The Permaculture Podcast

    Episode 1523 – Necessary Simplicity with Ethan Hughes (Best of…)


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    This show is a best of featuring the two interviews with Ethan Hughes combined into a single episode with a running time of over two hours. The first half was originally released September 14, 2012, and was titled Radical Possibilities. The second came out on November 26, 2013, and was called Practical Possibilities. Listening to both of these together, in preparation for this new release, I got caught on Ethan’s words that his lifestyle is a “Necessary Simplicity,” which lead to the current title.

    Of all the material I’ve recorded and produced in the nearly five years of creating this podcast, Ethan’s time with me, totalling about four hours over two different days before being brought down to what you will hear today, stands as the most popular and influential thus far. If you are new to the podcast, listen and hear the possibilities in Ethan’s words and know why that is the case. If you have heard these before, enjoy them in this new way, and be inspired to make even greater change.

    After listening to this share it with others. Get the word out about all the incredible possibilities, radical and necessary, that are open to us if we begin to truly embody what we believe in.

    Until the next time, take care of Earth, your self, and each other.

    Learn more about The Possibility Handbook, a book Ethan and I are writing together.

    Contact Ethan

    The Possibility Alliance
    85 Edgecomb Road
    Belfast, ME 04915


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    11 Pings/Trackbacks

    1. mike hinckleymike hinckley
      June 13, 2015    

      this is the best permaculture podcast I have heard. I have listened 3 times. Ethan, you are inspirational and knowledgeable and observational. Great heart. Thank you

      • June 15, 2015    

        Now you’ve heard why this is a Best Of for the podcast. I have a call in to Ethan to talk about some ideas off air. When we connect I’ll pass your words along to him.

      • Inge Leonora-den OudenInge Leonora-den Ouden
        December 16, 2017    

        that was just what I wanted to comment: this was the best podcast I ever heard!

    2. Michael CommonsMichael Commons
      June 23, 2015    

      Listening to this podcast (effectively again in this new format) it was once again refreshing and inspiring. While not quite said in the podcast, I came away with an inspiration that I finally understood what is the Sabbath and how this sort of practice would seem all the more important in today’s world even as the practice was developed 1000’s of years ago. I see the Sabbath as a day of rest and slowing down, disconnecting from all of the busy elements of life, now in hyperspace speed with the beeping hand held devices that most people are in constant contact with. When I was young, I observed the Sabbath for those who I saw practice this as something odd. Why refuse to flip a light switch, take an elevator, turn on the television, drive a car, on one day?

      Now listened to Ethan Hughes who practices this every day of his week, and recalling how I too can slow down and interact with the earth and its many other inhabitants when I am in my garden, or recalling how power outages for me were often happy times living in an urban area, for if the night was clear, they allowed me to see the stars in a way that was never possible otherwise.

      While it is difficult to change oneself and one’s behavior, I have decided I will try and practice the Sabbath with my family in this sense of a regular practice to consciously disconnect and slow down. While the Sabbath can be a spiritual practice and is most associated with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Saturday, Sunday, and Friday). I see that even in Buddhism here, there was not long ago a similar practice held on every moon day (Full, New, and the half-moons) While I think slowing down and finding a level of inner peace and balance is a pre-requisite for effective spiritual practice, at this point I just hope to practice this slowing down and living more close to how we have lived as humans for millennia.

    3. […] ways. I’ve been receiving a lot of inspiration from listening to Scott’s interview with Ethan Hughes, who is actively and presently living the gift economy.  Ethan will definitely be joining my […]

    4. Cynthia QuiliciCynthia Quilici
      July 5, 2015    

      Hi Scott, I was just listening to this episode on Sunday, July 5th. I had been invited on a free guest tour of the Burning-Man-spin-off, “Firefly”, which takes place near us, on the property of someone we know. I never followed up on the invite, though it seemed wonderful… Now I know why! Just an interesting coincidence.

      This is definitely a “best” podcast!

