We have a "broken global air-conditioner"! - We broke it so lets fix it

Chris Henggeler, Kachana Pastoral Company

“Klimaanlage” is the German word for air-conditioner and literally translates to “Climate-equipment”. “Equipment” used to regulate the climate in a room or space by adjusting control mechanisms. In very much the same way we humans impact global climate by influencing processes that determine the climate [weather]!

In 2019 there was no shortage of headline grabbing climate-events

The reason we are seeing so many increasing headlines on climate crisis is the fact that we have a “broken global air-conditioner”. Humans have altered the control mechanisms and the planet is responding.


Despite warnings about running out of time this “climate-equipment” can be fixed. However, we do not have the luxury of waiting for everybody to understand the root-causes of the escalating change in climate nor all the processes involved in the operation and repair of these systems.


For a deeper understanding of these systems we highly recommend the study of information (presentations, papers and interviews) offered by Walter Jehne.

Where have all the sponges gone?

We are led to believe that when humans arrived, the Kimberley ranges were covered in rain-forest

If climate control is required in a house generally a tradesman is called to install an air-conditioner – there is no need to reinvent the process of first designing and then fabricating it yourself. Likewise if the air-conditioner unit broke down most people would call a technician to carry out the repairs rather than having untrained persons trying to fix it.


In much the same way people who wish to experience more favourable results in our regional, continental and global climates should advocate a similar approach.  Nature has already built, tested and proven the effectiveness of “global air-conditioning”. She teaches us how it works!


There are people who have demonstrated a working knowledge of repairing ecosystem-function.  Why not let loose the ‘land-doctors’ and their teams of willing and able gardeners? 

If Nature uses locally adapted herbivores as gardeners, so must we!

(After all, we humans are now a significant force within nature.)

Bad news:


Disrupted weather-patterns are reflected in escalating social challenges


Media attention grabbers abound:

  • Drought
  • Flood
  • Fire
  • Epidemics
  • Refugees
  • Escalating debt; failing bureaucracies, governments and insurance companies


Time has run out to explain to everybody that these dots connect


“Climate” is how we (personally as well as collectively) get to experience the interaction of multiple simple, but complex processes.


“Climate Stability” is a result we aim for, by rebuilding the buffering capacity of biology, in the face of physical forces that would otherwise kill life on Earth and turn it into a planet resembling Mars.

Kachana Photo Monitor Site No. 3, May 2020: Sunlight now feeds an abundance of life rather than flames 

Walter Jehne reminds us that, as she has done before,

Nature will again stabilise climate.


The critical question he leaves for us to answer, is:

Will she do it now and with our help, or after and without us?

Encouraging news:

If we act holistically and soon enough,

we stand a chance to regain climate-stability.

The road-map in use on Kachana

More bad news:


Due to a disjointed focus on dealing with issues and symptoms, we are fast running out of time.

Pressure on social structures is mounting:

  • Infrastructure
  • Health systems
  • Policing
  • Economy (Corona V.)
  • Pensions
  • Insurance
  • Political systems
  • ...


Within an economy designed by nature, carbon-trading is an integral part. Regenerating the carbon-cycle is important for many reasons so it should not come as a surprise that in recent years it has become fashionable to talk about rewarding carbon farming.

Further bad News:
A focus on carbon alone is not good enough!

Measuring “carbon in the atmosphere”, like a speedometer-reading,

is merely one of many useful indicators to tell us about how we are travelling.


‘Speed’ alone is not necessarily the only cause for a bumpy ride. There are often other factors like a spluttering engine, broken off branches on the road, potholes in the surface, an unsteady hand at the steering wheel, a distracted driver, misapplied brakes … (Each of these influences too, often have their own deeper root-causes.)

Say we are on track to increasingly pull significant amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere and to lower industrial emissions, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are we going about things in the most effective manner?
  • Are we rewarding optimal ecological outcomes or merely improved industry practices?

At a ‘Sustainable Design Masterclass’, Walter Jehne explains the challenge in greater detail:

Walter Jehne: How Healing Water Cycles can Cool the Climate


We can put this into perspective by using a practical consideration:

If I am short of funds, and I get paid to draw down carbon I would then choose areas where this could be done most easily and efficiently!

