Saturday, January 21, 2012

Deliberate Design and Sustainability

It's been a long time since I wrote anything but finally the time has come for me to share some of my thoughts - even if only with myself.

This morning I spent time clearing a lot of small eucalypt saplings from the face of my holding dam at the top of the property. As I did so I was struck by the fact that, for many in the sustainability movement, what I was doing was just a little short of a crime against nature. For them, the reversion of farmland to native bushland represents the ultimate outcome of their movement. Little consideration is given to balancing the "rehabilitation" of the environment with the needs of human development. The only outcome acceptable is environment first.

A similarly extreme position was expressed by an evangelistic young lady who spoke before me at Zeitgeist 2011 in Melbourne. She declared that there was a need to end the misery of farming animals who all know that their life will end in an abbatoir and therefore live their entire existence in misery. This was to be achieved by all becoming vegans. At the same time we would save the planet by reducing the number of cows farting.

Both cases avow a position which is based on very little consideration of either human development and/or scientific development.

Ever since Galileo and Copernicus challenged the entrenched ideas of medieval Europe, science and engineering have worked hard to both better the human condition and reduce superstition and misinformation through the advancement of science. Principles such as falsification and paradigm shifts in human thinking are entrenched in our way of life. I wonder, then, how it is that misinformed, poorly thought out statements are put forward as fact on the basis that they resonate somehow with human superstition. Or is it just laziness? Is it that our comfort level as a society has reached the point where the modern versions of the "bread and blood" of the Colosseum is far more palatable than the exercise of human thinking and logic?

Enough of the stone throwing!

Thinking about the management of the landscape led me to ponder the concept of "deliberate design" and its role in shaping the future state of both the environment and the ongoing evolution of the species known as Homo Sapien Sapien. In the heart of my little farm is around 6 or 7 acres of open red gum / grey box woodland. Some of the trees in this area are very old indeed. We have decided that the preservation of this small sanctuary is one of our responsibilities as the caretakers of this land for the next twenty years or so.

So does that mean that we let nature simply take its own course. I do not believe that to be the case or the best way to ensure the future of the woodland. The answer - I believe - is in the concept of deliberate design. This woodland should be subject to an ongoing balance between maintenance of a sanctuary and management of the resources within it. At the same time, management needs to consider the most precious resource in the landscape - water.

This region of Australia is subject to significant challenges with respect to the management of and distribution of water. My property sources its resource, at this time, from a very old agricultural channel system.  I am told that eventually this will be replaced with a system of closed pipes, however the project is bogged down in the Victorian Government. For the moment, the maintenance of the water distribution and storage system is critical. The removal of the saplings I spoke about in the beginning of this blog is part of that maintenance process. And as for the woodland - ongoing management and use of the resources is, in my opinion the best way to manage the resource. And the methodology for all of this is the application of principles of "deliberate design".

1 comment:

  1. Nature WILL take her course. But it will be measured in Earth time, not human time.

    Your land, and your actions on it, are part of a fabulously interconnected, complex system. I do not know if the butterfly effect is precisely accurate, but certainly, systemic change is all around us, swirling throughout this glorious and complex system we are in.

    I think you are wise standing in the now, taking actions with a mind to the future's future.