Podcast

CarpathianPrince/Shutterstock

Toby Hemenway: Scaling Permaculture Principles To Other Systems

Offers promise for energy, social & economic systems
Sunday, October 18, 2015, 1:37 PM

When Chris was out for our event with Robb Wolf in northern California last month, we paid a visit to Singing Frogs Farm along with a group of Peak Prosperity members. Adding to the outing's embarrassment of riches, permaculture expert Toby Hemenway joined in.

We saw much that day that inspired us about the regenerative and productive impact humans can have on their farmland when using wise soil management techniques and leveraging natural systems.

Now, of course, not everyone has an 8-acre farm in the country to apply these practices to. Does that mean that permaculture is only relevant to rural farmers?

Not all all, says Hemenway. He has just released a new book, The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience which explains how individuals, as well as society as a whole, can apply the same principles underlying permaculture to improve most if not all of the systems our way of life depends on:

There have been advances on several fronts, and one is that we are starting to get good data now. There were a lot of claims made in permaculture that were based on more theory in the early days, 20, 25 years ago. We thought this should work it is a great idea and people would sometimes talk as if it had worked when we really didn’t have good data. Now we know a lot more about what does work. We have toned down some of the rhetoric and are trying to be more fact based.

But another one of the huge developments is the big understanding that what we have learned in the garden: When you design ecologically sound systems for food you learn the same principals and the same guidelines for designing pretty much anything else using 'all systems' thinking. We have learned that we can design energy systems, water systems and even social systems and communities and even perhaps economic systems using permaculture design based on how whole systems work. It is based on natural systems design. So that has been one of the biggest changes and bits of growth in permaculture: moving out of the garden and into the rest of the human world where lie all of the things that we need to be working on. 

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Toby Hemenway (41m:28s)

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. You know what? It’s easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated disappointed with the direction the world is heading, but where are the glimmers of hope? What is there to cheer for in this story? In our work at Peak Prosperity we are always on the lookout for solutions and rays of hope where they exist. One place we increasingly find a lot of hope are when we see the incredible things people are doing to farm regeneratively and profitably, as is the case for Farmland LP on the large size and Singing Frogs Farm on the small side of things. But what about people who live in urban or suburban areas? Is there anything an urban person can do besides grow a few herbs in a pot on an upper balcony?

Well, it turns out there is and that a lot of our future hope for living more equitably and regeneratively is going to require that we put our cityscapes towards new and improved uses. How do I know there is a lot we can do? Because I just read Toby Hemenway’s new book The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban and Town Resilience. Here to talk about his new book and to share his learnings and ideas with us is Toby Hemingway the author also of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Homescale Permaculture, which happens to be the best selling book on permaculture in the world. Toby welcome to the show.

Toby Hemenway: Hey, Chris. It’s great to be here.

Chris Martenson: Oh, it’s so good to talk to you again. I just saw you a few weeks ago out there in Sebastopol, California and we did take a tour of Singing Frogs Farm. That was a pretty amazing demonstration to me of what is possible biologically, ecologically, permaculturally and economically.

Toby Hemenway: It sure was. I was so inspired by what Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser are doing out there. You listed all the different kinds of boxes that it checks. That is really what that work does; it sequesters carbonate, it pays enough money to pay their workers well, it cleans up the water and it generates incredibly healthy food. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Chris Martenson: Now this brings us you know—I really just want to dive right into your book because everybody would love to do that but not everybody can live on an eight acre spread in Sebastopol, so let’s start there – why did you write this book?

Toby Hemenway: Right. Well, I had been living in Seattle for a number of years working in biotech and got kind of discouraged with the direction biotech was going. My wife was discouraged with her work as well and we decided to do the back to the land thing. We moved down to Southern Oregon and bought 10 acres and really did the back to the land thing. One of the things I really noticed was suddenly I was driving everywhere. I was burning probably 5 times, 10 times more gas in the country than I was in the city. We were just using far more resources. Our driveway was a quarter mile long and required graveling pretty much every year because of the rains. When a neighbor got cable TV it was a quarter mile of wire just to hook up that one house. Our well was on the end of a half mile of pipe.

After 10 years there we did have a wonderful time, but we decided to go back to the city and suddenly I noticed my resource use shrank again drastically. My electric bill went down, the car—I hardly needed to drive. I started thinking maybe city living is actually something that can be relatively sustainable. We could actually have fairly small ecological footprints in the city as compared to at least the way country life is these days in the United States. Country life can have a small footprint, but not as its presently constituted in the US. So it really got me interested in the possibilities for living more sustainably in urban areas and that was really the genesis of the book was discovering all these cool projects and just the possibilities of the richness and abundance in urban and suburban and also small-town life.

Chris Martenson: Great. Before we get into the specifics of those things I’m interested: How has permaculture developed over the past decade? I know we are seeing lots and lots of improvements in technology, but I assume systems thinking has gone through iterations. People have tried things, failed at them, discovered what works, what doesn’t work. What has really been advancing that you have been seeing?

Toby Hemenway: There have been advances on several fronts and one is that we are starting to get good data now. There were a lot of claims made in permaculture that were based on more theory in the early days, 20-25 years ago. We "thought this should work; it is a great idea," and people would sometimes talk as if it had worked when we really didn’t have good data. Now we know a lot more about what does work. We have kind of toned down some of the rhetoric where we are really trying to be more fact based.

Another one of the huge developments is the big understanding that what we have learned in the garden, what we have learned in growing food—when you design ecologically sound systems for food, you learn the same principals and the same guidelines for designing pretty much anything else using whole systems thinking. We have learned that we can design energy systems, water systems and even social systems and communities and even perhaps economic systems using permaculture design because it is based on how whole systems work. It is based on natural systems design. So that has been one of the biggest changes and bits of growth in permaculture is kind of moving out of the garden and into the rest of the human world and all of the things that we need to be working on.

Chris Martenson: Well, sure. Most of the human world lives in cities or something close to a city at this point in time. Let’s just start right at the outside of that. Why do we need permaculture in cities and, second, is that even possible?

Toby Hemenway: Right. Well, yea, over 50% of the world’s population right now lives in cities. If you include the suburbs just the whole metropolitan area it is close to 70%. So obviously if we are going to try to become a more sustainable society, that population and the behaviors that are going on there are the ones that really need to change and really need to be improved. It is a leverage point. It is really the place that you need to be working.

So there are of course specific challenges to working in urban areas. I do think that there is so much that can be done, particularly now that we know that permaculture and ecological design in general is not just about going out and buying a piece of land somewhere and growing a lot of your own food. It has got a lot to do with the kind of food system that you support, whether you are growing it yourself or not, but what kind of food system do you want to be spending your money on? What kind of food system do you want to encourage? What kind of political process? What kind of social processes? So those are the things that are most exciting about urban permaculture these days is really getting people behind it in large numbers. So cities are the leverage point for that.

