack of validation affecting positive change in local communities to holistic principles?

Firstly, there is really only one holistic principle. Intuitively known by all earlier people who in most cultures recognized humanity’s inseparable tie to our habitat. And the principle was brought into Western thought in 1926 by Jan Smuts who wrote Holism and Evolution. That principle is that nature works in wholes and patterns – not as mechanistic world-view and science believed. Knowing all they did, including Native Americans thinking seven generations ahead before taking any action, did not help them. Wherever humans were we still damaged our environment and least so in regions of perennial humidity. This was brought about by two things. First human decision making has always been to meet our needs, desires or to address problems basically. Reducing the unavoidable web of social, cultural, environmental and economic complexity to such things as the reason or context for management and policy is “reductionist” in a holistic world. What we finally discovered in 1984 after decades of work, was how to address the cause of past and present failures – by going to where the rubber hits the road.

That point is where actual decisions are made in any policy or management practice. Here, two points become important for the survival of civilization. One- all management and policy needs to be in a holistic context. Second -it is simply not possible, as tool-using animals, for humans to prevent or address global desertification and thus climate change using the only tools institutional scientists who advise world leaders accept or recognize. Those tools available to institutional scientists (and world leaders can only act through institutions) are technology in its many forms, fire, or conservation (resting our environment to recover). Three tools. That is why in a 2013 TED Talk I said “we have no option, but the unthinkable, and that is to use livestock as a tool to address global desertification.”

So, yes, none of this can come about until we have a better-informed public insisting that our governments and large environmental organizations in particular develop policies in a holistic context. It cannot be done until there is public insistence is what we learn from both research and history. So this we need to focus on.

After so many years of educating farmers has a training model emerged that can be web based and integrated into real time data collection to establish the validity of rethinking management in agriculture?

We do have a great deal of training material from simple self-help to more sophisticated coaching and mentoring in collaborating groups of people and organizations that are beginning to change. That can and will keep growing. However, that is the normal process of incremental change against institutional blocking and according to research we can expect to take about 200 years. Just to get the Royal Navy to accept lime juice would end scurvy cost over a million sailors lives and took 200 years – and nothing has changed in institutions since.

If the Greta Thunberg generation are to have any hope I am again going to use my statement “We have no option but the unthinkable. By every means possible we have get enough public demand to force quicker change by insisting institutions develop policies to address problems in a holistic context.”

The downside of public demand for this is Zero – there is absolutely no risk whatsoever and the only blockage is professional and institutional egos. Over now sixty years of development there has never yet been any financial vested interest oppose or ridicule the idea of managing or developing policy holistically. The upside is that we might just address global human habitat destruction in time to save civilization as we know it.

 

One of your key observations that attracted me years ago to your work was the “herd effect” and grasslands regeneration. Has that observation become an empirically established fact at this time?

When I consider this question, I ponder whether it is an empirically established fact that water flows downhill? Science is fundamentally a process of observation, interpretation, deduction and experimentation to gain knowledge of nature. That enabled us thousands of years ago to accept water flows downhill and later the theory of gravity, and experimentation there gave explanation as to why water flows downhill.

By this “scientific” process over thousands of years before academic scientists people developed all the domestic varieties of plants and animals making civilization possible. Since the recent dominance in management by academic scientists we are losing species, losing languages, losing cultures and accelerating human habitat destruction.

 

 

It was a simple observation by me over twenty years of tracking people and animals that where people, or animals, crowded in one another’s body space or were hungry, lost or wounded the effect on the soil and vegetation was different – more soil surface disruption, more course plants trampled more dead plant material laid horizontally on the soil ( slowing water flow, slowing rate of application of water from rainfall to the soil surface, increasing water penetration,..) more seedlings, closer plant spacing holding litter – all of this dramatically affecting the ease or otherwise of tracking. How much easier tracking was where fewer herds, more fire, more bare soil, more erosion and so on. And it was simply observation that any large herbivores (buffalo, bison, elk or whatever) when not apprehensive and defensive against pack-hunting predators spread, walked gently, did not tramp on course plants, did not lay much litter, etc. etc. And from there we simply recognized if we are to use animals as tools we have to do so largely through behaviour and their feet not mouths, and not mere presence. I have frankly not wasted my time worrying about empirically proving any of this that can be observed at any time – just like water flowing downhill. That academics sitting in offices relying entirely on peer-reviewed publications have a problem with this I have no doubt. Thank goodness the pioneers like Leopold, Smuts, Bennet, Howard and others engaged in science mostly in the field as did my own mentors.