    5. […] taking place. ” John D Liu In closing I’d like to suggest an exercise I heard given by Ethan Hughes at The Possibility Alliance: Make a list of everything you would like to be doing but your not […]

    6. […] 1. Ethan Hughes and Necessary Simplicity & Practical Possibilities with Ethan Hughes – Ethan Hughes is a permaculture practitioner and radical minimalist that founded the Possibility Alliance, an 80-acre petrol and electricity-free homestead that gifts over 1,500 permaculture design courses each year. After traveling the world and watching the innumerable tragedies that fossil fuels and Western civilization have imposed on the earth, indigenous populations, and the minds of the masses, Ethan decided to give up his car for a bike, eat dinner by candlelight, liquidate his financial capital, and begin educating people about divesting from harmful lifestyles. I cannot explain how game-changing it was to hear Ethan tell his story: 20 years of slowing down to the simple life where chocolate doesn’t belong, where in the last ten years his car has only been used twelve times for emergencies, and where the inner landscape work to make these external changes is of utmost importance and is the only practical path. Here is another article with Ethan over at Mother Earth News. […]

    7. […] an amazingly inspiring story of community, please listen to this podcast with Ethan […]

    8. RLM McWilliamsRLM McWilliams
      September 23, 2015    

      Informative, interesting, and inspiring!
      Hearing about the guy who was living in the city and maintaining an even more radical lifestyle was fun. But one does wonder about his rejection of even candlelight because he was ‘a mammal’. Many mammals are nocturnal, or partly so. The foxes, coyotes, fishers, racoons, and many more animals here are active at night. Even the livestock spends some of the night grazing. The horses gallop around at night. And all these animals are active in winter, plus the rabbits, and the deer, and… Not to take away from the importance of attuning to the cycles of nature in our local region, but the examples from nature given did not seem to fit.
      And humans have been using firelight for how long? The remains of a capmpfire were discovered in a South African cave by archeologists that is a million years old. No doubt that is the right choice for that man, at least at this time, but some of us are more nocturnally inclined, sentries and storytellers around the campfire.
      Raw foods are an important part of a healthy diet, but many foods are actually more nutritious when properly cooked. And some nutritious foods are at least somewhat toxic until properly cooked- something humans have been doing to their food for probably that million years, if not longer.
      Really appreciate these interviews! Somehow it is good to know that this place, these people, Ethan Hughes are all out there, doing this work and living this kind of life. In a way, neo-pioneers, blazing a trail that others might realize what IS possible.

    9. RLM McWilliamsRLM McWilliams
      September 24, 2015    

      Another thought comes to mind, this time about the ‘gift economy’. There is without question much that is wonderful about how Hughes and company live and conduct the flow of resources into and out of their lives. Yet I can still see much of value that could be done with large amounts of money:
      – Supporting individuals and groups that work to preserve Hughes’ and others’ right to essentially withdrawl from society;
      – Those working to overturn the illicit hold large corporations have on America;
      – Starting businesses that provide things that many Americans buy, but in a more ecologicaly and socially responsible manner-
      – from fast food (think of the positive impact – on the ecosystem and human health – if real affordable food that was truly organic was readily available to the masses could have on the entire structure of agriculture in this country. Other countries have historically had good tasting, quality food available including ‘street food’, so why can’t we? A few companies have made steps in this direction, but there is a long way yet to go, in how the food is produced, local sourcing, availablity, and food options.
      – Start local co-ops to produce electricity generated locally via wind, small-scale hydro, locally generated solar, etc – while protecting the rights of homeowners to produce their own power wherever appropriate;
      – Or a home scale alternative energy business. One offering wind, solar, and micro-hydro options would be a great resouce for people who would like to get off the grid, but don’t know where to start, or have the expertise to select and install an appropriate system for their needs. Such a business could counsel people on the placement of windblocks, shade trees, vines against the sunny side of homes, etc that would help reduce their energy needs, or…
      – An eco landscape business could help people design, install, and maintain a chemical-free yard. Beautiful, minimal care landscaping with a focus on edible ornamentals so no one need know food is being grown- think of the possibilities! Not just using the same old edibles that are also pretty, like fruit and nut trees, but a business like this could host open houses serving foods that many may not be familiar with: salads from the eaves of linden, redbud, and/or the right kind of mulberry; hostakopita from those popular ornamental perennials; other greens like sea kale, hop tips, ground elder (a very productive and attractive groundcover… Redbud buds or pods in season (three crops from one gorgeous ornamental small tree). And fruits like hardy kiwi, goumi, autumn olive where not restricted… The list goes on.
      – Or, since many Americans no longer know how to cook with or preserve even common vegatables and fruits, cooking classes to teach them how. A focus on perennial veg and volunteer annuals (aka wild vegetables), and unusual fruit suited for growing in the local climate could make these classes unique, and fun!
      – Start a co-op roviding good, clean drinking water NOT treated with chlorine (there are alternatives) or flouride to a local community’;
      Personally, I believe that public utilities like water and electricity should never have become privatized for-profit businesses. Is the public aware that in many areas property and services they own have essentially been given away to corporations which now control their water supply?
      – Start an eco-farm to produce commodities using regenerative practices. The demand for non-GMO and true organic (even industrial organic) grains is not being met, and wherever not met, chemically farmed and/or GMOs are the only option, for instance.
      – How about starting/promoting regional glass container manufacturing to replace many of the horrifically toxic plastic containers it is getting harder to get away from? (More and more things seem to be made of plastic that need not be,while we are told we are running out of oil, the main raw material. Hmm…) Glass could be recycled locally, saving on energy, and the need to convert more sand.
      – Or, other uses for the tons of glass now going to waste at most landfills and transfer stations- like grinding it for use in paving; why not develop building materials like blocks or pavers from it? Or… use your imagination to fill in the blank.
      – Fund a study on how much electricity could be saved if half the single-family homes in the US planted appropriate windbreaks, shade trees, and foundation plantings to help cool the homes in summer and reduce heat loss in winter.
      – and the list could go on…

