By Sheila Cooke, Savory Hub leader for 3LM in the British Isles
You might think that a conference sponsored by Syngenta, in the European capital of Brussels, an unlikely place to hear Allan Savory speak.
Yet, it was clear from the opening statement by conference chair Janez Potočnik that we were gathered to address a wicked problem, namely the current unsustainable economic system that is resource intensive and destructive of Nature. Janez opened with, “We are running out of time to create the new society we need,” and he concluded, “We will either learn to work together, or we will hang separately.”
Next came Pope Francis, who sent a video message to the delegates saying, “Earth is not an inheritance we have received from our parents, but a loan given to us from our children, so it is for us to preserve and improve it for them.”
A small group of Savory Institute Champions and Hub Leaders from Spain, France, the UK, Austria and Belgium were there to support Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield. We, together with 1500 others, primarily European landowners, attended the 10th Forum for the Future of Agriculture in Brussels on the 28th of March, 2017.
The morning sessions were dominated by discussions of policy, and best practice. Several audience members raised the usual question about livestock emissions and climate change, and the minister from New Zealand apologized for living in a nation with primarily extensive livestock systems, rather than intensive livestock systems, because he believed intensive systems had more leeway for managing emissions. He was proud to elaborate the research being funded by his government to breed cows with less emissions. Later in the day, Allan addressed the question during his own Q&A, saying even if livestock emitted 20 times more emissions, they still are the only solution we have to reversing desertification and climate change.
The conference organizers saved the most inspiring talks for the afternoon.
Dame Ellen MacArthur spoke about her foundation, which is educating young people about the circular economy and a regenerative food system.
Leontino Balbo Junior from Brazil spoke about feeding the whole food chain above and below the soil in order to farm arable crops without the use of inorganic fertilizer or pesticides. The biodiversity on his farm exceeds that of nearby natural land, and includes anteaters, deer, cougars and wolves. Watch his video and see his amazing photographs of the wild animals on his farm.
And finally, Allan Savory gave a message of hope for team humanity about livestock being the only solution available to humans to reverse desertification and climate change. During the Q&A that followed, Allan said, “best practice in managing land is an oxymoron. With complexity, you’re never in the same context twice.”
The European Landowners’ Organization sponsored a “young professionals” talk. A group of about 25 people gathered to ask Allan and Jody questions. One of the young women, a medical student, wanted to know why livestock are the only solution to climate change and desertification. Allan explained all the tools available for managing ecosystem processes, and concluded that because it’s a biological problem, only a biological solution would work.