Long-time Holistic Management practitioners Chris and Jacqueline Henngeler, from Kachana Station in the Northern Territory of Australia, recently shared their Holistic Management journey in a blog titled “Natural Capitalism and an Economy Driven by Sunshine“. This blog was a presentation that Chris was going to present at the Farming Matters Conference in New South Wales in March 2020. The conference was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. As Chris notes, “If anything, a rapid spread of a potentially lethal virus, highlights the importance of building resilience back into landscapes, communities and people.” In the message that Chris shares below, he alerts to what he sees to be a far greater challenge to biosecurity. The following is a brief excerpt of his blog. Please go to the full article for some incredible pictures of land restoration in an arid climate over the last 30 years.
After over forty years of living in the lucky country, my observation is that we are fast running out of luck. The risk is very real that Australia will run out of reliable supplies of good water, long before we go hungry.
The answer is in our face:
- Appropriately behaved herbivores grow healthy vegetation
- Healthy vegetation builds soils that hold & store water
When looking at the three pictures in the slide above, please note: The water is now there because of the grass, and the grass is now there because of the way we influence the behaviour of large herbivores.
If people living in towns and cities only begin to ask the question once they run out of water, for many, I fear the answer may come too late. We need people asking better questions now.
Twenty years ago, I heard Christine Jones say that we do not want to sustain agriculture, as it exists in Australia. “We cannot afford to sustain a degraded resource-base. As producers, we must regenerate our soils.”
Think about it … There has been an accident. Somebody we love ends up in intensive care. Doctors tell us not to worry, the condition is “critical, but stable”… That may be a relief, but we certainly would not want to keep them in that state! So it is with our land.
When Christine made the case for regenerative agriculture, she was primarily talking to people who were in the business of feeding other people. As water-security becomes a limiting factor in human economies beyond agriculture, it is advisable to appreciate the deeper meaning of Christine’s message.
Even in landscapes where there is no commercial activity, we do require the restoration of environmental services. As Allan Savory informed the world in 2013: only regenerative pastoral practices can feasibly deliver that outcome. Throughout my life it has been encouraging to watch the regenerative paradigm slowly gaining traction. Sadly, sixty years later, extractive paradigms still prevail. My suspicion is that too many good people out there, remain ignorant of some fundamental differences.
When we extract, we tend to view things as if we were on the outside looking in.
- As we sit in the driver’s seat, we like to believe that we are in command
- We focus on output … systems, control, volumes …
- We have become over-reliant on what has turned out to be ‘high-cost’ energy
Extractive approaches have served us well over time. As long as nature or somebody else picked up the tabs for mistakes, there have always been at least some winners.
Let us take a look at the regenerative paradigm: We acknowledge that we already play a part in what is taking place around us. The key is photosynthesis!
- We tap into the power of biology and energy that is constantly being renewed
- We activate and stimulate the generation of wealth
- Energy reserves are rebuilt and topped up
- As we go, we get to reap and enjoy a portion of the surplus
This is done by using templates that Nature has already provided and tested. What surrounds us, we treat as our inherited “natural capital”. We apply capitalist thinking. This means: we focus on strengthening the asset-base, so that it will remain intact and sustainably yield good interest.
The “engine” that powers a dryland-economy is Biodiversity. The fuel that it uses is Sunshine. All models are water-cooled and use carbon as “cash to lubricate” transactions.
Teams do not compete, they play for each other.
(In the consumer team we include over 7 billion people with growing appetites for comfort and ‘stuff’)
In an ideal world, as long as the sun shines, and as long as rain drops out of the sky, and if every team does its job, the carbon cycle runs according to design.
Natural Capitalism is an Economy Driven by Sunshine
Our Point of influence is Stockmanship: This is how we influence all herbivore behaviour. The key is Grassfarming: a rapid increase in photosynthesis can draw down carbon and begin to put it back to where it will work for everybody. The area of maximum impact is Soilbuilding: we rebuild and fill up carbon-accounts in and on our soils
These three processes reward us with what I call ‘Rainfallmanagement’. Rainfallmanagement allows us to rehydrate soils, and to replenish ground water and aquifers. Rainfallmanagement is a result of blending Stockmanship and Grassfarming, with Soilbuilding!
“Climate” is how we personally get to experience the interaction of these four simple, but complex processes. “Climate Stability” is a result we aim for, by rebuilding the buffering capacity of biology, in the face of physical forces that otherwise kill us. Walter Jehne reminds us that, as she has done before, Nature will again stabilise climate. The critical question he leaves for us to answer, is: Will she do it now and with our help, or after and without us?