      Having ‘too much’ money, or more than someone thinks you might need is really about mindset, isn’t it? Primitive living (not intended as a put down) can be much more comforable and not as back-breakingly difficult as many think (though effort is required), but it is many steps too far for most people. (It’s awesome how Hughes and his group avoid judging people who are at a different place!) Yet the modern lifestyle need not be the ecological disaster it is – if goods and services were not provided with a ‘profit at all costs’ approach. Many people would like to know how to live their lives with less of a negative impact on the environment, and their health, but don’t know how – or think they can’t afford to. Many others are yet unaware of just how much energy was used, or rainforest destroyed, or toxins produced to make and bring them nearly everything they touch every day. Or how many toxins they are exposing themselves and their familes to by having those things in their homes (paint, wallboard from recovered flyash, carpet, upholstry, carpet padding, furniture cushions, pressed wood furniture, vinyl flooring and shower curtians, etc). OR that there are ecologically sound alternatives to every one of these things.

      Maybe one of the challenges of the Information Age is how to get the word out to people while they are daily being bombarded with misinformation and advertising.

      Anyway… love what you are doing with this site!

    10. […] shares many aspects of his lifestyle, that he refers to as ‘necessary simplicity’, in this excellent podcast, which I invite anyone to make the time for.  In fact, I wrote this post to help spread his […]

    11. […] that in this gargantuan task of transforming climate perspectives into intrapersonal perspectives, Ethan Hughes and the Possibility Alliance are true north. These role models are utilizing hermeneutics in combating patriarchy and climate change by […]

    12. […] that in this gargantuan task of transforming climate perspectives into intrapersonal perspectives, Ethan Hughes and the Possibility Alliance are true north. These role models are utilizing hermeneutics in combating patriarchy and climate change by […]

    13. […] Possibility alliance and Ethan Hughes’s interview on the permaculture podcast […]

    14. […] Now, I must admit that I was inspired to write this after listening to an amazing podcast with Ethan Hughes. […]

    15. […] While the future is unclear, I think we need all our brains working on it.  I am glad to be doing my little part of trying to live more sustainably.  It’s a work in progress and I’m not sure how it will grow and change as I figure it out but I definitely like not spoiling pristine water with my own waste products, using less energy with LEDs, driving and eating less than I used to, and learning more about supporting my local community.  I heard a really good podcast on sustainability from Ethan at the Possibility Alliance that has become a new challenge to me.  I’ll keep you posted as I figure out more. […]

    16. […] Ethan Hughes talks about how the third principle of permaculture, ‘fair share’ used to be called ‘limits create abundance’. How when we pare back to necessities and seek low-technology, local solutions, instead of lack we find abundance because money and energy is freed up to flow to what is important. If I had rented for the last two years like a ‘normal’ person, I might not have the option of buying now. My journey of living in various permutations of community was also personally valuable to me, and it has greatly informed the way I want to set up my new home. […]

    17. September 4, 2017    

      I’ve listened to Ethan a dozen times and just love the message and the “possibilities” of a whole world like this. Love it my brother. How do we expand your alliance to Australia? I’m in 🙂

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