Dominic reminded me that the way we talk needs revision. There is no “solution” to climate change; nothing to stop the forces already in motion. “We have to go through it.” What there are, instead, are ways of living during the escalation of natural disasters. Perhaps, against the odds, if enough of us change fast enough, the living earth will be able to rejuvenate itself and life on earth will persist into the far future.
Note: each subheading links to a summary of Tweets, one for each day of the 4-day conference.
Permaculture Voices is launched
Karl asked the most relevant question: What is the best path forward? Participants at the first Permaculture Voices conference in Temecula, CA spent four days searching out and following their own answers. A star-studded cast of some the living earth’s most well-known champions provided a scientific and ethical framework for the monumental economic, cultural and lifestyle changes required (of North Americans, in particular).
Eating locally grown food is the most obvious feature of permaculture; its discourse has begun to effect public opinion and (some) public policy. However, being a local hero in-and-of-itself is insufficient to guarantee a future for your children and grandchildren. Earth will lose its breathable atmosphere within decades if we persist in delaying fundamental changes in energy consumption and dismantling corporate agriculture.
If one wanted to notice, there were visible absences in the conference demographics. People of color, women presenters, and international representation, for instance, were seriously under-represented. Some of these imbalances were aired publicly and grumbled about privately, but perseverating on them would be a mistaken use of energy along the lines of the “feedback loops” Allan Savory refuses to entertain in the mission to let cattle (and other livestock) save the planet. Women (especially white women) need to step up and start doing epic shit (echoing Paul Wheaton and paraphrasing Larry Santoyo).
The more significant yet rarely spoken tension is class and the luxurious privileges of whiteness. Not just white skin privilege (which varies according to social class), but the attitudes of whiteness that celebrate individualism and the myth of independence. It’s damn scary to realize that I don’t know enough people with the skills to help me survive; humbling to realize how little I have to offer in regard to growing food or tending animals; and terrifying to consider that not only is my incompetence not unique but rather it’s the norm.
Toby Hemenway illustrated why there are no energy solutions that allow Americans (especially) to continue to consume so much power. We have to stop. Now. It’s really that simple. We have to suck it up and suffer for the sake of future generations. No presenters talked about how to make these transitions on a meaningful scale but I did hear of places (cities and regions) where significant progress is underway. Why not in more places?
There are a lot of excuses to postpone lifestyle change. These (mostly selfish) rationalizations combine with general tendencies of insularity (sticking with one’s own kind) and the drive to take care of immediate family first. The latter is reasonable, but permaculture as a movement can’t stop there. We need more Willie Smits’s and Geoff Lawtons and Allan Savory’s doing good works on massive scales (none of them are American, hmmm) demonstrating and modeling that complexity can be holistically managed and climate change perhaps mitigated by an unprecedented, massively-collaborative surge of homo sapiens seeking to survive.
We need better soil for growing food and other critical biomass, and we have to stop the spread of deserts. There are ‘technologies’ – methods, behaviors, attitudes and manual human effort – that can make HUGE DIFFERENCES in a QUICK TIMEFRAME if we JUST START! Biochar is relatively easy and contributes on several fronts. Permaculture principles need to be imposed on all agricultural facilities, asap. Policies encouraging postmodern cattle drives are desperately needed to help reverse desertification around the world.
The thing is that we in the west (and those in the east aspiring to the west’s lifestyle with disregard for its awful consequences) can no longer have it all. We never could, but the bubble of privilege maintained the aura of illusion for a few generations. I admit I’m worried about how well I’ll hold up when my comforts begin to diminish.
At the same time, I’m honored and humbled to be called to participate in the greatest undertaking humanity has ever faced. Geoff, Paul, Allan, Toby, Diego Footer, Nicholas Wooten, Jessica Schilke, Souki Mehdaoui, Ryan Harb, Elaine Ingham, Doniga Markegaard, Nadia Lawton, yes yes even Joel Salatin and Mark Shepard (but I have to ask if you’re playing too close to the monster?), the other presenters and participants, and all the permies in the community house, with each your own specializations, commitments and passions: THANK YOU for your bright hearts, light spirits, and deep compassion for the living earth.