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10 Reasons to Go Organic… beyond being trendy….

When you’re heavily involved in a movement like Permaculture and only interacting with people within those circles it’s easy to think everyone’s on board, but walking the busy streets of Melbourne you promptly get jolted back to reality. It appears clear the necessary goals of Permaculture (and other similar movements) are far from the mind of the masses who are still completely immersed in their individual pursuits unaware of the growing cracks under the pavement.

Needing lunch I stopped into a favourite organic cafe in Degraves Street. It’s squashy and loud, there’s graffiti on the walls, branded clothing and slick mobile phones everywhere. I can see why people love this place – cultural Melbourne is my favourite place on earth as well and I can’t help but feel trendy as I grab an organic, free-trade, soy mocha-latte.

Then sitting down to wait for lunch in my little booth I’m confronted with a poster stating 10 Reasons to Go Organic. I know people on this site know the reasons but it was really good to be reminded.

  1. Organic produce is not covered in a cocktail of poisonous chemicals. The average chemically grown apple has 20 – 30 artificial poisons on its skin even after rinsing. Trust your instincts, and go organic!
  2. Fresh organic produce contains on average 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients than intensively farmed produce. Science says that’s good for you.
  3. Going organic is the only practical way to avoid eating genetically modified foods. And by buying organic, you register your mistrust of GMOs and are doing your bit to protect against them.
  4. If you eat meat or dairy products, going organic has never been more essential to safeguard you and your families health. Intensively farmed dairy cows and farm animals are fed a dangerous cocktail of antibiotics, growth promoting drugs, anti-parasite drugs and many other medicines on a daily basis. These drugs are passed on directly to the consumers of their meat and dairy produce which must be a contributing factor to meat related diseases like coronaries and high blood pressure.
  5. About 99% of non-organic farm animals in the UK are now fed GM soya. And there has never been a reported case of BSE in organic cattle in the UK. Common sense says that organic is safe food.
  6. Organic food simply tastes so much better. Fruit and Vegetables full of juice and flavour, and there are so many different varieties to try! There are over 100 different kinds of organic potatoes available!
  7. Organic farms support and nurture our beautiful and diverse wildlife. Over the last 30 years, intensive farming has lead to dramatic erosion of soil, a fall of up to 70% of wild bird life in some areas, the destruction of ancient hedgerows, and the near extinction of some of the most beautiful species of butterflies, frogs, grass snakes and wild mammals.
  8. Organic food is not really more expensive than intensively farmed food as we pay for conventional food through our taxes. We spend billions of dollars every year cleaning up the mess agrochemicals make to our natural water supply. Go organic for a more genuine cost effective future.
  9. Intensive farming can seriously damage farm workers health. There are much higher instances of cancer, respiratory problems and other major diseases in farm workers from non organic farms. This is particularly true for developing countries, and for agrochemical farms growing cotton. So go organic if you care about other people.
  10. And if you simply like the idea of your children and grandchildren being able to visit the countryside and play in the forests and fields like we did when we were young, go organic for the sake of all our futures.

Now it’s worth noting that – depending on the practices of the farm and how far the produce has been shipped – ‘organic’ doesn’t really go far enough in terms of the true meaning of sustainability, still requiring external inputs and lots of diesel. Nor is it a perfectly regulated system but it’s leaps and bounds ahead of the ‘conventional’ agriculture and shows respect for life.

Not only is it good to be reminded of why we should all go organic but it’s refreshing to remember that change is in the air and people do adapt quickly when they know they need to. Hearing the conversations as I ate, there were many regulars dropping past for a break in their busy ‘individualistic, real-world’ lives and the counter was constantly under the pump. Each person in this constant stream was in the line for the same reason, they wanted organic food. Some would be fully aware of why they want it, some partially and some dropping in to feel good about themselves, but in the end these people all know and are on the path to further understanding of the reasons drastic change is urgently needed.

Not everyone will hop off the carousel at once but the next logical step from thinking organic is growing the food at home and getting serious about other things in your life that damage the environment. This is the transition period. No, I’m not deluding myself that change is happening fast enough but movements grow exponentially and once they hit the tipping point there’s no stopping them. Despite the necessary grim stuff that I see and hear all day every day, I can also see people genuinely wanting to do more. That feels good and motivates me to push past the tipping point!


