The Permaculture Podcast

    1801 – Wilson Alvarez on Biomimicry, Landcare, and The Reintegration Project

    How did animals and people influence the landscape for hundreds of thousands, and even millions of years, before the rise of civilization?


    Click here to download the episode. | Open Player in New Window

    That question provides the framework for Wilson Alvarez and his current work, The Reintegration Project, which examines the prehistoric ecosystem engineers of the Eastern United States as a way to understand how permaculture practitioners and rewilders can use biomimicry to replicate those influences and restore the landscape.

    To dig into this question and the solutions he’s found, Wilson shares his thoughts on harmonic disturbance; functional extinction; taxon vs. mechanical substitution as two different approaches to land management for conversation rewilding; and how to bolster the ecosystem by planning for correct disturbances of the correct size at the correct time.

    As one of my teachers, colleagues, and friends this interview with Wilson has less structure as we didn’t need an introduction to get started so we just started talking, with the interview beginning with an explanation of the idea of niche construction.

    To find out more about Wilson and his work as a permaculture practitioner and rewilder, listen to our earlier interviews:

    1347 Restoring Eden with Wilson Alvarez and Ben Weiss
    1405 Listener Questions on Zone 4 Permaculture with Wilson Alvarez and Ben Weiss
    1411 – Rewilding with Wilson Alvarez and Ben Weiss

    I’d also like to say that for anyone in the Mid-Atlantic the Horn Farm Center is an incredible resource for anyone interested in Agriculture, Permaculture, and Rewilding. Jon Darby, who appeared in the first group discussion of the podcast many years ago (Part 1) (Part 2), is the education director there and focuses on offering classes in these areas, often with Wilson as a lead instructor. Check out the events page and see if there is anything might be of interest to you.

    My conversations with Wilson always restore some of my hope that we can achieve a number of our ecological, landscape, and management goals because of the way he provides practical, replicable advice on how to tackle the hard issues facing us.  He continually develops ways to face the difficult tasks of working on the edges to manage the landscape and to do so with simple tools.

    Though there are some ethical and legal issues we’ll probably need to discuss at some point before taking these practices to the required landscape scale, right now you can use the four ecosystems engineers that Wilson shared today — the beaver, wolf, elephant, and wild human — and look for similar prehistoric landscape changers in your area and how they impacted the land and begin applying the mechanical disturbances they did, now, where you are.

    If, after listening to this episode you dive into the research of your local ecological engineers, I’d love to hear what you find and the ways they created disturbances.

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    From here the next interview is my conversation with Michael Judd on Natural Burials.

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    1. BillBill
      January 25, 2018    

      This is brilliant information. Thank you.

      • January 25, 2018    

        You’re welcome Bill.

        I would like to have Wilson back on to expand on this conversation. Please leave a comment here or email me: if you have any questions you would like included in a future conversation.

    2. JoakimJoakim
      January 30, 2018    

      Hi Scott!
      This episode was eye-opening for me and really came at the right moment for me. I’m very interested in hearing more about this topic, and learning about the toolkit for ecosystem restoration he talks about, that individuals can use.
      The reason I’m asking is that I’m working for Nature & Youth Sweden and I have been looking for a way to arrange activities around ecosystem regeneration (because that is the fight of our generation as Wilson says).
      Is there anywhere I can find any part of this toolkit, or is it not released anywhere?
      Thanks a lot Scott 🙂

      • January 31, 2018    

        Hi Joakim,

        Wilson continues to develop the toolkit based on his ongoing experiences at Horn Farm Center. The majority of the ideas behind the toolkit, however, are explored in the interview: to look at the creators of disturbance in your bioregion that existed before civilization and to mechanically mimic the changes they created on the land. One example would be the now extinct wooly mammoth, which had a range in Sweden. Knowing that you could work on creating disturbances by pushing over trees and thus encourage the niche creation for regeneration.



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