[permaculture] Time to Garden the Planet (please forward)

Keith Johnson keithdj at mindspring.com
Fri Dec 8 22:59:14 EST 2006

Time to Garden the Planet

©2006 Peter Bane
This is a season for talking truth about the world. Americans do 
elections and feasting in the same month and for good reason: All 
politics hinges on the question, "Who eats?"

When we shifted our economy from the wild harvesting of nature's 
surpluses to the cultivation of cereal crops at the end of the last ice 
age, we started on a course of collective self-discovery: Will the 
clever monkeys solve the puzzle in time? Can they figure out how to grow 
enough food to keep up with their sex drive?

So far, the answer is no. The Agricultural Revolution, sparked in the 
semi-arid regions of the Near East about 10,000 years ago, has been a 
failure. The production of surplus grains has always led to increases in 
population that outstrip the productive capacity of their regions, 
leading to war, empire, destruction of forests, and migrations. On a 
shrinking planet, there's nowhere else to go.

To get to the root of politics we have to talk and act on food. Freedom 
isn't just "nothin' left to lose," rather it's an abundant supply of 
locally grown food for every household. Our current food system, and 
with it the entire economy of the now hyperlinked world is balanced 
precariously on a dwindling supply of fossil oil and gas, controlled by 
a tiny elite of mostly foreign powers.This is not a temporary problem to 
be solved by technology or better management. It is a structural problem 
of geological limits and burgeoning population that will never go away 
until we break our addiction to oil.

Thirty years ago, two Australians, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison 
discovered in their conversation about energy and equity that they had 
something to say about this problem. They described their response to 
global limits and the failure of central authority with the made-up 
word, "Permaculture," or "permanent agriculture."

In the generation since "Permaculture I" was published, a hundred 
thousand others have joined this conversation around the world and 
Permaculture has come to mean "permanent culture," because, of course, 
no system of farming can exist without a just and stable society to 
support it.

Besides being a paradox ("permanent" means long-lasting while "culture" 
is about continuous change and adaptation"), Permaculture is a way of 
seeing the world that emphasizes context and processes. It requires a 
shift of focus from objects and actors—which is the cultural bias of 
western civilization and of our English language in particular—to 
relationships. Whether seen as feminine or right-brained or Eastern 
because these qualities have been suppressed in our culture, the 
capacity for holistic thinking is really about balance —drawing on both 
sides of the brain and emphasizing the connections between them.

Permaculture is also a design system, based on ecology and taught by 
grassroots networks, for creating human habitats—homes, neighborhoods, 
towns, and the countryside—that capture energy, grow food, and recycle 
wastes, as they grow ever more diverse and abundant. The principles are 
simple but not trivial:
• Humans must be engaged interactively with the natural world around us;
• Our chief task is to capture and cycle solar energy, using it to meet 
our needs;
• We have to feed ourselves and regulate our behaviors to fit in with 
• Biological systems work best;
• Waste equals food;
• The patterns of natural systems show us how to create cultivated ones;
• Combine top-down thinking with bottom-up action;
• Always integrate elements and systems for mutual support;
• Choose small and slow means;
• Cultivate diversity and look to the margins for action;
• Be prepared for change.
These have endless ramifications.

And out of these networks of "each one, teach one," has grown a social 
movement for people-centered development and grassroots scientific 
research that has successfully demonstrated pathways for a low-energy 
future in 100 countries. The abundance of cheap fossil fuel and the 
material excesses of USA culture have retarded Americans' awareness of 
Permaculture, but the rise of energy prices and the continued 
contraction of the global economy are helping awaken more people to the 
need for which Permaculture was created.

Permaculture has a great analysis of the world—Energy comes from the 
sun, therefore it's time to reorganize our economy and technology to 
recognize that (Think biology.); The Earth has limits, of which energy, 
water, tree cover, and soil minerals are especially critical to life; 
People, once educated, are best able solve their own problems and meet 
their own needs locally, so teach them to teach others. The household, 
not the factory, is the source of prosperity, so create edible 
landscapes everywhere people live. But the Permaculture story would be 
empty theory if it didn't lead to positive action for change.

