Peak Patriarchy?

Allan Savory has been receiving a lot of attention based on his recent TED talk. I hate to dignify his ludicrous ideas with a response, even in this this little-read space, but I can’t seem to help myself. Savory’s general ideas are utter nonsense, as I will illustrate in this brief essay. Further, as you can see in his TED talk, he practices an approach steeped in the command-and-control patriarchal hubris for which civilized humans have become infamous and which led directly to the disaster in which we find ourselves firmly ensconced. Not surprisingly, many of my white male colleagues fail to see the ongoing disasters for what they are.

Admitting he participated in the murder of 40,000 elephants, Savory belatedly discovered the strategy failed to accomplish the stated objective. Rather that admit failure, he proposes an exponential increase in omnicide, specifically by using livestock to destroy the remaining life in the world’s grasslands.

If you’re looking for a more extreme example of command-and-control management underlain by patriarchal hubris, you might be looking a long time.

Savory repeatedly uses the phrase, “mimicking nature” as if speaking the words makes it so. Instead of mimicking abusing nature with implements of destruction, perhaps we could instead rely upon native species and natural processes (e.g., fire allowed to spread at the scale, frequency, and season coincident with the evolutionary history of organisms in an area). Grazing is not the same as blazing, disturbance advocates aside.

Livestock represent the single most destructive force in the history of western North America, as I explained about 15 months ago. Cattle wreak havoc on soil via several avenues, most notably by compacting soil, removing organic matter, increasing runoff, and decreasing infiltration and percolation of precipitation. The wreaking of havoc is not restricted to soil, but instead extends to other organisms. Exactly nada zilch none zip bupkiss zero species native to North America evolved in the presence of cattle. Don’t even get me started on the completely irrelevant comparison between bison and cattle, two species with disparate behavior, diet, and morphology.

Next up, Savory offers cattle as a cure for global warming. Never mind that methane generated in the stomachs of Savory’s beloved ruminant animals contributes significantly to climate chaos, perhaps surpassing the damage done by automobiles. If you’re looking for logic, look elsewhere.

In other words, Savory proposes using cattle to heal the land (damaged primarily by cattle) while also reversing global warming (by ratcheting up methane production). And yes, people are taking him seriously. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but this is the same old bombing-the-village-to-save-it routine with which we’re all well-acquainted by now.

And, on the topic of logic, what are livestock supposed to do? That’s right, convert plant biomass to animal biomass. Along the way, the animals remove biomass from the land. That’s the whole point of the enterprise, after all: convert biomass into a form suitable for human consumption, and stripping the landbase is collateral damage.

Because this entire notion is nearly too absurd to believe, I insist upon providing a recap. Savory proposes using the single most destructive force in the history of western North America to heal western North America. Were he alive, even George Orwell would be embarrassed. Stunningly, that’s not all. Savory also claims that a primary contributor to climate chaos will be used to reverse climate chaos. And, just to clarify, people are taking seriously Savory and his ideas.

As if logic were not sufficient to put a stop to Savory’s stupidity, we have data. Droves of data. And all those data point in the opposite direction Savory would have us you believe. Consider, as starting points for debunking Savory’s ideas, the following print publication and the online references linked here, here, and here, as well as this essay at Real Climate. Contrary to Savory’s crop-the-photograph approach to presentation of information, these publications are rooted in the process of science.

Briske, D.D., J.D. Derner, J.R. Brown, S.D. Fuhlendorf, W.R. Teague, K.M. Havstad, R.L. Gillen, A.J. Ash, and W.D. Wilms. 2008. Rotational grazing on rangelands: reconciliation of perception and experimental evidence. Rangeland Ecology & Management 61:3–17.

John Carter, Allison Jones, Mary O’Brien, Jonathan Ratner, and George Wuerthner. 2014. Holistic Management: Misinformation on the Science of Grazed Ecosystems. International Journal of Biodiversity,

I am not suggesting these papers mention Savory by name, although they point out that his ideas are deleterious to soil productivity and biological diversity of native species. When acting within their profession, most scientists criticize ideas, not people. More science is described here and here.

Nor am I suggesting science as a panacea. Science as a process and a way of knowing relies upon models, concepts, predictions, and data to generate reliable knowledge. However, science is not capable of addressing some questions, particularly as they apply to the personal lives of individuals. These and a few other caveats notwithstanding, I prefer data-driven science over anecdote-driven marketing for most matters.