  1. Look I whole heartedly disagree,Organics is just the new black for these people,it was like coming out of the closet many years ago very fashionable.
    Those in Australia that can afford to buy organics and eat at expensive Melbourne eateries are the problem and not the solution.
    It was their lifestyles that created the problem,their shopping,the over consumption,the exploitation they carry out in their professional lives,that created this.
    Organics is a badge you can put on as penance for sins past.I refuse to believe that the new trend of saving the world one cafe late at a time and wearing a mung bean sweater will make a scant difference to the way we live and die.
    Currently in Australia we use 10 fold the resources and pollute at much the same rate when compared to a traditional lifestyle in a developing nation.
    What it comes down to is that these Transition consumers feel empowered by this new culture of organics and sustainability which just instigates a fresh round of consuming.
    Whats needed is a radical power down,we are getting close enough to the real tipping points and those are physical not emotional.
    We are being sold this belief that if we change our cars,catch public transport,and recycle we will get through this ok.
    I can imagine that Australia will survive we have money and technology.If our wheat crop fails a couple of times no big deal no one in Australia is going to die from famine,we have the ability to adjust to it or buy our way out of it.
    Climate change will effect these developing nations and not just in some small way,we will see the return to the great famines of the past already these nations are at the very edge of food insecurity.So when I see organic cafes full of people indulging themselves I just think to myself there is no hope for these people they are truly deceiving themselves.They put the plastic in the sea and the carbon in the air,they caused this.Of course this goes for me too,but I know I am an asshole.

  2. You’re right fernando, there’s no point supporting a marginally better, more socially just method of producing food or doing anything at all for that matter. We’re doomed, all people that don’t know the real problems are evil and I should have voted with 2 less dollars next door with some conventionally grown food :)

    I think the eco movement is plagued with people on high horses wearing all sorts of badges including Permaculture. This is kinda what the whole article is about, I could have sat there with my permaculture badge on and turned my nose up thinking how great am I compared to ‘them’. I left my evil job, I rode my bike here, the money I used for my coffee was sourced ethically. It’s so easy to think I’m above all ‘these’ doomed people and know better because Permaculture has enlightened me… but then what do I know about them? And what do they know about me?

    They probably think I’m a contradiction as well with my slick, flashy $1500 laptop made by a company whose shareholders recently voted down a proposal to make their products more environmentally friendly. Do they know how much I agonised over whether to buy it or not? Do they know my motivation for knowingly purchasing a product that has been shipped all over the world and contains components that have been made with the blood of poorer people than me? Do they understand I was virtually forced to purchase it because the last laptop I bought was designed to break before I was done with it? That I got the sexier looking model not based on looks but on the promise it will last 4 years instead of 2? And that without this evil tool of destruction I couldn’t continue to communicate with PRI, document video’s and help instigate change, doing what I could to feel better about my past ‘eco-sins’ from a time when I knew no better, or worse still the eco-sins I commit now fully knowing the impact.

    Did they know I was writing this article over my over-priced lunch and putting the finishing touches on the ‘7 food forests in 7 minutes’ video with Geoff Lawton? Did they consider the impact that video might have? Or how many people might be inspired to plant a tree? Do they think these actions offsets the carbon on the transportation of the laptop and power that runs the mobile network that I use to access the internet? Should I hate the phone technician that eats organic as his deluded way of doing something while he maintains that evil carbon emitting phone network that I use every day? Is it wrong that I only rode in to the cafe from a free parking spot on the outskirts of the city to save on parking fees and then continued to drive 129 km to a community garden meeting after lunch because the public transport system is inadequate? What if I don’t tell anyone and make it look like I only use my bike and walk? Would that lie be justified because it sets a better example by pressuring others into change or at least make them pretending to change by making them feel bad? Does the work I do in the community garden compensate for the drive? Should I trade my 6 cylinder van for a motorbike but then not be able to carry tools and a cubic metre of cardboard for sheet mulch to a job?

