Permaculture teaches us to look at the physical and invisible forces at work in nature, communities, and society, and to neutrally observe how these energies impact the elements within a system, so that we may reorganize the resources we have available to use in a way that harnesses the useful aspects of these forces, while simultaneously minimizing their harmful aspects.
Everything works both ways. — Bill Mollison
Let’s take a closer look, and explore how we might apply this fundamental attitudinal principle of permaculture to some of the words permaculturists are quite emotional about, and may use frequently in our journey to live happier, healthier, sustainable lives in alignment with our guiding ethics of Earth Care, People Care, and Resource Share.
Globalization. This word seems to be inextricably linked to the fossil-fuel-subsidized explosion of growth and global development that has occurred over the last 100-odd years, and indeed, globalization is a direct result of the excessive party our society has been reveling in as far back as any living human’s memory can reach.
As defined by Wikipedia:
Globalization (or globalisation) describes the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade.
The term is most closely associated with the term economic globalization: the integration of national economies into the international economy through trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration, the spread of technology, and military presence.
However, globalization is usually recognized as being driven by a combination of economic, technological, sociocultural, political, and biological factors. The term can also refer to the transnational circulation of ideas, languages, or popular culture through acculturation.
Globalization is a result of the fossil fuel party, not the cause of it. The word ‘globalization’ simply describes the condition by which time and space has been compressed by advances in technology, allowing sharing of knowledge and resources across distances, and in time frames thought impossible even one generation ago.
Three generations ago, it was inconceivable that a factory’s belching chimney in one part of the world could ever affect the climate in another part. Our planet was perceived as simply being to vast to ever be impacted by the activities of us mere humans. We can go back an even shorter time span, to only twenty years ago, when being able to use a wireless mobile handset to chat with someone on the other side of the world, and even see a real-time video image of your friend was the stuff of science fiction.
Today, we are nearing a point in human history when a villager in the developing world will have access to global communication and information resources from a mobile handset. Now it is not only possible to conceive of the entire planet as an infinitely interconnected global village, it is possible to experience this personally any time we log on to the internet and browse GoogleEarth, WPN, or any number of similar portals which compress space and time in ways our ancestors only dreamt about.
And while it is true that the forces at work to create our modern global culture have had destructive impacts, and have ignored many ethical dilemmas, it is equally true that many of these same forces have expanded our collective consciousness, and created valuable systems that allow sharing and collaboration on a scale never before seen in known human history. This very website is an example of a positive aspect of globalization, facilitating the exchange of ideas, information, resources, cultures, and lessons learned with a few strokes of the keyboard.
There are positive aspects to globalization, and like the well-intentioned aid worker who surveys the desert landscape and says, “Bugger, all this sand — if it weren’t here we wouldn’t have all these problems growing crops,” if we indiscriminately demonize this force sector [to put it into permaculture terms] of globalization, we shut down any possibility of designing solutions to harness a significant energy which is at work in our communities.
The simple truth is that we don’t know for sure what the future holds for us. We can look at all the data available, read the latest reports about whether or not Peak Oil has arrived, hypothesize about potential future scenarios, and try to share our concerns with the unaware until we are blue in the face; and the fact remains, we will never actually know what the future holds — until it becomes the present.
Indeed, the only thing any of us have any sort of control over is our own personal decisions. It is up to each of us to keep informed, and make the best decisions we can in response to the plethora of information available.
Permaculture offers an ethical framework to guide our responses, and filter the over-abundance of information available in this day and age, and permaculture therefore best serves us when used as a tool to focus energy on making decisions which support creating the positive change we wish to see in the world.
‘Globalization’ is not good, bad, right or wrong. Globalization is simply a fact. There are positive aspects to globalization, and there are negative aspects to globalization. There are also undeniably insidious aspects to globalization. How we choose to creatively use and respond to the pressures of change these energies exert upon us will determine our quality of life now and in the future.
We’ll explore the myths of the evils of business, money and profits in parts II and III of this series. Until then, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Because no revolution has ever occurred without discourse, discussion & debate first – and what the world desperately needs now, are revolutionary ideas about how globalization, business and money can serve people and planet.