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The last battle

NOTE: At the Yakima meeting of the WSU/Kellogg project in January 1997, Allan Savory gave the keynote speech from which the following is excerpted.

I see you--holistic management practitioners--as the leaders in the last battle mankind will ever face. I think the greatest battle is this battle to live within the means of our environment and live in harmony with our environment.

Our human way of making decisions, I am afraid, has not left a good track record. We're all in this together, and we've got to find out.

That is probably one of the hardest tasks known to mankind, how to bring new thinking into any bureaucracy--university, environmental organization, or anything of that sort. You'll need all the ideas and help you can get to get better skills at leadership.

All of the experts in management are appealing for rapid change as we go into this coming century, with the incredible global turmoil and economic turmoil, where none of the rules are the same.

Most of them use metaphor to try to get the visual picture over as well. The most common metaphor many of them use is the one of uncharted waters, and the rapids. We're going through these turbulent rapids and we need skilled leadership, navigators, to get us through into these uncharted waters.

This is a very dangerous metaphor. The change they are calling for is for the wrong reasons. They are calling for us to change to save the bottom line, to remain competitive in a global economy. In the next century, it may not be competitive. It may be something much more complementary. This competition, competition, competition, isn't mimicking nature. Nature is not competitive. As we understand more and more, nature is holistic and synergistic.

Today's economic theories are going to be swept aside just by the state of the environment. The state of the environment is going to become much more real than economic theories and practices that discount all realities as externalities.

The metaphor is dangerous, because throughout history we have used this metaphor. We're not the first people, in 10,000 years of civilizations that failed, to use this metaphor of change and going into uncharted waters. Throughout history, we have muddled through. Sure, we've spilt a lot of blood, we've done a lot of damage, but finally humans have muddled through.

I think the more realistic metaphor is that we're going through the rapids and turbulent water, but it's on the Zambezi River, and Victoria Falls are coming up. That is the more realistic metaphor. This time there will be no muddling through. Skilled navigators, to muddle through, will only get us to the Falls quicker. And then over you go. We actually need to change direction 180 degrees and put every bit of power into the engines we can. We are not going to muddle through this time. If we don't win this one, and learn to live with our environment, it will be our last battle, because we won't be here.

You can see why your role as leaders is very vital.

We have to not just navigate through the rapids by minor change. We have to actually change the way we're making decisions.

There are three essential ingredients if we're going to save our communities, our families. The first is leadership. It takes leadership to change. Second, we've got to change the way our organizations function. Organizations are the building blocks of society--from the family to international organizations. Organization is a function of nature, whether it is a pride of lions, or a flock of birds. We need to change the way our organizations function to be more open, honest, motivational, collaborative, and open to new ideas.

The third and most vital ingredient: we have to actually change the way we make decisions. Anything short of this will just navigate us quicker to the falls.

That is a paradigm shift, a complete shift in the way we are thinking. It is incredibly simple, but it is difficult to make a paradigm shift.

In making a paradigm shift, who are your leaders? They are almost never your formal leaders. They cannot be the leaders of your organizations, your environment movements, your cattlemen's organizations. In any democratic society, your formal leaders can only follow--except at war. Otherwise they have to reflect the majority opinion.

The leaders become your informal leaders. You are the leaders in the most vital sector. These are the leaders of change in society. They are people with moral courage, who truly care about their community, who truly care about the future. They have the moral courage to stick with what they're doing. That tends to come from women and children more than men. Don't be surprised if women and young people start to be the leaders.

Remember in human society, the banana that leaves the bunch gets skinned. To leave the bunch and not get skinned takes moral courage. That you will see amongst the people who truly manage holistically.

We, with our higher education in the more developed countries, are blocking it. The people in the Hwange villages in Africa, who have an immense amount of common sense, have extremely good brains, but who have almost no education, are just saying, what's the problem? This just makes common sense. And they're just getting on with it.