Revegetating a stream in northern California

Frank & Vicky Dawley
bare streamside
1980. Under conventional management, bare banks eroded during winter floods.


Frank & Vicky Dawley

Making decisions

Lennox Louw, who raises cattle near Vryburg, South Africa, believes that being proactive, making a fundamental choice, is a must.

"Most people don't make any decisions, never mind holistically. Just get them to make a decision. Then go on from there."

Growing up on his father's ranch in Namibia, he learned from some Bushmen. "For them it's the whole that's most important, not the parts. There is nothing negative in nature for them. It all has a place. A snake -- they are afraid, and they leave it. They don't try to eliminate it."

The most serious problem of democracy today

Former pollster Dan Yankelovich says that the most serious problem facing democracy today is that the public feels isolated from the political process.

Democracy and power

We have moved in this country from representative democracy to participative democracy. It doesn't mean that you participate only with those who think like you do. You have to participate with those who you hate, with whom you have that strong a feeling. Because if you don't include them, it's not participative.

Underlying every single conflict is power -- who gets it, who doesn't get it. You have to know how to balance power, to empower, to create an environment where I empower myself.

Desertification--why most "solutions" fail

According to the U.N., 70% of the world's dryland areas are desertifying. How and why this happens, why most fixes fail. Links to methods that work.

The word desertification was first used in 1949 by the French geographer Andre Aubreville to describe the change in North and equatorial Africa from productive savanna forest, grasslands, and shrublands into unproductive desert. Compared to the 2000 slump in tech stocks or the September 11, 2001 attacks, desertification is not an issue for most North Americans.

Dung beetles and their effects on soil

Summary: Favored by managed grazing, dung beetles in Oklahoma buried about 1 ton of wet manure per acre per day (2 metric tons/ha). This increased water infiltration an average of 129% on studied plots. Each extra inch (25 mm) of water absorbed adds 27,225 gallons/acre (254,530 l/ha) of water to the soil, reducing both flooding and drought.

Ecosystem processes: community dynamics

Soil scientist Michael Crofoot has said, "Ecological processes are not only more complex than we think, they are more complex than we can ever think." An understanding and appreciation of the ecosystem as process or processes--water cycle, energy flow, mineral cycle, and community dynamics or succession--allows us to work with, rather than against, the complexity of the ecosystem (Allan Savory, Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making).

Ecosystem processes: energy flow

Solar energy flow is not a cycle, but a flow from the sun to the biosphere. It is one of the four basic ecosystem processes or windows through which we can begin to perceive the ecosystem as a whole. The others are the water cycle, mineral cycles, and community dynamics or ecological succession. Biodiversity, the mass plus the diversity of life, depends on how all of these processes function.

Ecosystem processes: mineral cycles

Carbon makes up about half of the biomass on earth. Carbon is the dominant element in salmon, sheep, Douglas fir trees, and bluebunch wheatgrass.

Carbon cycles between the atmosphere--mainly in the form of carbon dioxide--and the plants and soil. Photosynthesis fixes carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide in the form of standing plant matter. Respiration and decay at all levels (as well as combustion) release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

Ecosystem processes: the water cycle

Much conventional thinking about the environment tends to separate "parts" of the same whole. In dealing with water problems, for example, we tend to focus on symptoms -- such as flooding, erosion, and riparian conditions -- rather than causes, which are almost always related to the function of the water cycle.

Allan Savory
Syndicate content