Chris Martenson: Great. Give us an example; where is this happening and what does it actually look like?

Toby Hemenway: Right. Well as I was doing research for the book it was kind of funny because whenever I would google something or talk to someone about what are some really good examples of, say, raising small scale livestock in urban areas or even things like who is doing innovative work in developing good social justice systems? And there was a series of cities that just kept coming up all the time – it was Portland, Oregon; Oakland, California; Detroit; Pittsburgh and Jamaica Plain in the Boston area were the ones that came up the most often. Of course, there were a number of others, but it just seemed like so many of the examples were in places like that. I kind of came up with a theory that there are places like Oakland that are very, very dense and have really their share of big city urban problems—all the things that you would associate with very highly populated, ethnically diverse, a lot of poverty, these sorts of things. So there are cities—and then Detroit and Pittsburgh are places that have kind of almost collapsed in the last few decades. So there are cities that need solutions like that that are desperate. They have got to work out problems so they are open to innovations and new ideas that perhaps a lot of other cities wouldn’t be open to. And then places like Portland are places that have always been kind of experimental and open to new ideas and they are full of young people who are bringing a lot of vigor and interest and curiosity. Those were the types of places where lots is going on, although I don’t mean to exclude other cities. There is lots of cool stuff happening almost everywhere – Miami, New York City, you name it. Brooklyn was one of the other ones that kept coming up as well.

Chris Martenson: But it helps to be young or desperate.

Toby Hemenway: Right. Those seem to be the two kind of populations that people really were looking for new ideas and really embracing a permacultural and other whole systems design methods.

Chris Martenson: Let’s talk about then what some of these things might be. What are the sorts of things that people who have an urban home garden might do? Let’s say somebody has got a tine plot of land, what is possible?

Toby Hemenway: Right. Well a lot of it is getting the best use out of that small space. So one of the things that permaculture really specializes in is multifunctional plants. In other words, if you are going to plant a tree, you don’t just plant a shade tree that is only going to give you shade. You think about the fact that it can give you shade, it can provide habitat, you can probably get some kind of food off of it. And also the leaves can become leaf litter to break down into soil and all kinds of—it will be a windbreak for you. So we design really strategically by thinking of all the possible functions that any one plant can have and then try to locate it in a place where you can take advantage of all those functions.

If you are living in a particularly cold, windy climate, then designing for creating a warmer micro climate through your plantings. Or just the opposite; if you are in a place like Phoenix you are going to want to design to cool things off and shape things and create lovely places to be outside. So part of it is just getting the most use out of plants, and permaculture has enormous plant lists of plants that serve so many different functions. So one plant will build soil, attract beneficial insects and provide you with a food crop and maybe even provide you with some sort of textile fiber as well or something like that. So that is one really important piece of making the absolute most of a small space is getting those multi functional plants in.

Chris Martenson: You have a lot of ideas and examples in your book and what I’m wondering though for the person listening, are they going to find in this book a list of things they might try or is it really a set of ideas that then they have to bring to their specific situation?

Toby Hemenway: What I tried to do in this book was—it is a little bit more of an ideas book than Gaia’s Garden was. It is really how to think about these things because what I want to do is give people a set of problem solving tools and then—because so often many of these solutions are specific to a particular place. Someone who is living in Atlanta is going to come up with very different solutions than someone living in Minneapolis. That sort of thing. So although there are very specific examples and a lot of techniques given in the book, those are really there to stimulate people’s thinking and to give examples of solutions people have come up with. Not to try to sell my other book, but what I tried to do was not have very much overlap so that people can go back to Gaia’s Garden for the specific methods, the more detailed "How To," the big long plant lists and all of that sort of thing and they can learn how to think about these things by reading The Permaculture City.

Chris Martenson: Sure. And what I am seeing here in this book is not—permaculture, when I hear the word, sometimes I think oh this is about a really lush, maybe a little bit wild, untamed garden and things like that. But you are talking about whole systems things. You include things like water in here and how to deal with that, right?

Toby Hemenway: Right and water is such a huge issue these days. Of course, certainly in the western US, but also even in the East where they are having enormous rain storms and crazy weather conditions like that. So looking at how cities get their water, looking at how your individual actions can do things like save water, but also how can we reduce the stress on our city’s water infrastructure—the whole water and sewer system—so that we are not spending lots of money on taxes to repair all of these things and have giant budgets going on all the time. Part of the water chapter in the book really is how can we be wiser both in the way we use water and the way we dispose of it so we just don’t have to do these big infrastructure projects quite as much as we have had to in the past.

Chris Martenson: Yea, sure. I think it takes a shift in the narrative a bit too. When I was growing up water was free, you know, it was everywhere. It was practically free, really low cost. Of course now people are starting to adjust their onions of that, not least of which is people will spend more for a bottle of water than an equivalent amount of gasoline in the store. I think our views of water have changed. You are talking about really starting to rethink water, which some places have. Using gray water is an idea I guess. Some places still don't allow that. Go into like—I thought you had some really fascinating ideas in there around gray water in particular.

Toby Hemenway: The largest single use of water for most people is out in that landscape, is irrigation. Even in places that get adequate rainfall you are still going to be irrigating a fair amount. So part of what you need to be thinking about is how do you, again, get the most use out of your water and gray water, which is water from the laundry or the shower is. It is not potable, but it is not sewage either. It only has a little bit of dirt in it, a little bit of soap, so it is not unsanitary at all as long as you get it on the ground within about 48 hours. To me this is free irrigation water. You are already using the water, you are doing a load of laundry, you are taking a shower so why not, instead of just piping that water away—it is barely dirty. It is clean enough to water plants. Plants actually love gray water because it does have a few things in it. The dirt and soap in gray water is easily converted by soil organisms into nutrients for plants so you are not only watering your plants, but you are giving them a little bit of fertility. For me that is absolutely guilt free irrigation water because you are using it already. That way you not only save on your water bill by not having to buy more water, but you are also reducing the stress on the city’s infrastructure by not just dumping it all down the sewer where it has to be dealt with and purified again.

Chris Martenson: So practically, if somebody already has all of their gray and black water mixed together and it is going out into a sewage system, what is involved to separate those?

Toby Hemenway: An easy way to do that is just hook right up to your washing machine. Most people do have a washing machine. It has a pump built right into it. That pump is actually certified to be able to pump 10 feet vertically. That is what they insist on so that the pump doesn’t burn out if you happen to be doing your laundry in a basement or something. What that will do is it will blow the water way out into your yard. You can hook up a pipe. There are very easy instructions. It is called "laundry to landscape gray water" on how to just hook up very, very simple plumbing from the outlet to your washing machine and then you don’t have to worry about gravity. You can’t pump up hill terribly far, but you can pump way out to the back of your yard. You can pump even a couple of hundred feet from where your washing machine is if the stuff you want to water is a distance away. That is a really simple way where you don’t even have to cut into your plumbing or anything like that. The washing machine is kind of the quickest and easiest leverage point to start with. And because there is a pump it will deliver the water right to where you need it.

