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Never before has the future for our species looked so grim and promising at the same time. Inevitably times have changed and we should now consider a 'new ethics' to be a guide for an interconnected , interdependent group; a guide that respects the joint origin s of all species and their united concerns as linked through a shared environment. We live in an era where we have mapped the genome of a growing number of species and can now modify the way they behave. We can blow up the world with nuclear bombs in an instant of insanity. We know there are only small differences made in the genome to determine whether it will be a chimpanzee or a human or even an ant. If anything Covid has also made us stop and think, what is life and how should we live. Are there perhaps alternative ways to the aspirations of making lots of money and balance government budgets? We now also have to evolve the definitions of all the terms, as we better understand the interplay between our genetics and a dynamic environment and perhaps soon create an unageing superhuman. Any definition related to ethics should allow for both co-evolving values and pragmatic ideas, as an interdependent biounit. RNA and DNA coding sets some rule in its elementary form. The sapient brain and its primitive precursors are interconnected products of a similar recognition system and all we have at our disposal to figure all this out. This was all discussed in Spheres of Perception (2020). Once such recognition takes place, we can use it to judge (value) and then interconnect progressive knowledge. Changing ideas can emanate from this process and be tested against the experience of the evolutionary drive in a falsifiable manner—constantly refining our search for a better world. The definition of ‘better world’ in turn simultaneously changes all the time, intricately connected to an evolving perception of these changes. As we now know, this process mirrors that of the pliable and mobile DNA, the so called non-decoding DNA, always on standby. We can perhaps claim that there can be no fixed values, unbendable genetic blueprints, unfalsifiable theories, or concrete ideas in a perceptive evolution where everything is interdependent and based on progressive experiences and new knowledge. This interdependency is also what advances this complexity in both our genomes and thinking. Even then, at the very best, this system will only provide temporary values about value; or ‘what-is’s and ‘what-ought-to-be’s in a state of constant change and correction. Likewise, genetic coding (life) cannot be based on anti-realism or reductionism. And neither can it be void of some form of adaptable conduct (ethic) and subject only to a 'blind' natural selection driven by a static blueprint. Gaining support of the genetic code acting not only as a moral code but interconnected to an evolutionary cognition recently gained support as perhaps a prerequisite for making sense of an expansive evolution. Acknowledgment of such a code is imperative for our future evolutionary succe ss and shelters us from the damaging effects of fixed ideas, external dogma, reductionism, and false belief systems — all these misdirecting our inevitable universal evolutionary understanding and morality. We simply cannot relate to an evolution without a valuation system exposed to constant change, as part of an interconnected ongoing progressive recognition system behaving ‘morally’ on all levels of its network. This should be interpreted as much more than occasional mechanical adaptations or freak mutations befitting environmental demands, but as an active continuous perceptive transformation. We now see it as an amalgama- tion of valuation systems, functioning on various levels, from atoms to cells, organs, and organisms. Each of these immensely interconnected ‘percep tive mechanisms’ (regardless of it being an atom, cell, or higher mammal) operates within a network of ‘ethical’ demands. We shall at times refer to the objective individual (regardless of who or what) as a in this text—with a constantly formulating values and ideas about b while b is concurrently valuing, interacting, and formulating ideas about a. All as part of a complex network. No idea or concept can ever be more than a temporary idea of an ‘experienced a’ about b, or an experienced b about a—synchronously entrapped in continuous and evolving change. This constant interaction between a and b, regardless of whether b is change in an environment or another person or object, while all are simultaneously evolving, is not only vital to drive evo- lution, but also, as a perceptive living network, is our only protection a gainst a fraudulent epistemology—the integrity of this network the key to our ongoing survival. It is here, with such delicate interactions, that our morality is persistently co-evolving with our perception, both internally and externally. We now have a more equitable, complete, and updated version of evolution. Evolution can now be known as a highly interconnected perceptive living-system, following progressive principled rules. Seen as a pliable flow of ‘ideas and values’ collaborating with constantly changing environments, it is a continually changing set of ideas about ideas (or values about value) that adjust to a group’s interconnected concerns. Such a more considerate and collaborative evolution is not only more comprehensive and more adaptable, but also simultaneously re-invents itself as it evolves in both intelligence and complexity as a progressive living network. Another flaw of the old model of evolution was the emphasis on ‘Darwinian success,’ a goal measured by reproductive successes that was key to the survival of the fittest. Now updated, production and survival are seen as mere methods employed to continue the propaga- tion of innovative ideas in an interconnected perceptive network, with genes and organisms as implements, not ends