[permaculture] Kim S Robinson, Terraforming Earth & Permaculture

Graham grahamburnett at blueyonder.co.uk
Sun Dec 23 21:43:58 EST 2007

can you ask him why Red Mars (which seems to be required reading in UK 
permaculture circles these days) gets so flippin boring round about page 

Keith Johnson wrote:
> Excellent interview with Kim Stanley Robinson at 
> http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/
> I intend to publish an interview with him in the Activist. *What kinds 
> of questions would you have for him?* (Seriously,  I need some good 
> questions if this is going to be a decent interview.) For example, What 
> should permaculturists be doing to eliminate the hierarchy between rich 
> and poor?
> Does anybody have a way to contact him? He lives in Davis Ca. (BTW, I'm 
> following up a lead that may result in contact...stay tuned.)
>     ".*..if you think of yourself as terraforming Earth, and if you
>     think about sustainability, then you can start thinking about
>     /permaculture/ and what permaculture really means. It's not just
>     sustainable agriculture, but a name for a certain type of history.
>     Because the word /sustainability/ is now code for: let's make
>     capitalism work over the long haul, without ever getting rid of the
>     hierarchy between rich and poor and without establishing social
>     justice.*
>     /Sustainable development/, as well: that's a term that's been
>     contaminated. It doesn't even mean /sustainable/ anymore. It means:
>     let us continue to do what we're doing, but somehow get away with
>     it. By some magic waving of the hands, or some techno silver bullet,
>     suddenly we can make it all right to continue in all our current
>     habits. And yet it's not just that our habits are destructive,
>     they're not even satisfying to the people who get to play in them.
>     So there's a stupidity involved, at the cultural level."
>     *BLDGBLOG*: In other words, your lifestyle may now be carbon neutral
>     -- but was it really any good in the first place?
>     *Robinson*: Right. Especially if it's been encoding, or essentially
>     legitimizing, a grotesque hierarchy of social injustice of the most
>     damaging kind. And the tendency for capitalism to want to overlook
>     that -- to wave its hands and say: well, it's a system in which
>     eventually everyone gets to prosper, you know, the rising tide
>     floats all boats, blah blah -- well, this is just not true.
>     We should take the political and aesthetic baggage out of the term
>     /utopia/. I've been working all my career to try to redefine utopia
>     in more positive terms -- in more dynamic terms. People tend to
>     think of utopia as a perfect end-stage, which is, by definition,
>     impossible and maybe even bad for us. And so *maybe it's better to
>     use a word like /permaculture/, which not only includes /permanent/
>     but also /permutation/. Permaculture suggests a certain kind of
>     obvious human goal, which is that future generations will have at
>     least as good a place to live as what we have now.*
>     It's almost as if a science fiction writer's job is to represent the
>     unborn humanity that will inherit this place -- you're speaking
>     /from/ the future and /for/ the future. And you try to speak for
>     them by envisioning scenarios that show them either doing things
>     better or doing things worse -- but you're also alerting the
>     generations alive right now that these people have a voice in history.
>     The future needs to be taken into account by the current system,
>     which regularly steals from it in order to pad our ridiculous
>     current lifestyle. *
>     BLDGBLOG*: When it actually comes to designing the future, what will
>     permaculture look like? Where will its structures and ideas come from?
>     *Robinson*: Well, at the end of the 1960s and through the 70s, what
>     we thought -- and this is particularly true in architecture and
>     design terms -- was: OK, given these new possibilities for new and
>     different ways of being, how do we /design/ it? What happens in
>     architecture? What happens in urban design?
>     As a result of these questions there came into being a big body of
>     utopian design literature that's now mostly obsolete and out of
>     print, which had no notion that the Reagan-Thatcher
>     counter-revolution was going to hit. Books like /Progress As If
>     Survival Mattered/, /Small Is Beautiful/, /Muddling Toward
>     Frugality/, /The Integral Urban House/, /Design for the Real World/,
>     /A Pattern Language/, and so on. I had a whole shelf of those books.
>     Their tech is now mostly obsolete, superceded by more sophisticated
>     tech, but the ideas behind them, and the idea of appropriate
>     technology and alternative design: that needs to come back big time.
>     And I think it is.
>     This is one of the reasons I've been talking about climate change,
>     and the possibility of /abrupt/ climate change, as potentially a
>     good thing -- in that it forces us to confront problems that we were
>     going to sweep under the carpet for hundreds of years. Now,
>     suddenly, these problems are in our face and we have to deal. *And
>     part of dealing is going to be /design/.*
>     I don't think people fully comprehend what a gigantic difference
>     their infrastructure makes, or what it feels like to live in a city
>     with public transport, like Paris, compared to one of the big
>     autopias like southern California. The feel of existence is
>     completely different. And of course the carbon burn is also
>     different -- and the sense that everybody's in the same boat
>     together. This partly accounts for the difference between urban
>     voters and rural voters: rural voters -- or out-in-the-country
>     voters -- can imagine that they're somehow independent, and that
>     they don't rely on other people. Meanwhile, their entire tech is
>     built elsewhere. It's a fantasy, and a bad one as it leads to a
>     false assessment of the real situation.
> Read the whole interview at
> http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/

Graham Burnett

Integrated Design for Local Environmental Resources



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