    And am I going to hell for these ‘sins’? Or is hell just another scare tactic used as a means of population control? Is ‘going green’ a new religion? And is my drive for green fulfilment based on and maybe even replacing the christian values I was brought up on? Permaculture seems a bit extreme compared to conventional green thinking… and the people involved seem to think they are right and everyone else is wrong and that they need to convert to evil masses before global destruction – is Permaculture a cult? Are Geoff & Craig the cult leaders profiting from the fear of unstable people who pay to live at their training camp for ‘3 month internships’ where you emerge enlightened?!

    How do we justify anything we do? Because of the systems we’ve setup around us there is no conceivable way to live without any impact unless you unplug and live in the hills. But unplugging is not Permaculture, it’s selfish. Permaculture is about community and the only way out of this global disaster that we’re in is working together towards a full transition. I know we don’t have much room to move now but we can only push on and as far as I’m concerned my motivation to transition my life is exactly the same as ‘their’ motivation to wear a token ‘organic badge’. I’m no better than ‘them’ –
    1983 -> 2005 – Blissfully unaware
    2006 – Inconvenient Truth, feeling bad, token gestures such as Organics and buying ‘green’, starting to feeling good again, still in a professional role and maintaining virtually the same lifestyle
    2007 – Reading ‘clean food organics’ magazine and ‘the chemical maze’, getting worried again but still in a professional role and still living virtually the same lifestyle
    2008 – Discovered peak oil, started to see the full scope of the problems, full blown despair and hardly functioning in my professional role but still living virtually the same lifestyle
    2009 – Discovered permaculture, feeling good again, traveled to Jordan in an airplane to find out more about the problems I’m creating, get back to same job, living virtually the same lifestyle
    2010 – Leave job, immerse myself in Permaculture, trying my best working for what I believe is good, attempting to grow some veggies, putting in fruit trees, setting an example, spreading the knowledge and reducing damaging behavior as much as possible but really still living the same lifestyle while I work for transition

    Considering the scope of the problems all this could easily be for nothing, my token way of feeling better before my miserable end. But I’m only one person and can only do what I can. This is the point, we can’t force people to change even if we need to. They have to come to it themselves, in their own way, when they’re comfortable and as the problems become more evident they will change in droves because they are no different to you or I, just slower to pick up the ball. Everything we do as ‘the enlightened’ is very noble but I’m under no illusion that when it comes down to it we’re trying to avert our own pain and suffering as much trying to save others from it whether we’re making ourselves feel better about the way we live, trying to live a longer healthier life and/or transitioning before the economy collapses, the supermarket shelves are empty, the waters rise up etc etc.

    Our job in the meantime is to educate and fast track the understanding of the problems so people have the ability to choose. The key is the people and the change in awareness in the last few years has been amazing even if it is largely misguided. Currently population and climate change are the two top issues leading up to the august Australian federal election. The pollies are promising to trade carbon here and turn refugees away there to please the people and keep their jobs. Unfortunately the policies are largely scary diversions from real solutions that aim to maintain business as usual, but look at it from the other angle. They know people are waking up. They are watching Food INC, Gasland, the power of nightmares. Change is happening. Hopefully soon the tipping point is reached where the people that are pushing for transition and business as usual together realise WHY one has to give way to the other. At that point leaders might get in based on issues like reforestation, changing the dream, austerity etc..

    Whether it will come in time or not I don’t know but an US and THEM mentality isn’t helpful. That shop in their own small way is doing a very good thing by educating the people we need to affect most, making the facts accessible, giving them the choice to act. I’m an optimist about changing the world one person at a time even though the reality of the situation looks bleak, if I didn’t see hope I wouldn’t waste my time on a permaculture site discussing/learning how to teach my neighbour how to grow lettuce. Instead I’d be in the forum at learning how to shoot my neighbour for stealing my lettuce after ‘the collapse’ and how to cook his body as a replacement meal for the lettuce I just lost, all without a hint of guilt.

  3. Well spoken Fernando!

    “These functions of these basic characteristics are secured by a class of administrators, manipulators and intellectuals who are the basic requirement for the functions, the legitimization and the dynamics of this monstrous complex of a new Empire. A class of people in our societies who constitute the stability and convenience of the existing order – the middleclass – the group of well educated individuals who are paid by the capital owners to secure and manage their interests and therefore are well-paid and allowed extreme comfort and consumption.”