in themselves. The em- phasis has shifted. A new evolution is revealed as goal-directed in ad- vancing a progressive perceptive network, rather than the reproduction of specific bits of genetic matter, fighting with each other for survival. Clearly this paradigm shift also places more emphasis on coexistence and renewed focus on better understanding these principled interac- tions and their operations within their networks. On all levels more is needed to explain how complexity appears to simultaneously evolve. We need to grasp what evolution still has to teach us, so we too can successfully evolve. The three spheres of reasoning introduced in this book represent a practical new way of thinking about reasoning. It is a method that will clarify how we perceive reality, and thus help us achieve humanity’s potential. There are three main qualities of the human brain we can enhance by employing three spheres of reaso ning: 1. Pragmatic thinking—so that our creative ideas can better achieve the results we intend 2. Resilience against manipulation—so that we will be less vulnerable to advertising, pseudoscience, and rigid reductionism 3. Greater adaptability and pliancy—so that our minds will better adapt to changing conditions and better incorporate new information into our understanding of reality. Together these abilities can help us to avoid getting stuck in old thinking or blocked from finding a clear forward path. These three spheres interact in unison as the Physical sphere of reasoning (PSR), Logical sphere of reasoning (LS R), and the abstract yet vital Metaphysical sphere (MS). *** The Physical sphere of reasoning (PSR) is where we contain the verifiable, workable ideas about our physical world. This is where an empirical science mostly operates, for example by finding and eliminating errors. It is a sphere of physical realities, functional theories, and applicable mathematical equations. It delivers pragmatic results: rockets that send humans to the moon, surgeries that heal, skyscrapers, the Internet. An important feature of the Physical sphere of reasoning is its dependency on what, who, when, and where you are. Imagine the Physical sphere of Columbus compared to that of the average human today. The security provided by the high bar of entry into this sphere also makes it difficult (though not impossible) for false ideas or mani pulated evidence to creep in. Yet another important feature is that the ideas in this sphere are constantly being adjusted and adapted as new knowledge enters it. Nothing is permanent. For example, Newton’s laws of physics had to adapt to the arrival of quantum mechanics. The virtue of this lack of permanence is that it allows for progress—the evolution of knowledge. In this way, the PSR mirrors the principles of evolutionary biology, as our genes themselves evolve from generation to generation. Guided by both internal and external principles, the PSR constantly interacts with the much less certain Logical and Metaphysical spheres. The Logical sphere of reasoning (LSR) is the sphere where ideas are considered and evaluated to determine whether or not they c an be placed within the Physical sphere of reasoning. This sphere is where hypotheses are tested. Although full of uncertainty and doubt, this sphere relies on sound logic, scientific methodology, and reliable perceptions in order to arrive at valid conclusions. Due to the uncertainty of the concepts being evaluated in this sphere, there is always the possibility that personal biases, deliberate manipulation, or simple lack of information might lead us into error. Therefore we have to be careful to only hold tentatively any ideas that are in this space. Here’s a simple example: If we see an apple on the table, we can pick it up, taste it even, and thus verify it is an apple. So, it belongs in the Physical sphere. But if we imagine there might be an apple waiting for us on our desk at work, where we left it last night, we can’t know it for certain (someone may have eaten it). So that idea of an apple that we only contemplate rests in the Logical sphere. Other ideas in the Logical sphere include the possibility of microbial life on other planets, or the health benefits of certain traditional medicines that have not been rigorously tested. It also includes new ideas in subatomic physics, predictions about the stock market, and most other economic predictions. And it would include unscientific but still potentially testable ideas—conspiracy theories, the existence of fairies, heaven and hell, even God. We can perhaps see why our current thinking is often in turmoil: because we fail to clearly distinguish between ideas that have been val- idated, and those we hold due to belief. When our beliefs conflict with the facts about reality, all too often we choose the familiar over the rational. The desire to impose our personalized beliefs on others has been the cause of much human conflict and suffering. But there could be great social utility to this distinction between spheres: That which is in the Physical sphere has been thoroughly tested, and so those ideas become a common ground that people can agree is true. Clarifying difference between the spheres can give each person a better possibility of recognizing an error of reasoning, and adjusting their understanding to better fit the facts. *** The Metaphysical sphere can also be called the sphere of the unknown. It includes the whole great realm of existence that humanity has not yet contemplated, explored, or discovered. Meta-physical literally means ‘beyond the physical,’ and so we can take it to mean that which is beyond the Physical sphere of reasoning. In this sphere lie our future discoveries and unthought-of experiences. Since we have not yet thought what is in this sphere, we can’t really call it a sphere of reason. Yet the ideas we generate about the Metaphysical are vital to humanity. As George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Some