Cockatoo Creek, Kachana: restoring ecological services in a key-area

Treatment with targeted Animal Impact

Physical natural forces are complemented with biological natural forces to accumulate carbon on-site. Rewards include water-retention and soil-building.

Despite a continued proactively managed nutrient-transfer out of the Cockatoo Creek area (pictured above), initial soil-sampling indicates an average 6 tons/ha annual carbon-sequestration rate. That equates to 22 tons CO2 being removed from the atmosphere each year for each hectare of land managed in this way.

Whilst there is so much that we do not know, and although the cutting edge of science is forever discovering new things, land-managers already have access to more than enough knowledge to initiate significant regenerative change at landscape levels. In many countries leading industry players are putting this knowledge to good use and a collective working knowledge of required skill-sets is expanding. Innovators worldwide are communicating and hybridising methodologies with inspiring results.


It is an exciting time for innovators in agriculture. As the link through healthy plants, from healthy soils to healthy animals and humans is being understood by more and more people, the future of healthy food rests now firmly in the hands of the purchasing power of the informed consumer.


To thrive and to be healthy, in addition to healthy food, we also require clean water and air.

A focus on carbon-farming now potentially rewards the re-building of these environmental services within production-areas. This is great news and a huge deal for farming communities world-wide. It is also promising for towns and cities surrounded by agriculture.


But, what about regions with sparse populations and limited agriculture?



Erosion of soil, needs to be addressed upstream

 (Therefore, the erosion of biodiversity and water-security also need to be addressed upstream!)


Upstream is where we have lost our sponges and where we continue to lose remaining carbon for as long as we continue to replace herbivores with fire.


“Upstream” also dictates downstream flooding and the level of water-security of a region.


Consequently, should we not be directing more effort on repairing things upstream?

One argument I have heard for neglecting catchments and broader landscapes is:

“We do not have sufficient herbivores to eat what grows each year.”


This thinking leads people to (first) focus on where they already are. Energies get directed at the noticeably “higher producing 20%” at the expense of the health of the supposedly “lower producing 80%’’ of land areas!  -  Arguably this is an “efficiency perspective”, but how well does that serve us?


How effective is a focus on “efficient nutrient conversion” when we actually need to heal whole landscapes at regional, continental and global levels?


This prevailing focus on “efficiency” appears to rest on a paradigm that (at best) aims for ‘sustainable nutrient extraction and export’.

It does not take into account the opportunity of putting to use and capitalising on “freely available animal-energy”.

(N.B.: Animal-energy is renewable energy! Nature even makes it available to us on a daily basis.)

As well as having an organic-fertilizer distributor at its rear, we say that a beast has five mouths: one to feed itself with and another four to feed the soil (i.e. hoofs that do the mulching)

Favouring ‘function’ over ‘fashion’


On Kachana we argue as follows:

If it takes one unit of palatable vegetation to feed one animal, we have choices:


  • We can utilise the energy of each such unit to let an animal thrive.
    (Fashionable thinking: More units of vegetation allow for more animals, and therefore greater potential “gain”.)

  • A regenerative option would be to use the animal energy gained in each such unit of palatable vegetation to keep animals healthy so they can be put to work as eco-engineers and gardeners: mulching (trampling far more vegetation than they could ever eat) and evenly/strategically fertilising and pruning vegetation, thus initiating and then speeding up rehydration and soil-building processes.
    (This allows us, even with small herds, to strategically treat significantly greater portions of land than herds [left to their own devices] would otherwise impact. – A fitting analogy is that of a good coach who can build a winning team out of a group of otherwise idle, independent adolescents.)
    Even “pest species” like donkeys, brumbies and camels can be put to use for favourable ecological outcomes! 

After performing a hillside-treatment overnight, Middle Level Management on Kachana patiently awaits new orders

Do current carbon-focused discussions deliver

the right messages and incentive-structures?

(Satellite image) Cockatoo Creek, Kachana – Encircled on the left is what in 1992 became our regeneration area  – Encircled on the right is the area where the wetland sponge would have once been that would have provided perennial flow of water along the full length of Cockatoo Creek. 

If carbon sequestration is rewarded, where is it most profitable to direct efforts?


If annual increases in photosynthetic activity were to be rewarded, where would efforts then be directed?

