Saturday, October 20, 2018

Paradigms, Peregrine Falcons, and The Politics of Scientific Evidence

I've always loved acquiring knowledge, but learned at an early age that "facts" spread by research scientists and schools are not always true. Unfortunately, in order to succeed in school, and later in life, you aren't allowed to question the facts. You are indoctrinated to believe that any peer reviewed research is correct...but

You may have read the reading right, but are you sure the one who wrote the reading, wrote the reading right?

When I was in 8th grade there was a picture of a Peregrine falcon on the front page of the paper with a headline declaring that there were only four such birds left in the state of California. This surprised me as we had four of them flying around our house, and I was unaware that anyone had been in the neighborhood to count them. Curious, I called an uncle (who was a federal game warden) who informed me that I was mistaken, and the only such birds in the state were nearly 200 miles away, on the coast. A few weeks later he was visiting and admitted that the birds we had been watching were indeed Peregrine Falcons. The population of this bird had just increased by 100%, yet no public mention was made. Odds are, there were even more of them.

You may have read the reading right, but are you sure the one who wrote the reading, wrote the reading right?

The next year, the first chapter of my biology book stated that browsing animals preferred brush and twigs while cattle preferred grasses and legumes. Naturally (for me) I questioned the teacher about it the next day, because if this were true, deer wouldn't some out at night to graze on lawns and alfalfa fields while cows wouldn't be browsing on acorns, pine-nuts and brush. Of course the teacher corrected me and I received a "D" on my first test because my answers (based on personal observation) didn't agree with what was in the textbook.

You may have read the reading right, but are you sure the one who wrote the reading, wrote the reading right?

The conundrum of scientific "fact" not matching up to observations didn't stop there. A biologist who allegedly conducted a count of deer and elk on a ranch where I worked, concluded that there were no deer or elk on the ranch. I offered to show him two herds of does totaling over 70 head (not including fawns,)  at least a dozen mature bucks, not to mention a couple of small elk herds. Once again, he filed his report and the lie became truth. This was a smaller scale than the "endangered" desert tortoise which removed cattle from grazing permits (although, 70 miles away, in Las Vegas, construction companies had crews following earth moving equipment rescuing said "endangered species" by the tens of thousands...

You may have read the reading right, but are you sure the one who wrote the reading, wrote the reading right?

Now we come to holistic/regenerative grazing. As soon as Alan Savory claimed cattle could be used to regenerate grasslands, academia rushed to disprove it. Although he and others reclaimed millions of acres using his, or similar methods, academia continued to "disprove" his methods, often publishing new "peer reviewed" studies which were basically compiling "evidence" from other studies. For at least the last 80 years, the science behind range management has been peer reviewed opinion that degrading range conditions were the result of over grazing, with no thought given to plants dying from being under grazed, or consideration to the biology of the soils supporting the flora of the range.

Finally in the last few years some scientists are breaking out of the mold and discovering that holistic/regenerative grazing not only works, but that the science behind it is directly tied to the symbiotic relationship plants have with the biology in the soil in which they grow. The science which, so many have base their grazing paradigms on was wrong... Science is dead....Long live science.

You may have read the reading right, but are you sure the one who wrote the reading, wrote the reading right?

Now we come to the current feedlot system of producing beef. Science claims that it is the most efficient model of beef production. These claims are based upon the fact we are producing more pounds of beef with fewer resources. Once again, science has the peer reviewed studies, complete with tons of data to "prove" they are right. On a limited basis, without consideration to lands reverting to desert and bare ground, they may be right. However to reverse desertification (which is happening from Mexico, through the United States and into Canada) we need more cattle on the land. By staying with the present model, we are only accelerating the problem, which in a larger sense, isn't efficient at all. Ranchers who have successfully implemented regenerative grazing by any of it's names have often quadrupled their stocking rates while nearly eliminating runoff from precipitation (not to mention recovering dry springs, creeks and seasonal rivers.)

     You may have read the reading right, but are you sure the one who wrote the reading, wrote the reading right?

Who knows, perhaps I haven't written the reading right. Perhaps the range management science of the last 80 or so years, prescribing burning, herbicides and destocking have nothing to do with the spread of invasive plants, lowering ground water tables, and degradation of grass. But then again, someone once said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

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