men see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” By contemplating the Metaphysical, we create, invent, i magine, and conceive new thoughts. One advantage of including the Metaphysical as a sphere is to es- cape from reductionism. A reductionist mindset asserts that only the physical exists. If something can’t be tested and validated by science, it can’t be considered real. But such an approach can easily also be responsible for clouding our imagination and hampering progress. Just as we are developing a new understanding of a perceptive evolution, so too our own ideas about reality are constantly evolving. The Meta- physical forms the substrate from which these new ideas come into our minds. It gives us mental material with which to think new thoughts and stimulates our mental evolution—most vitally in response to new challenges in our human environment. In this way, the Metaphysical can be seen, like the other two spheres, as an actively evo lving sphere, wherein the previously unperceived is turned into the newly perceived. There are endless unknown answers, unimagined and unformulated questions out there in this Metaphysical sphere of our existence. This vital sphere interconnects and interacts with the other two spheres, and we simply cannot evolve a sound epistemology without it. To further clarify: The idea of a Higgs boson particle used to belong in the Metaphysical sphere (MS)—an unthought-of unknown, until Peter Higgs thought of it. As soon as he thought of it, the new idea shifted to the Logical sphere of reasoning (LSR), where it was studied, debated, and tested. As soon as it was validated, the idea moved to the Physical sphere of reasoning (PSR), where it is now taught in physics classes as a fact ab out the world. However, as the realm of subatomic physics so well demonstrates, just because an idea is in the Physical sphere today doesn’t mean the idea might not be sent back to the LSR tomorrow as new evidence comes into our awareness—or entire new paradigms. So even the Physical space of our knowledge remains unfixed, and constantly adjusts to new information. This is essential if it—and we— are to continue to evolve and adapt. The significant adjustments that scientists now witness in our genome, interlinked and continuously interacting with our epigenome and environment, also reemphasize the importance of the yet unimagined in a rapidly evolving world, where we all need to adjust to a progressive science. . Perhaps it's time for us to now make an effort to understand. SEE ALSO https://theconversation.com/will-humans-go-extinct-for-all-the-existential-threats-well-likely-be-here-for-a-very-long-time-135327#:~:text=The%20short%20answer%20is%20yes,over%2099.9%25%2C%20are%20extinct.&text=Humans%20are%20inevitably%20heading%20for%20extinction.
There is so little consensus about so many issues today, and many appear to be so certain of their own concepts about what now appears to be so uncertain. When reaching this point, our choices become few but to either keep thinking with the risk of alienating ourselves from others and their ideas, and eventually society; or to stop thinking and risk alienating ourselves from reality. Only unaltered truths, and then justice in how these 'truths' are openly distributed and applied within an equal and free society can liberate us from reaching this dilemma. But when these expectant 'truths' turn out not to be liberating, when justice doesn’t ensue from this long awaited birth in this marriage between freedom and equality, we become disillusioned, with our only option now to challenge the foundations of these ‘truths’. It is in our failure to continuously challenge set concepts and ensure the reliable progression of new knowledge that a civilization and its epistemology will regress and eventually collapse, or we will all become alienated from reality, whatever that may turn out to be . Theo Holtzhausen 29/12/2020
- Endorsements | Spheres & PerceptionSpheres of PerceptionTheodore HoltzhausenEndorsements Spheres of Perception
Endorsements: Moving beyond and between disciplines and the effects of technology on our lives, Spheres of Perception provides a rich and sophisticated transdisciplinary exploration of humanity’s ‘being in this world’. The reflections on our logical, physical and metaphysical evolution challenge our illusions about humanity’s competence to overcome disparities between the way we live and the way we develop. This book must be read by everybody looking for a sensible and holistic evaluation of the drastic challenges we face and the transformations we require to adapt to the present. Dr Hester du Plessis. (DLitt et Phil in Philosophy). Chief Research Specialist. Science Communication. Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), South Africa. Associate Editor: South African Journal of Science. Research Fellow: Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA). As Theo’s publisher, I find it an extraordinary work, and I feel privileged to be Theo’s publisher. As with most books about ideas, getting the word out is always challenging. Tim Ward , Publisher Changemakers Books Dec 18, 2018: Dr Hester du Plessis, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), South Africa Moving beyond and between disciplines and the effects of technology on our lives, this book provides a rich and sophisticated transdisciplinary exploration of humanity’s ‘being in this world’. The reflections on our logical, physical and metaphysical evolution challenge our illusions about humanity’s competence to overcome disparities between the way we live and the way we development. This book must be read by everybody looking for a sensible and holistic evaluation of the drastic challenges we face and the transformations we require to adapt to the present. Jul 7, 2019: The ‘Decolonial Turn’ and the Humanities Curriculum: Prospects, Practice and Interventions An International Conference Date: 10- 12 July 2019 | The ‘Decolonial Turn’ and the Humanities Curriculum: Prospects, Practice and Interventions An International Conference Date: 10- 12 July 2019 edit | delete However, such a victory will be hard-won, Stiegler points out, since secondary effects of new technologies also gravely affects our minds. Just like the outer world is caught up in disruptive changes, our inner life is disrupted by the digital-media society and information technologies. Our attention is commodified and our sense of judgement and responsibility is deteriorating under the pressure of new technologies that change our lives. Stiegler, however, is far from dismissing new technologies. In fact, he understands wisdom to be largely a technical matter. Therefore, through transvaluation, thinking care-fully becomes a form of caring, a tool for orientation and deliberation, an intelligent governance of the self and the world. We must keep abreast and even get ahead of technological developments to produce better techniques for living. The goal is to create a collective intelligence, what Marx calls a ‘general intellect’, which would be capable of reversing the self-destructive tendencies of our society. The Neganthropocene, requires us to resolutely refuse to reduce knowledge to the calculable information of algorithmic governmentality, transhumanist ideology and the data economy -exclusively serving capitalism. We need to adopt new principles regulated primary by an understanding of Value and Care. This value and care differs from the acceptable values and (self)care adopted by cultural groups. It is the value and care that stems from scientific epistemic evidence which proved that we, as a species, are all the same, and that we are at the mercy of our DNA in its singular quest for multiplication and procreation. We are but a species. We also know that we live in an interconnected world. We have solutions on hand such as that proposed by Theo Holtzhausen through the realisation that three spheres in life interact in unison: we have a Physical space (sphere) of reason (PSOR), a Logical space (sphere) of reason (LSOR) and the abstract, yet vital, metaphysical space (spere) - all collectively vital to our existence.
- Spheres of Perception
- Links and Updates | Spheres & PerceptionSpheres of PerceptionTheodore HoltzhausenLinks and Updates Spheres of Perception
A vision for agriculture We know how to replace toxic, intensive livestock raising with beautiful, efficient grasslands. Do we have the will? Randall D Jackson an Aeon Partner Find out more With each step, Zeke’s boot disappears from sight, swallowed by a lush canopy of grasses and clovers. He jabs his walking stick through the foliage to gauge its height. ‘’Bout ready for turn in,’ he thinks, taking a minute to soak up the scene – buzzing bees, chirping birds, a babbling brook full of trout. At the end of the valley, he sees his neighbour in chest-high waders flicking his fishing rod in a slow back-and-forth rhythm, and wonders how the new cattle-crossing is holding up in the creek. Opening the thin wire gate to yesterday’s paddock, the farmer invites 50 impatient milk cows to today’s abundant feed. He’ll repeat this three times more to allow the rest of his herd onto fresh pasture – all 200 are grazing fresh grassland every day now since he opened the barn door last fall. It hit him about 1:30 on a Sunday morning last September, as he hurried to combine the last of the corn and beat the building thunderstorms: ‘Why am I killing myself to feed these cows? Why am I scraping and hauling their manure to the fields, milking three times a day – for a check that doesn’t cover the bills?’ Chatting at the local coffee shop, Zeke and his buddies discussed the pros and cons of managed grazing as an alternative. Most of them dismissed it as ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘good for the hippies but not real farmers’. But Zeke had heard stories of it saving a farm or two, so he figured: ‘What do I have to lose? I’m not payin’ the bills this way!’ Progress has manifested itself in odd ways in agriculture. Grass farmers say: ‘Animals have legs, and plants have roots, for a reason.’ Allowing cows out to harvest their own feed and spread their own manure is the means of producing meat and milk. But, somehow, agricultural science has encouraged farmers to mount a of increasing yields of milk or meat by increasing the amount of production per unit input. This means on three intensive practices: first, genetic alteration for higher plant feed and animal yields; second, the application of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and growth compounds; and third, concentrating livestock in barns and feedlots where they can be fed a carefully balanced, high-priced diet, and their excreta is collected and redistributed elsewhere. These strategies were wildly successful with respect to increasing yields. But they have come with two general downsides that are inescapable: first, the of the system accrue mainly to the suppliers of seed, pesticides, fertilisers and genetics; and second, the of the system accrue to all of society in the form of devastating environmental degradation. most profitable treadmill reliance profits costs Back at the house, Zeke’s daughter Amy brings up the mail from the road. She’s back on the farm now: home. Like many farmers, Zeke discouraged his children from coming back to the farm – ‘too hard a life … never get ahead’. But now it’s different. Having fledged to college and done time in a cubicle, Amy is now home to help move and milk cows. ‘Doesn’t feel as suffocating since dad switched to grazing,’ she says. Amy is keen to inherit and build the operation from here, even looking to hire folks to help with the milking and other chores in the coming years. She’s proud of her father for opening up to change. This family farm has a future. Bottom of Form This farm transformation is part of a toward agriculture that produces for our needs