Permaculture Author Imagines the Future


This is cross posted from Speaking Truth to Power, a blog I just discovered through The post is a review of a book from Permaculture visionary David Holmgren, trying to list and imagine the options the human population has as we transition out of the Fossil Fuel age and into an age of climate change, scarcity, and political upheaval.

TransitionUs is a new social network of transtition activists all over the US working to justly and sustainably rework our culture.


…without radical behavioral and organizational change that would threaten the foundations of our growth economy, greenhouse gas emissions along with other environmental impacts will not decline. Economic recession is the only proven mechanism for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and may now be the only real hope for maintaining the earth in a habitable state. Taken together with the words of NASA climate scientist, Jim Hansen, who tells us that “the onset of severe impacts from climate change is now inevitable, even if there is a huge worldwide effort at mitigation”, David Holmgren’s words above cause me to pause and on some level stand in awe of the current global economic meltdown. I notice, first of all, that climate change now probably has a life of its own and has permanently escaped the influence of the human species. I also notice that economic collapse, while having unfolded rapidly within the past two years, has not done so in a falling-off-the-cliff scenario and may be slowing down the collapse of the ecosystem. In Future Scenarios, (Chelsea Green, 2009) David Holmgren, the author of Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability offers four possible sketches of transition from industrial civilization to a post-petroleum world. The characteristics and likely outcomes of them compel us to view them more closely. Physically, this paperback book is quite reader-friendly, embellished with colorful illustrations and beautiful photos and fits snugly into pocket or purse for effortless transport. The first scenario Holmgren names the Brown Tech, Top-Down Construction in which energy descent is slow, and climate change is fast. Brown Tech is essentially the corporatist system that has dominated the United States for the past sixty years, reaching its zenith during the George W. Bush administration. It is “top-down” in the sense that “national power constricts consumption and focuses resources to maintain the nation-state in the face of deteriorating climate and reduced energy and food supply.” (68) Brown Tech is characterized by centralized systems, high-density systems, national banks and currencies, a nationalist/fascist bias, male domination, and culturally speaking, a super-rationalist/fundamentalist dichotomy. Conversely, the Green-Tech scenario is characterized by slow energy-decline rates and mild climate change symptoms. The sense of chaos and crisis “is more muted without major economic collapse or conflict.” (68) This scenario is the one embraced by those well-meaning progressives who may believe that we have enough time for strategically transitioning to a post-petroleum, downscaled world. In Green Tech there is good conservation, a great deal of renewable energy use, compact towns and small cities, regional currencies, the gender status is balanced and blended, and the philosophical orientation is essentially humanist and eco-rationalist. What makes Green Tech unrealistic and somewhat utopian, in my opinion, is the speed with which climate change is actually occurring. For Green Tech to be fully implemented, climate change must be slow. “The relatively benign climate allows a resurgence of rural and regional economies on the back of sustained and growing prices for all natural commodities including feedstock for biofuels.” (69) The third scenario, and the one which Holmgren clearly prefers, is the Earth-Steward: Bottom-Up Rebuild in which energy use declines rapidly, and climate change symptoms remain mild. Shocks to the world’s financial system in this scenario result in severe depressions and intense resource wars. Electronic grids become nonfunctional, and mass mobility of people and goods is curtailed. Cities become hollowed out as larger businesses collapse, and large numbers of former city-dwellers form a new underclass and provide basic labor in exchange for food and living space. The biggest difference, according to Holmgren, between the green-and brown-tech scenarios is that “the rebuilding and stabilization is no longer based on dreams of sustainability or restoring the old system. Instead, people accept that each generation will have to face the challenges of further ongoing simplification and localization of society as the fossil-resource base continues to decline. This simplification in the material domain is seen as the opportunity for growth in the spiritual domain. (81) In other words, “while the impacts on people and local environments…are severe, there is also a cultural and spiritual revolution as people are released from the rat race of addictive behaviors.” In the Earth-Steward model, local currency and barter are the principal forms of exchange, gender-wise, females dominate, and earth spirituality prevails as the dominant cultural and spiritual force. The last scenario is the Lifeboat Civilization Triage of rapid energy decline rates and severe climate change symptoms-in other words, a fast crash. Most forms of economic and social organization collapse, and local wars, including the use of nuclear weapons, exacerbate the collapse in some areas. Waves of famine and disease decimate social and economic capacity “on a scale larger than the Black Death in medieval Europe, leading to a halving of the global population in a few decades.” (82) In a Lifeboat Civilization, collapse has occurred so quickly that little planning can be done for a smoother transition, and the survivalist mentality generally prevails. Hence, one finds hamlets and gated communities and a quasi-feudal system which is predominantly patriarchal. The cultural and spiritual orientation is warrior-like in response to the trauma of a rapid collapse, thus the word “triage” to describe its fundamental modus operandi. What Holmgren wants the reader to understand, however, is that the four scenarios are not linear; he imagines them as “one nested within the other.” This suggests, he says, “that the four organizational levels represented by the scenarios from the household to the national level will all be transformed as global systems weaken and contract, but none will fail completely.” (101) Not unlike the scenarios of collapse Dmitry Orlov relates regarding the former Soviet Union, Holmgren’s four-nested schema suggests that in the Earth-Steward and Lifeboat scenarios, there could still be a government issuing edicts, but no one, outside that nation’s capital, would take notice. One unmistakable conclusion Future Scenarios draws is that the more slowly the decline unfolds, the more opportunity for planning and mobilizing for the demise; the more rapidly events occur, the more traumatic the unraveling will be because of the inability to put new systems in place which may allow it to be more navigable. As noted above, economic collapse is impeding rampant growth and in that sense, despite the pain it is creating for millions of humans, may be allowing the earth community to breathe a bit easier for a bit longer. Or as Holmgren says, “The economic hard-liners could be right: There is no way to stop the train of global industrial capitalism (other than by crashing).” Future Scenarios offers fascinating and fertile challenges for engaging Peak Oil and climate change and confronts us with the question that will not die: Will our journey to a post-petroleum world be a transition or a trauma? The longer we wait to make the profoundly radical choices necessary at this juncture of history, the greater the certainty that choices we would not prefer will be made for us.


