[permaculture] Better the devil you know

Jara jara at otenet.gr
Thu Oct 13 02:15:34 EDT 2005

Dear Toby,

  Some bloody good points here.

 It's about applying principles where you live. If
> we limit Pc to those wanting to live off the land, then in a society where
> not even most farmers--about 1% of the population--are living off their 
> own
> land, Pc would be irrelevant, ignored. . What do I teach? Working
> with what you have, whole-systems thinking, and awareness of the
> consequences of your actions. I want people to figure out their own
> solutions, not think their only choice is to be farmers. That journey is 
> going to be monumentally
> difficult--it has never been done. I am fairly optimistic, but I'm trying 
> to
> encourage people to improve the places they live rather than have 
> urbanites
> fantasize about rural homesteads.> Permaculture is about starting at your 
> doorstep right now, not about dreaming that someday you will move to the 
> country, start a community, and
> then be sustainable. That's what I try to teach.

The question many people ask is what can I do. When faced with the 
bewildering mess that we are in the second question is often where do I 
start. You have answered both questions succinctly - DO WHAT YOU CAN, HERE, 
NOW !!

 Let's not idealize the past. Local? Pacific NW Chinook used Mexican
> obsidian. And many practices of earlier cultures were unsustainable. Like
> logging and grazing North Africa's forests into desert, and depleting 
> soil,
> trees, and water at Chaco Canyon, or shitting upstream of neighbors almost
> everywhere. Other cultures just didn't have the population levels to make
> their destructive effects immediately obvious, but many died of ecological
> collapse.

Quite right. As Alvin Toffler the futurist says - Many proponents of the 
'back to the land' philosophy idealize some dreamy past utopia that existed 
somewhere, once upon a time. Life in the agrarian rural past and before in 
the hunter gatherer era was SHORT, CRUEL, HARD, DIRTY , BRUTAL, 

To be sustainable, we can't go back to the old ways, but must
> combine a little old and much new.

Quite right - Gandhi with satellites ;-)

> If we don't fix the places we live now, why would we expect not to repeat
> the same mistakes somewhere else? That's been our pattern. The existing
> socio-economic framework, bad as it is, has the advantage of being known 
> and
> moderately functional, so the odds of success are greater if we transform 
> it
> rather than abandon it (which is impossible, anyway) for something we 
> don't
> know how to do.

Abondoning it is also a total waste of all the embedded resources and energy 
in that socio-economic framework.

> Old communities were not intentional (some religious communities 
> excepted).
> You lived in a village because you were born there. There was no intention
> or shared vision, and little social justice. Villages had oppression,
> oligarchy, feuds, (Tolstoy refers to "the idiocy of village life,") and 
> all
> the other problems that have been with us forever. Although I support, and
> work with, intentional communities, the ugly reality is that the majority
> fail within a couple of years. Knowing how they fail is easily as 
> important
> as learning from successful ones.

I can bear witness to this having grown up in a small English village. Even 
now English village life is far from being anything close to 'intentional'. 
Greek village life is even worse !!!!!!

> Community living is supremely difficult. Plus, you need 100+ people to 
> have
> a sufficient skill set for even partial self-reliance. How many 100-person
> intentional communities are there in the world? And 100 is still not 
> enough
> people to support a bicycle factory. Where do the rubber and alloy come
> from? I'm not saying "no one should try to start a rural community," I'm
> saying, peak oilers, get real. People who think the easy answer is to
> traipse off to the woods and live happily with friends, let alone with 
> other
> frightened, paranoid survivalists, are delusional. Even moderate
> self-reliance is hard work. Total self-reliance at any but a stone-age
> standard of living is impossible. I like my iPod and think we are smart
> enough to have a sustainable culture in which they can exist, and that 
> means
> large, sophisticated networks. That's why cities evolved--large groups of
> people are a good way to create a culture.

Having also tried this I tend to agree that it just don't work - Have you 
ever met anyone let alone a group of 100 people that you get on well enough 
with to share a common vision and work towards it ??????

> (Broken record here: rural life requires more inputs than urban; check the
> laws of physics.) Re store-bought: Raising your own chickens is great, but
> perhaps even more powerful is buying organic chicken at the natural food
> store. The growers and stores thrive, and eventually Tyson and Safeway
> notice (as they do now) that they have competition, and they change. A
> home-grown chicken is rarely an option for city dwellers (2/3 of humanity)
> but more importantly, may not have the transformative social effect that
> supporting good business does.

Once again you are spot on here - I have attempted to be self-sufficient on 
my 8 acres of natural edible forest garden !!! - It is bloody hard work 
without the help of either loads of friends and/or loads of cash. You have 
to be really popular and have loadsa money to be self-sufficient in my 
experience so far !!! Interdependence is the way to go I feel. Do what you 
can do here and now and give as much away as you can.


More information about the permaculture mailing list