and wants, while simultaneously building the capacity of future generations to do the same. This is agriculture that is regenerative rather than extractive. It is agriculture founded on the principle that we cannot squeeze every possible harvestable unit from the land. Part of what we grow must go back into the soil, the savings account whose interest will accrue to our future selves. A small but growing group of farmers has this vision, but growing the movement is not easy. movement adopted Transitioning to this type of agriculture requires us to re-envision what we want and expect from our working lands, from the people who manage them, and from the landscapes in which they are embedded. It begs us to recalibrate our expectations about the role of farming and food in our lives, from one where we allow markets to drive the system towards the least expensive and most uniform products, to one where we pay for more than just calories. In this version of agriculture, farmers are compensated for building and storing carbon and nutrients in soils, providing habitat for wildlife, contributing to bucolic landscapes, and perhaps, reducing their yields. Our agriculture should cultivate thriving communities and a nurturing environment for all, not just a few. The Texana Feeders cattle feedlot in Floresville, Texas, U.S., May 7, 2018. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty. Farmers and eaters alike know what our agricultural system needs to do for us, so why can’t we make it happen? In the United States, many of the worst excesses of intensive agriculture are , and most of us are suffering in a system that provides calories mainly for confined livestock doused with antibiotics, processed foods with empty calories, and transportation ethanol whose energy-conversion efficiency is about . At its most cynical, our current agriculture and food system is a wasteful solution to the problem of what to do with abundant post-Second World War industrial products – steel, aluminium, oil, heavy machinery, pesticides and fertiliser. The cheap food and energy that emerged from this solution have become albatrosses around our necks – driving climate change, fouling our waters, and undermining food security and sovereignty around the world. US agriculture shows us how bad intensive livestock-raising is for people, animals and the environment. This should be a warning sign as global demand for livestock products and, along with it, the drive to intensify the inputs into what have been traditional mixed agricultural systems. apparent zero increases It’s not uncommon for liquid manure to enter the groundwater and end up in tap water in rural homes In regions where rain-fed agriculture is possible, concentrated livestock operations have driven amazing production gains, but these require calories far in excess of what the land itself can locally provide. So, livestock feed is imported from distant places (mostly from high-yielding annual grain crops) to feed animals whose excreta is stored in millions-of-gallon manure lagoons to be spread on nearby land in one or two large pulses between crop harvest and foul weather. Nutrients and faeces accumulate on crop land until they run off with rains to surface water, percolate through soils to groundwater, or are transformed to greenhouse gases by soil microbes, whose composition and function are being altered and compromised by the antibiotics riding along in the manure. The devastation wrought by and inflicted upon today’s agriculture is and growing. We can’t ignore the daily reports of traumatic flooding, undrinkable water, collapsed fisheries, farm bankruptcies, rural exodus, plummeting biodiversity and, of course, erratic and changing climate. At the local level here in Wisconsin, where most of this essay’s authors live and work, drinking water tainted by agricultural nitrate was implicated in an infant’s death. The Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District is in a tight spot with the US Environmental Protection Agency to reduce phosphorus loading to waterways of the Yahara River watershed in an effort to remove these waterbodies from ‘impaired’ status over a 20-year period. massive The lakes and rivers that have been the ‘crown jewels’ of the city of Madison are now so compromised by algal blooms that their recreational uses for swimming, fishing and boating are disappearing. Phosphorus and nitrogen leaking from saturated and highly disturbed agricultural soils find waterways leading to the lakes, and drive massive growth of toxic blue-green algae that has made people sick, and killed fish and pets, resulting in beach-closings during much of the summer. Meanwhile, the agriculture in this watershed contributes massive amounts of phosphorus each year to the waterbodies. The surrounding cities and counties have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in largely ineffective manure digesters, manure-injection systems, untargeted cover crops, and other approaches meant to allow grain-crop production and manure-spreading to continue undiminished. In Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, where dairy cows outnumber people nearly five to one, more than 60 per cent of drinking water wells are contaminated. A region in northeastern Wisconsin with shallow soils and fractured bedrock just a foot or two below the surface has become a centre for large-herd confinement dairy farming, and it is not uncommon for liquid manure to enter the groundwater and end up in tap water in rural homes. In response, a local dairy farmer association offers free bottled water to local residents. This is not a solution. Similar scenarios play out across the US landscape and accrue to continental scales. Each year, an oxygen-depleted ‘dead zone’ occurs in the Gulf of Mexico because of the nutrient-leaky nature of Midwestern grain-based livestock agriculture in the Mississippi River watershed. Shrimping and fishing industries in the dead