As said in the introduction to this lecture held in spring 2011, Christopher Alexander has started a fire that keeps on burning, spread by the ‘wind’ throughout the world. But in the wake of this fire there’s no ash, but only beauty and true living structure. As in the new cosmology of Alexander, matter is not inert anymore — it has spirit, revealed in the field of centers. This means that beauty is seen as a fact of the wholeness found in nature and the universe.
Beauty is the manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever. — Goethe
These natural laws are not so secret anymore. Though Alexander in the beginning of his lecture says he has only taken the first initial steps toward our understanding of living structure, I believe in the end it will turn out that these steps were gigantic. If we survive as a civilization, something we can only do if we start creating living structures, not as something added on, but as the very core of a new civilization where nature and culture are one.
The evidence linking Alzheimer’s disease to the food industry is strong and growing.
by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.
When you raise the subject of over-eating and obesity, you often see people at their worst. The comment threads discussing these issues reveal a legion of bullies, who appear to delight in other people’s problems.
When alcoholism and drug addiction are discussed, the tone tends to be sympathetic. When obesity is discussed, the conversation is dominated by mockery and blame, though the evidence suggests that it can be driven by similar forms of addiction(1,2,3,4). I suspect that much of this mockery is a coded form of snobbery: the strong association between poor diets and poverty allows people to use this issue as a cipher for something else they want to say, which is less socially acceptable.
But this problem belongs to all of us. Even if you can detach yourself from the suffering caused by diseases arising from bad diets, you will carry the cost, as a growing proportion of the health budget will be used to address them. The cost – measured in both human suffering and money – could be far greater than we imagined. A large body of evidence now suggests that Alzheimer’s is primarily a metabolic disease. Some scientists have gone so far as to rename it. They call it diabetes type 3.
Preamble by Samuel Alexander: As spring dawns (in Australia), symbolising new life, it brings me great pleasure to announce the publication of Mark Burch’s The Simplicity Exercises: A Sourcebook for Simplicity Exercises. This special issue from the Simplicity Institute takes us in a new direction, moving beyond the analytical stage of defending simplicity and criticising growth-based, consumer-orientated economies, toward the recognition that our primary task now lies in actively promoting alternative ways of living through education, not simply research and analysis. While it remains necessary to critically analyse the global situation and describe and experiment with alternative ways of looking at the world, perhaps the most important task before us all today is to continue experimenting with alternative ways of living and being, and in The Simplicity Exercises Mark Burch provides a guiding light. Living simply in a consumer society isn’t easy, but it just got easier.
As outlined further below, this text is made up of many "workshop" type exercises and thought experiments which individuals and groups can work through at their own pace and in their own way. It will be particularly valuable to educators, but in so far as we are all students of simplicity, this text will be of immense value even outside formal or informal educational settings. Please take some time to browse this text and get a feel for its depth and insight. Based on several decades of educational experience, this is truly a major contribution to the literature paving the way to a new world. I offer Mark my most sincere congratulations for this extraordinary achievement. The Simplicity Exercises just might be the most important educational text on the planet today.
I’ve posted the introductory pages below (footnotes excluded) and the full 200-page text is freely available here (1.5mb PDF).
The Simplicity Exercises: a Sourcebook for Simplicity Educators
by Mark A. Burch
It probably sounds strange that anyone would need to learn how to live simply. The phrases “voluntary simplicity” or “simple living”, given our history of consumer culture indoctrination, imply that there’s nothing to it. Anyone can do this. What’s to learn?
Editor’s preclude: Just as with climate change, where we’re finding ourselves having to move from prevention to mitigation, I think permaculturists, who major in prevention of environmental and economic collapse, also need to build some of their skills in outright survival. In the future laid out before us, we never know when basic survival techniques may become critical lifelines in difficult times or for when natural disasters strike. Given that our governments are not only a root cause of these situations, but they’re also wholly inadequate to assist us in times of desperate need, personal preparedness is an appropriate response. As such, I thought I’d put up a small, initial post on the topic of survival techniques, which I hope will be the first of many such articles posted to this site, not just from myself, but also from some of our many international readers who have far more knowledge and skills to share in this area than I do — some valuable to all, and some more specific to their own bioregions. Such articles can cover every aspect of basic survival, from identifying edible and medicinal plants and roots, to techniques for the speedy building of emergency shelters, to navigation skills and dealing with injuries, and so on. Please send such posts, with photos, to editor (at) permaculture.org.au
A friend here in central Europe invited me to head out of town a little to camp out under the stars. Over the last several months he has been taking some interest in survival techniques, and so I thought I’d take the opportunity to get out of my swivel chair, get a little break in nature, whilst also getting a little material to share with you. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!)
So, latish yesterday afternoon, we packed up our kit and walked about 6 or 7kms out of town, through farmer’s fields and into the forest.
Building soil fertility in the humid tropics is a difficult project. Not only because the soil itself is thin, but due to the fact that below the fertile surface of leaf litter, rotting trees and decaying organic matter is a mineral and nutrient deficient zone of usually acidic clays called oxisols or, less commonly, utisols. With up to 90% of tropical forest biomass living within the plants and organic matter and only a paltry 10% occurring in the actual soil, protection and cultivation of soil is extremely important in sustaining fertility.
For many of our farm partners, like Federico, we’re rehabilitating slashed-and-burned lands that have been heavily leached of nutrients or are lacking the balance of minerals needed to allow plants access to important nutrients like phosphorous. One technique used extensively in tropical climates to take advantage of oxisols is the heavy application of lime or calcium carbonate to raise the soil pH and begin improving the soil structure and mineral availability for plants.
We would love to pump multiple metric tons of lime or calcium into the soil, but our distant location from traditional sources and concerns about mineral extraction practices makes large-scale delivery undesirable. But, our plants need their calcium. What to do?
Editor’s Note: We’ve covered a little of Polly Higgin’s important work before (see here and here). If you’re not already familiar with Polly’s work, I would strongly encourage you to check out the web pages and videos linked to below, as well as our aforementioned pieces. Permaculturists dream of whole earth restoration, but our efforts, whilst essential, are, if I may, largely piecemeal. The reason for this is that for every positive step someone makes, an industry or government does, or allows, something significantly more destructive to take place that more than overshadows it. We will never break out of this destructive cycle unless we make environmental destruction illegal, and hold the people responsible accountable. As you are able, please support Polly’s work. If you cannot donate, please at least do what you can to share and circulate this page.
I have something I would like to share with you. Today myself and my team have reached zero. The pot is now bare and our funding resources are in urgent need of replenishing. In the past year your donations of over £200,000 funded my and my team’s work; we planted some incredible seeds in the run up to the Rio Earth Summit. Out of that we have had some wonderful successes; in the past year alone we have held a mock Ecocide Trial in the UK Supreme Court, the University of London launched their Ecocide Project, I have travelled to countries and spoken on many platforms,I launched my second book Earth is our Business, I have been awarded Overall Champion by the PEA awards, I have started a training programme for others to learn how to become a Voice for the Earth and I have submitted a concept paper, Closing the door to dangerous industrial activity to all government’s around the world. All this has been done with the help of your money and without it none of this would have been at all possible.
Yesterday we held an emergency meeting; despite the enormous efforts of our fundraiser over the past few months we have been unable to raise more than a few thousand pounds. We are looking squarely at the future and we see enormous opportunity to take forward all that I have already achieved; just think how close we are to making this law a reality.
Everything we do is governed by permaculture ethics; people care, earth care and fair share. Ecocides occur when we take far more than our fair share, which affects both our people and our Earth. To ensure we live within our planetary limits, a law of Ecocide creates a legal framework that can ensure we all live in peaceful enjoyment.
Regular readers will know we are doing what we can to support Vandana Shiva‘s "Occupy the Seed" campaign, running between 2 — 16 October, 2012. This worthy "Seed Freedom Fortnight of Action" is a call to respect and liberate the world’s seeds and to maximise their diversity — their being the very basis of our existence, and an absolute wonder of biological ‘magic’ in their own right. On Wednesday September 5th, as an act of solidarity of purpose between the Permaculture Research Institute and Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya Network (an organisation that has to date successfully conserved more than 5000 crop varieties), Geoff and Vandana talked together on how we can recreate a more successful and healthy world through increased diversity, in contrast to the systematic biodiversity loss currently seen through the reductionist systems of Big Agri. Take a watch, and be sure to get involved!
This article and research proposal were initially inspired by reading Eric Toensmeier’s article User-Generated Food Forest Resource is Online, encouraging food forest gardeners to contribute to this expanding database, and the discussion ensuing from Angelo Eliade’s article on Perennial Plants and Permaculture, among others, debating the planting of annuals versus the planting of perennials, as well as, I have to say, a personal obsession about food forests and perennial food plants in general.
I have also been concerned by many comments in discussions about needing to continue with our annual grains. I wish to add some perspectives to these matters as a nutritionist, counselor, herbalist and naturopath, specialising in the use of food as a medicine, whether preventative medicine or otherwise, and to propose a research project that I hope will provide a furtherance of our permaculture goals.
Editor’s Note: I think there should be a law against not keeping campaign promises…. And for those voting in the upcoming U.S. elections, don’t forget — they lie.
This week, OCA launched a SignOn petition asking Michelle Obama to tell the President it’s high time he honored his campaign promise to label GMOs. We don’t know if Mrs. Obama or the President will do the right thing, but we do know this: If we can get 200,000 signatures, we will hand deliver this petition to the White House. And we’ll make sure we have plenty of media on hand to record the event.
Why does this petition matter? We want to generate awareness of — and support for — Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. We want to publicly remind President Obama of two things: First, that more than 90% of Americans — the people who elected him President — want GMOs labeled. Second, that in 2007, he made this promise:
How many of us have ever felt challenged by attempting to sum up permaculture into a 30 second ‘elevator speech’? What about a thirty minute talk? One hour? It seems like the longer you have to talk about permaculture the easier it gets. Perhaps that is because permaculture covers such a wide verity of disciplines and subjects that the elevator speech just can’t do it justice. But, try keeping that up for a full 72-hour PDC and, it doesn’t matter how many subjects you are able to cover, how knowledgeable you are, or how much depth you are able to go into on any particular topic, if all you do is talk… you’ll have lost the audience, and with it the opportunity to inspire, before you’ve even begun to get to the good bits.
Teaching permaculture should never be a chore for either the student or the teacher. And believe me if you have never tried, talking for 6 – 8 hours a day about anything is just plain hard work. I recommend taking a break from all that hard work and exercise a little permaculture design on your permaculture design course.
Curious what goes on at the PRI Zaytuna Farm? If you live close to the farm, or are passing by, you're welcome to book yourself on a farm tour (Wednesdays at 11am only). Contact the farm manager and we'll see you soon.
We will take a minimum of 3 people at $35 p/p (groups of less than 3 adults are $50 p/p). Large groups please call to discuss pricing (at least 48 hours prior required).