Chris Martenson: That does sound easy. In fact, I could do that in my house.

Toby Hemenway: You could. Many people do, that is for sure. There have been thousands and thousands of gray water conversions just in my county alone.

Chris Martenson: Really? Well, yea that certainly makes sense given what is going on out west this year. Well, then similarly, but switching, talking about energy. We talk about energy a lot at Peak Prosperity. We are of a view that some day fossil fuels will run out and that will either be because economically we have gone after the dregs to the point of exhaustion or we decide it is a bad idea to keep burning these. One way or the other we are going to be done with those and that is an area that I happen to feel our country is particularly ill suited for. As Jim Kunstler says, we are still largely a happy motoring nation. We are still largely set up—and this mirrors your experience of moving from the country back towards the city and discovering you didn’t need your car as much. We are still heavily, heavily dependent on our vehicles, and also our homes, using an incredible amount of energy. How does your book begin to tackle those ideas?

Toby Hemenway: Again, I try and give people some thinking tools. Just how do we think about energy; how can we kind of change our thinking? You’re right we still don’t think very wisely as a nation from the federal level all the way down to individuals. We are not really thinking very wisely about fossil fuels and energy use. I start out by giving people several different tools for thinking about energy, thinking about what the most efficient use of an energy source is. There are some things that gasoline is absolutely fantastic for. It is a liquid. It is easily transportable. It is incredibly energy dense. To me it is one of the most valuable substances on earth. Just setting it on fire the way we do so much seems like a crazy things to do. But there are a number of tasks that gasoline is beautifully suited to do and then others that electricity is more appropriate for and other types of fuels or energy sources are more appropriate for. What I am trying to do is give people a set of tools so that they can make wiser choices about what kinds of energy they should be using and when they should be using it.

Chris Martenson: Okay. Do you have an example for us?

Toby Hemenway: Yes. There is a really wonderful example that actually was thought up by Amory Lovins; he calls it cutting butter with a chainsaw. You are using a type of fuel that, say, generates an incredibly high temperature process when all you want is a low temperature kind of heat. For example, the furnace in most people’s houses generates a flame inside that is 1200 or 1400 degrees or so and all you are wanting to do is warm your house from say 62 degrees up to 68 degrees. It is a little bit crazy to be running a giant burner at 1500 degrees when all you want is a few degrees of temperature change. This is where something like passive solar heating makes way more sense; just use the already existing warmth from the sun. Or the in-ground geothermal systems that they are starting to develop where you run some pipes into the ground a few feet deep to take advantage of the fact the ground is pretty much always at a steady temperature and you can actually pull the heat out of the ground and transfer it into your house. Just ways of not doing crazy things with energy where you are generating an enormous amount of energy to do a very low energy or low quality task like just warming something up.

Chris Martenson: That brings us to an interesting point. One of the things I'm fond of saying is that we have a lot of technology and ideas about how to do things that are just sitting there. We are not really using them yet. Part of the frustration I have because I'm a big believer in rational thought and all that. If something works better, we should do that, right? It's amazing.

A child of mine went into the ER the other day with a pretty decent cut, and they said, "Here, we are going to scrub that out with Betadyne." I'm like, "Whoa whoa, ten years ago they learned that Betadyne is bad on wounds. It really inhibits wound healing. No." People haven't been doing that for a decade, and it still hasn't penetrated my local hospital. Their best in practice is like woefully behind a two minute Google search.

I run into that a lot. I am wondering, as you are out researching this book, grabbing all this wonderful data, how much are you running into this idea that there is just some really low hanging fruit out there that we can tackle right away, maybe even save money, have a higher quality of life. Just how much low hanging fruit is there? Or are we already at the point we are going to have to get down to some really big, hairy predicament solving?

Toby Hemenway: I think there is a tremendous amount of low hanging fruit because we have had this wonderful opportunity of incredibly cheap fuel. We have been able to be really, really lazy about energy, about water, about all these resources where they have been so abundant and so cheap that we haven’t had to give anything a second thought. And yet there are things like passive solar heating for example. The sun provides warmth very easily and you can just paint something dark and warm it up a lot better. There are so many things like that, particularly water heating systems would be a perfect way to use the warmth of the sun to heat up water instead of propane or in even worse cases using electricity to generate heat. You take this incredibly delicate, beautiful, highly refined source of energy that electricity is, that takes hugely technological processes to generate and then you just convert it into heat, which really is the lowest form of energy just in its terms of ability to work.

Using electricity to generate heat is a crazy thing to do, and yet it is one of our major heat sources. While the sun is out there ready to heat your water up really easily, even in cold climates, we have very simple technology for doing solar hot water collection. There are all kinds of places like that where just in your Betadyne example, we just haven’t changed our thinking. We haven’t paid attention to what the new developments are and we are stuck in an old paradigm when the paradigm is very rapidly shifting in front of us.

Chris Martenson: Yeah, and it really appears that there is some resistance to doing things the right way. Sometimes it is a little odd, a little bizarre. People write in all the time and the go, "My town won’t even let me have chickens. It is not even a rooster versus hen thing, just chickens." Or they are forbidden from putting anything but grass in, whatever. We have a lot of people clinging to sort of this idea of what can and can’t be done on your “private property” and all of that. Those seem to be shifting now particularly with the younger people and the pain points. I guess Detroit is ready to try anything—chickens are good, right?

Toby Hemenway: Right. Right. I think that is a part of – I don’t know if that is human nature or culture. I would like to think that we are smart enough to be able to look into the future and say "You know, this is coming our way. This is inevitable. It may be 5 or 20 years off, but we should start preparing for it now." Things like climate change or energy descent are all these pretty big deals, but it just seems like we are not wired to adjust to those sorts of things.

It unfortunately seems like it does take some sort of a crisis or big wake up call or disaster or something like that to get us to change. Part of my efforts and many other people’s, yours as well, is to try to not only send that wake up call but offer a set of tools to begin doing something about it. And to point out to people that it is actually going to be fun to do this. I think part of the hesitancy is that people are worried about, "well, solar collectors, that’s a lessening of my lifestyle," when it’s really not. To me it is an improvement in your life style. I think part of it is just getting the message across. This is not going to be putting on a sweater and living in a cold room or tightening your belt. It is actually going to be more fun, sexier, more interesting, and we can paint a picture of it as such and get people to adopt these things before the crisis comes. At least that is certainly my hope.

