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It’s Time to Re-Ruralise

We’ve mentioned the re-ruralisation movement happening in debt-ridden Greece before, and here’s a video by German TV on the topic.

For decades people, worldwide, have been flowing from the countryside in to the cities.

In 1800, only 3 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. By 1900, almost 14 percent were urbanites, although only 12 cities had 1 million or more inhabitants. In 1950, 30 percent of the world’s population resided in urban centers. The number of cities with over 1 million people had grown to 83.

… In 2008, for the first time, the world’s population was evenly split between urban and rural areas. There were more than 400 cities over 1 million and 19 over 10 million. More developed nations were about 74 percent urban, while 44 percent of residents of less developed countries lived in urban areas. However, urbanization is occurring rapidly in many less developed countries. It is expected that 70 percent of the world population will be urban by 2050, and that most urban growth will occur in less developed countries. —

Thankfully the trend is now reversing, in some places at least. From China to the U.S.A. to various countries in Europe, etc., people are re-evaluating what they want out of life, giving up on the cities, and are seeking a simpler lifestyle with greater community support. Some are even trying to move out of the mainstream money economy entirely. If this trend were to continue and escalate, it could, if combined with a resurgence in practical education and apprenticeships, do wonders to stabilise local economies, whilst simultaneously improving landscapes and even stabilising climate — if that practical education was sufficiently holistic, and if these revitalised communities aim at interdependent self-reliance. Permaculturists everywhere — practitioners, consultants, teachers — can find excellent niches here, supporting this transition along healthy lines.

Of course, moving back to the land will only be possible for some. Too many will have burned their bridges on the way to the city, and will now have no property to relocate to. I don’t have figures to back this up, but I suspect this will be especially true of the poor in ‘developing’ countries. Breaking up monopolies of land will become, I believe, a defining issue over the next decade or so. I suspect it will also become a violent issue in many places, as it historically usually was. My preference would be to see policies enacted that incentivise ‘get smaller, or get out’, so we can have a relatively peaceful and staged transition, in parallel with the development of permaculture and related educational institutions that can support that transition.

Because so few people currently know much about farming, education will be essential. Universities and community colleges have both the opportunity and the responsibility to quickly develop programs in small-scale ecological farming methods, programs that also include training in other skills farmers will need such as marketing and formulating business plans.


Could we actually regain much of what we have lost? Yes, by going back, at least in large part, to horticulture. Recall that the shift from horticulture to agriculture was, as best we can tell, a fateful turning point in cultural history. It represented the beginning of full-time division of labor, of hierarchy and patriarchy. Biointensive farming and permaculture are primarily horticultural rather than agricultural systems. These new intelligent forms of horticulture could, then, offer a viable alternative to a new feudalism with a new peasantry. In addition, they emphasize biodiversity, averting many of the environmental impacts of field cropping; they use various strategies to make hand labor as efficient as possible, minimizing toil and drudgery; and they typically slash water requirements for crops grown in arid regions. — Richard Heinberg, Fifty Million Farmers


  1. “It is no wonder either that everybody’s political programs focus on how to create jobs. The communists want to create jobs by making everyone a civil servant of sort. The socialists want to create jobs by subsidizing them, but they presently can’t because they don’t have the money. The moderate right wants to give more money to those who already have a lot of it in the hope that it will somehow trickle down, not that it matters very much if it doesn’t. The National Front wants to hunker down behind barbed wires, which should somehow create jobs, Muslim people need not apply.

    As for the Greens, they want to create green jobs, a lot of them, preferably through generous state subsidies. Make no mistake, those green jobs does not involve growing green things. The group the Greens represent, namely the enlightened upper middle class, wants reasonably well paid and prestigious jobs, and herding sheep in central Brittany definitely doesn’t qualify.” – Damien Perrotin


    When will people start to value REAL GREEN JOBS?

  2. Great article Craig. The themes of ruralisation, alternative currency systems and breaking up land monopolies highlight the key dimensions of the necessary revolution from servitude to freedom.

  3. Hi Everyone,
    I think Richard has some very good points. We all need to consider what we can do, as individuals,families to create a Good World from the current unreal one. This includes reducing consumption and living simpler, saner,sustainable lives. In other words, growing some of our own food,gaining new farming,craft or other beneficial skills and starting to rebuild this crazy world. Moving back to the country is certainly a start for those who can. I’d strongly encourage it and there may be a little house somewhere waiting for you. Or you can build a little house yourself, maybe 10 or 20 square metres to begin with. Don’t be afraid to give it a go and you may realise a wonderful life.
    The other thing is that ,where possible, city dwellers should aim to grow as much of their own food as well, live in smaller houses and set up sharing networks locally to live more cheaply outside the old cash economy. Thus create a new kind of wealth and care more for each other. As most western people live in an urban environment, the big battles to change our lives may happen where we are now. Start fighting now with local efforts, food,knowlege sharing and solidarity of spirit. Good luck to us all.