zone of the Gulf of Mexico are decimated so that we can continue our concentrated livestock and grain production. And these are horror stories only about water quality, to say nothing about the certain role of annual grain crops in plummeting numbers of , and other wildlife, as well as loss of at the level of centimetres per year. This environmental tragedy is heaped on top of our growing obesity epidemic, which has been to our dependence on the processed foods that help to drive skyrocketing healthcare costs and reduced life expectancy. We must plan and implement transformative systemic change. birds bees soil linked Our vision for this transformation is Grassland 2.0 – agriculture that replaces confinement livestock operations and most annual grain-cropping systems with one where livestock feed themselves on well-managed grasslands, like the system Zeke and his family are running. Other uses of grain, mainly for ethanol production in the US, can also be replaced by grassland biomass harvested and densified for so-called ‘second-generation’ bioenergy production. Moreover, recent breakthroughs that the precursor molecules for paper and plastic replacement technologies, so-called bioproducts, are at hand. show With proper management, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and other grazers can be raised on healthy grasses whose root growth and perennial cover protect and regenerate soils. In fact, this type of agriculture is dominant in much of New Zealand, Ireland and Great Britain, as well as in more humid parts of Australia, South Africa, South America and Asia. While a small proportion, about 20 per cent of Wisconsin dairy farms, use grazed pasture to feed milk cows and heifers, the vast majority of cattle in Wisconsin are confined and fed on rations coming from a landscape dominated by annual grains. If managed well, grass-fed systems can promote and support biodiversity, climate stability, water purification and flood mitigation when practised in existing and former grassland areas, provided the surrounding habitat is also well managed. Globally, grasslands occur in landscapes characterised by low or seasonally variable rainfall, and have evolved with frequent disturbance by fire and/or grazing by ruminant animals. Grasslands emerged on six continents only after the cataclysmic celestial impact 66 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs and coincided with dramatic tectonic shifts that altered global biogeochemical cycles and drove continental-scale rain shadows. Depending on the continent and the period, grasslands and grazers co-evolved over millions of years, but human management of domesticated livestock can degrade grasslands if the principles of managed grazing are ignored. The early 20th century was notorious for overgrazing and poor management that degraded rangelands on almost every continent. It requires expectations of optimal yields for a sustainable system, rather than maximal yields all the time Decades of research has shown that, in all grasslands, proper stocking and management can build healthy , protect water quality, provide habitat and promote future yields of nutritious for livestock. But it requires deliberate management, with livestock being released into pastures where they graze for a short time, then get moved on to other pastures while the grazed landscapes undergo long rest and recovery periods. Critically, livestock must be distributed uniformly in grazing paddocks to minimise their ability to selectively consume some plants but not others. Managing livestock in this way reproduces as closely as possible the long co-evolved relationship between wild herbivores and grasslands. grazing soils wildlife feed Whether in the Serengeti shortgrass plains, the Eurasian steppe or the tallgrass prairie of North America, grasslands developed under intense but brief defoliation via grazing and/or fire. These principles apply to all grasslands but must be scaled and tuned to each place based on its inherent productivity. In places with lower productivity, where little or no seasonal plant regrowth occurs after defoliation, grazing paddocks are many hectares in size, and careful attention to stocking rate is more important. In richer landscapes, livestock might be rotated among many small paddocks within one season where plant regrowth is essential to maintaining a healthy sward. But irrespective of the underlying productivity of the ecosystem, this always means extracting less in livestock yield than is actually possible in any one season. It requires expectations of optimal yields for a sustainable system, rather than maximal yields all the time. In the US context, Grassland 2.0 would restore much of the structure and function of the once-dominant tallgrass prairie to most of the land that fell to the plough as grain-based agriculture was established. Less than half of 1 per cent of the tallgrass prairie remains, and that mainly on less productive sites that were not amenable to the plough, so it is difficult for us to imagine the truly vast sea of diverse grassland that once tickled and scratched a rider on horseback. Impenetrable because of its height and density, the prairie was frequently burned by indigenous people to open up hunting grounds and draw grazing bison and elk to the new growth for ease of capture. These burning and grazing cycles served to stimulate grassland productivity by removing thatch accumulating at the surface, warming soils and stoking new growth. But the main action went on below ground. Prairie plants invested heavily in roots and this, coupled with cold winters, resulted in the banking of massive amounts of organic matter creating the highly productive soils we now call Mollisols (from mollic for ‘soft’ and sols for ‘soils’). Mollisols have an immense capacity to hold water and nutrients. When early colonists cracked open these soils for the first time with the plough, they much of their organic matter as