3D illustration of a calendar showing the day of elections

The US Election: Inspiration for Instigation

Editor Note: The topic of these articles is the environmental aspect, as the President elect of the United States of America – Who was voted in accordingly to the laws of that country – has made a number of comments on the topics of climate change and the environment, these are relevant to the Permaculture movement as it impacts the overall framework of the work we do and the systems we put into place.

As the election results pour in, news outlets globally are ready to report (1) (2). It’s just one country, but it seems for whatever reason that many people believe our fate is tied up with that of the USA.

America is an eerie society. It seems to want to live on a dust bowl. But as one of your own Indians said, “If you shit in bed, you’ll surely smother in it.”

Bill Mollison (3)

What does the election result mean for the other human societies around the world? What are the possible connotations for the global environment? And how can we from the perspective of permaculture, as a tool for positive societal change, react?

What’s happening?

The winner of the 2016 presidential campaign has turned out to be Donald J Trump (1), a businessman, TV producer and regular appearer in court (4). As someone who is supposedly representing the people of the country in their quest to thrive, he can be seen as either laughably inadequate or a potentially eerie symbol of US society. If the former, it seems important to note the idea that the job of a president, especially a high-profile one, may not actually be to wield power but to draw attention away from it (5).

One surprising result of today’s election was that the Republican party have gained the majority in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate (1), meaning that the US government is now majority Republican and as such theoretically is more likely to go along with Trump’s policies.

A black sky enclosed by a big, big wall

However, since these include proposed actions which even members of the Republican party have distanced themselves from, such as starting a database of all Muslims in the USA (6), increasing surveillance of mosques (6), and the infamous “big, beautiful wall” which Trump plans to build on the border between the USA and neighbouring country Mexico (7) (8), there still seems to be a lot of uncertainty about whether or not these plans will go ahead.

While the Muslim database and the wall would cause a lot of inconvenience for many citizens of the state, perhaps more concerning on a global scale are Trump’s energy policies. A glance at the Trump campaign website at first seems to show some concern for the environment:

“Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water”. (9)

Such a statement can be seen to be in line with permaculture; the USA has a lot of land which could be used to create solar and wind energy, and thousands of miles of coastline giving potential for wave energy. In Britain, the potential for renewable energy has been mapped out by the Zero Carbon Britain group (10) which has published a detailed report for how the country can switch over completely to zero-carbon energy sources by 2030 (11). Since Britain is much smaller than the United States the latter could probably embark on a similar path.

However, Trump seems to be leaning in a different direction; his vision centres on his plan to

“Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in ‘clean’ coal reserves”. (12)

Such quotes can seem depressing in their lack of consistency. How can Trump claim to protect clean air and clean water if he is unleashing fossil fuels into it? And why did he get so many votes with such clear lack of integrity? Yet now more than ever it is important to remember that at the heart of permaculture practise we understand that the problem is the solution. Perhaps Trump’s outrageously environmentally damaging behaviour will be so extreme that it will be the cause of a new wave of people acting for themselves and for the planet.

People for change?

Probably one of the ways in which Trump’s ‘unleashing’ would happen is with the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline planned to span 1,170 miles across the states of North Dakota and Illinois (13) which has caused controversy worldwide as its planned course runs next to some Native American tribes (13). Trump has invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the operators of this pipeline, and its CEO donated to his presidential campaign (13). Now he is the president-elect, will the pipeline be more likely to go ahead?

Dakota Access Pipe Line, Central Iowa. Source Wiki.
Dakota Access Pipe Line, Central Iowa. Source Wiki.

…Not necessarily. It is already the subject of controversy around the world and thousands of people are camped at the pipeline site in protest (13). Trump being elected may well raise the profile of the campaign rather than halting it.

Indeed, the very easy-to-ridicule nature of Trump’s character – from his giant wall plan to keep immigrants out (coming from a man whose grandparents were from Scotland and Germany) (14) to his tweet that climate change is a ‘Chinese hoax’ (15)- could seemingly be the instigator of much positive societal change. Some of his views seem so detrimental to flourishing life, and the potential threat of him putting them into action is now so real, that the incentive is here more than ever for people to join together and do what they feel is right, regardless of what any politician appears to be up to.

