A new paper is out this week that has been long in coming. Carlisle Kent’s post-graduation research contract in the winter of 2016 with the Reconciling Holistic Management project, released as a report in winter 2017, has been picked up and refined for publication by postdoc Wes Tourangeau. The paper will be out in the first 2019 issue of Weather, Climate and Society and is called: Of climate and weather: Examining Canadian farm and livestock organization discourses from 2010 to 2015. This work was part of our effort to understand the science-practice-policy interface around HM, in this case focusing on farmer organizations and how they communicate about climate and grazing. We found interesting patterns of discourses: Alberta groups speaking to members about acute matters of weather but national groups speaking to policy-makers about chronic climate issues. Climate-related discourses advocated regulation and weather-related discourses advocated insurance and other buffering mechanisms. Both promoted infrastructure and technological fixes as well as land management decisions. The only land management change advocated for both climate and weather challenges was managed/rotational grazing, suggesting that grazing practitioners and their advocates see utility. We are currently following up this work to explore the discourse of recent Senate and House explorations on agriculture and climate change.
Carolyn won’t be wielding any test tubes with us.
Great to have Carolyn Mann joining our sustainable grazing team, working remotely from Ottawa. Carolyn is finishing up her Masters at Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus in parallel with this part time research contract. Her Masters sees her combining soil testing with farmer interviews about soil quality. She won’t be wielding any test tubes in her work with me, however. Carolyn will be launching the third stream of our Reconciling HM SSHRC project: talking to HM trainers to understand whether HM farmers are born, or made. Welcome aboard.
The cover of the third RHoMPAS report, also led by Carlisle Kent.
Carlisle and I are happy to finally release her third report for my sustainable grazing project, which is based on research she undertook in winter 2016, The View from the Farm Sector: Discourse in Producer Organizations around Climate, Science and Agricultural Policy, 2010-2015. We were interested in looking for the farmer’s voice in Canadian discourses around grazing and climate change. We decided in the end to do so via producer organizations who give voice to widely distributed individual producers. This report describes the discourse by farming organizations around climate, and resulting hardships, as they are expressed to a range of audiences, across different scales (Canada and Alberta) and commodity groups. We collected almost a hundred documents that represented the climate-related public and policy engagement of Canadian and Albertan livestock producer organizations from 2010 to 2015. We did not seek to track any trajectory over that time, because of small and/or uneven numbers of documents in any given year, but rather use those documents to take a snapshot of discourse. Interesting patterns arose around which organization types are talking about climate versus weather, and to whom, and what sorts of interventions they thought might help the farming sector.
A great primer on rangeland science as well as scientific hubris more generally.
I had a sunny lunchtime meeting with Nathan Sayre when I was in Berkeley a few weeks ago, and ordered his new book as soon as I got back. While I regularly devour fiction within days, rarely do I do it with non-fiction, which can be more of a plod with pencil in hand. But Sayre’s volume was a good read, as well as being a book that I needed to read. I have stumbled somewhat into rangeland research, through my post-doc in Australia, and now my new research on livestock grazing, including fieldwork in the Falklands. But I don’t have a rangelands background. Sayre’s book thus played a remedial role for me, as well as placing some of the scientific chauvinism that I have experienced in a broader context.
Ever the geographer (Sayre leads the UC Berkeley Department of Geography), the recurring theme is one of scale, including the poor fit between the scale of rangeland science (i.e. experimental plots and fields) and the scale of rangeland management. Moreover, however, he brings a critical perspective to unexamined assumptions and justifications in the study and administration of rangelands: governance can drive management priorities of land (e.g. overgrazing is great for fire control); that no commons can be sustainable; that equilibrium is inexorable and singular; or, that fences are better than shepherds. Sayre also illustrates the hubris of ‘command and control’ approaches to landscape, such as species eradication.
Allan Savory gets perhaps surprisingly little attention, but what is given is insightful. Sayre contrasts the grassroots though fringe popularity of Savory’s holistic management, which proceeds despite the alarm of range scientists, with the forceful, colonial and paternalistic division of rangelands in places like Africa (that can lead to violence e.g. when drought pushes former pastoralists against imposed fencelines):
Holistic management’s popularity raises the possibility that a scientifically flawed theory–if willingly embraced rather than imposed–may in some cases induce improvements in range management for reasons that cannot be–or at least have not yet been–reducible to controlled experimental testing (p. 208, italics in original)
To staff up my sustainable grazing / climate change SSHRC project, I’m looking to hire a local graduate student as a summer research assistant. The specs are quite broad, including the possibility of doing research on bibliometrics, discourse analysis, policy, or farmer extension/education. The project will be designed to suit the candidate, but there must be interest in independent research. It could be ongoing, and fit as a project/internship/practicum/thesis in a range of programs, or be a contract if the candidate is graduating. Read the details here, and apply by email to me if interested by April 1.