carbon into the atmosphere. Subsequent grain-farming practices of tillage and synthetic inputs have to wear away their organic matter making them less able to absorb rainfall, retain nutrients and support microbes (for example, bacteria and fungi), mesofauna (for example, mites and beetles) and macrofauna (for example, shrews and voles). These belowground critters play key roles not only in ecosystem functions such as soil aggregation, nutrient availability and carbon accrual, but also provide much of the energy consumed by larger mammals and birds. released continued Restoring these important elements of ecosystem structure and function would be best served by restoring the original prairie flora, which certainly can be grazed and hayed profitably. But agricultural grasslands comprised of naturalised grassland species imported from Europe and Asia have come to dominate North America and, especially in formerly disturbed and fertilised soils, are competitively superior when being grazed by livestock. Fortunately, these perennial grasslands include dense, fibrous rooting systems that can support key ecosystem functions such as soil, carbon, water and nutrient retention, so they provide an imperfect, but more than adequate, proxy for the original prairie. For Grassland 2.0 to transform our agriculture and food system, a literal and figurative grassroots movement must be ignited and spread from local, place-based centres. Because this is about place. It is about the unique landscape and community of a place, and about empowering the people of that place to transform their livelihoods. Grassland 2.0 envisions local learning hubs where farmers, agency personnel, scientists, processors, distributors, retailers and citizens-at-large come together to re-imagine a landscape where innovative food enterprises and diverse, grassland-based agriculture become dominant. Wisconsin, for all its profound challenges, has a long history of such local movements. Local grazing networks bring together small groups of like-minded livestock farmers to participate in ‘pasture walks’ on their own farms. In the words of one grass farmer, his peers ‘serve as constructive critics, extra sets of observing eyes, fellow commiserators, question-raisers – and, most importantly, these people are genuinely interested and dedicated to making grazing work even better on everyone’s farms.’ Well-managed, properly grazed grasslands are healthier for animals and more profitable to farmers than operations in which livestock are confined and fed intensively. They also result in milk and meat qualities that are increasingly sought-after, including unique and more variable and possibly products. Take, for example, Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese, arguably one of the most famous cheese brands in the US, which won ‘Best of Show’ at the American Cheese Society Convention in 2001 as a first-time entry from Mike Gingrich and Dan Patenaude, grazing farmers and self-taught cheesemakers from Dodgeville in Wisconsin. flavours healthier ‘When cheese factories became the norm and most cows were kept in confinement and fed machine-harvested feeds, the knowledge of the relationship of pasture quality to cheese flavour was lost,’ says Gingrich. ‘Cows’ natural … selectivity yields milk with flavour properties that, when expressed in finished cheeses, has exceptional flavour complexity and intensity.’ Gingrich and Patenaude have since transferred the business and farm to Andy Hatch and Scott Mericka, the next generation. Other projects include multiple farms and involve development of values-based supply chains where consumers are willing to pay more for products because they share the values embedded in the raising of the livestock and the processing and distribution of products. The Wisconsin Meadows brand of grass-fed beef is produced by a cooperative of beef graziers and processed by Lorentz Meats, a boutique meat-processor that caters to local and organic meat producers. We must encourage more farmers who take care of the land – indeed, who take care of us To make Grassland 2.0 spread, however, we must create policy tools that will go beyond the boutique and encourage more farmers to make this change, while simultaneously enabling the ordinary person to afford these healthier foods. It is wrong to attack these sustainable practices as ‘uneconomic’ when we consider the ways in which government props up current extractive farming practices. The elephant in the room is the US Farm Bill and its programmes that direct more than 90 per cent of taxpayer support for farmers toward annual crop-production and confinement-livestock systems, and the food industry they support. But state and local incentives can have an impact. The state’s ‘Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin’ grant programme helped to support the establishment of the Wisconsin Grassfed Beef Coop, which encourages local and regional collaboration to build supply chains that feed local food into hospitals, schools and other institutions. Other innovative practices, such as Wisconsin’s Farmers’ Market FoodShare programme, allow folks to use their federal food subsidy dollars at the farmers’ market. In the UK, now free of EU policies and re-thinking its system, reports indicate that farmers will be paid not only for their products, but also for their stewardship of the environment. Despite these innovative programmes, the idea that efficiently producing more and more is the solution to our deteriorating food system continues to dominate mainstream agricultural practice and policy in the US. Repeatedly, the proposed solution to low prices for agricultural products is to promote policies that will stimulate export markets and consumer demand, which signals to farmers that mining their land resources by extracting as much as possible and sending it to the rest of the world is sustainable. It is hard for people to let go of these productivist