The Importance of Thinking and Managing in WholesWe discovered in 'Why decisions making is important' about complex wholes such as yourself, your family, and your land. The basic premise of holism is that nature functions in ‘wholes’. For example, you're a whole person who manages your whole self. You also interact with other whole people, and other whole situations.
I imagine you've begun managing holistically because of care and concern for your land. Increasingly, you can expect to discover that 'you and your land' are actually one and the same. That's because your decisions (and perhaps others before you) have moulded your land into what it is now. In the future, decision by decision, you will transform your landscape into what you want. That’s holism for you!!
Looking in, looking out
As you view the world, you'll have two perspectives of it. As you're look ‘inwards’, you'll be viewing the wholes of which you are comprised - your heart, lungs, brain and so on - the bits of you! As you look ‘outwards’ you'll be looking at the greater wholes of which you are a part - your family, your land, your business, your community, your state, your nation, your planet.
Every whole is unique. It cannot be replicated. Sensibly, the management applicable to one whole will not be precisely the same for another. How you manage holistically builds on all of the knowledge that is described on this web site. The core decision-making process is described in detail here.
A practical example of holism
Every living organism, from the smallest to the greatest, is a whole. Each is made of millions of cells that in turn have organised themselves into all sorts of 'critters'.
In nature there are a great number of interacting organisms. As a practical example, think of the Serengeti Plains in Africa where there are thousands of species and millions, if not billions of individuals all jostling with each other. We know from Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield’s book, Holistic Management: A new framework for decision-making that when the Serengeti is functioning naturally the vast herds of grazing animals there tend to be bunched together for safety reasons—local predators view them as dinner! It’s an uneasy relationship at best!
This uneasy relationship results in high stock density, which means the grazers quickly eat and trample the feed around them, and then move on. As a result the whole is constantly moving across the plain, remaining on each piece of land for a very short time—perhaps just hours to a couple of days—and returning only after a long recovery time.
We also know that if this naturally functioning whole is disrupted: for instance when the predators are removed, then many changes are set in train. The grazing animals relax and spread out. Now at low density, they are able to remain on a piece of land for much longer—possibly weeks or even months. This has terrible consequences for the grass plants, which are now subjected to overgrazing. You should view the two Principles Livestock can improve the health of land and Time is more important than numbers for further information on this.
Wholes and your family
At the top of this page it was suggested that ‘you and your land are one and the same.’ Here’s a fact of life: Managing any situation, whether it be land or your family, means making decisions and doing things. In Why decision making is crucial for everyone we talked about the fact that individuals, families and land are all complex wholes that operate together as ‘complex’ and ‘whole’ relationships. Managing holistically is a way of making decisions that deal with the complexity of wholes.
We mortal humans have probably always thought 'holistically', but it seems we have been unable to consistently execute our thoughts holistically. It’s unreasonable to believe that for millenia people have deliberately chosen to damage their land, yet too often that is what has happened. There simply must be an 'air-gap' between people’s thinking and their outcomes because, despite all of our technology a great many farms are still degrading. Sometimes families are also under terrible stress. Wherever there is degrading land, and financial or social stress, it’s a fair bet there is a gap between people’s desires and their actions. Managing holistically works because it overtakes that gap.
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