[permaculture] Making barren lands bountiful Geoff Lawton Permaculture CNN

Wesley Roe and Santa Barbara Permaculture Network lakinroe at silcom.com
Thu Oct 8 10:35:36 EDT 2009

Making barren lands bountiful
	*	Geoff Lawton is using renewable 
natural resources to enrich ecosystems
	*	Permaculture can turn the most 
arid, nutrient-free soil into thriving habitats
	*	Lawton's friend and mentor, Bill 
Mollison developed the technique in the 1970s
	*	Lawton has turned deserts in Jordan and Morocco into rich oases

updated 12:51 p.m. EDT, Wed October 7, 2009

(CNN) -- It is midday and Geoff Lawton is hard at 
work at Zaytuna Farms in New South Wales, 
Australia. But the real work, he says, is going 
on inside the center of the compost.

Geoff Lawton says that permaculture "revs up" systems of soil creation.

"There's lots of things breeding in there," Lawton says.
Compost may not seem a sexy subject, but within 
this steaming pile, life is being created.
"There's organisms breathing and dying and 
reproducing very quickly," he says. "It's all 
very hot and steamy."
That rich soil lays the groundwork for Lawton's 
revolutionary method of food production. It's 
called permaculture.
Lawton's friend and mentor, Bill Mollison, 
developed the process back in the 1970s. Since 
then he and Lawton have traveled the globe 
preaching the value of permaculture and its aim 
to create harmony between the landscape and the 
people who live on it.
"Nature exists in an incredibly rich form, and 
enriching form and does so without any energy 
inputs from mankind," Lawton explains. 
"Permaculture does the same thing."
"We've taken the systems of soil creation and 
soil life and we've revved them up. We've speeded 
up nature itself and we've improved the system."  
Watch Geoff Lawton at work »
So what does it take to improve the system?
Lawton says it's about rehabilitating areas that 
have been damaged by pollution or overuse by 
recycling nutrients and energy back into the 

Fact Box
Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the 
conscious design and maintenance of 
agriculturally productive ecosystems which have 
the diversity, stability, and resilience of 
natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious 
integration of landscape and people providing 
their food, energy, shelter, and other material 
and non-material needs in a sustainable way.
Source: Permaculture Research Institute of Australia

Permaculture also takes all the things we need -- 
our housing, energy sources, food and water 
supplies -- and tailors them to fit into the 
natural rhythms of the ecosystem. The idea is to 
work with, not against, nature.
Lawton says that during the first few weeks and 
months you don't see the real benefits, but after 
a year to 18 months you really start to see the 
"Within two or three years you can see a system 
that is really something that's got great 
opportunities and possibilities," he said.
The gardens at Zaytuna Farms bear fruit and 
vegetables of all that hard work. The real 
measure though isn't how it works, but where.
Lawton claims this permaculture method can work 
anywhere in the world, including the desert.
"Almost all the deserts on earth at one point 
were forested," he said. "They all have different 
types of oasis systems. What you're doing is 
picking different points in the desert and 
turning them into a rich oasis."
On a DVD created by the Permaculture Research 
Institute of Australia, Lawton shows us what 
happened when he took this method to places like 
Morocco and Jordan -- just 80 kilometers from the 
Dead Sea.
"People were amazed to see an area that was 
salty, sandy ground, turn into a lush green 
forest, that had mushrooms growing from the 
soil," Lawton said.

The ability to "green" the desert is not only 
having an impact on the communities where these 
gardens are grown. Interest is also sprouting 
among young people.
Dozens come to Zaytuna Farms every year to learn about the permaculture method.
"I've only been doing it a year and once you hit 
upon the principles it's basically observations," 
said intern Jonathan Chan.
"You have to look at the land and which way the 
wind is blowing and see where the sun angles are 
and design around that and it does seem quite 
For Chan it's as much about cultivating a new way 
of life as it is about cultivating the land.
"I think people are getting to the point where 
they have to make change and permaculture is a 
good direction to go," he said.
Still, permaculture isn't without its critics. 
They argue the method is time-consuming in the 
early stages and that makes the system hard to 
get off the ground in many places.
It can be made even more difficult if the people 
living around the site aren't familiar with the 
But Lawton argues the time and energy expended in 
a permaculture garden is offset by the quality of 
the experience, and the richness of the end 

"A good organic farmer works a thousand hours a 
year. The industrial mankind works two thousand 
to three thousand hours a year. What do we have 
to show for it? Gadgets.
"We don't have community, we don't have clean 
water, clean air or sensible housing. As negative 
as we currently are, we can be equally positive," 
Lawton said. "It's not just self-reliance or 
self-sufficiency, it's absolute abundance." 
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