My vision of a future with permaculture is a post-industrial, post-information age where we don’t so much power down, and eschew everything that non-renewable resources currently grant us, but use those resources to transition to a new stage where the developed countries use the technologies available to create greater efficiencies so we do ever more with ever less, with energy generated from renewable sources stemming from non-renewable inputs, so that the less-developed countries can power up, and both societies meet somewhere in the middle.
I want a world where there are vaccines, running water, a switch turns on a light, and we can communicate across the gulf of space and time by sending electrons out into the aether between devices. A world where we can still communicate with others across the internet via computers and cellphones, with text, audio, or video. To me, that ability to communicate, instantaneously, across vast distance makes the world a more egalitarian place because we’re not alone. We don’t struggle or succeed in a vacuum, but can share that with others. We can shine a light on the warts that exist in the darkness, but also share our triumphs.
In order to do that, and again this is just my opinion, requires a shift away from the “Take. Make. Waste” cycle of consumer capitalism towards a place where we can begin making better use of what we do have. For those who have the means, invest in what you believe in to help reduce the cost for others who want to do the same. Be intentional with our choices, so items we use last longer, or can be repaired or upgraded when needed. Value what we have, so others may value what they have. And, as I remind my small children on a near constant basis it seems, is not to worry if someone has more than us, but to worry that that someone has enough. You might say that these are some principles that I prescribe to when it comes to what needs to happen to see permaculture become a broadly viable system, but what exactly that means for each of us, I’m not going to say.
We’re told, emphatically by Bill Mollison in the big black book of permaculture, that our prime directive is to take responsiblity for our own actions and those of our descendents, and to do it now. So, to borrow from Ethan Hughes for a moment, that means moving from a luxury SUV to a luxury Jaguar or Mercedes, then that’s on you. I’m not here to be some kind of permaculture police to make things happen. I don’t see force as an answer. We all arrive at our own place through a variety of means. Make the best choice you can now, in this moment of time, and take action on it. Then make your next best choice when you are able, and take action on it, and so on. Which leads me back to the conversation of Michael Pilarski. If each of us, right now, worked to make our own little place in the world better, and in line with our own perspective on what that means within the boundaries of permaculture, we could show the world the difference these ideas could make. We can show a world of abundance and joy, rather than scarcity and fear.
Lastly, on all of these ideas of permaculture, I do believe, based on the numbers I’ve seen from some of the biointensive gardeners, research done by Master gardeners in the United States, as well as the output of family gardens in South East Asia, that permaculture can feed the world. All 7+ billion of us. Doing so would would require a shift of magnificent proportions to do so, if we wanted to see it happen in 1 generation, which I think that would take force, and force is not something I would want as part of the path forward because these decisions are small decisions. Local descisions. And cannot be proscribed from on high. However, if we can step back for a moment, and take a long, many decades view, this could be possible over a few generations.
But, we have to start now.