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.

Action Packed Presentation Schedule

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. 


Building Urgency: Reaching for Permaculture Velocity

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.

Reaching for the tipping point

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.


David and I will co-present a workshop at the beginning of the first Permaculture Voices conference, to be held in Temecula, CA. He’s the Meaningful Makeover content guy; we’re both pedagogues, and I fancy myself the interpreter.

In our hour-long workshop, participants will be guided through a set of considerations for charting their course through the offerings of this incredible collection of luminaries full of unapologetic hope.  The considerations blend learning theory and permaculture principles. We’re designing the workshop to have immediate application for participants in the here and now of the conference in order to root a scaffold for self-directed, lifelong learning that can be taken home for daily use and applied to any experience, anywhere.

“We can’t go it alone for very long” (Weisman, p. 269)

spiderweb_applied ecologicsFacing “the Three Scary Numbers” of global warming isn’t easy. If you take in the ramifications of that terrifying math seriously (and don’t choose denial as a coping mechanism), you’re likely to wind up in the camp of Guy McPherson and the Doomers. Guy is the most vocal advocate of it being too late to do anything meaningful to salvage life on earth due to the amount of self-reinforcing feedback loops already in motion. If you do take the scary numbers seriously (as Guy, Bill McKibben, and many others have and do), you’re almost guaranteed to experience emotional shock or even trauma. For me, the fog from that “poison” of realization (as it was metaphorically described by a friend) lasted fifteen months; it’s only in retrospect that I can perceive how wounded I was by recognizing near term human extinction. Coming out of the fog meant, for me, gaining clarity on my values and my skills.

Permanent Culture = Permaculture

odometerI recently snapped this photo of my 1993 Volvo’s odometer to share with the mechanic I bought it from last year. Paul told me the record for a Volvo from his shop was 509,000 miles, and he had heard of a guy who supposedly drove his for over three million miles!  Personally I wouldn’t want to spend that many hours in the seat of a car! But this got me thinking about durability and resilience supported by maintenance: a web of social and physical factors interwoven with environmental conditions. Permanent implies fixed, unchanging, absolute—but culture is adaptive, adaptable, evolutionary. Putting them together is not exclusively about food, central as food is to survival. This is why I’m thrilled to be working with David on the necessary care of people ethical dimension of generating (and re-generating) collectively-oriented communities for planetary maintenance and survival.
Follow #permavoices on Twitter and contribute to the Permaculture Voices conference dialogue.

“It is over.”

With this epigraph, Charles Genoud begins his book on the non-sense of time. Near the end of Gesture of Awareness (pp. 164-166), Genoud writes:

I hold on to the notion
of a subject.

On the impersonal world of experiences,
with a single letter, I
I trace a person,

as if creating
a blower of the wind,
a rainer of the rain.

A single letter
sets two worlds apart:

the world of object
and the world of subject,
and thus comes exile.

We are all storytellers.
We spin the fiction of our lives,
the fiction that we are.

I may move
my hand in a way that one
could call circular—

but there is no circle.
Can my hand be
at more than one place at a time?

If so,
where is the circle?

One is holding only traces, memories:
it is through such traces that one speaks
of movement, and of a circle.

The fiction that I am
is created in a similar way.

Holding to traces of past moments,
holding to imagined future moments,
I draw an enduring character, I.

But just as with the circle
seen in the movement of a hand,
I am no where to be found.

Once I’ve created the main character, I
once I’ve put distance between
myself and experience—

my story can’t be but a story of exile,
of a hopeless wandering.

Exile can end only with end
of the split between
object and subject;

exile can end only if the fictitious nature
of object and subject
is seen through.

As the main character
is also the storyteller,
he resists his own ending.

The world of traces, of fiction,
isn’t another world

as there is no real world
with respect to which it could be

The memory of the circle
drawn by my hand is only
the trace of a trace,

the trace of something that
never was.

I’m also looking forward to seeing a ragged assortment of Monks and Nuns when the Human Sushi Platter will be guest of honor at an event hosted by Hot Mama.

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