A central part of the message I deliver to audiences is that nature is the only teacher of sustainability we will ever need. It’s been sustaining life on earth for 3.8 billion years, while humans have been upright only for about 200,000 years; the experience gap is obvious.
I am not, of course, the originator of this idea, that humans are part of nature, not apart and certainly not above it, and the most prudent direction for all of us is to follow nature’s lead. I wouldn’t cast that as an absolute, but only because absolutes are bad every time.
One of the most eloquent and steadiest voices, in my lifetime, is Wendell Berry, and I revere him, even as plenty remains for me to discover of his words and ways. It is absolutely consistent with my path that I’d heard — and disregarded — his name for years before I began to clue into his importance.
I’m not unique in that respect, either: I heard him say recently — on Youtube (maybe here, but I'm not sure), so my hearing it was recent, as opposed to when he actually said it — that there was a point, 15 years ago, when he had to accept that perhaps people just weren’t going to heed his call, and be OK with that. And then, he found, people *were* listening.
I’ve been bingeing recently on Berry video, and my first favorite is an interview he gave Bill Moyers last year, which I heard then but have come back to more than once.
My recent viewing has also had a few clips of Allan Savory, whom I view in a similar light, though admittedly, no one, to me, is like Berry. There’s so much to say about both of them, and I’m not going to try even to cover the bases.
The connection I see between them is that both recognize the wisdom of nature, and counsel following how nature’s example is the obvious way to go. Savory’s thing is wholistic management of grasslands, which includes using grazing techniques to mimic wild herds of yore. In several places around the world, desertified lands have been brought back to verdancy not by keeping animals off it, but by doubling or tripling the number.
Here’s a story by Dan Daggett about the concept, though not specifically about Savory. I linked to it once before, in 2009, but it’s worth another nod.
Crazy, right? Seems to work. A speech Savory gave kicking off a recent Savory Institute conference in London was worth listening to, but free registration was required to view, so I can’t embed it. You can start here, if you want to watch: (For other content by either gent, you can Google or search on YouTube as well as I can.)
I am in love with this notion, that we are part of nature, and we just need to follow the leader. And, for me, Berry and Savory (apropos of nothing, they’re two names with meaning in the context of food, another word for which is sustenance) are outstanding, inspiring, wholly credible messengers.