It’s complicated…as it should be

I'm learning to appreciate diversity and complexity more.  Nature seems to favor these over simplicity and monotony.  It frustrates us as humans because we have a much harder time managing all that complexity.  Maybe we don't have to manage it.  Maybe we can just be part of it.  I listened to several speakers at the Grassfed Exchange in North Dakota a few weeks ago, and in a nutshell, what I learned was that it takes more skill to work with nature's complexity, but the skill is rewarded by healthier and thus more productive natural resources.  It fits with something I remember Dr. Tom Noffsinger (cattle handling expert) say in another venue about the need for humans to greatly improve our powers of observation if we are to be successful in relating to nature.  We like to compartmentalize different components of a system and max out each components production or value, sometimes at the cost of other components in the system.  The interactions between these components are very important for the overall health of the system.  Push things out of balance and there are consequences.  One example I can think of is chemical application on rangeland.   I think there is a place for it, please don't misunderstand.  But I cringe when I read a herbicide brochure describing anything that isn't grass or alfalfa as a weed, and worse yet, taking away from the "productivity" of a pasture.  Wrong answer.  Removing invasive noxious weeds, ok (although I'd rather use biological control methods).  But taking out everything that isn't grass?  That diversity is there for a reason, and it's rather conceited to think we understand all the implications of messing with that balance.  There is not a plant we have that I haven't seen a cow eat at some point (except leafy spurge).  The more I learn about plant interactions, below-ground biology, and cattle diets, the more repulsed I am by our (my) want for simplicity for management's sake. 

Set aside 20 minutes and check out this thought-provoking video.  Mike Rowe, host of the TV show Dirty Jobs, is a hero for those of us who work with our hands.  In this video, he speaks of his experience castrating sheep and how American culture has forgotten the importance of manual labor.  It's well worth your time to watch.  Trust me, there are much dumber ways to spend 20 minutes on the internet.  It is such a good video that it might warrant its own follow-up journal post some snowy day this winter.

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