Turning inwards

This could be in large public actions such as the Stop Dakota Pipeline campaign (see for example 16). Much of what has raised the profile of the pipeline is the fact that it will pass through ‘sacred’ Native American lands and potentially poison ‘sacred’ waters. The giant wall across the US-Mexico border, should it ever come to exist, would cut right through the land which has already been divided of the Tohono O’odham and other tribes which also see the land as sacred and therefore would be violating their rights (as the current border is now) (17). This argument, though highly relevant, misses the point to some extent. As the letter usually attributed to Chief Seattle puts it,

“Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us.”
(18)

This view is shared by ancient societies and current tribes around the world (19). It is not just one particular piece of land which is sacred, though by sacrilising it we can add practically relevant properties which can help us in our own lives. It is all land; the entire Earth, and everything in it.

Practical steps

Ancient tribes have been moved around for generations but if they have a strong enough culture they can re-generate wherever they find themselves, as long as they have the earth and the sky. One example is the Wixarika of present-day Mexico, whose culture has been going unbroken for 5000 years in spite of their being moved away from their desert homeland into the mountains. They simply adapted to make the mountains sacred as well as the desert (20).

It may seem like a small, or even irrelevant, but if we do not do the same then we are always vulnerable to being carried more by human words than by the rhythms of the Earth. One of the main inspirations for the development of permaculture came from Mollison and Holmgren studying the most resilient societies of our planet to find out what they were doing right (21) and we can continue to take inspiration from this.

However we do this – metaphorically within ourselves, socially within our communities, physically with the land itself or all of the above, then we can become much stronger and able to deal with such potential environmental crises as may or may not occur under a Trump presidency. Trump may be one of the most wealthy men on Earth but he is wealthy in money only.

You want a definition of wealth from Eskimos, the Inuit? Wealth is a deep understanding of the natural world.

Bill Mollison (3)

Now seems a better time than ever to heed the above words of Bill Mollison. We are unique in that our ‘tribe’ spans across many continents and is linked not only by our love of and co-operation with the systems around us, but also by our global technology.

The presidential election results may be heralding the start of a new culture in the USA, or they may merely be the ushering in of a new puppet, fodder for tomorrow’s tabloids. Either way it is a great inspiration to us to be strong in our own, multi-faceted, unique culture.

References

• ABC News, 2016. ‘US Election Live’. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-08/us-election-trump-pulls-ahead-of-clinton-live/8006596

• Alexander, Lawler, Sherlock, 2016. ‘Donald Trump set for US election victory in America’s Brexit’. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/donald-trump-set-for-us-election-victory-in-americas-brexit/

• AtKisson, A, 1991 (1996). ‘Permaculture: Design for Living’. Making it Happen: The Context Institue. http://www.context.org/iclib/ic28/mollison/

• Penzanstadler, Page, 2016. ‘Exclusive: Trump’s 3,500 lawsuits unprecedented for a presidential nominee’. USA Today, 1/6/16. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/06/01/donald-trump-lawsuits-legal-battles/84995854/

• Adams, D, 1979. The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Pan: London

• Hillyard, V, 2016. ‘Trump says he would certainly implement Muslim database’. NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/trump-says-he-would-certainly-implement-muslim-database-n466716

• Lopez, Kahn, 2016. ‘Donald Trump’s ‘big, beautiful wall’ with Mexico isn’t popular in Southwest US’. Business Insider, 23/10/16. http://www.businessinsider.com/r-a-waste-of-money-trumps-border-wall-falling-flat-in-arizona-reutersipsos-poll-2016-10

• Donald J Trump, 2016. ‘Policies: Immigration’.

• Zero Carbon Britain, 2016. ‘About ZCB’. http://zerocarbonbritain.com/en/zcb-about

• Zero Carbon Britain, 2016. ‘ First Report: Zero Carbon Britain 2030’. Available as a PDF here: http://zerocarbonbritain.com/images/pdfs/zerocarbonbritain.pdf

• Donald J Trump, 2016. ‘Policies: Energy’.