  4. I am not so much into politics,I am just calling it how I see it.
    It’s rank tokenism,I am sorry Pat but I don’t share your enthusiasm and like I said I don’t get a warm fuzzy feeling from green consumers.
    I think the term is green wash.
    Anyway what I would like to address is your statement about living simply in the hills being selfish.
    I think that it’s a wonderful idea.
    Here is why,just imagine for one second, If we all had a plan to go to the hills in a secure and orderly fashion,that the people responsible for the mess stop repeating the same behaviors and tried some new ones.
    What if part of the plan was do divest ourselves of our surplus and then use that surplus for fair share giving.
    Imagine for one second these people you are trying defend yourself,myself included just powered down,and surrendered your surplus to the greater good.Brought some balance back.
    Some good projects might be bringing potable water every man woman and child in the world.Housing,Medicine and Organic food.
    When I see Melbourne’s cafe culture start giving Alms to the poor in a substantial fashion rather than sitting down to a leisure filled lunch, quaffing latte,talking about how green the new Prius is and the angst they experienced why having to choose between the rain forest coffee or the fair trade one and then move on to consume more calories in one sitting than the average Sub Saharan African has in a week,I will feel a little more confident that the tide of change has begun.It’s just more high talk and high living living otherwise,it’s nothing but fluff and feel good.
    You have experienced life in a collective situation during your internship in the Hills of NTH N.S.W, collective values,collective responsibility and simple living where you share a shower,share your food,limit the use of resource wastage (even though its renewable)input directly into your own food system and in general power down.Thats the sort of hill living I am talking about and I don’t think thats selfish at all.
    Best Wishes Fernando

  5. Hey Fernando, I have been writing with a touch of humor, I hope that’s coming through… but what you’re saying is fair enough, it is green washing and I do wish everyone would just wake up and ‘head for the hills’, working collectively and peacefully, it’d be great and that wouldn’t be selfish at all. Going back to the city after not being there for a while is a shock though and it makes me realise it is wishful thinking at least for now. The shear scale of the blissfully unaware is as terrifying as the problems.. of course it is the problem.. and I guess I’m really intrigued by what jolts people, wakes them up to the real challenges, and then gets them accepting responsibility for their part… where it starts, where it takes them, when it has an impact…

    I don’t know but Oyvind, that pamphlet was a valuable read, thanks for posting. “What in the Permaculture strategy can help us to make that change, now when our individual wishes are unable to transcend these overwhelming structures that govern us? Strategies have to be developed in a way that wherever we do a design we are able to oppose the structure of those 3 basic characteristics of the present society. We are not able to fight them on their own ground: political or military, not even ideological or communicative.
    The only means we have is to create practical, living projects that show how things can be otherwise – and projects that can show good performance in situations where the rest of the society are in the process of breakdowns in services, in resources and in stability.”

    Both zaytuna and jordan are living proof of the above statement! 3 months collective living was a fun and enriching experience. And Jordan opened my eyes to how rich community life can be even when your basic needs are barely met. They really looked after us there and the feeling of community was so strong, it’s something i’d never really experienced in Australia. We really are missing out here.

    Bring on the “process of breakdowns in services, in resources and in stability” I guess?! :)

  6. Some fair comments from Patrick.I believe from what I have read that Patrick is a passionate young man,and that he does truly believe that change is on the way.You would have to agree that change is happening,we have transition town movement growing every day,lots of great information coming to us through a variety of mediums and in general there is a real buzz over the last few years as the world gears up to meet the challenges ahead.I do however think that Fernando has some excellent points too and the most important one is his mention of people care and equality.I am not so much interested in saving the Earth myself,I think that if meteors didn’t finish her then we won’t be able to either,she is stronger and more resilient than just about anything I can think we could throw at her.It’s the Human Race that is fragile and in dire need of saving,I also worry about the real victims of climate change and they are the poor.I saw a bumper sticker on a car once “Live simply so others may simply live”.
    I am fairly sure that we will fail at halting Global Warming or Climate Change,there is simply to many people who seek the affluence we have already attained.I find it difficult to believe that with an onslaught of consumption especially from the(BRIC) block that is already underway,that our new found do good ism will compensate.We can not afford to keep the rose colored glasses on. It is now the time that we should prepare for a very interesting future with many challenges.The first one of these is food security for the worlds poor.The one common thing I like in both Patricks and Fernandos reply is that community is the only way that as human beings we can live.Community has a synergy unobtainable by individuals,I am always happiest in a community and I believe these small,clans tribes or intentional communities will be one of the most powerful mechanisms of the future.
    Good luck to us all.

  7. “Bill: No, anarchy would suggest you’re not cooperating. Permaculture is urging complete cooperation between each other and every other thing, animate and inanimate. You can’t cooperate by knocking something about or bossing it or forcing it to do things. You won’t get cooperation out of a hierarchical system. You get enforced directions from the top, and nothing I know of can run like that. I think the world would function extremely well with millions of little cooperative groups, all in relation to each other.”


  8. I’m afraid quite a few of these people are middle class citizens green washing their hands, going to an organic café to ease their hearts, and then going back to business as usual. Probably this is why people from the working classes tend to shy these cafés, because they see through the hypocrisy.

    But let’s hope some of them have a true permaculture soul, discussing permaculture solutions for the post-fossil time age. Like people did at the cafés of Paris at the rise of the industrial revolution. Because what we need now is a permacultural revolution!

  9. Today I learned about Henrik Ibsen, , and that he went to a café almost every day. Because he loved to argue with his friends about themes in time, like the woman’s role in society. And his plays truly helped the position of women, making a lot of discussions at the cafés.

    Many great people have developed their thinking and skills at cafés, so we should not discredit the power of discussions. And even for me, I should prefer these discussions over a cup of organic grown coffee or tea.

  10. Yeah Oyvind I think the ‘third place’ is really important to society. We seem to need somewhere other than work and home to socialize with people.

    In Australia coffee culture has really taken off as the third place for office jockeys and students but there’s always been something. As a broad generalization the working class here have historically tended to claim the pub after work. Is a $4 beer any different to a $4 coffee?

    Gardeners/permies have community gardens/demonstration sites. I remember my dad telling me once that the cup of tea after sunday mass was where him and his friends met girls and that was why everyone his age was so into church! I’m sure he was exaggerating a little but at that time that’s where his community met up. At Zaytuna it was the campfire away from the classroom and away from the tents. People meet in different places as times change but interestingly in all these situations the meetings seem to be centered around sharing thoughts over food &/or drink and that’s very tribal. It’s something that I think will naturally go on in whatever form our society takes post-fossil

  11. Hi Patrick,

    I really like your posting. I work in the city on Hardware Lane. I know the cafe. I work for a Place Making company in a professional role and I buy pretty much 100% organic food to feed my family. The company I work for buys 100% green energy, we have two green balconies complete with rainwater tanks, worm farm, compost bin and of course recycling. Most of the furniture is second hand and lovingly restored. Working in that office is like working in somebody’s home with potted plants and ethic artworks from all over the world. And yes, we use computers all Macs, we consume but we also try and make the world a better place in our own small way, just like that little organic cafe. I believe in the power of the collective.

    Too many skeptics and cynics out there. It takes all kinds to make the world.

    Good on you for all your efforts and contribution in your own small way.

    And I would like to reprint the 10 reasons to go organic on my blog if it is okay with you, with a link to this posting.

    Thanks Pat.

    Cheers mate – Zainil

  12. Thanks for the therm “the third place”, we have too few of them, especially in the suburbs. It is said that if you want to build an ecovillage, you should build the common house, or “the third place” first. This is a sign of the 10 % successfull ecovillages:

    Also see pattern 87 – 94, The local shops and gathering places:

    So we permies should do like Henrik Ibsen, go to the pubs and cafes to start huge and wide-spreading discussions, about the post-fossil / post-industrial time-age and the permaculture revolution / solution!

  13. And of course, to make the middle class realize that they are the new aristocracy, the obstacle to change, the preventers of status quo! Without the middle class and their privileges, the mighty and rich could not exist! Either they come from huge industrial or bureaucratically structures, the left or the right, the powerful and rich need the middle class to exist. This makes the middle class to the biggest threat of human civilization!!!!

  14. i rekon drinking coffee is a large part of the problem.

    massive amounts of south american rain forest are being destroyed so that half the western world can get high on caffeine just so they can make it through the day working their dead end job that they hate.

    $4 per cup! fair trade my ass!

  15. Hi Guys,I like my Local organic cafe(I am from Melbourne) it is a great place to meet with friends, and I try not buy into that other style of food.We all live in this paradox,I think Patrick was just trying to keep us all positive which is refreshing.I do think we pay too much for organics but the government should help make them cheaper.Sometimes there is too much politics and not enough action.I also realize how important politics is as well in the big picture thinking.Anyway I liked the article because it has got me thinking about a whole range of things and now I am going to make an effort to do even more things with others in mind.I truly believe the little changes I make will help.I saw a bumper sticker that I like too,be the change in the world you want to see.
    Peace and love Thanks once more to Patrick great article.

  16. Hey Steve we might need to start ‘Permaculture Alliance Coffee’ which can only be grown in the understory of new food forests on degraded farmland!

    Justin that cafe is interesting, it’s nice to see a government do something that makes sense.

    Zainil, thanks for the comments, nice blog too. You might want to check with Craig about republishing portions, I don’t personally have a problem but PRI would have a policy.

  17. maybe if everyone that drinks coffee took acid instead, we would have alot less of the problems that everyone seems to be talking about.
    being able to feel, see and experience the subtle energies is what make people understand life.

    what first connected me, was growing two cannabis plants from seed in my bedroom when i was 11 years old. i had them under a light for the winter and put them outside at spring. one was a male and one was a female. i learnt so much from observing them intently every single day.
    unfortunately my dads girlfriend told the cops and they came and took the beautiful female with big purple buds larger than my forearm.

    the interaction with the plants made me realise that plants really do have a consciousness

    i think dominator culture has gone on for too long.

    forgive me if i’ve strayed from the topic :)

  18. Hei Patrick, here is some more evidence of the great importance of “the third place”.

    “The decline of democratic discourse has come about largely at the hands of the elites, or “talking classes,” as Lasch refers to them. Intelligent debate about common concerns has been almost entirely supplanted by ideological quarrels, sour dogma, and name-calling. The growing insularity of what passes for public discourse today has been exacerbated, he says, by the loss of “third places” — beyond the home and workplace — which foster the sort of free-wheeling and spontaneous conversation among citizens on which democracy thrives. Without the civic institutions — ranging from political parties to public parks and informal meeting places — that “promote general conversation across class lines,” social classes increasingly “speak to themselves in a dialect of their own, inaccessible to outsiders.” In “The Lost Art of Argument,” Lasch laments the degradation of public discourse at the hands of a media establishment more committed to a “misguided ideal of objectivity” than to providing context and continuity — the foundation for a meaningful public debate.”


  19. “About 99% of non-organic farm animals in the UK are now fed GM soya. And there has never been a reported case of BSE in organic cattle in the UK. Common sense says that organic is safe food.”


    This is the sort of statement that really annoys me.

    For a start it doesn’t make sense. The three sentences are completely unrelated.

    99% of cattle in the UK are fed GM Soya… So what??? Is there any evidence to suggest this is damaging to them or to humans, if so here would have been a good place to provide it.

    But no, you then say that no organic cattle have ever tested positive for BSE, well fair enough but what does that have to do with GM feed. Anyone with half a brain knows that BSE (mad cow disease or its human variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease) was contracted by cattle being fed the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with GM crops. The majority of cases of BSE were detected in the EU before GM feed was available. In fact countries, such as the US, that had a plentiful supply of soya bean feed(and other grain feed – gm or otherwise) that was cheaper than feeds derived from animals, were shown to have a much lower incidence of BSE, despite the feeding of ruminant meal to other ruminants not being illegal.

    So from two completely unrelated statements you then say ‘common sense says that organic is safe food’. The term ‘clutching at straws’ comes to mind.

    This sort of comment is straight out of the Jeffrey Smith playbook, it does you no justice and only discredits your arguments. Try using some real arguments to support your statments next time, rather than a grab bag of unrelated statements.

  20. Jules, thanks for pointing out the weakness of point 5 but can I be clear these aren’t my comments as you’ve stated, they are verbatim from the poster I mention at the start of the article.

    As for the credibility of this article, I wasn’t debating organic vs GM, it was commentary about changes I see, the transition period and positivity despite constantly depressing news.

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