Recently I was interviewed by Jen Wilton, a UK journalist and researcher, on the subject of degrowth. What follows is the transcript of our phone interview, originally posted here.
Q: What would a degrowth society look like?
SA: A lot of mainstream environmentalism still clings to the idea that we can dematerialise our ways of living without giving up what is essentially an affluent consumer lifestyle. One of the provocations the degrowth movement offers is whether true sustainability, one planet living, actually implies a rejection of the affluent consumer way.
Degrowth distinguishes itself from some of the philosophies of voluntary simplicity (VS) that have come out of the US in particular. VS in its first phase was an attempt to reduce consumption from within the capitalist way of life. Degrowth recognises that downshifting or living simply within growth, capitalist structures isn’t going to solve many of our problems and it tends to be limited to a privileged few.
Different models for creatively delivering the standard 72 hour Permaculture Design Course (PDC) curriculum have surfaced over the years to better equip the student for the life long learning journey that permaculture inspires and demands. I have always wanted to move toward a longer term, hands on mentoring PDC where students are immersed in a thriving farm setting in small groups. This happened last year at our family’s Casitas Valley Farm and will happen again this summer.
How does this month-long permaculture Design Course and Farm Apprenticeship look like with myself and over twenty guest facilitators at Casitas Valley Farm from July 5th to August 2nd, 2015? Here is the thumbnail list of subjects that make up our curriculum for the twelve students we accept into the program:
A multi-species, leader follower grazing system has recently been implemented here at the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI). Multi-species grazing has been shown to improve pasture quality, control weed growth, and enhance pasture utilization (getting the most out of every blade of grass). All of these are achieved while increasing the carrying capacity, enabling more animals to thrive off the same plot of land, continuing the cycle of land restoration. This style has been added into the already productive rotational grazing system currently thriving at PRI. The rotational method was originally employed to prevent a common problem for most farmers known as overgrazing while maintaining the property. The overgrazing of animals is one of the biggest challenges we face in animal agriculture.
Overgrazing can be caused by the overstocking of animals, too many, or under-stocking, too few. Overstocking usually extracts too much from the land and prevents proper regeneration of pasture before the feeding animals return. Under-stocking works differently, and takes a longer period of time generally. The process is pretty simple, the grazing animal eats its favorite food for as long as it can. If too few animals are on a paddock, only the favorite food will be consumed until ultimately it is reduced to a insignificant portion of the pasture. As nature does, this favorite is replaced by a less appealing plant based on selection pressure from the cows, sheep, goats, whatever your animal may be. Eventually the plants not eaten by the grazing animal will be the only ones left. The pasture diversity and health have now been significantly reduced without ever being consumed at an extravagant rate. A very easy way to avoid the understocked problem is to finish mow an area whenever the grazing period has ended. Overgrazing can and will ultimately lead to desertification as the end result of continual land degradation. This all too common problem can be avoided simply by the proper management of animal systems.
Green-minded architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account “all children, all species, for all time.”
William starts out by describing the design of a child toy duck that has the warning – This product contains chemicals known by the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
He then turns to trees and asks the audience to imagine this design assignment – Something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distils water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro climates, changes colours with the seasons and self replicates.
Williams tempers the TED Talk with a positive point for each negative point raised.
Tips and case-studies for re-vegetating and pioneering large system.
Live-stake cuttings are a type of hardwood cutting taken from mature, woody material from certain deciduous tree and shrubs that root very easily.
Live-stakes cuttings are generally taken during a period of dormancy (AKA winter), with the long stake material being “staked” directly into the ground where they will grow long term.
A rucksack full of cutting, ready to be planted.
Because of being relatively inexpensive to use and simple to install under the appropriate conditions, live stake propagation is commonly used in large scale ecological restoration and ecological engineering (using ecological principles or living organisms to achieve engineering related goals).
In Windward’s case, we’ve been employing live-staking to pioneer multi-functional hedgerows, and provide quick soil building wind breaks for developing ecological agriculture systems.
They say that if you do a PDC course you are undergoing a big change in your life. And we couldn’t agree more.
Even a little before we did the actual PDC course, while we were already inspired by permaculture principles, workshops in agroforestry with Ernest Gotsch, a visit to the forest garden of Martin Crawford and many videos of Geoff Lawton, we got ourselves a job as designers.
This is still our daily job, working in the vegetable garden of Areias do Seixo charm hotel, very near the cost of the atlantic ocean. To be more exact, one hour North of Lisbon in Portugal.
The already existing organic garden of the hotel needed new gardeners and that is where we came in. Although we had big plans since the beginning we felt that the implementation of our design should be blending in smoothly as the hotel was open and its visitors where frequently coming by to see what we where growing for the dinner.
“We never feed the plant. We feed the soils. Soils are the crucible of health from which all things spring.”
“It’s not the soil itself – it’s the soil life that is the most important element.”
– Geoff Lawton
We’ve all seen environmental problems highlighted everyday in the media. Now comes the solution. From the man who said,
“You can solve all the world’s problems in a garden”
comes Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Soils Film. 137 minutes of Permaculture soil creation strategies that really work! Even if you have never built a garden or got your hands dirty before, you will learn the secrets of real soil creation – partnering with the life in the Soil!
Geoff will take you through every step of the process and explain in detail how to do it yourself. From Compost creation to larger Kitchen Gardens and then to broad acre farming – this is the future of biological agriculture.
Do you think it is time to look at the world from a different perspective? Do you know what the problems facing humanity are but have no idea how and where and what to start with? Do you want to change your life to a more sustainable, self-sufficient and enjoyable experience? Or maybe you only want to learn about organic home food production, eco-friendly home design and construction, energy conservation and recycling, or water harvesting and management.
Well, a PDC, short for Permaculture Design Certificate course, is probably your best starting point. Now if you don’t know what Permaculture is in the first place, you can easily Google it and have many explanations of the word and practices involved, including permanent agriculture, or permanentculture, and the design of ecosystems to be productive while working with mother nature not against her, remembering that we need diversity to give more stability and resilience for the ecosystem we are designing and living in.
Now if you ask me, Permaculture is a way of life and the only solution to the problems facing the generations coming after us. We are part of the earth’s ecosystems, but we are the only species capable of endangering and destroying the ecosystems we depend on for our existence.
“The most severe problem we face in Jordan is water scarcity,” says Mohammed Ayesh of the country’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
“Most of our other problems stem from that – like food security, economic hardship, or the loss of biodiversity.”
Jordan is among the world’s three most water scarce nations, according to a recent UN report, and is situated in one of the most arid regions of the Middle East – with a population expected to double by 2050.
In addition, Jordan has assimilated many refugees from modern Middle Eastern conflicts, most recently taking in more than 628,000 Syrians.
Geoff Lawton talks “What you can do with Soil in a Desert“, supporting the Soil theme on this upcoming International Permaculture Day from The Greening the Desert Sequel Site in the Jordan Valley (PRI Jordan).