Chris Martenson: Absolutely. Let’s talk about one audience that usually feels most boxed in by this. This is somebody that is usually living in an apartment of some kind. Has no land of their own. Maybe doesn’t even have a balcony that faces south or other useful direction. What is there for them to do in this story?

Toby Hemenway: Right, and that is something that I try to address in the book is for people who don’t have any land at all and they want to be either getting access to much healthier food or even growing some of it themselves, or even that they want to be making a difference socially and ecologically. Some of the tools there are just looking at how do we get access to land if we don’t own land. It actually turns out that when people set up websites to try to connect people who want land to garden with people who have land to garden there is almost always more people offering land to garden than there are people looking for land. So people like the elderly who perhaps love to garden, but perhaps they are just beyond the age where they can do the physical work of gardening are really a prime candidate for places to be able to help out and grow food. And then you build some really nice social relationships as well. So that is one place.

There is actually a really wonderful example from Barcelona that I just heard of where a group of permaculturists have taken over a couple of old factory buildings that didn’t really have any land around them so they went over to a couple of senior centers right across the street and the seniors were really happy to have these young people gardening for them. Then when the police came to evict these squatters these seniors formed a big ring around the building and said "no way, these people are providing our food." The police realized well, we don't exactly want to beat somebody’s old grandmother so we are just going to go away. Those are the kind of social bonds you can build through these kind of community garden programs as well.

Chris Martenson: That is a very interesting story, and I know that this is one of the great divides that surfaced when Adam and I were out in Sebastopol with Robb Wolf and yourself giving a talk. It was clear, they were right in the audience. They were young people who I defined as under 30 putting their hands up going, "look we don’t have capital what do we do?" The older people are going "we do, but we don’t know how to put this all together."

How do these—besides a website that gets them coming together, there is a lot to think about in how you begin to share capital, particularly in a society that has been hyper individualistic, has really formed a culture around "mine" versus "yours," all of that stuff, and that we value financial capital very differently than we do other forms of capital. What does permaculture begin to offer us about ways to maybe begin redesigning ourselves?

Toby Hemenway: We really need structures in place that help us make these kind of decisions. You are right we are very individualist and the whole idea of sharing—it seems like a really nice idea that an older person who owns a place that is probably quite expensive now with real estate being what it is and getting together with a younger person who has got more energy and maybe can do all the heavy work around the place—that sounds like a great idea but wait, how do you structure it? This is again one of the places that I think permaculture has a real advantage.

Permaculture really at its heart is a set of decision making tools that we have spent a long time working out a set of methods that help us arrive at the right solutions. We have all of these methods available to us. All these techniques for, say, making decisions in groups or organizing entities like non profits and businesses. We have got so many ways of doing this and what permaculture does is it helps us work our way through the thicket of all of these possibilities and arrive at—rather than impose—actually arrive at solutions that make sense for the circumstances involved. So that is another thing that I work on quite a bit in the book what kind of decision making process are going to be most appropriate for various solutions? How can we learn to work together better? I think if the problems of the world were primarily technological, we would have them all solved. But the problems of the world are political and social. Those are vastly more intractable and very challenging for us.

Chris Martenson: Indeed they are but, again, I can feel that sense of urgency is building more and more as the larger narrative begins to shred, however people get that news—whether they need to see a falling stock market or they read about the 10th dead whale floating up on California’s shores. It is just clear that the systems that have been sold to us as being progress, as being the right way forward—it is increasingly becoming clear that each technological solution is really just a band aid for the problems created by the last technological solution and so we just keep going down that path. And more and more people become disillusioned by it and we get to the punch line, which is: Oh, by the way, it turns out we don’t actually enjoy our lives all that much, in many cases, when we buy into the dominant narrative. So Permaculture to me feels a little anarchistic. There is a little social deviation from it which means we are going to do things differently and think about things differently than we have for the past 100 years in this culture in the United States. I put most of western culture in this. Probably China too. So we have to think about things fundamentally differently.

How do you deal with that idea that, really, this isn’t so much necessarily—for a lot of people—a case of learning superior system design techniques as much as it is dismantling old belief systems that are no longer enabling us?

Toby Hemenway: Right. And that is really the truth that it is the idea of dismantling these older ideas. One of the things that I think that we have a lot to benefit from is the fact there is a lot of social experimentation that was done in the 1960s and 1970s. In those days, a lot of the young people working just kind of threw out everything and said all of the old ways of doing things are bad and we are going to start from scratch, and in many cases it didn’t go very well. The communes are not around anymore for the most part and these sorts of things. In the ensuing 30 years or so a lot of people stuck with it. There were a lot of experimental communities. There was a lot of work done in how we can create alternative currencies, alternative economic models, alternative social models. So there actually is a very sophisticated body of knowledge now that we have gained over the last 40 or 50 years in terms of decision making in groups, in terms of group process, in terms of how to structure even things like businesses and non profits. We actually do have a very large tool kit to take advantage of.

I again try to point people towards some of those in the book. There are actually really viable alternatives; they are just not out there in the mainstream yet. With a little bit of digging you can find that there are ways to structure communities, help structure neighborhoods. If you want to work out some sorts of agreements with your neighbors there are very good tools for doing that that have already been worked out, that we already know what the negatives and positives are. They are kind of tried and true at this point.

Chris Martenson: I tell you we have to do something. Every time I talk with somebody who is my age – I am 53 now – if they spend any time at all outdoors we all have these litanies or horrors of things that have happened in the natural world in our lifetimes. And it is so amazingly quick. But somebody who is young today, I will say under the age of 20, won’t know what I am talking about when I say that when we used to drive—we drove about 300 miles for our summer vacation. We would have to stop for gas twice in a big old station wagon and we would always have to clean off the windshield because it was splattered with bugs, right? I remember that. That was part of summer. Now I can drive a thousand miles and not have a single thing to clean off my windshield. That’s true all over the country now. The idea that we have lost insects is something that once upon a time I don’t think anybody would have cared, but now I have that little pit in my stomach that says "oh, this is not good." There is such a richness that—the insects are so important in the overall food chain and all of the services that they provide. We only think about them as having negative services, but it’s not true.

So there is really a large reorientation of our relationship to each other and to the natural world. Just from a thinking standpoint—let’s start here—we need insects. That would be a pretty big idea to insert in some people’s brains.

Toby Hemenway: Right. There are things like that. I remember being in a hardware store a few years ago and someone came in and said "what can I use to kill all the bugs in my garden?" Just getting that paradigm that bugs are bad. It turns out that only about 5% of all insects are actually harmful to our crops or ourselves and the other 95% are either beneficial or neutral. And you are right they are a critical element pretty low down on the food chain. They are a really important food source for birds and reptiles and a lot of mammals. You are right. I just took a long drive and I noticed "wow, I have only got like two bugs on my windshield after driving 500 miles, even around twilight which is when the bugs usually come out."