Local, Local, Local

My ideal social ideology is libertarian socialism. I believe in localized, non-hierarchical, self-governed communities with shared resources and lack of oppressive social hierarchies that cause and reinforce harmful social dynamics. I think there are inherit flaws in capitalism that cannot be remedied with market-based or state-created solutions. This being said, I find the need to write on how this affects my everyday life and my activism.2378897283_f799b3b3e0_m1

In relating my ideal social ideology to most people, the immediate response is that the abolition of the state would never work because there would be chaos and power-hungry people which would result in mass-violence. Or they try to fit this ideology within the framework of electoral politics, also declaring it would never work. Of course libertarian socialism would not work in the context of our nation, that goes against its own definition and theory! No radical believes that libertarian socialism would be the ‘policy’ of a nation. It is highly localized and obviously cannot be ‘applied’ to a community from the top down. With that said, most of the radicals I know and work with believe that the creation of their ideologies in their own lives and communities will reduce the reliance on the capitalist economy at least on a personal level, and in theory will make the ‘state’  less powerful by the creation of alternative institutions and ideas.

Therefore, my actions lead not to the direct abolition of the state. The purpose of my activism is to do what is within my reach to end social and environmental injustice caused by or perpetuated by oppressive hierarchies and power dynamics, and to participate in the creation of non-hierarchical alternative institutions. Contrary to popular belief about anti-authoritarian activists, my activism is not centered around urgently trying to impose my ideal society in the current context of our nation, as that would be unrealistic, contradictory, and unproductive. Rather, my ideal social ideology serves as a framework for my community relations, friendships, projects, attention, and opinions.

Animist Manifesto

This was posted over at Bioregional Animist a while back. I really dig it. It was originally written by Graham Harvey, and I encourage you to check out his website. What do you think of this? How close to your spirituality does this sound? Is this compatible with your cosmicview? Let us know.

All that exists lives

All that lives is worthy of respect

You don’t have to like what you respect

Not liking someone is no reason for not respecting them

Respecting someone is no reason for not eating them

Reasons are best worked out in relationship – especially if you are looking for reasons to eat someone – or if you are looking for reasons not to be eaten

If you agree that all that exists is alive and worthy of respect, it is best to talk about ‘persons’ or ‘people’ rather than ‘beings’ or ‘spirits’, let alone ‘biomechanisms’, ‘resources’, ‘possessions’, and ‘things’