Comments 237

  • I was listening to an interview with Andrew Vacchs, an author and a children’s attorney in New York. He condemned the whole culture across the board as destructive to children. I didn’t think about it much before I heard that, but afterwards, it seems like it is everywhere. Advertising and media, religion, school, law, debt, etc…etc…And now it is not only institutions but the very environment. I used to teach English. Now I am only teaching Revolution – across the board.

  • Friedrich Kling,

    As a Mac user, I tried to recreate what you’ve described and was unable to do so. Have you clicked on “settings” under your account name (right upper corner)? I didn’t find anything there that indicated it could fix your problem, but perhaps you can.

    Sorry I couldn’t offer more insight.

  • ulvfugl

    Loose, imprecise wording on my part, my apologies.

  • Wester

    You wrote:

    “I used to teach English. Now I am only teaching Revolution – across the board.”

    As a high school trained (later in life), Art teacher, I feel like that revolution stuff is all that I can get motivated to teach to classes at school these days. But following that logic, once the revolution is done, how will they live? We must trust ‘they’ will be equipped for the challenges shaead. I can see it happening, but who knows for sure ?

    Living in interesting times.

  • Another day, another oil mishap:

    Massive oil spill in Minnesota as freight train carrying haul from Canada derailed and spilled 30,000 GALLONS of crude

    A mile-long train hauling oil from Canada derailed, spilling 30,000 gallons of crude in western Minnesota on Wednesday, as debate rages over the environmental risks of transporting tar sands across the border.
    The major spill, the first since the start of a boom in North American crude-by-rail transport three years ago, came when 14 cars on a 94-car Canadian Pacific train left the tracks about 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis near the town of Parkers Prairie, the Otter Tail Sheriff’s Department said.
    Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, the country’s second-largest railroad, said only one 26,000-gallon tank car had ruptured, adding it was a mixed freight train.
    CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said he did not know if the crude was from Canada’s tar sands or from conventional oil fields.
    Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Dan Olson said up to three tank cars were ruptured and an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 gallons – or 475 to 715 barrels – leaked out.
    Cold weather had made the crude thicker, hindering the ability to recover the oil, Olson said, adding the initial cleanup was expected to continue for a day or two.
    (there’s more, but you get the idea)

  • So Obama signs the Monsanto protection act. Big surprise there Lol.

  • “But of course they will!”
    Eh? Why isn’t it plastered across every British newspaper? Why isn’t Westminster warning Scots that they’ll get paedophiles infiltrating the SNP if we become independent, they warn us about every other catastrophe that’s about to become us if we separate. That’s really what I was getting at, of course they won’t allow any of that to be made public. It would be wonderful, indeed, if ‘investigative’ journalists actually grew some and started reporting the truth/reality (although Exaronews and Tom Watson MP are very good, and more reliable/consistent than David Icke!)

    I get what you’re saying, really. Imo, just one more reason to vote YES and break up the United Kingdom; not just for Scotland but England, Wales and Northern Ireland too! Can you imagine the fall out!?

  • OzMan: is this what you were talking about?

    REVEALED: The Nato bunker deep in Netherlands forest where hackers ‘almost brought down world’s internet in biggest ever cyber-attack’ SpamHaus group under attack from cyber-vandals in Geneva
    But other unconnected sites across the world have been caught in attack
    Now, emails have slowed down as a result, expert claims

  • @ annie

    You know exactly what they say. Anybody who speaks up is called ‘a conspiracy theorist’. I mean, how could people who are knighted by the Queen, who spend Christmas with Margaret Thatcher, who hold high office in Gvt, the BBC, etc, etc, etc, possibly be involved in the rape and disappearance of orphans ? How could anybody suggest such a thing. It’s obviously just intended as a political smear, it’s a disgrace…. hahahahahahaha

    Except that we caught you at it. You filthy lying scum.

    It totally, totally blows my mind that the Nation is being run by murderers, rapists, paedophiles, serial adulterers, sex pests, fraudsters, thieves and at best, accomplices to all the afore mentioned crimes. And even worse than that! Hardly anyone in the Cunt-ry gives a fuck.

  • @Wester: i’ve read all of Vacchs fiction books – great beach reads.

    Locusts devastate Madagascar

  • Mike Sosebee briefly describes the process and outcome of his latest film, Somewhere in New Mexico before the End of Time in a guest essay. It’s here.