In the absence of sponges, rain only offers temporary relief on-site and adds to damage downstream.

Temporary abundance (also known as flood) is often followed by fire, drought and scarcity.

For abundance to persist we need to work in line with nature’s life-enhancing processes.

Topping up diverse carbon-accounts is a good place to begin.



So where do efforts desperately need to be directed?



To stabilise climate, we need to begin with rehydrating and then managing whole landscapes.

This requires a focus on a bigger picture. (The whole air-conditioner if you like; not only the thermostat, but also the workings.)

Rehydration offers continued performance for long after rainfall events.

Well hydrated organisms and soils have the capacity to build resilience.

The "nuts & bolts"


Learning about, and/or understanding the application of new skills is not nearly the same as actually acquiring those skills and then putting them to effective use.


Sometimes acquiring a skill is actually simpler and easier than explaining the processes involved to an interested party. Riding a bicycle comes to mind.

A check with Google for “research on how to learn to ride a bicycle”, illustrates the point.

We do not easily find research articles, peer reviewed papers or technical manuals that describe how to gain and maintain balance whilst pedalling and steering a bicycle.

What we find more easily are “case studies” of “proven techniques”.

These then offer advice on:

-   safety

-   setting up for success

-   “dos and don’ts” (e.g. look ahead, not down; … )

-   getting started

-   “practice makes perfect”

Unless we intend to wait for nature to fix the global air-conditioner after we humans have lost agency, we need to initiate and enhance the relevant processes now!


Learning all about ‘low-tech high-skill options’ is not the same as the study of say mathematics or literature. People need to personally relate to the relevant information whilst familiarising themselves with and improving new skills.


When it comes to learning how to deal with, and manage complex and dynamic situations,

a saying comes to mind:

-   I hear, I forget

-   I see, I remember

-   I do, I understand



Ecosystem function can be restored.


Environmental services can be reinstated and upscaled.


Proven solutions are available.

However, to be effective they need to be applied out in the field at ‘whole of landscape’ contexts.

The application of solutions to complex challenges often requires basic understanding of multiple simple, but complex dynamic processes.

(As with learning to ride a bicycle, if we spend too much time trying to understand technical details and processes, things tend to become complicated before we even begin to explore simple practical options!)


Ask any practitioner in a field of complementary medicine, and they can explain why ‘complexity’ needs to be dealt with ‘from the inside out’ (not ‘from the outside in’).

This is something that is counterintuitive to most people who grew up in modern societies, where most of the technical work has already been done for us, and where so long that nothing is broken, all that is required is an operator. 

Repairing machinery requires a different set of skills to operating machinery.

More so when parts are moving! (as they do when life is involved)

Regenerating is not the same as harvesting.

We require appropriate biology and the right people doing the right things to get the job done.

Mum knows best!


In conclusion I argue that people already living in a particular landscape are best positioned to co-devise and then apply the sort of solutions required.


Managing a landscape successfully, requires healthy relationships more that it requires academic credentials. When keeping families together, a mother or a matriarch does this through building and maintaining trustworthy relationships (this of course applies not only to human family groups or groupings – see work done by Carl Safina).

Outsiders often see things more objectively, they may also be in a position to offer new information, but in well-functioning relationships, it is often insiders who understand better what is going on.

So, for example when a child messes up at school, often a quick phone-call home will achieve more than an appointment with a school psychologist: “Is there anything that I should know?”, “Did the child get sufficient sleep?”, “Was there an argument with dad?”, “Did somebody close die or have an accident?”  -  Nine times out of ten, ‘Mum knows best’! (This does not mean that we ignore what could be learnt from others.)


Like “Mum”, people living in a particular landscape or deriving their livelihood from it, are also in a unique relationship to it. Even if they do not realise it, they know things that outsiders do not or cannot. This puts them into the prime position to monitor change and to initiate responses.

All it takes is to broaden or to clarify the challenge. Once this happens, new knowledge can be married to local knowledge and experience.


Done poorly this will create conflict.

Done well and in a holistic fashion this can lead to synergy with triple-bottom-line outcomes.


Of course, a sensible “Mum” also learns much from matriarchs.  


The reigning “matriarch” in this instance is Mother Nature!

Nature can function without humans; she does not need us.

For human life to remain possible, we require nature to function in a particular manner.

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