Again, just thinking in terms of biodiversity is what can we be doing to provide habitat for all these creatures since we have removed so much of it so drastically. I mean this is where again this idea of multi functional plantings come in that when we do plant things, think about the insects, think about the birds. I love designing a garden and coming back and finding it is just humming with insects because I know there are going to be birds there feeding on those insects, there are going to be all kinds of other wildlife that is being supported by the low end of the food chain like that.

Chris Martenson: Absolutely. That was one of the instructive lessons again from Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser at Singing Frogs where they had these hedge rows with very diverse things in them. It wasn’t like a hedge row of boxwood. They had at least 12 species that I could see in any one hedge row. The hedge rows were there to break the winds and do the usual things, but to provide habitat for the predator class and other classes of insects that are longer living because as predators they breed more slowly and all of that. They created a habitat for the kind of insects they wanted and as a result they had very, very low insect pressure in their main garden. I couldn’t believe they didn’t spray or anything. I am a long time gardener, I am looking at their brassicas, I'm like,
"Where are all the holes in the leaves? Where are all the cabbage loopers like daintily flying around everything?" I didn't see it. It is testament that it really can work.

So to flip over to the positive side of this, that is what I love about what we are starting to see are these examples and stories of how all of this not only theoretically could work but actually does. Again, it ticks off all of those categories. It works ecologically, it works environmentally, socially, financially. It really makes a lot of sense. I just think it is great that you are collecting all of these ideas and ways of thinking into these books and sharing them because they are really fantastic to have thought through and you are a wonderful writer. It is all very well done.

Toby Hemenway: Thanks very much. I was certainly inspired by going to Paul’s place and it brought out to me the importance of good design. As I began studying permaculture years ago, one of the things that I started thinking—and I didn’t even really want to have this thought—was, "wow, through good design, we might even be able to do better than nature." And I was struck by that because boy there is a lot of hubris involved in statement like that. But when Paul Kaiser at Singing Frogs pointed out that his bird diversity was double what a nearby area of native plants of the same size was—he has got twice as many species of birds on his farm land than a native plant area nearby—I had that phrase, thinking, "wow, he has done better than nature here." So we really can. Design is at the heart of all this. How do we design better systems, more resilient systems, how do we design social systems, economic systems? We can do it. We have the design tools for doing all of these things.

Chris Martenson: And that is my hope in this story is that—one narrative that we are holding that I hold that I think is flat out wrong but I believed it for a long time is that humans wreck things, right? It is a belief system. I thought, well, if humans move into a pristine area it will be wrecked. The soils will be gone, the rivers will be foul, the fish will go extinct, the amphibians are done. That is just a story I have. But what you are saying, and what I saw with my own eyes, is that we can use that same clever intelligence but in a different way. And if we do that, we can actually be accelerants and enhancers of the natural process. Not destroyers of, but enhancers of. That is a huge narrative flip for me. That is taking an old story and completely turning it on its head in a way that I think is true and it makes me feel good. So that is what is possible in this story. That is what I see.

Toby Hemenway: Right, exactly. And I felt the same way: Humans are a cancer on the landscape. And just understanding that we actually don’t have to be; we can be the opposite. There is lots of research showing that around indigenous settlements there is often far more bird and insect and wildlife diversity than there is out in the woods, out in a more "natural" area. We can do the same and we can do it through design and we can do it in ways that are compatible with most of our current ways of living. I find those things very, very exciting.

Chris Martenson: Excellent. Well, keep up the good work and thank you so much for your time today. I can’t wait to gather some of the stories of people who have read it and tried some of the things. So again, Toby, so great to be talking with you again and I hope to do it again soon.

Toby Hemenway: Me too, Chris, this was very enjoyable. Thanks a lot.

About the guest

Toby Hemenway

Toby Hemenway is an American author and educator who has written extensively on permaculture and ecological issues. He is the author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.

Endorsed Financial Adviser Endorsed Financial Adviser

Looking for a financial adviser who sees the world through a similar lens as we do? Free consultation available.

Learn More »
Read Our New Book "Prosper!"Read Our New Book

Prosper! is a "how to" guide for living well no matter what the future brings.

Learn More »

 

Related content

21 Comments

kelvinator's picture
kelvinator
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 25 2008
Posts: 202
Neil Young Mass Violation of Monsanto's Seed Law Goes Unpunished

My wife and I spent Saturday night sitting on the lawn at the Greek Theater in the hills at the back of the UC Berkeley campus, that (no longer such a) hotbed of free speech and rebellious student activity.  I hadn’t been there for a couple of decades, but we went to see Neil Young and the Promise of the Real on their Rebel Content Tour and weren’t disappointed.  At 69, Neil’s still cranking out a high energy wall of poignant and intense rock and roll, creative magic and ornery advocacy against the Powers That Be, including specific corporations and corporate control generally. 

He seemed to be just hitting his long haul cruising altitude about three hours into the concert when he said, as though surprised, that someone had just given him the 30 minute warning, so he’d better start playing again.  He’d stopped for a few minutes to engage in a mass act of law breaking by throwing hundreds of packages of organic seeds into the audience as well as having them distributed by helpers dressed as farmers.  It turns out, this is completely illegal under a new California law I hadn’t heard about that was passed recently thanks to Monsanto & related money that forbids any exchange of seeds more than 3 miles from their point of origin unless they’re packed under strict quality control and packaging constraints suitable primarily to corporate operations.  So, now you can sell, trade or give away packaged GMO Monsanto seeds anywhere in California, but it’s completely against the law to sell, trade or give a friend 4 or more miles away any seeds harvested from your garden or farm – something that, obviously, people have been doing for thousands of years.  He suggested to any police watching in the crowd that they should just arrest him rather than the crowd as a whole to avoid a logistical nightmare, even though any crowd members keeping the seeds are law-breakers, too.  Of course, no one was arrested, as that would draw too much publicity to just how corrupt and absurd this law actually is.

I was glad to see that, like me and some others, he just cuts to the chase and says “Monsanto is the Devil”.  It’s a good way to summarize the thrust of their business plan, and also let people know the more deeply their corporation falters, misses earnings and fails, the louder we should cheer.   To accentuate the point, he released a song and album this year called, “The Monsanto Years”, which goes after a few specific corps in addition to Monsanto, and calls out Citizens United, the Supreme Court’s legalized corruption which is perfecting the takeover of both parties and takedown of democracy in the United States by big money.  One of his other songs commented on bank earnings ;-)  “Too big to fail.  Too rich for jail...” and poses the musical question, “when will we take back our freedom?”  Good question, Mr. Young.