  • European Neanderthals had red hair and freckles…

    …and Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads in Europe; 13 percent of the population has red hair and approximately 40 percent carries the recessive redhead gene. Hmmm, hope that’s a good thing :-)

  • Well Ulv, one thing’s for certain, if they had anything on Wee Eck, we wouldn’t be having an Independence Referendum – on their terms or not!

  • Annie and ulvfugl.
    You two are starting to seriously impress me with stuff like:
    “break up the United Kingdom; not just for Scotland but England, Wales and Northern Ireland too! Can you imagine the fall out!?” and “Except that we caught you at it. You filthy lying scum.” respectively.

    My own all encompassing hatred of politicians/the establishment and what these fucks have gotten away with burns like an inferno.
    You sound like a couple of CRASS afficionados

  • @ AC

    Hmmm. NOTHING gets done !

    Whose behind all this shit ? The Vatican/Freemasons/CIA/Nazi/Zionists/banking nexus I guess. ? That’s why nothing gets done. I don’t think anybody in UK gets into any position of significant power without approval of CIA and Israel.

    I don’t know about Wee Eck. I don’t follow Scottish politics that closely or know the details of personalities. Who knows what happens in secret. The big power players never show their hand if they can help it. They only act for strategic reasons, like if they wanted to keep Trident there, or something, they could probably bribe a deal in return for something. Who knows.

    Yes, annie is very impressive, except for her habit of shooting the wrong people ;-)
    I keep telling her, stop wasting fucking ammo ! ;-)
    Yeah, I posted the CRASS video a few months ago. Don’t know if I have it bookmarked.
    Wales has the most progressive environmental policies of any country. Just wish they’d do them.

  • Here it is

    There Is No Authority But Yourself

  • “Yes, annie is very impressive, except for her habit of shooting the wrong people”

    Well, at least I don’t shoot EVERYONE! ;-)

  • Wester, you said you are “only teaching Revolution–across the board.” What does that entail?

  • Kathy C, I’m feeling weary today already. My sister called to tell me that her daughter is expecting a fourth child; she was crying during the whole phone call. She is waking up to what is ahead, and when she said, “I didn’t raise my daughter to be a brood mare,” I knew more rough days in the family are ahead.

  • Yeah, we’re all just deluded wacky conspiracy nutjobs…. from He’s got WMD’s to 9/11 to S H, believe what you’re told and go back to sleep.

  • Even before the WMD fantasy…

  • Yeah, ulv, but there have been big problems before this and they get politely or officially ignored – like our Supreme (kangaroo) Court GIVING the 2000 election to Bush and overlooking all the voter fraud (with the “hanging chads” bs in FL), suppression of black voters, uncounted ballots and others CLEARLY showing that Gore won. No one looked back. Realistically, ever since J. F. Kennedy was assassinated and the official (bogus) “explanation” of that it’s been going down hill and ever-more blatantly since. The official position regarding the environment since then (acually well before) has DIRECTLY LEAD to where we are today. If Washington had shown leadership – especially during the ’60’s when we were completely open to another way of doing things. In fact many people started communes and other kinds of living arrangements whereby they grew their own food, bartered, and practiced what Guy and others are doing now – but it wasn’t supported and died like the Occupy movement – probably ALL of the above including 911 had some connection to the CIA. Extinction will be a well-deserved blessing to the planet.

  • Pym, oh my that is hard. I feel for you and your sis. I remember the day my son called and said they were expecting for the third time. Then he laughed and said, no he called to tell me he got snipped!!! Relief. OTOH I have a nephew who has sired 8. Well at least he is a good father as is my son.

    Its hard for younger folks to believe that extinction looms for they so want to live out “normal” lives. Sigh….

  • wolfbird

    Thank you so very much for that link, my comment was actually a well intentioned sarcy jibe hoping you might google them… and eff me you DO know who and what they are/were, kudos man, must’ve missed the link when you posted it first time round, meant the world to me they did, consumed my teenage years. never occurred to me to keep up to speed with penny’s current world, Steve kinda sold out with the gathering of 5000 shit which was the last I’d heard of what remained of the remnants, I’ve got the symbol on my vintage ’77 black and maple precision bass (waters one) – non attatchment be damned.
    Thanks for the memories. And Annie’s right, much as I hate the dreck that go by the name “politicians” Salmond is trouble for the London establishment, he might not make it to the referendum IMHO.
    Cheers man. do they owe us a living?

    Guy, I’m seriously off topic, consider my wrist slapped.

