I know…I’m crass, and subject to first impressions, and probably am hypnotized by agribusiness. (Anyone got a Dorito?) I’m also immature enough to think that it’s remarkable someone hasn’t already done the “Spinal Tap” version of permaculture—or “Permaculture--the reality show”. See this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u75q3KaZGy4&feature=related. Can’t you just see Christopher Guest doing this guy?
But the truth is there is much sense in what he’s going on about, and if you’ll allow me to draw it, the link between peak oil and adaptations that human populations will need to make is a remarkable elephant in the living room that almost no one is addressing. I don’t know about you, but I’m scared to death that one day I will wake up and “the revolution will not [have] be(en) televised”—no countdown to zero oil, no alternative fuel vehicle fleet, no Gaia. With a slate of apocalyptic movies recently—“The Road,” “The Valley of Eli,” even “Zombieland”—a construction or near celebration of the dystopian has occurred, and this reflects an arguably collective unconscious concern with uncontrollable change.
Permaculture offers a pleasant, if somewhat gushing, alternative with a utopian vision of humans in balance with nature. But wherever I turn, I see and hear new age, sing-song, Kumbaya-loving versions of it. After taking a few books out of the library (including the definitive—“Permaculture: a designer’s manual”, reading online, and watching various media, I’m still not sure what it means. One guy says permaculture is about “relationship,” another “earth care, people care, fair share”…I’m not sure how I’d explain it to either my seventy year old father, or my twelve year old niece. I’ve heard it referred to as ecological gardening, and one of the most interesting, mind-blowing examples of its practical application can be found at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk
But what I’m hoping to discover as I begin to read more, and try to educate myself more, is can permaculture be a sustainable solution to agribusiness? Can it stave off starvation for 7 billion people when the oil is all gone? Is it landscape architecture, design ecology, an “informal institution of social ideals”…?
And does it “…go better with Coke”?
Thad Mantaro--SUNY Oswego
(Part one in a series of three).