• Dakota Access Pipeline Facts, 2016. ‘About’. http://www.daplpipelinefacts.com/

• Milman, O, 2016. ‘Dakota Access pipeline company and Donal Trump have close financial ties’. Guardian, 26/10/16. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/oct/26/donald-trump-dakota-access-pipeline-investment-energy-transfer-partners

• Blair, Gwenda, 2001. The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a Presidential Candidate (1st ed.). Simon & Schuster: New York City.

• Griffin, A, 2016. Donald Trump not deleting climate change denial tweets, despite ‘Chinese hoax’ global warming claims’. Independent, 27/9/16. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-not-deleting-climate-change-denial-tweets-despite-chinese-hoax-global-warming-claims-a7332396.html

• Rezpect Our Water, 2016. ‘What We Stand For’. http://rezpectourwater.com/

• Democracy Now! 2014. ‘Caught in the Crossfire: Us-Mexico Border Militarization Threatens Way of Life of Native Tribes’. Available on Youtube here.

• Chief Seattle (attributed), probably 1852. ‘Letter to the President of the United States, 1852’. http://www.ascensionnow.co.uk/chief-seattles-letter-to-the-american-president-1852.html

• Campbell, J, 1959. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Griffin: New York City

• Haworth, C, 2015. ‘Sacred Spaces’/ Abundance Garden, 3/3/15. https://abundancedancegarden.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/sacred-spaces/

• Mollison, B, Holmgren, D, 1978. Permaculture One. Tagari: Tasmania.

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23 thoughts on “The US Election: Inspiration for Instigation

  1. I believe that part of Permaculture is to educate and change minds. Working in our towns, and cities to change zoning laws to get rid of lawns, allow small farm animals and birds, and to work at getting rid of monocropping, corporate farms, bad farm policies. I have been working with my coworkers on encouraging them to grow something and to bring the excess to work and share. I now need to work in my township at changing their rules against birds and small farm animals. I feel more confident with the new township supervisor this is possible. Our land will not be able to continue to produce with the pouring on of petro chemical fertilizers much longer.

    1. It’s just a matter of effort and willpower – organize and get the job done! Everyone will applaud you for your insight and direction. I recommend documenting your work digitially and creating a social platform for your community to unite around permaculture industry and self-sufficiency.

    2. Wow ! Getting a ” little deep ” on your page isn’t it ? America had a tough choice in this election . Hillary’s corruption was epic ! Research her . Research what her ” charity ” The Clinton Foundation did to Haiti . What do think she would use her power as POTUS for ? She is a War Hawk . She allowed the sale of twenty percent of our uranium to Russia . I am sorry we disappointed you by rejecting her corruption . And as I posted earlier on another post you had . She is no friend of the Earth ! I hope we Americans show more respect for your country . Yes , Trump has been rude and crude . But given the choice of Hillary’s corruption , he looks good . To simplify researching her Google : Hillary Clinton Unlikable , The Clinton Chronicles and Clinton Cash . Go to YouTube and watch videos of her lying . Watch videos of her having seizures . How could we support her corruption ? How could we unleash her on the World ? Thankfully we didn’t ! Prayerfully Trump will rise to the office . How about some prayers, not condescending judgement . I thought Permaculture was an idea that was above this . I didn’t realize Mollison viewed us Americans as such an eerie people who wallow in our feces . And thank – you for being rude and crude enough to post it ! So much for Permaculture being a uniting force among countries ! And God willing we will not be wallowing in feces with our new President . But gee thanks for your opinion that we defecated in our bed , by rejecting Hillary’s corruption !

      1. Well said Patricia. I have become a strong and enthusiastic supporter of this and other permaculture sites and am a firm believer in the movement. I’m getting more than a little annoyed that so much recent media hype concentrating on politics. I hope we get back to permaculture basics and show by example and not continue as another one of the lame stream media outlets that refused to address all the negative outcomes that would overshadow what is being projected about Trump. America has made and continues to make many environmental/ecological errors in my opinion and I hope that we can change them. I don’t think Hillary would have helped unless it was to her financial advantage. Trump is not perfect either by a long shot but all this jumping the gun and negative predictions don’t sound helpful. The man at least deserves an equal amount of time that Obama had and I’m confident that he won’t do any worse. Also keep in mind other issues that deal with crucial facets of a country besides fracking. Thank you for speaking up.