Where you aware of the fact that research based on NASA satellite sequential space photos of the Great Plains area in the United State, a major bread basket of the world, is showing a significant destabilization of grass cover? Desertification is a major issue isn’t it.

I was not aware, but am not surprised. The desertification of the United States is terrible and is a major contributor to climate change as well as the increasing droughts, floods, poverty, collapse of the Western Culture (which will eventually be kept alive only by rodeo athletes and cowboy poets). I have always been saddened by the extreme opposition to my work from cattlemen’s organizations and environmental organizations in the US. But again, people are not being bad and are not to be blamed – that is what institutions do -ridicule and oppose any truly new insights.

Could you explain what sustainability means in a holistically managed paradigm, and what that would look like in greening the planet?

Let me try. First I must say it will not be Holistic Management because that is not agriculture but is purely a way to manage complexity in anyone’s life or business. It will be a new agriculture (crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and wildlife management) that regenerates the world’s living soils and biodiversity on the land and in our waters including oceans. Regenerating societies, cultures, towns and economies based, as they need to be, on the photosynthetic process – not paper wealth or wealth based on extractive industry. This new agriculture will be made up largely of many of the practices we see today in organic, sustainable, permaculture, pastoralism, wildlife, fisheries and forestry management. It will include some new practices (like the Holistic Planned Grazing process or holistic policy development) to reverse desertification that only became known and possible with the development of the Holistic Management framework. The practices that will “float to the top” as it were will be those that are socially, environmentally and economically sound both short and long-term all determined by policy developed in a holistic context reflecting what all humans want. Regenerative agriculture is what it will be. Management and policy developed in a global holistic context is how it will come about.

How can farmers best usher in a post industrial ecologically balanced food system?

They can do their best to learn how to manage holistically ensuring those practices that improve their own immediate environment, society and economy as many are doing today. However, this will not succeed because, as the corona pandemic has highlighted, we are a global community. Most of our population lives in cities and the economic and political power has shifted to cities totally disengaged from ecological literacy and ability to connect the dots. Corporate, shareholder, political game playing, celebrity desire for popular appeal, institutional and professional egos will persist in supporting veganism, vilifying meat, investing in manufactured meat, factory production of animals, university/corporate led crop production based on chemistry and marketing of technology (not on biological science) and of course planting billions of trees. All of which is leading to climate change and none of which addresses the cause. And the UN will continue to promote its 17 Sustainable Development Goals that almost all address the symptoms of desertification and not the cause and so are doomed once more to failure.

With such facts the best we can strive for is to use social media to educate the public in cities as well as rural environments to the fact that agriculture has to be regenerative and can really only be brought about in time by demanding policies be developed in a global holistic context – soaring above politics, stock markets, national power aspirations – to what all humans want and need for civilization to survive.

In addressing a world audience what would you say is the most important take away from your many years of astute observations of regeneration of natural systems?

My view is coloured by my years of struggle to first understand, and then find solutions to why humans so consistently destroyed their own environment or habitat. A struggle that led to me from being a government research officer to being an independent scientist, a farmer, rancher, game rancher, international consultant, soldier, member of parliament, president of a political party, exile while throughout collaborating with thousands of concerned individuals in all walks of life. From that broad perspective enjoyed by few if any scientists the two most important thoughts I would love to convey would be:

That we have to work at scale through governments and that all forms of governance -communism, socialism, capitalism, dictatorships, populism – have failed us. Our best hope lies in democracies but only when democracies ban all political parties that make it impossible for democracy to function. In this view I was preceded by George Washington (with some parallels in our lives) some 200 years ago.

Secondly governments need to form all policies in a national holistic context to ensure that all people feel well governed and secure, without which no one is.

If these come about I can see the human spirit fly as never before. If we continue supporting political parties and reductionist management and policy the future will be grim beyond imagination and the greatest suffering will be in cities.

 

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