The First Kachana Landscape Management Workshop 2002
The first Annual Kachana Landscape Management Workshop
An introduction by Chris Henggeler, 4th September 2002
(Why?) We have over six billion humans exerting unprecedented pressure on our natural resources. We are literally burning up what biological capital we have left to secure short-term gains for privileged minorities. Marginal and "unproductive" regions continue to desertify at a rate of supposedly 16'000 hectares a day regardless of current human activity or human population levels.
(What?) We perceive a need to help change the prevailing human mindset from one of "environmental opportunism" to one of "environmental capitalism". We require a situation where humans learn to live on the interest generated by our ecological assets (not the current situation where we consume the principal). We perceive a need to better manage our current solar income so as to re-create opportunity for those around us and for those who come after us.
(Who?) It would seem that our consumer society and those leading the prevailing financial and commercial trends hold the answer to this question...
(When?) The international “state of the Planet” conference in South Africa clearly demonstrates that this question remains a rhetorical one: We believe that only once the importance of the first three questions is understood at leadership levels will/can any sense of urgency be placed on answering the “when?” question.
(How?; How do we translate desirable outcomes to effective management of our resource base?) There are many practical examples around the world that lead us to believe that this challenge (although it is complex) is relatively easy to respond to. We encourage everybody to become involved in the exciting search for practical alternatives. At this workshop we will explore and demonstrate a few of these. We also invite you to inform yourselves of how others address these challenges: http://www.managingwholes.com
We invite you to differentiate between “Landscape Management” and “conservation and sustainable agriculture”.
We promote "landscape management": a pro-active effort to secure, enhance and better manage our ecological assets. No human economy can be considered to be sustainable unless it rests on the foundations of healthy productive landscapes. We view most conventional efforts of "conservation and/or sustainable agriculture" (at current levels of environmental dysfunction) to be society's reactive responses to symptoms resulting from a lack of environmental literacy at leadership levels or a lack of understanding of basic eco-system function. (Please let it be absolutely clear that we are not advocating the total abandonment of current attempts to address the various crises we perceive; We merely suggest that unless we simultaneously begin to reverse the current trends of desertification all other activities may prove to be futile.)
As a biological species we humans now stare at the consequences of compounding management actions. This is visible in human induced facets of global climate change. We are like a pilot who has taken an aircraft into a brewing thunder-storm: visibility has become clouded; we remain in a state of denial, but we now experience enough turbulence to suggest that if we do not compensate effectively for past navigation decisions lives will be at risk.
Those of us who fly know there are certain patterns of behaviour that we need to
adhere to if we wish to stay alive:
If we cannot aviate, our passengers and we do not stay alive for very long. If we cannot navigate, our passengers and we may not get to where we wish to go. At this fundamental level there are only three reasons for communication:
- To avoid conflict
- To coordinate
- Or to create confusion
For the average peacetime pilot the priority is to avoid conflict. So how do we do that apart from trusting in the aviation and navigation skills of ourselves, and those others floating around up there with us?
The proven procedure is to broadcast three things:
- Who I am
- Where I am
- Where I want to go
With this simple sort of information we then have a reasonable chance of keeping out of trouble. If there is any indication of doubt or conflict we can then proactively respond to the situation. This may require looking into details, but at least we know in which area to prioritise research.
It is quite possible that some of what you may see or hear over the next few days may spell conflict with prevailing world-views. This workshop is about an attempt to identify areas that deserve more attention in an order to avoid conflict with the natural forces that play a part in the shaping of our landscapes: It is primarily about aviating. We will not request a weather report… What is happening around us now? What are our instruments are telling us in this point in time? Which are the ones we need to monitor more carefully in this situation?
We will take a look at our landscapes in an effort to pick up information of relevance to the pilot… Thank you for contributing to our first annual Kachana Landscape Management Workshop.
The Kachana Pastoral Company stance is communicated here.
QUESTIONS WE GET ASKED A LOT:
- What keeps you going when there is obviously not much money coming in?
Ongoing encouragement from others and the will to make a difference. Off-farm income. Earlier savings and investments. Donations in time, money and materials.
(We are in the business of assisting with rehabilitation. Production capacity needs to first be restored before one can expect performance. Our approach is: stabilise, rebuild and enhance; only then do we initiate sustainable extraction. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that what we are dealing with is the result of thousands of years of human induced ecological dysfunction. Although we may be able to restore reasonable levels of eco-system function within a practical time-frame, the original productivity of Australian Landscapes will not be restored over night.)
- Don't you think you would be more convincing if you did this on a conventional commercial scale?
No. If we were turning over more money we might find it easier to attract attention, but the actual results on the ground are what count and they would be no different. Why should more of the same be any more convincing?
(We are discussing landscape ecology here: that means the focus is on eco-system function, not on commerce. Biologically functional situations are largely scale neutral; there may be practical limits as to how small a unit can be justifiably managed as a single whole, but "bigger" does not imply "better" or "more efficient”. The commercial reality of "economy of scale" only applies if the equation is propped up by methods that rely on depreciating infrastructure and equipment and the use of non-renewable energy sources. We also need to remember that most farmers on the planet manage less than fifty hectares of land and they run less than fifty head of cattle. The solutions we are searching for therefore need to be within reach of the average herdsman in Africa or India, or the average peasant farmer around the Mediterranean. Laws of eco-system function that apply for one hectare also apply for one square kilometre, a whole property or a whole landscape. Finance and commerce are aspects that are major considerations in many instances, but the issue here is (whole) economics: we thus need to include healthy environments and healthy people. As a species, we humans cannot afford to divorce social and ecological considerations from our economic equations for very much longer.)
- If your cattle were bigger, fatter and better looking, don't you think more pastoralists would take an interest in what you are doing?
Yes, but for the wrong reasons.
(Most of the cattle we currently run are "workers" and we even expect our breeders to "work" hard. As numbers build up we can then look at segregating the breeders and/or sale cattle from the "workers" and offer them preferential treatment. As in any enterprise we must not lose sight of the desired out-put. If the job is to prune and fertilise vegetation and provide a layer of mulch to protect our soils we do not need all the workers to look like heavyweight boxers. An extreme range of diversity within a working herd to some extent compensates for the lack of diversity in species we are now faced with in Australia. We need to remember that our first humans on this continent contributed to the demise of apparently over 90% of our large animal species [we will never know about the biomass lost]; most of these were herbivores. We need anybody/anything who can get the job done out there!)