So, congratulations, Neil! In spite of a voice that some have called “whiny”, you’re not getting old and going down without a heavy fight, which seems to be more than can be said for much of the US population these days.  Here’s the less overtly political After the Gold Rush solo opener we saw, but recorded at an earlier concert on the tour this summer:  "...look at Mother Nature on the run, in the Twenty-First Century..."

David Huang's picture
David Huang
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 20 2010
Posts: 66
Bugs on the windshield

Thank you, Chris, for making that observational comment about the modern day lack of bugs on our windshields.  About a month ago I was on vacation involving a road trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  On just one day, in one small area in this pretty wild, remote area of our country did my windshield get really plastered with bugs while driving down the highways.  At the time is was a bit of an annoyance, but also brought a touch of nostalgia from road trips with my parents as a child in the 70's when this was a normal part of trips.  Back then is was completely common to NEED to really clean off the windshield whenever we stopped at a gas station.  Your comment about this during the podcast really brought the change into full consciousness for me.  It's a change I've experienced but hadn't really noticed.  It's implications are rather frightening too, especially when I think about how clean my windshield generally was driving through the forests of northern Michigan.

I enjoyed the podcast as a whole, but that's one part that really struck me.

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2010
Posts: 3936
Bi-peds and worms.

If I sold you a box that Looked like a TV but was in fact a liquor cabinet, what would You have? A TV or a liquor cabinet? From this we can deduce that an object is defined by it's function, not it's form. We are defined by what we do,  not by how we look. 

Two days ago I have my neighbor half a box of earthworms. (Very valuable things,  earthworms. ) I wanted to see how she would react. She was completely confused. I suspect that the worms ended up in the trash can.  The rest of the worms went into my Airhead toilet solids container.  They are very happy, and so am I. When the time comes to empty the can, I'll be dealing with something very valuable,  worm castings. ($60 per kg for people who grow,  ahem, tomatoes. ) I shall be casting around myself for a good place to do some guerilla gardening. Some time in the future some kid is going to wonder how that apricot tree got there. 

What goes around, comes around. 

I can't let this discussion wander off without raising a glass to Donella Meadows. She wrote "Thinking in systems." https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donella_Meadows

Nor the significance of Paul Stamet's work with the foundation of life, the soil. (Mycelium Running.)

http://www.amazon.com/Mycelium-Running-Mushrooms-Help-World/dp/1580085792

And of cause our own heroes,  Robbie and the rest of the men of the land. 

http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/One_Straw_Revolution/One-Straw_Revolut...

rheba's picture
rheba
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 22 2009
Posts: 65
Grey Water

Hi Chris and Massachusetts residents. Our own Department of Environmental Protection - last time I tried - would not allow a washing machine to drain into a garden. The DEP guy who told me 'no' explained that "A fly might go to the grey water and land on a pathogen and then fly back into your house." You mentioned Betadine at your local hospital and I was surprised too. But really I think that our public officials - especially DEP and Dept of Ag are not up to speed on latest scientific studies of bacteriolgy.

Thetallestmanonearth's picture
Thetallestmanonearth
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 28 2013
Posts: 320
Bugs on the windsheild

I travel a fair bit for work and I hadn't noticed the lack of bugs until Chris brought my attention to it.  Looking back on my last two road trips it's terrifying to think that I didn't have to clean the wind shield once.  Just this last week I drove from Cleveland to central PA and then back down to Cincinnati.  All told about 15 hours of driving through farm land, city, mountainous forests, suburbs and rural communities without a single major bug strike.  Back in July I drove from Seattle to Southern CA and back and I don't recall any bugs on the windshield then either.  When I was a kid I remember having to clean the windows almost every time we stopped for gas.  That is as strong a piece of circumstantial evidence as I need to conclude that something is very out of whack.

I like the comment that humans are not necessarily destined to be a blight on the natural world.  It is amazing to see examples of people restoring and even improving natural ecosystems in ways that produce a profitable yield.  I see it happening all over on a small scale and I'm encouraged by a few larger examples like New Forest Farms (Mark Shepherd - Restoration Agriculture).  We need to scale this up to such an unbelievable level over the next few generations that I can't think of a more exciting project to dedicate ones self to.  The challenge of course is doing so in a way that is competitive with chemical methods of agriculture and typical american lifestyles. 

I admit that the only place I really apply my convictions are at home....I still work in the old system and I probably cause more harm in that part of my life than I do good on our small acreage.  I'm guilty of waiting for collapse as a cure.  The thinking is alluring that as long as one have the skills and the tools ahead of time we can reset to a newer better way of doing things once the old system breaks.  There are too many holes in that logic to patch.  I/we need to be doing everything (EVERYTHING) we can now to shift the momentum while the resources to live an easy life allow us the luxury of choice.

lambertad's picture
lambertad
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 31 2013
Posts: 171
Grey water and water collection

Rheba,

I've stopped long ago asking for permission to do things when it comes to my property. I live in a city, and haven't figured out how to do a gray water system yet, but this past summer the city subsidized rain water collection barrels for citizens. One of the departments, I forget which one, wanted me to register my barrels with their department if I purchased more than 2 of them. Well, I guess I simply forgot to do such a thing. Shame on me. In Utah, the state doesn't "own" the water that comes from the sky as they do in Colorado. Maybe they wanted to know who has barrels so that when they change the law they can come take them from me. Who knows, but I'm not going to make it that easy for them. 

 I agree with you that the EPA/DEP is behind the curve. The government is always behind the curve, usually by 10-15 years. If you ask permission to do everything, nothing would get done in this country. The red tape that one must go through is absolutely incredible, especially if you live within city limits. Good luck to you on your gray water system. 

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1148
outloud?

i wouldn't, Lambertad, say such out loud;-)

sand_puppy's picture
sand_puppy
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2011
Posts: 1761
So What Is Happening? Monsanto, Seeds, Neil Young

What is the bigger process we are in the middle of.  Or is there a big picture?  What is it? 

What are others seeing or suspecting?

My wife and I spent Saturday night sitting on the lawn at the Greek Theater in the hills at the back of the UC Berkeley campus... to see Neil Young and the Promise of the Real....

He’d stopped [playing] for a few minutes to engage in a mass act of law breaking by throwing hundreds of packages of organic seeds into the audience as well as having them distributed by helpers dressed as farmers.  It turns out, this is completely illegal under a new California law I hadn’t heard about that was passed recently thanks to Monsanto & related money that forbids any exchange of seeds more than 3 miles from their point of origin unless they’re packed under strict quality control and packaging constraints suitable primarily to corporate operations.  So, now you can sell, trade or give away packaged GMO Monsanto seeds anywhere in California, but it’s completely against the law to sell, trade or give a friend 4 or more miles away any seeds harvested from your garden or farm – something that, obviously, people have been doing for thousands of years. 

