[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
* STORY HIGHLIGHTS
* 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
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
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
"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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