If you want to turn the world on its head, it takes a really good idea 
and a lot of practice. And that's where the design system comes in. You 
apply these principles to your own life, your own household, your own 
economy to make permaculture happen where you live. And every one is 
different. Starting at the back door, permaculture designers and 
activists have created city farms, food forests, solar homes, living 
roofs, edible parks and schoolgrounds, backyard fish ponds, community 
health centers, water gardens, local currencies and credit unions, 
farmers markets, ecovillages, and a worldwide university.

What will be your part of this story?

The true test of permanent agriculture is whether it builds and 
maintains carbon (organic matter) levels in soil. This takes trees, 
animals, careful observation, persistence, and a new worldview. No 
mechanized agriculture can do it, only people who understand their 
kinship with all of life can. The land needs people. At the same time, 
there can never be enough "stuff" in the marketplace to satisfy our 
profound need for love and meaning. These can only come from 
relationship—people need the land and each other. In a world of 
diminishing resources, the only inexhaustible resource is our creativity 
and our undying connection with the Earth. These come together in the 
garden, and while Permaculture is much more than can be imagined by one 
person or captured in an essay, it is most often and truly associated 
with the garden, our deepest image of connectedness with the original 
source and of a world filled with pleasure and delight.

Politics has captured the attention of Americans again after a 
generation of lethargy because the world's problems are growing more 
complex with each passing day. We face endless war over oil, rampant 
consumerism, a hollow economy and a crumbling dollar, an epidemic of 
obesity, toxicity and illness, and a medical system out of control. 
Hunger and plague stalk the global South. At the risk of being thought 
romantic or utopian, I assert that the solutions to these and most of 
the world's dramatic crises rests in a rather simple shift of our 
awareness and our behavior. We must care for the Earth and for people, 
and share that which is surplus to our needs so that others may meet 
their own. We must also consciously limit our consumption and 
population. These ethics are central to permaculture: they belong to no 
nation or creed but to all of humanity. It's time to garden the planet.

/Peter Bane publishes /Permaculture Activist,/ the world's 
longest-running journal of permaculture design. He lives in Bloomington, 
*/_Permaculture Resources_/*/
Permaculture Activist, quarterly journal, PO Box 5516, Bloomington, IN 
47407. www.permacultureactivist.net. Magazines, books, videos, global 
directory of permaculture organizations, seed and nursery sources.
Permaculture Magazine (U.K.), quarterly. www.permaculture.co.uk.

Permaculture training is offered is most regions of the US and Canada 
throughout the year. In some areas there are community college courses, 
but most workshops are weekend series, week-long, or two-week intensives 
in private venues. A calendar of events is published Feb., May, Aug., 
and Nov. by Permaculture Activist.

For central Virginia and surrounding regions, contact 
ChristineGyovai at gmail.com, 434-982-6464. (weekends March and April 2007)
For Ohio, Pennsylvania, W. Va. and eastern Ky, contact Josh Beniston, 
ramblinjosh at yahoo.com. 740-818-8422 ... (July, 2007. Hocking College 
For Indiana, Illinois, western Ky. and southern. Wisc., contact Andy 
Mahler, andy at blueriver.net. (June 2007, Ind. Univ. credit option.)
For Colorado and the mountain west, contact Central Rocky Mountain 
Permaculture Institute, www.crmpi.org, 970-927-4158.
For Florida contact Joanna Angel. gaiagrovefl at yahoo.com. (mid-March 
For southern New England, contact Dynamics Ecosystems Design, 
davej at edibleforestgardens.com.
For northern New England contact Yestermorrow Design/Build school. 
For New York, contact Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, 
flpcipermaculture at yahoo.com ... (weekends ongoing)
For Ontario, contact Ecology Retreat Centre, 
bookings at ecologyretreatcentre.ca. (July/September) /

Keith Johnson
"Be fruitful and mulch apply."
Permaculture Activist Magazine
PO Box 5516, Bloomington, IN 47408
(812) 335-0383
also Patterns for Abundance Design & Consulting
also Association for Regenerative Culture
also APPLE-Bloomington (Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy) It's a small world after oil.
also Bloomington Permaculture Guild

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