Thetallestmanonearth's picture
Thetallestmanonearth
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 28 2013
Posts: 320
re: Sand-puppy

I think the process we're in is one of systemic overshoot on all levels.  The last few generations have seen almost uninhibited success.  Bureaucracies grow to consume the supply of available resources.  They execute their societal grift by creating regulations to funnel people through taxable channels and to channel profits to their preferred private sector counterparts.  That is the purpose of seed laws.  However, individuals and loosely organized groups move faster, are more flexible and have less to loose than giant bureaucracies and so we can usually out maneuver them as they move to enclose us.  Some choose direct defiance like Neil, some choose to break the rules but hide it (it's hard to police peer-to-peer seed transactions) and some seek out loop holes (imagine a network of growers all willing to supply seed within four miles of their farm connecting the entire state of California - an underground railroad for seeds).

The cost of them trying to keep up is growing exponentially against the available resources they can capture.  They have forced growth at unsustainable rates, bleed us near dry the whole way and now that the juice is running out and the returns are diminishing they are going to push even harder.  The result is that we get even more creative and bold in our evasion and they look ever more ridiculous and have to spin ever more complex lies to cover it (see Syria).  Eventually they fail and we win, but our prize is a greatly impoverished world (economically, socially, ecologically etc).

Cornelius999's picture
Cornelius999
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 17 2008
Posts: 373
Great discovery with Toby

Great discovery with Toby H. Chris, that we can work hand in glove with nature rather than having to subdue or as Bacon put it "...put nature on the rack.."  This begins to open whole new vistas that, no doubt, have been sufficated by loudmouth commercial science and technology.  As Taoists might say: "Balance Heaven and Earth."

ezlxq1949's picture
ezlxq1949
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 29 2009
Posts: 174
Not all government is bad

I live in Canberra, the nation's capital. We have a surprisingly and pleasantly pro-active government when it comes to urban agriculture. Consider:

1. We are allowed to use grey water on our gardens, provided it is discharged 100mm below ground level. Plastic irrigation components exist to attend to this. It's a wise regulation: grey water is very unpleasant.

2. Legislation is in preparation to permit widespread verge gardening, although sensibly with height limits for pedestrian and vehicular safety: no corn as high as an elephant's eye.

3. The ACT government has been providing support—land, funds—for community gardens since the early 1970s. The Canberra City Farm gets a large allocation of land this Thursday (22/10) and the Minister for Agriculture will be signing the licence.

4. Canberra is a keen participant in the development of a regional food economy.

5. You may have seen recent news items about the class actions being filed against Monsanto over the (alleged) carcinogenic properties of Roundup, and the financial troubles that McDonald's is experiencing as people apparently turn to more healthy sources of food.

I agree with the argument in this podcast: not all people are a blot on the landscape. Perhaps even some of the artificial persons known as corporations may in time prove beneficial to the human race. Wouldn't that be nice.

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: May 3 2014
Posts: 474
Hope sells hubris, effectively!

As a sentient advocate of a more natural world, I feel somewhat sad after listening the your recent interview with Toby Hemingway.I also realize that my tendency to become a cynical curmudgeon is accelerating as I age. However,to think that watering a tomato plant with dishwater on the 15th floor of a condo is going to somehow save the planet is to ignore the somewhat "Kunstler-esque" admonition of Walt Kelly's, Pogo, when he says, "We have met the enemy, and he is us".

Urbanization is only a glaring example of where we have arrived in out species' evolution as we rapidly ply our dominance over this planet. He is absolutely, bang on when he comments that the main challenge we face is a socio-political issue. Rheba's and Lambertad's specific greywater comments only underline the situation. As we rapidly approach the plateau phase of the human growth curve, we need to recognize our need to reduce our "abuser" status and reduce our demands on the bio-diversity of this world. History is replete with examples, that I needn't bore this forum with, of the results. While Toby's book is filled with great ideas, the urbanizing trend of Monsanto style "clear cut" agriculture to feed Auschwitz style CAFO's and put energy bars in the palms of treadmill users, frankly, stinks. Adam Smith's invisible hand has got us by the throat and won't let go until, as CM suggests, we change the narrative. I hope I haven't depressed you all by spraying bio-degradable urine all over the discussion. Sorry 'bout that! But now I feel better. Back to the garden to finish fall cleanup.

Christopher H's picture
Christopher H
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 29 2009
Posts: 148
Anarchism spreading....

One of the things I always look for when listening to podcasts such as this is how much overlap I find between the ideas expressed here and those expressed on other media that I listen to and read.  And one of the major themes that is popping up in so many places recently is anarchism.

I think that this is really an important development, because it highlights just how much existing institutions have lost legitimacy in the eyes of a sizable minority of the public.  So, people just decide that they are going to ignore the rules (so long as it does not infringe on others) and do the things that they see as needing done.  I really liked Toby's example of the squatters in an old factory who forged an alliance with the local elder living facility, so that when the police came to turn them out, it quickly became a situation that was impossible for the State to win through the application of force.  So the police simply backed down (and maybe ended up actually sympathizing with the squatters and elders in the process).

This brings to mind something I read from Nicole Foss a while back, likening this process to a herd of wildebeests crossing a river in Africa.  If the wildebeests go in one or two at a time, the crocodiles will just pick them off.  However, if they go across in one mass, they will actually confuse the crocodiles so much with the commotion that a smaller proportion of them get picked off and eaten.  She said that this is the attitude we have to take with willful disobedience or ignoring those laws and codes we find to be onerous and prohibitive of positive solutions -- all of us who feel that way have to dive in at once, because when we do that we make it nigh impossible for the authorities to do anything to stop us.

For my part, I raised 37 chickens this year and culled the flock down to 20, even though I'm only allowed to have 10 per the town code where I live.  By buying off my neighbors with a meat bird each and eggs each week once they all start laying, I'm staving off any complaints from them -- and maybe even setting myself up that if the town ever did try to come in and tell me I had to cut back my flock (which I also use to create about 1.5 CY of compost every 2 weeks), my neighbors would be there to stand on my side.

Greywater is another pet issue of mine in this realm.  I'm a licensed civil engineer and have read a good bit on these kinds of systems, and they are illegal in New York State where I live, unless they are subjected to chemical treatment first.  Which just about ruins the idea of greywater -- you actually WANT all of those excess nutrients in the water, because they help to feed the vegetation you use to process it.  Well, I'm taking it on myself to design and install a greywater diversion system in my own house regardless of the codes, because it's something that needs to be done and is beneficial on so many levels (reducing aquifer use, reducing stress on the septic system, hydrating the landscape, etc.).

Don't ask permission.  Don't even ask forgiveness.  Just get s*** done.

