Monday, November 9, 2009
a vision of a better world
today we began our initiation into the world of permaculture. it was an incredibly powerful experience. we began with a sacred fire being lit in the ancient way, with a bow and sticks and tinder. into this sacred fire we sent an invocation to our ancestors, to all the people who have come before us and paved the way to be here. we were reminded that the teachings we are here to learn, although they have only been taught in this format for twenty five years, are actually ancient wisdom, widely known by ancient societies all over the world, and just now being put together into one complete philosophical framework for creating a healthy human relationship with the earth. after this invocation, we went to our beautiful outdoor classroom to begin our learning. as our teachers spoke, i was struck by how familiar their teachings were to me, how closely they aligned with my feelings and my internal sense of what is right. i realized today that although ive never worked the land before, although i know very little about plants and animals, the real essence of permaculture, what it means to live in harmony with the earth, is something i know a lot about. we learned a lot of distressing facts today, and also some very hopeful ones. we learned that there are 22,000 known species of edible plant on this planet, and that of all of those, we currently cultivate about 1,500 for 99.9% of our calorie intake, with 90% coming from only ten or twelve species. we learned that the soil in the american midwest was measured in yards when the europeans started farming there, often three or four yards deep, and that now it is scarcely a few inches thick due to soil erosion. we covered the long list of environmental crises facing our planet, and recognized that in reality they are one set of interelated problems, all connected. this is why permaculture is absolutely necessary if we want to continue to live on this planet. we must begin now to regenerate the earth. using permaculture design, it is possible to improve the health of an ecosystem far beyond what it could acheive naturally, especially in ecosystems that have been extensively damaged by human actions. our teacher told us that if we employed permaculture on all land currently being farmed, we could grow the caloric equivalent of all the food we grow now on 1.5% of the land, and it would be far more nutritious and far more diverse. we could restore lost biodiversity and create ecosystems that fully support human life and animal life and plant life and microbial life all together, all flourishing in abundance. its not even that hard. the principles of permaculture design are simple and easy to learn. the possible effects are literally changing the face of the planet, and the future we leave for our descendants.