One reason permaculture resonates with me is the idea the we, humans, are the problem and also the solution. Lately, I’ve gotten really frustrated with this idea that humans are destroying the planet. The planet, our earth, as a system situated within the cosmos has billions of years left before its light burns out. Our human species, though destructive, hasn’t really gotten to that level of magnitude with our powers of obliteration.
What is at stake? Well, there is no question that we are forcing massive ecosystem change. That certain systems that we have come to depend on: the nitrogen cycle, the carbon cycle, climate patterns, the water cycle, pollination…the list goes on. That these cycles are SHIFTING. NOT ceasing to exist. These changes would not be happening if it weren’t for human causes. These shifts have many implications for our own cultural survival as a species. We may not have access to water, agriculture might become more difficult, we will lose our shorelines, extinctions will occur, there will be climate refugees. Scary stuff. However, these ecosystem processes will persist in some changed form with or without us.
I’m not saying that the loss of species is not deeply damaging. But…what is an ideal ecological state? Untouched, wild forests? Because, any ecologist can tell you that recently disturbed sites are some of the most biodiverse and redwood forests are some of the LEAST diverse of ecosystems. I think an ideal ecological state is one where there is balance, where the elements are honored and sustained at some level. But also one that is at times pristine and at times in the midst of destruction and then rebuilding. We fear this destruction because it feels less stable but in the grand scheme of things it is just one state among many. Our fleeting impact on the planet is just one state among many states in this planet’s evolution.
So, ultimately what is at stake is our OWN survival. We fear the future, because we (and past generations) have created a pretty scary future to live in. This future will test our resilience, and will no doubt force major changes in the way that we live our lives. It’s also a future that is pretty unpredictable for the honeybees and little amphibians and big tigers and pandas and all the rest of it.
But this dichotomy of us and nature, as us as destroyers of nature. It is part of the problem. It reinforces a deep alienation from relationship by wrapping us in guilt and shame. It leads us to blame others. There are many who we could point the finger at, but by participating in this economy we keep those wheels spinning too.
Stewardship as an ethic is something that we tragically lack. As they say in permaculture: earth care, people care, fair share. As for me, I’m asking for relationship. Seeking to become more connected with my body, the earth. I am disinvesting myself of this economic system to the extent that I am able, a slow process to be sure. I am fighting passionately against alienation in all its forms, mostly that come from the dominant culture but also from anarchists and others who still come at this work from this simplistic paradigm.
On another note, though…I do realize that this kind of rhetoric that I’m dissing…it works for a lot of people and many have become radicalized thanks to it, including me when I was a wee one. So, many its not allll bad. It just doesn’t work for me anymore.