JohnLevering's picture
JohnLevering
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2012
Posts: 4
Restoration Agriculture over just ‘sustainable organic agricultu

Chris, your show with Toby Hemenway should inspire many urbanites.  Not mentioned, but very inspirational, was when in the early ‘90s when the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba found itself cut off from petroleum products, their agricultural system, which depended on diesel and fossil-fuel derived chemicals and Cubans, with the help of others from as far as Australia adopted permaculture techniques and grew their food in downtown Havana and wherever they could.  Urbanites, indeed can grow much of what they need to feed themselves.

While I have it on my list of books to read, I have a couple minor, call it “picky”, issues with Toby and his farm experience in Oregon.  If he followed permaculture design principles as written by Bill Mollison and currently globally taught by Geoff Lawton (albeit financial restraints can enter the picture), Toby would not have a drive that took so much maintenance by designing it on contour.; could have cut his transportations to a fraction by producing most of his own needs, and possibly fuels, and other energy costs on his own property; totally eliminated his half-mile well needs (including the energy to pump water) immensely with water-capturing swale and keyline designed earthworks ponds and dams; and do as I do in not having any form of cable coming in (getting whatever wirelessly).  My apologies to Toby – you have done and continue to do great work.

Chris your introduction mentioning Singing Frogs Farm and the great work they have done is indeed absolutely outstanding.

However, your mentioning Farmland LP, without mentioning Restoration Agriculture Development, Inc. is an oversight.  Yes, I realize as I believe, you were at a West coast conference highlighting both Farmland and Singing Frogs, but the difference between Farmland LP (while admittedly headed in the right direction) and RAD, Inc. is just comparing ‘sustainable organic agriculture’ to truly turning the clock back, and restoring Nature the way it was several hundred years ago before we ruthlessly exploted and mined it in a highly degradable way – so that you no longer have to clean bugs off the windshield as I did back in the ’60 when I drove from Illinois to Colorado to go to school.

Me and a number of university studies have shown that if you want to get a financial return on your investment (if that is your only goal) organic poly culture farms like those RAD, Inc. develops is more profitable and resilient to environmentally caused crop disasters than the organic mono-crop, farms that it appears Farmland LP invests in.

I have been developing a reinvestment strategy where savvy equity investors, who are, and should be concerned about the current economic financial bubble, can reinvest into one particular tangible asset as well as the rental properties; individual residents (by the score – paying cash); collectibles; gold (questionable as to whether or not they would be able to hang on to it); and farm land.  That specific asset is existing, relatively healthy or land that has previously never been farmed that the investor would wholly own and have a company like RAD, Inc. develop and manage for them over a period of at least six years.  For this the investor/owner would get, an immediate first-year revenue stream, albeit offset by first year development costs, which would dramatically taper off to near zero from year two on; tax deductions as being a schedule F farmer; dramatically increasing cash flows by selling farm products smart, eg. Joel Salitin ways and Coops, rather than through the relative pittance in sales at farmers’ markets; and lastly huge appreciation to their investments, that are based on things people will always need – food, fuel, fiber, medicinals, water (including acquifer recharge), natural habitat, building materials and more.

Further, this month I realized that a 2010 interview with Jarod Diamond who wrote the books which were subsequently turned into documentaries Guns, Germs and Steel, which outlines the rise of humankind during the last 10,000 years including the development of agriculture; and Collapse, which ironically contributes collapse in every case in large measure to the development of conventional annual crop tilled agriculture, laid out 12 challenges that all must be rectified if mankind is to continue.  To a significicant portion restorational agriculture solves all 12 and more of societal problems (if requested I would be gladly provide my summation of that).

Therefore, Chris, I would highly recommend you invite Mark Shepard to be a guest and share most of what I have said better than I can.  I have never seen that Mark has been on Peak Prosperity since I became a member early 2013 and have filed all the MP-3s ever since plus a few others including some with Joel Salatin.

 

David Huang's picture
David Huang
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 20 2010
Posts: 66
Mark Shepard

I second, JohnLevering, in the recommendation of trying to get Mark Shepard to be a guest.  I'd love to hear what he has to say in a podcast.

Thetallestmanonearth's picture
Thetallestmanonearth
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 28 2013
Posts: 320
Mark Shepard

I'll add my vote to the list.  Mark would be an incredible guest.

 

cmartenson's picture
cmartenson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 7 2007
Posts: 5570
Noted!
Thetallestmanonearth wrote:

I'll add my vote to the list.  Mark would be an incredible guest.

Thank you John, David and TallestMan for the Mark Shepard recommendation.  Can't wait!

Best,
Chris

Christopher H's picture
Christopher H
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: May 29 2009
Posts: 148
Another Mark Shepard endorsement

If you need another person to endorse bringing Mark Shepard on, I wholeheartedly endorse him and his work!

The one drawback about Mark as compared to Toby, though, is that his efforts are almost completely focused on the broad acreage farm scale, which is out of reach for the majority of people on this site.  This doesn't discount any of the amazing things that he's doing, just that it's something that doesn't easily translate into action for most listeners.

I think that Toby's value in these topics is that he looks beyond the agricultural component of permaculture and focuses on the social structure side of things.  That's something that few people are really able to articulate or model well, so it's badly needed within the broader movement.

shastatodd's picture
shastatodd
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 16 2010
Posts: 49
techno-cornucopianism at its finest

i just listened to this podcast and was very disappointed.

if this man honestly believes conservation and severe behavioral changes are not a requirement for our species future, then he is simply promoting more techno-cornucopianism nonsense. to say we do not have to lower the heating on our houses or wear sweaters, or conserve or reduce our consumption is human hubris.

we live on a finite planet with finite resources, and suggesting we can have our cake and eat it too, is part of the same "off the cliff" thinking which has us in this mess. “magic green solar” is merely an extension of the unsustainable, and ecological destructive fossil fuel powered infrastructure.

nigel's picture
nigel
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 15 2009
Posts: 138
robie robinson wrote: i
robie robinson wrote:

i wouldn't, Lambertad, say such out loud;-)

Maybe he should get things done properly and approved. I say this because my current grey water system has just been retired and I moved it back into the septic system. It was 50 yards from the river, but it still managed to cause an algal bloom in the river, I switched to low phosphorus detergent and the algal bloom stopped, but I decided to retire the grey water.

Sometimes the rules are there for a good reason, I would be very wary of grey water systems at the risk of polluting down river.

marlybarrow's picture
marlybarrow
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 24 2015
Posts: 1
"I have been developing a

"I have been developing a reinvestment strategy... and lastly huge appreciation to their investments, that are based on things people will always need – food, fuel, fiber, medicinals, water (including acquifer recharge), natural habitat, building materials and more."

As a young person who was planning to buy a small farm and attempt to develop permaculture systems on it with my small inheritance, what you described in the above paragraph is exactly what I am looking for.

Do you have more information on this?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments