Joel Salatin and Allan Savory are two of my favorite Permaculture leaders. They had breakfast recently while at the Permaculture Voices Conference and talked about some interesting developments in Zimbabwe, Allan Savory’s home country and home of his beautiful ranch, transformed by “eating his own cooking.” As we know, Zimbabwe recently experienced hyper-inflation and some pretty horrible stuff. Google “Zimbabwe gold for food youtube” for more on this. I’ll reproduce Joel’s comments from this morning on the Polyface Facebook page. He’s an awesome writer and never needs paraphrasing.
Yesterday I spent most of the day speaking at the Permaculture Voices gathering near San Diego and this morning had breakfast with Allan Savory, founder of Holistic Management, a decision-making model to heal landscapes and civilizations.
He met recently with 35 parliamentarians in Zimbabwe (where he lives) and was excited to report some success. This is a parliament that makes the U.S. congress look like sheep. I can’t capture this completely accurately, and my apologies to Allan if I miss something, but it’s the thought process I want to capture.
He asked them what their goal was for their country. This created common ground around peace, healthy families, economies, and things everyone wants in the deepest recesses of their soul. He asked leading questions and then let the parliamentarians discuss the answers until they came to a consensus and finally a policy step.
What role should the government have in agriculture? After some discussion, the parliamentarians agreed that farmers were smarter than government agents. We need healthy food to be produced–that is singularly at the foundation of a stable society.
Okay, the parliamentarians decided that farmers would pay no income tax since they were producing something as basic to human need as food. Everyone at the breakfast table enjoyed my falling off the chair when Allan gave this policy conclusion.
Well, if farmers pay no income tax, then everyone will become a farmer. How do we protect against that to make sure that land owners are genuine farmers? Conclusion: charge a hefty property tax. I felt my elation over the income tax proposal subside, and groaned. But Allan wasn’t done.
How do we insure healthy landscapes? Diversity. Okay, so we drop the property tax rate based on the variety of plants and animals produced on the farm. Wow, rewarding multi-speciation. Talk about anti-American. But overwhelmingly pro-ecology.
And how do we encourage farmers to bring more people into this vocation? We drop the property tax even more based on the number of employees a farm has. The pay data to the workers is the basis for determining the additional property tax drop. Imagine, a society that thinks having people employed on farms is a good thing–all stemming, remember, from the basic assumption that healthy food is a cornerstone of a functional society. In the U.S., both the Monsantos, the USDAs and the radical environmentalist greenies despise people on farms. Farms are either single-specie commodity producers or greenspace areas–farmland is America’s playland.
Okay, so now we’ve got farmers, diversity, and people–how do we keep all this from exploiting the landscape? Policy: place a concrete accumulation box in the lowest point of the farm to monitor run-off. If the water runs clean without toxic substances, the property tax drops again. He didn’t say, but my perception was that if a farm did all these things, the property tax would be essentially zero or certainly very low.
This exercise in holistic thinking on a macro-country level had me giddy with potential. Allan’s belief is that a small country in critical condition needs to be the breakthrough place to implement holistic thinking. That will give the rest of the world a blueprint, a pattern, to emulate. He may be right. The progression of thought and policy was such a breath of fresh air compared to U.S. anti-ecology thought and policy. Go, Allan.