- Urban Permaculture workshop in Petaluma, CA on June 8. Click here for details.
- New lecture (plus dinner), “From Collapse to Resilience–Permaculture’s Local Solutions to Our Global Problems” in Petaluma, CA, July 11. Click here for details.
- Permaculture Design Course in Portland, 6 weekends from May-October, 2013. Contact Erik Blender for details.
- Permaculture Design Course in Petaluma, CA, 6 weekends from September, 2013 to February, 2014. Contact Ryan Johnston for details.
Help Me with My Urban Permaculture Book!
Calling all permaculturists who live in a city, suburb, or town: I’m writing a book on urban permaculture, to be published by Chelsea Green, and I’m looking for case studies, innovations, and inspirations for the book. It’s got chapters on home and community-style gardens, energy, water, shelter and building, community, livelihood and economics, and designing for disaster/first responders. I want to tell the stories of people and organizations who have applied permaculture design in any of those areas to solve the challenges of living in towns. If you have a cool urban gardening technique, a way of working with your personal or community’s energy or water needs, a permaculture design for a building in a town, a business or livelihood that’s designed along permaculture principles, have been involved in a permaculture disaster-relief or aid project for an urban area, I’d like to hear from you with an eye toward including your project or technique in the book. Anything from a unique urban graywater setup to a guild of businesses and non-profits. I’m also looking for photos and drawings of same. You can write me at this address.
New Video: Redesigning Civilization
The sequel to “How Permaculture Can Save Humanity and the Planet, But not Civilization.” The fear-based roots of civilization, the rise of elites, and how permaculture can get us back on track. Click here to view.
New: The Last Nomads and the Culture of Fear
(This is the companion article to the “Redesigning Civilization” video) My wife and I went semi-nomadic in 2010, traveling the mountain West for almost two years. Not having a settled home was eye-opening, and taught me a lot about one of my perennial themes: how much humans lost when we became domesticated by agriculture. For a committed permaculturist to give up a home and yard seems almost hypocritical, since a core tenet of permaculture is to deeply know a place and community. But our nomadic yen was strong. (read more)
What Permaculture Isn’t—and Is
Permaculture is notoriously hard to define. A recent survey shows that people simultaneously believe it is a design approach, a philosophy, a movement, and a set of practices. This broad and contradiction-laden brush doesn’t just make permaculture hard to describe. It can be off-putting, too. Let’s say you first encounter permaculture as a potent method of food production and are just starting to grasp that it is more than that, when someone tells you that it also includes goddess spirituality, and anti-GMO activism, and barefoot living. What would you make of that? And how many people think they’ve finally got the politics of permaculturists all figured out, and assume that we would logically also be vegetarians, only to find militant meat-eaters in the ranks? What kind of philosophy could possibly umbrella all those divergent views? Or is it a philosophy at all? I’m going to argue here that the most accurate and least muddled way to think of permaculture is as a design approach, and that we are often misdirected by the fact that it fits into a larger philosophy and movement which it supports. But it is not that philosophy or movement. It is a design approach for realizing a new paradigm. (read more)
Saving Native Wildlife with “Invasive” Plants
There’s been a lively discussion on permaculturists’ occasional planting of introduced species known to naturalize (or, in loaded terms, invasive species) at this blog. Some there have disputed that exotics can play critical roles in habitat, and I posted the words below there to show that removal of exotics can be very damaging to native wildlife:
Here are hard data on introduced plants that have rapidly formed partnerships with native insects, from a paper, “Exotics as Host Plants of the California Butterfly Fauna,” by Sherri Graves and Arthur Shapiro, in Biological Conservation (2003) 110:413-433. It was sent to me by Mary McAllister, a SF blogger (http://milliontrees.me) concerned about wholesale removal of healthy exotic trees from large swaths of rural SF-area parks. Other ecologists questioning the wisdom of natives-only policies are Mark Davis, Dov Sax, Erle Ellis, Matt Chew, and Peter Del Tredici, if you want to find papers by them. There is, indeed, widespread criticism of invasion biology by biologists. (read more)
Whenever I feel like raising my blood pressure a few points, I take a look at The Wall Street Journal editorial page. And the June 2-3, 2012 issue didn’t disappoint me. In an article called “Robin Hoods Don’t Smash Windows,” John Agresto, the former president of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, makes the familiar arguments against the redistribution of wealth: Anyone who wants it believes “that others must give when they demand, that others are means, not ends.” He says that implementing wealth redistribution usually requires force and violence. And he’s right about all of this, just not in the way he means. Read more . . .
Fear and the Three-Day Food Supply
One of the scary factoids in circulation these days is the revelation that grocery stores hold only a three- or four-day supply of food. People wield this statistic to argue that our food system is appallingly insecure and in grave danger of failure. We’re only a few days from starvation, goes the frightening story, and we’re liable one day to find our supermarket shelves empty and the populace in panic. To accept this forecast uncritically, though, means ignoring how complex systems work. Read more . . .
About this website:
Much of what you’ll find here falls into a few major categories: general resources on permaculture and ecological design, information on my courses and upcoming events, and my musings and articles on several themes. One of those themes is how agriculture has shaped human culture into an unsustainable form that permaculture can improve. I also am on a campaign to find the opportunities in energy descent and Peak Oil, ideas that at first encounter can be terrifying and often send people into a doomer spiral. There are many ways to respond to crisis that fall between “don’t worry, be happy” and “we’re all gonna die,” and permaculture provides useful tools for exploring that large middle arena. Thoughts on other topics are in blog form or in the articles linked to the right.
Writing, teaching, and working on our marvelous place in Sonoma County are my current obsessions. If you’d like to sponsor one of my workshops or courses, have me speak at your event, or reprint some of my writing, go to my contact page and someone will get back to you ASAP.