  • “Soil Abuse by Grazing: Herding the Hoofed Locusts” (somewhere in the middle of this long webpage)

  • @ AC

    …and eff me you DO know who and what they are/were, kudos man

    Hahaha, have you not noticed that I know EVERYTHING ? :-) Naah, thanks, I come from an earlier generation, more this lot

    but I knew lots of kids who were into CRASS. Glad you’re into the music ! I’m sure Salmond and his advisers understand the nature of the forces they are up against, but it’s like the ending of the Roman Empire time, who knows what will happen, everything gets re-arranged… take care, nice to have met you here.

  • For ye Scots folk, I submit this is seriously loonie, but none the less entertaining :

    It was a letter to the Pope, indicating the intentions of the English to rule Scotland, and stating that the Scots were the indigenous and true heirs to the islands of Britain from antiquity.
    It opens with the lines; –
    Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Skythia Major via the Mare Tirenii and the Columns of Hercules- and dwelt for a long course of time in Hispania among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today.
    Now history will tell you that the Royal Skythians (Scythians) came from the steppes of Russia… I’ll tell you they came from the Isle of Skye (Skythia Major) and the mountains of Rossia (Ross-shire) and then sailed south across the Sea of Tiree (Mare Tirenii) and past the three prominent landmark mountains, the Paps of Jura, (Columns of Hercules) on the Isle of Jura. Curiously, the old 1580 maps call that island IONA, and the tiny island we now call Iona was named JONA… on the same map! It can be seen online at the National Library of Scotland. Check it out for yourself. Scotiae tabula / Abraham Ortelius.
    The southern peninsula of Jura/Iona, where the Paps are located, was originally called Sodore. History calls it the ‘lost island’, unless you watch ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’, it’s where the cartoon is set. The author of ‘Thomas’ had encountered the enigma of the ‘ Bishop of Sodor and Man ’ , an archaic appointment made by the English Prime Minister to the Diocese of York, not in the Isle of Man or Scotland. You have to ask who moved it out of the history books and into politics? You’ll need to read my book for the complete answer.
    It goes a little like this. The Hebrew (Ebra) came from the Hebrides… where they had been the survivors of a sunken Atlantis, living on its mountaintops. They had survived by design, they were the scientists and astronomers who re-measured time for 5,000 years before they built the Pyramids to encode their mathematical message for their, or our, future. They were the Skythian / Phoenicians.
    The stone circles, standing stones, chambered cairns and even some churches of Britain are markers for grid point intersections on a mnemonic map they created based in π (Pi), not 360 degrees. The sites were astronomical calculation points in a Very Large Array, centred on Edinburgh, which was designed to cross reference star and Earth measurements by beacon signals over vast distances.
    DunDreich itself was a famous beacon site, as well as its circle of latitude being the basis of Scottish measure, based in 37-inch Ells and 222-inch Rods/Roods.
    The Equator measures 22,200 Scottish miles, the DunDreich latitude circle measures 12,500 Scottish miles. 125 ÷ 222 = Cos. 0.56306 = 55.73210 – the precise latitude of the cairn at the top of DunDreich… on the Roseline.

    There’s much, much more. The guy concludes This essay is only a fragment of my total work, every page of which will destroy a piece of your belief structure… What a talent ! :-)

  • Tom

    715 barrels of today’s WTI @ $97.23 or Brent $110.02 amounts to :

    $69,519.45 and $786 643.30 respectively.

    That’s a lot to lose just on transport costs !

  • Thank you for that, ulvfugl. Yep, no doubt, we are the chosen few, living out our lives in God’s Own Country ;-)

    Generations of historians have questioned why the Picts seemed to disappear from history after fighting the Romans and Vikings.
    But BritainsDNA has found a new DNA marker that suggests they are alive and well and “living among us”.
    Dr Jim Wilson, chief scientist for the group, has found a new Y chromosome marker that arose among the direct ancestors of the Picts.
    He tested the new “fatherline” in more than 3,000 British and Irish men and found an “amazing statistic” suggesting it was ten times more common in men with Scottish grandfathers, than in men with English grandfathers.
    Ten per cent of the more than 1,000 Scottish men tested carry the R1b-S530 marker, while less than one per cent of Englishmen have it.

  • @ Frank Furcsa

    Thanks for posting that, Frank F. That had been my understanding. It’s a pity nobody came here wanting to explain why or how Savory’s ideas change Kötke’s view of the situation.

  • White cliffs of Dover ?

  • Tom


    Brent is $78,664.30