Driving less, using public transportation, riding a bike, avoiding single-use plastic, buying local, turning lights off, mowing less, tiny homes, throwing away less ‘trash’ and eating fresh are easy ways to reduce your footprint as a world citizen. As a U.S. citizen, we are accustomed to consuming three times more of everything than other people in most countries per capita. In Nebraska, reducing our rate of consumption can be the most impactful way to clean our local environment and fulfill our duty as a responsible world citizen: one who does not pollute air and waterways. In this chapter, please join me in exploring how permaculture reconnects humanity to nature through compassionate stewardship of earth’s biodiversity.
Now that the Olympics are over, I cannot help but feel quite inadequate with my daily achievements. I remind myself that I am very proud of my desire to make small footprints as an individual. I do not intend to detract from the Olympian’s desire to taste gold, but rather I would simply like to make a case for moderation, minimalism and, more importantly, the desire to tread lightly as a consumer in daily living. I invite you to please be an example for your family, friends, coworkers and neighbors to value these practices as a way to save more than just the polar bears.
This may not totally surprise you, but permaculture is environmentalism. Permaculture is modern humans’ best foot forward to feed, clothe, heat and shelter people throughout the world in the most ecologically-conscious ways. Combining efforts to conserve nature and nurturing the instinct toward naturally improving our soils will benefit all of earth’s living creatures. For these reasons, permaculture is becoming popular as a way to grow food effortlessly for our crowded population centers. For this to work effectively, we must reintroduce the knowledge of nature to our city populations. I do not think I am creating controversy by stating urban centers are places that generally lack an understanding of how nature brings food to our tables. This must change.
Before express transportation, food was raised and grown in our cities. Before the age of oil, sustainable crops like hemp or bamboo were grown around city centers to provide textiles, building materials, medicine, soil fertility and water clarification. Now, combinations of mowed grass, concrete, steel and mirrored glass are considered the only media worthy of city landscapes. Now, the last expanses of prairies and forests are being razed to grow food ‘stuffs’ for export, food for animals and food for fuel—all hallmarks of an affluent society). These ‘before’s & nows’ are an important story about the ‘path’ of modern humanity.
As efficiently delivered products became the expected status quo, our society began to reduce the time within a day that is socially acceptable to celebrate food. Additionally, meat at every meal has become a benchmark sought by every aspiring modern society. Once refrigeration and efficient transportation became ubiquitous in our society, our umbilical cord to nature was effectively severed.
Towards the latter half of the last century, our culture transformed food from being a central ritual in our lives to something that is an efficiently performed chore. Towards the latter half of the last century, a globally connected world expanded our taste for global goods. Towards the latter half of the last century, our culture has outsourced the production of our locally used products to wherever they are produced most cheaply. Towards the latter half of the last century, people responded to corporate products more readily than to locally sourced products distributed by local ‘Ma & Pa’ shops.
Do you see a pattern, a pathway? This path was laid down by the individual choices of consumers—a path leading away from Mother Nature. As 20th-century humanity drifted away from nature, science was used to exert dominion over nature. As an opposite reaction to the destructive 20th century, the 21st-century endeavor of permaculture harnesses science to restore our severed connection with nature through community-based education. Great permaculture leaders all around the world are laying down the foundation of a new path toward harmony with all living creatures.
In the 21st century, I am mostly concerned about our youth. Millennials see little hope on an Earth that has been manhandled into submission. Comedian Stephen Colbert quipped at a presidential state dinner in 2010 that “baby-boomers have deep-fried our oceans.” Today, our children are still being taught the behaviors of that 20th-century legacy—the most destructive era to biodiversity (excluding meteor strikes) in the earth’s history. With carbon dioxide concentrations rocketing past 400 parts per million this last year and set to go higher, we are consigning those children to a far more inhospitable world. Future generations will invariably look back and wonder why our world leaders didn’t do anything to affect humans’ stranglehold on earth’s ecosystem before pushing it to the precipice of imminent collapse? Optimism in the face of climate change means we believe we can inspire an indelible spirit in our youth to be stubbornly dedicated toward healing the earth from this point forward.
Island nations understand our relationships with the environment more acutely than modern land-locked nations. Iceland created harsh regulations around the very valuable cod fisheries decades before other countries felt inclined to do so. Historically, cod is the most valuable commodity to Iceland. Instead of selling as many cod as possible, Iceland saw value in creating a stable Cod fishing ecosystem. Beginning in the 1950s, Iceland turned down lucrative fishery contracts with other countries to protect future cod fisheries. This example of ‘doing what is necessary’ in the face of marketplace pressures is unparalleled in the world today. This example of fortitude is what is needed from our future leaders all over the world today.
Early accounts of Cape Cod fishing described scenes of natural abundance in which you could ‘walk on the backs of fish’ in the ocean. My imagination is truly enamored with this vision of Eden. As an advocate for permaculture in Nebraska, how can I preach the good word of nature’s abundance when the last two centuries have been focused on removing nature’s abundance? Twenty-first century humanity can continue single-mindedly pursuing technological fixes to our global food system in order to feed our growing populations...
Or, we can work towards healing Mother Nature which once created abundance for everyone.