Science & Institutional Behaviour Dangers


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?


Allan Savory

Allan Savory

Allan is a lifelong ecologist and the creator and co-founder of Savory Institute. He originated Holistic management, a systems thinking approach to managing resources. His Holistic Management textbook, and Holistic Management Handbook have influenced thousands of ranchers and land stewards across the globe.
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