ideals, especially the negative externalities of an enterprise are not built into the costs of production. This paradigm is reified by those vested in maintaining the current broken agricultural system – suppliers of seed, fertiliser, pesticides, equipment and debt. Their arguments against transformative change will be based on discredited tropes about ‘attacking family farmers’, ‘feeding the world’ and ‘efficiencies of modernisation’, while fear-mongering about the scourge of socialism and governmental overreach. when But farmers are stewards, not miners. Farming is not just another sector of our free-market economy, and continually increasing productivity is not an effective paradigm for a sustainable system to feed humanity and safeguard our planet. Instead of watching farm numbers plummet, surpluses grow, communities hollow out, the environment haemorrhage and billions of dollars in governmental subsidies go to support a broken system, we must provide farmers with the resources to do something different. We must encourage more farmers such as Zeke, who take care of the land – indeed, who take care of us. To support farmers such as Zeke, and to encourage more to join him, we must combine creative and courageous policymaking, financing and leadership to catalyse an active citizenry that demands change. Policies must reject and discourage the ideal of maximising production, which drives farmers to squeeze every ounce of yield possible from their land and livestock. We should eliminate crop-specific subsidies and insurance in favour of incentives for perennial grassland, healthy products and healthy practices. We must also manage the supply of agricultural products to match demand. Moreover, the short-term focus of the financial sector is misaligned with the need to build long-term social and natural capital. Lenders must aggressively develop loan programmes that provide opportunities for young and diverse farmers and reward healthy practices and outcomes. And we must plan for opportunities and education for those who will be displaced by Grassland 2.0, which includes the salespeople, consultants and retailers that supply the current failing system. This will not be easy. Glimmers of hope are evident in grass-based grazing farms. We’ve seen many farmers such as Zeke save their farms and their futures by turning to grassland, but it’s not happening at a high enough rate to save family farming. Old ways die hard and external pressures make change a risky proposition for many. We must reduce the risks of this proposition with stories and data and models that light the path. We must soften the blow of a transformed agricultural economy with training and opportunities in grassland management, supply-chain development, and landscape design. We have the knowledge and the tools we need to fix agriculture. We can imagine and point to examples of an agriculture that fosters healthy people, communities and ecosystems. What’s been lacking is courageous leadership at all levels of government to create, support and fund programmes that catalyse transformative change to perennial grassland agriculture. We call this transformation, and the agriculture itself, Grassland 2.0 – a system where farmers are rewarded for taking care of the land, which is to say, taking care of us. Can we muster the social and political will to make it real – to make it spread? We must. This essay is co-published with the Center for Humans and Nature as part of their Questions for a Resilient Future series: You are invited to read more responses to this question and share your own reflections at . What does it mean to be a farmer in the twenty-first century? humansandnature.org Co-authors: , Campbell-Bascom Professor of Grassland Ecology and director of Grassland 2.0, Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , Grassland 2.0 outreach coordinator and co-proprietor of Paine Family Farm, Columbus, WI; , professor and co-director of Grassland 2.0, Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , professor and co-director of Grassland 2.0, Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , research scientist, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , research scientist, departments of Agronomy and Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison; , Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , outreach specialist, Savanna Institute and Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , program coordinator, Agroecology Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Bert Paris, grass farmer, Belleville, WI; , senior fellow, Croatan Institute, Durham, NC; , Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , first director, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University; , Aldo Leopold Foundation and Center for Humans and Nature, Prairie du Sac, WI; , professor, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , professor of Biology and director, Tallgrass Prairie Center, University of Northern Iowa; , associate superintendent, Marshfield Agricultural Research Station, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , EcoSun Prairie Farms, Inc Brookings, SD; , professional soil scientist, Marathon County, WI; , grazing specialist, Marathon County, WI; , education and outreach coordinator, W K Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University; , professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison; , past chief, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services; , farm financial analyst emeritus, Center for Dairy Profitability, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Randall D Jackson Laura K Paine Claudio Gratton Bradford L Barham Gregg R Sanford Eric Booth Pamela Porter Michael Bell Jacob Grace Alan Turnquist David LeZaks Richard L Cates, Jr Dennis Keeney Curt Meine Stephen R Carpenter Laura L Jackson Jason Cavadini W Carter Johnson Paul Daigle William D Kolodziej Julie E Doll Rob Anex Paul Johnson Tom Kriegl