Phil Watt, Guest
Humanity has lost its connection to nature. We’re so bombarded with artificial imagery and ideals of superficial living that most of us think taking in an occasional sunset or going for a bush-walk is what it means to be united with our Mother Earth. These practices are wonderful, and very grounding, however they are temporary and don’t truly represent the holistic way we most naturally connect to the spirit of our world and the life that it breathes.
As a culture, we have become disconnected from our food. We have forgotten the cycles of natural systems. We are blind to the divine patterns found in nature. We have lost the innate wisdom of knowing our environment like the back of our heart, and knowing our place within it. Instead we have accepted urbanization of our civilization as ‘natural’. In cities we live in a cement jungle, on top of each other but isolated from each other and our natural environment. (In this context, the rise of social media technology is an ironic twist.)
But this is all by design; and the way in which we engage with our local community has been inhibited by the organizational systems that the majority of us subscribe to without question.
And for what? For a sense of security? Or a sense of community?
In reality, this way of living provides us neither. Disconnected, we have no idea where our food comes from, or where our garbage goes. Our security becomes dependent on the mechanisms of society, providing fuel to corporate and governmental power structures. Because of the State dependence nationalism and globalisation creates, our local communities no longer function as unified inter-related wholes, driving the sense of separation within communities and often leaving its members with few constructive common interactions — a crucial element in creating a sense of comm-unity.
And the result? We work to accept the unsustainable principle of perpetual economic growth, diligently accepting a life of 9 to 5 jobs we don’t even enjoy and willingly sacrifice our natural world to ensure the whole system continues, to the benefit of a small elite group of families.
Consumerism has harmed our collective and environmental well-being. Materialism has eroded our value systems and fueled a cultural existential crisis. Globalization has polluted our planetary and community health. Industrial agriculture is killing our ecological systems and failing to feed the population of earth.
There has to be other ways.
Well, there are. One is called permaculture. This age-old method of living cooperatively with nature is being embraced once again, leading communities toward a self-sustaining future of chemical-free agriculture.
Permaculture – What Is It and Why Is It Important?
Developed for the modern age by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970’s, permaculture has spread wildly throughout the world. The term initially meant ‘permanent agriculture’, however it evolved to also represent ‘permanent culture’.
Permaculture is a practice which can provide most of our resources locally, yet it’s more than just an agricultural practice — it starts with ethics. What is truly right for our individual, community and environmental health? How can we provide the basic needs of humanity whilst doing it in balance with nature?
Then it becomes a design science. Designing permaculture plots includes a process of surveying the local environment, identifying its patterns, decoding the inherent wisdom that it contains, and combining that and other knowledge with technological innovation to efficiently and effectively collaborate with natural systems to provide all the food, medicine, fibre and fuelthat we need. This not only ensures that we survive, but psychologically thrive.
So in a sense, permaculture is an art. It’s an expression of human ingenuity in its most glorious form because it’s the creation of a painting that reflects the way in which humans and nature become one. The external world is the canvas, human novelty is the paint and the human heart is the paintbrush. And no matter where we live on our planet, we can create a masterpiece.
Permaculture Ethics, Food and Communities
An interview with permaculture pioneer, Geoff Lawton.
Geoff is an expert in this growing field. Since the mid-nineties he has specialized in all things permaculture, including the education, design, implementation, system establishment, administration and community development of it across the world. He is a true leader in building a sustainable and healthy future for humanity.
In the video he moves through many aspects of permaculture, including its positive environmental, practical, cultural and philosophical impacts. He talks about the patterns of nature, the diversity of foods it can offer, the values it endorses, the quality of living it offers and the meaning and hope it can give to one’s life:
“It feels like that the meaningful, interesting, intense engagement that you get involved in, that’s very relative to you and your health … expands time. Now, wow! If you could bottle that up and sell it as a product it would be a best seller! That’s what this is. I mean, it has great purpose. And with our online course I get a lot of endorsements … (such as) you’ve changed my life; this has given me total meaning; this has put so much knowledge together I’ve already got in a format I can now engage in; I feel like there’s hope.”
Simply, that’s the progressive effect that permaculture can have on a society that is increasingly suffering.
The Way Forward?
Permaculture has conclusively shown that it can produce quality and sustainable results in any region on earth. It utilizes the local energy – such as water, solar, soil and biological – in the most productive ways possible. It can generate an abundance of resources in cold, hot, wet, dry and other challenging conditions. It has conquered the mountains, the plains, the jungle and the desert, without missing a beat.
This is exactly why permaculture is a system that can easily feed the entire population of the world. Permaculture incorporates the advancements made in sustainable and renewable technologies, while also honouring ancient technologies, such as natural building materials, and works with not against variations in local ecologies. Whilst doing so, it leaves no toxic trace, as it doesn’t require the environmentally damaging oil products that industrial agriculture relies on. It uses natural remedies to deal with the imbalances local to each area, such as flora and fauna pests.
Applying the principles of permaculture also integrate communities. Instead of going to a multinational supermarket to get your food, we go to our backyard and it pick it fresh to cook in our own kitchen, or trade for ingredients that our neighbours grow. All-inclusive community gardens can also be designed as a collective effort for those with limited space, which also serves as a social meeting place and a forum to teach each other and our kids not only what we’re eating, but how to grow and nurture it.
So with a permaculture approach applied on both an individual and community level, basically no one will go hungry and everyone will be adequately housed. There will be little social isolation. Problematic behaviours from disenfranchised adults and youth would decrease. Local economies, based in quality interactions, would thrive, as would the happiness of the people. And our natural systems would diversify and flourish too.
Quite simply, permaculture is a necessary long-term solution for so many of our problems.
As Geoff summarises beautifully, permaculture isn’t just good for the earth but good for the soul of humanity. It can provide the food and other physical resources we need, as well as the psychological and philosophical health resources too. It is a grass roots tool that empowers individuals and entire communities to help overcome a long list of problems that we collectively face.
“(Permaculture is) a connecting system … that’s incredibly valuable to get us out of the problems we’re in, in so many ways. The environment, the people, the social order; we will never have good social order until we design our way out this problem ourselves. No one’s coming to help us, we’re going to have to do this ourselves, together, everybody”.
About the Author
Exploring the edges of life, Phil is an ‘experience veteran’. His mantra is “Have a Crack at Life”.
Living in Sydney, Australia, Phil is best described as a ‘self-help guide’. He focuses on his own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and aims to share that with his clients. His written articles generally focus on ideology, society, adventure and self-help.
Working in the therapeutic sector, Phil assists families and children as a mentor, relationship mediator and health & life teacher. He also provides tailored programs for personal growth which are facilitated face-to-face, via email and over the phone. He also has a degree in Social Science & Philosophy and has been trained extensively in health services.
Please note: This article is part of the Redesigning Society series. Over the coming weeks, this series will present a range of expert perspectives on the current state of societal affairs, as well as the collective changes we desperately need both philosophically and practically. Details of upcoming and past guests and topics can be viewed here. You can subscribe to The Conscious Society Youtube Channel to get early access to each interview in the series.