The world is full of persons (people if you prefer), but few of them are human

The world is full of other-than-human persons

The world is full of other-than-oak persons

The world is full of other-than-hedgehog persons

The world is full of other-than-salmon persons

The world is full of other-than-kingfisher persons

The world is full of other-than-rock persons…

‘Other-than’ has at least three references:

it reminds us that we are persons in relationship with others,

it reminds us that many of our closest kin are human, while the closest kin of oaks are oaks, so we talk most easily with humans while rocks talk most easily with other rocks…

it reminds us to speak first of what we know best (those closest to us)

Make that four references:

it reminds us to celebrate difference as an opportunity to expand our relationships rather than seeing it as a cause of conflict or conquest

All life is relational and we should not collapse our intimate alterities into identities

Others and otherness keep us open to change, open to becoming, never finally fixed in being

Alterities resist entropy and encourage creativity through rationality, sociality (or, as William Blake said, ‘enmity is true friendship’)

Animism is neither monist nor dualist, it is only just beginning when you get beyond counting one, two… At its best it is thoroughly, gloriously, unashamedly, rampantly pluralist

Respect means being cautious and constructive

It is cautiously approaching others — and our own wishes,

It is constructing relationships, constructing opportunities to talk, to relate, to listen, to spend time in the face-to-face presence and company of others

It is taking care of, caring for, caring about, being careful about…

It can be shown by leaving alone and by giving gifts

believers in ‘human rights’, for example, demonstrate their belief in rights not only by supporting legislation to protect individuals from states, companies and majorities, but by not insisting on hogging the whole road or pavement, not insisting on another human getting out of the way on a busy street…

You don’t have to hug every tree to show them respect but you might have to let trees grow where they will—you might have to move your telephone lines or greenhouse

You might have to build that road away from that rock or that tree

Hugging trees that you don’t know may be rude – try introducing yourself first

Just because the world and the cosmos is full of life does not make it a nice and easy place to live. Lots of persons are quite unfriendly to others. Many see us as a good dinner. They might respect us as they eat us. Or they may need education. Like us, they might learn best in relationship with others who show respect even to those they don’t like, and especially to those they like the taste of.

Although evolution has no aim, life is not pointless. The purpose of life is to be good people — and good humans or good rocks or good badgers. What we have to find out is what ‘good’ means where we are, when we are, with whom we are, and so on. It is certainly wrapped up with the word ‘respect’ and all the acts that implies.

Since all that exists lives—and since all that lives is, in some senses, to some degree, conscious, communicative and relational—and since many of the persons with whom we humans share this planet have a far better idea of what’s going on than we do—we can now stop all the silliness about being the pinnacle of creation, the highest achievement of evolution, the self-consciousness of the world or cosmos… We’re just part of the whole living community and we’ve got a lot to learn. Our job isn’t to save the planet, or speak for the animals, or evolve towards higher states. Many other-than-human people are already happily self-aware, thank you very much, and if we paid attention we might learn a few things ourselves. By the way, we’re probably not alone in mistaking ourselves for the most important people in the world: hedgehogs probably think they are (but they’re spiky flea-ridden beasts so why believe them?!).

Um, when I said that ‘all that exists lives’, I’m not sure about plastic bags.

But I am certain that we should not treat objects as mere resources, somehow available or even given to us, or humanity, to use as we will or wish.

The same goes for words like ‘substances’, especially those that exist within plant and fungal persons. There are substances, but they aren’t ours until they are given, gifted to us. And then we’d better find out why we’ve been given whatever gifts we get. And we’d better ask how those gifts might be best used (whether its for pleasure, power, wisdom or whatever). This is especially true if the plant or mushroom person who offers us the gift substance has to lose their life in the process.

Maybe sometimes the mushrooms just want to help us join in the big conversation that’s going on all around us. But not all rocks, fish, plants, fungi, birds, animals or humans want to talk with us:

Sometimes they want to be quiet

Sometimes they want to be rude

Sometimes they have other concerns

Sometimes they don’t understand

Sometimes we don’t speak the language

Sometimes we don’t know the appropriate gift

The precise and proper way to show respect depends where you are, who you are, who you are respecting and what they expect. Gifts, like swords and words, have more than one side. Alcohol is a gift in one place, a poison somewhere else. Handshakes are friendly in one place, shows of strength elsewhere. Kissing is respectful to some people, an assault on others. Respectful etiquette is hard work but its reward is fuller participation in a large and exciting community of life.

Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking for us

Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking to us

Animism is just over the bridge that closes the Cartesian gap by knowing how to answer the question, What is your favourite colour? Perhaps it is the bridge. Perhaps there is no gap and animists are people who refuse to collude with the illusion

Animism is often discovered by sitting beneath trees, on hills, in rivers, with hedgehogs, beside fires… Animism is better communicated in trickster tales, soulful songs, powerful poems, rousing rituals, and/or elemental etiquette than in manifestos.

[Originally published By Strange Attractor Journal Journal number three . We would like to thank Graham for giving us the permission to publish this for the first time on line!] (I don’t especially have permission)

Annie is making a (maga)”ZINE”

Alright Everyone!
So I have been saying that I was going to make this Zine for awhile
now and you know what? I am going to do it! So here is my call for
submissions. I was hoping that I could get them before Thanksgiving
and having it ready by December. So please please please! Send me
anything that you think is print worthy. I want all things written;
poems, lyrics, short stories, short essays, feature articles, rants,
narratives, journal entries, recipes, DIY recipes….anything. I also
want your drawings, photographs, sketches, collages, doodles,
paintings, stencils whatever you think is cool.
 This first zine is going to be experimental to see what sort of theme
we want to have. For now I just want stuff that is important to you
socially, environmentally, economically, literary, any sort of
ALTERNATIVE way of thinking…..I want to create a platform for you all
to share ideas and get your stuff out there.
So this is a rather inspiring email. But I really want to make this
happen! Please forward this to friends that you think would be

Here are some guidelines
-artwork and what not should be kinda small because I’m trying to fit
it on half a legal size paper (so like 8 ½ by like 5 ½ ) if its bigger
we can make it work.
-if you are emailing me artwork send it as a picture .tiff file or a .pdf file
-if you are emailing me writing send it in a word .doc file.
-since zines are DIY style though I would prefer poems and short
pieces like that hand written or however you see fit to express it.
You can even draw doodles around your poem or write it with cut out
letters (ransom note style)
-OH MOST IMPORTANT this is going to be BLACK AND WHITE so don’t go
crazy with color.

Please email me stuff
Or you could give it to me in person
I have a house you can deliver it to so call me: 5404082023
I go to school most days so you can give it to me on campus


Annie Cantrell

Ps. I would love ideas on this and your feed back.
*****AND PLEASE FORWARD to all your artsy minded, forward thinking,
poet type friends.

THe Sounds of PLanet Earth

                                                9-30-07 – Grab the podcast here

If you have ideas for what we should play or talk about next time, send me or Annie an email – or . Some of the Artists you heard on the show include:

Tandava (British Columbians playing Hindi Music), Sonic Liberation Front, Eric Lindell, Toots and the Maytals, Fred Buscaglione, Gondwana, Freakbass, Stephen Kent, Grupo Naidy, CLara Moreno, Oliver Mtukudzi, Corey Harris, Trees on Fire.

:One Zine Scene:

This has got some Zines in the front and a good example of DIY band publication at the end. woo

We discussed Do It Yourself culture tonight. We found it was far too broad of a topic, and that we might have to revisit it in the future. Here are some Wikipedia pages for you to get a brief feel for what the broad idea of DIY is all about:

DIY Ethic 

DIY Culture

WE also spent a good deal of time talking bout DIY Zines. Annie is way into the cool world of Zines check it out: which is a portland based free resource center and library for independent publications is a good place to just search for zines and read reviews

SOME ZINES I LIKE a feminist/music/ type zine for women with a large emphasis on DIY culture and women. lots of reviews of cool stuff women are doing themselves. Has reviews for other zines too! Their website leads to other cool DIY type sites. its relies on readers for its material. readers send in interesting photos, notes, or other odd things they find.  a really cool audio zine. has lots of zine reviews for zines that don’t have websites….check out “community bike cart design” “plug” basically the how-to section is cool and the fiction section. hell they all are cool.

***this list could go on and on. just search around this is a good base though.

ZINE LIBRARIES-these are good resources if you want to find out  more about different types of zines and their culture

Seattle Zine Archive & Publishing Project

Aboveground Zine Library in New Orleans

Barnard Zine Library

Chicago Underground Library

Denver Zine Library

Papercut Zine Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Zine World

***ALSO the Rocktown Info Shop on Elizabeth Street in Harrisonburg (and other infoshops or freespaces) has a section of zines in their library that you can borrow that range in topics.***