[permaculture] Sustainability and Invisible Structures

Thomas Gorman tom at honeychrome.com
Wed Jul 12 08:37:50 EDT 2006

I had hoped that your posting on sustainability and invisible  
structures would've generated more discussion, as the things you  
bring up are essential to the future, but it seems like it fell flat  
for the most part.  I suspect many, if not most permaculturists are  
engaged in living and trying to make progress in their own lives and  
sustainable endeavors and are left with little time or energy at the  
moment for some of the 'bigger picture' issues you bring up. It may  
not be such a bad thing, as the changes will come not from the top  
down (that's been tried and failed!), but from the bottom up as a  
result of small, individual efforts.  But still, an awareness of the  
broader structures, invisible and otherwise, that we are constrained  
by is imperative.

In theory a CLT should be stable and sustainable- it has the  
'ownership' and the voice of the community behind it.  But sadly, in  
our increasingly diminished and undermined American democracy I fear  
this is an illusion.  Possession is no longer 9/10ths of the law-  
instead, money and power is all of the law, as evidenced in the  
seizure and transfer of properties in CT from a community of  
individuals to a private enterprise with a proposal of 'growth' and  
'jobs.'  More distressing is the battle going on in Delaware County  
over the proposed powerline to provide additional energy to NYC-  
again, a private, for profit enterprise wants to buy and/or have the  
state seize land for their endeavor.  The community has voted against  
it and has succeeded in blocking it to the state level.  The business  
interests have bought federal support (growth, jobs.......national  
security!!), and now it goes to the courts to decide if the federal  
government can override and disregard the local and state will- it is  
expected that the courts will find for the business interests.  I  
think that as energy sources become critical we're going to see more  
and more of this transfer of private and community holdings to  
business and corporate entities promising energy supply.  "There's  
coal under your land, and we NEED it, so we're taking it- National  
Energy Security!"  Essentially these rulings mean you can't sit on  
and sustain-ably manage a resource- unless you are fully extracting  
and exploiting it you don't have secure ownership rights.  It's the  
same old legal concept/technique that was originally used to take  
land from the Native Americans- they we're not seen to be 'improving'  
the land, and so did not have rights to it.  The foundation of  
property rights in America lies in the exploitation of property.....   
That fundamental tenet is now going 'global' and will be justified  
further by the pressures of population growth and energy 'needs.'   
It's pretty scary to think about.

But what can we do...?  I think to some extent we need to accept  
impermanence and that our efforts just might end up bulldozed over,  
cut down, burned up...  There is no way to permanently protect the  
land and the future within structures that are particularly designed  
with exploitation in mind.  Under the current system a legal entity  
is really only valid if it is exploitative- land trusts are an  
attempt to subvert the designs of the whole structure within which  
they must exist, and so I fear are inherently unstable in the long  
term.  Which isn't to say they shouldn't be used- we need to fight in  
whatever way we possibly can, from within and without.  But again, at  
the same time we need to accept that it's all impermanent- and we may  
pour our lives and efforts into creating something both productive  
and sustainable only to have it taken away and destroyed.  And we  
then move on and start over...  And do it not just because we want to  
be productive and sustainable, but because fundamentally we know it  
is the RIGHT thing, even if it may ultimately fail to make a  
difference.  The invisible structures we need to see change are not  
the legal ones, but the ethical ones- ultimately far more powerful  
than the legal ones, and we need to work to change those by example.   
If enough people truly believe that exploitation is simply wrong, the  
legal structure that mandates it loses it's power and meaning.

Anyway, that's my rant.  I wish more people had chimed in on your  
post- but probably many have their heads down and hands in the dirt  
at the moment, which is part of setting that example!  And I think  
you guys up at Rattlesnake are pushing it all farther along than many  
are able to, as yet.  Keep everyone posted, as there will be many  
following the path you're now cutting.


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