  4. Yes relocalizing our livelihoods is a good step. But please don’t move out to wild places and clear land for cultivation. Can’t we do permaculture where we are at? There is so much untapped potential and space in cities, particularly areas left blighted by the global economy.

  5. There is huge potential in the Western Victorian countryside for re-ruralisation, empty dilapidated houses and most streets have empty quarter acre lots that are currently mowed which could be gardened or grazed. Fortunately some remnants of community spirit still remain in these small towns.
    I see an interesting parallel with Athens and Melbourne both having 4 million people, everyone tells me how fabulous living in Melbourne is and how it is rated one of the most “livable ” cities in the world.
    That may be so, and I bet Athens was great to live in too, but at what point do city dwellers call it quits and look for alternatives, before or after their lives become unlivable.
    Many city dwellers are so anesthetized by consumerism that they will stay trapped within this dysfunction and destruction and still call it a great life.
    I know I can’t reach into the city and pluck people out, but maybe Permaculture practitioners in the country side can be ready with their skill sets and tool boxes ready to embrace these urban refugees and escapees.
    Carolyn Payne
    Mudlark Permaculture

  6. As a Greek speaker its funny how bad, vague and generalized their translation is of what the people are actually saying. They make them sound like robots with such programmed blurbs.

  7. As a re-ruraliser, or to be more precise a first time ruraliser of some 18 months now, I can thoroughly recommend the practice as being personally beneficial to anyone considering escaping Urbania.
    It is not necessary to move to a large land holding in order to make a difference. In fact I believe that most people moving out of a city environment would probably find it very difficult to manage even one acre of land effectively. It is however very uncommon for such small parcels of land to be found nowadays in rural areas. In most parts of Victoria where I live, you can’t even build a house on less than 100 acres (except in established townships) or legally live permanently in any other type of dwelling. We do need a shake-up of land ownership rules if re-ruralisation is to be peacefully achievable. But that is unlikely to happen and I applaud the actions of the Diggers 2012 group in taking matters into their own hands. It may need to come to that as a necessity in the future on a more global scale.
    I did consider moving to Western Victoria as Carolyn suggests and was prepared to purchase a small acreage or some cheap property on an acre or two out there. But then came the devastating floods after the prolonged drought of several years. Most of the places I had been considering became submerged under flood water. For all of the above reasons I gave up looking at land ownership, at least until such a time as things alter drastically. I settled for a rental property, around an hour drive out of Melbourne up in the mountains of North Central Victoria, a known bushfire prone area but then nowhere in rural country is living without some risk.
    I live in a modest home on a one third acre lot but have found that to be enough for me with the age induced energy levels that I am now endeavouring to come to terms with. On this area I have engineered two swales that usefully harness the rainwater runoff for a food forest in progress. It is winter now but I was able to provide over the growing season last year a reasonable proportion of my food requirements (I am after all a vegetarian) on a 10sq metre raised bed garden based on sheet mulching principles. I still get occasional meals from the remaining perennial plantings from this first year effort, augmented by product from the ubiquitous herb spiral. This garden has now been expanded to 20sq metres for next season. Last year I really didn’t know much about what I was doing but I still got a satisfying yield for my effort. This year I know a little more about what works and what doesn’t and I expect that progress to continually grow.
    I encourage anyone with an eye to the future to take similar steps.

  8. Oops, I should have said relocate into Western Victorian country towns. That is what I meant anyway. I see plenty of spare capacity in the form of empty houses and vacant lots within townships.
    Also, an interesting thing appeared in my local press last week with regard to the 100 acre minimum farm size which Bernie was referring to.
    Apparently reform is on its way, with the Victorian State government set to give Victorian Local governments autonomy in making decisions in the best interests of the local community regarding farm size.
    I will just quote a couple of lines from the article.

    “Councils need a much greater autonomy in the managing their rural areas after a decade of top down state government direction on the operation of rural zones.” Mr Guy said. (Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy)
    The 40 hectare minimum lot size in the Farming Zone will remain the default, but councils will be encouraged to vary it to match varying conditions such as climate, topography and land settlement patterns.
    ” Local councils know their local area much better than bureaucrats in Melbourne’s CBD and should be able to have a lower minimum lot size, or to encourage smaller lots near towns if it suits their community.
    Farmers need to live on their land. We need more flexibility for farmers to live where they are working, not force them to commute from a town. We want to see rural Victoria thrive after a decade of planning constraints” Mr Guy said.

    For me, this new reform sounds like a great start for a new permaculture inspired “back to the land’ movement.
    After years of farms amalgamating in the ‘get big or get out’ era, which then led to the conglomerate buy-ups for blue gum plantations, I can now see real light at the end of the tunnel for a peaceful redistribution of land.
    Just the thing that is needed in so many places.
    Carolyn Payne
    Mudlark Permaculture

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