    3. Recently this site asked, “As a movement, should permaculture be involved in politics or should we try to stay out of politics?” It’s a very hard question to answer. Working to change bad zoning laws is a good thing to support on the local level; but making lawns illegal is more government intrusion and less and less freedom for the individual. The environmental movement has been hijacked by those pressing Agenda 21 on us. Don’t be fooled. As you are attempting to do at work, winning the hearts and minds of people there is the better way to go. Although we admire and respect the aboriginal people’s regard for the earth, private ownership of property is needed for a modern democracy to work. Work toward minimum government control, maximum freedom for the individual and equal justice under the law for everyone.

      1. Agreed Wanda. Politics are a necessary evil at different levels and degrees but I think recent posts on this site have been putting way too much emphasis on them. They sound way too familiar in light of recent months of all of the distasteful political advertisements that have been filling our days.

  2. Permaculture concept helps a lot worldwide, saving the earth and human; not planting bombs which ruins mother nature and killing old and youngs losing future– hoping that this is not an American dream.

  3. I am rather disappointed at the political bias and slant being expressed in this article. Rather disappointed indeed. I trust permaculturenews.org – but this seems off color.

    1. Agreed. Recently, these posts seem to have a strong influence similar to what we have been subjected to in U.S. media. I hope they return to permaculture and avoid trying to become another leftist social media complaint.

  4. Well, nothing really changes for permaculture activists, US was still a corporate oligarchy under Obama, recall when Mrs Obama built her organic garden on the Whitehouse lawn, how she was pressured by pesticide companies to roll over for them. Hilary Clinton’s foundation was being funded by the junk food industry to change the Democrat’s healthy eating campaign to address obesity into a “get more exercise” campaign and to drop the soda tax, over $10M in donation from Coca Cola corporation saw to that!

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/18/white-house-organic-garden.aspx
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/26/soda-sugar-public-health.aspx

    For the permaculture movement, it’s business as usual, continue implementing positive solutions, educating the public and leading by example as we’ve always done, and don’t get caught up in the nasty divisive politics (especially the type that we’re seeing more of from the fundamentalist authoritarian left camp) that separates people by race, gender or whatever other category. Permaculture is inclusive and respectful of diversity, whatever people’s political leanings are, what unites us all is that we’re all humans living on planet Earth, which we need to care for to ensure we all survive together. A house divided amongst itself falls…

  5. The topic of these articles is the environmental aspect, as the President elect of the United States of America – Who was voted in accordingly to the laws of that country – has made a number of comments on the topics of climate change and the environment, these are relevant to the Permaculture movement as it impacts the overall framework of the work we do and the systems we put into place.
    This is not weighing in on a political debate, presenting biased information or an acceptance of the recent notmypresident movement. We are not endorsing, or debating the benefits of one candidate over another. As the decision of who will be the next president has been made, we are publishing content about what that person has indicated they intend to do. We are not here to speculate a “what if” situation of the other candidate winning, this person did win and this person has made a number of statements in relation to the environment.
    The world has not ended, we still continue to put one foot in front of the other on our journey, taking in what we observe, both on the ground around us and what we learn in the cyber world. We lead by example and demonstrate the benefits of Permaculture Design.

    1. The earlier comments posted by PRI of Australia seemed to have a definite and much stronger political slant to the left. This one seems a little more moderate. Can we please get away from the political aspect now and concentrate more on topics that made this such an outstanding site in the past?

    1. The topic of these articles is the environmental aspect, as the President elect of the United States of America – Who was voted in accordingly to the laws of that country – has made a number of comments on the topics of climate change and the environment, these are relevant to the Permaculture movement as it impacts the overall framework of the work we do and the systems we put into place.
      This is not weighing in on a political debate, presenting biased information or an acceptance of the recent notmypresident movement. We are not endorsing, or debating the benefits of one candidate over another. As the decision of who will be the next president has been made, we are publishing content about what that person has indicated they intend to do. We are not here to speculate a “what if” situation of the other candidate winning, this person did win and this person has made a number of statements in relation to the environment.
      The world has not ended, we still continue to put one foot in front of the other on our journey, taking in what we observe, both on the ground around us and what we learn in the cyber world. We lead by example and demonstrate the benefits of Permaculture Design.

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