Redesigning Civilization – with Permaculture

Modern agriculture, industry, and finance all extract more than they give back, and the Earth is starting to show the strain. How did we get in this mess and what can we do to help our culture get back on track? The ecological design approach known as permaculture offers powerful tools for the design of regenerative, fair ways to provide food, energy, livelihood, and other needs while letting humans share the planet with the rest of nature. This presentation will give you insight into why our culture has become fundamentally unsustainable and offers ecologically based solutions that can help create a just and sustainable society. This is the sequel to Toby’s popular talk, "How Permaculture Can Save Humanity and The Planet, but not Civilization."


  1. Thank you Toby! I love this presentation. I’ve watched the whole thing twice and bits of it many more times. I feel it is critical that we understand the genesis (tongue firmly placed in cheek) of agriculture and civilization if we are to figure out how to move beyond it. Permaculturists most of all.

    I see the influence of Daniel Quinn in your line of reasoning. Reading Quinn was a painful paradigm shift for me, in the best and most profound sense of that overused word. Where you (and I) would differ from his views are in the distinction between “agriculture” and “horticulture” and the possibility that the beginnings of civilization happened before full-bore agriculture. Of course, those two ideas are intrinsically linked.

    Is there a book based on this work in your future? I hope so.

  2. well, i always subscribed to this pet notion that mankind was “bequeathed” farming and complex hierarchy by the “gods” who came from somewhere else. now that gobekli tepe finally concludes that complex spiritual practice, hierarchy and megalithic construction and the like predates organized agriculture sure makes my pet theory sound more plausible.

    so in other words mankind was fine being hunter gatherers or simple horticulturalists until “someone else” came and changed it all for us.

  3. Thank you, Toby! I appreciate the historical and pre-historical background in your presentation – I think it is important for people to realize that in recognizing the harmful environmental impact of industrial agriculture there is no need for casting blame or giving up hope, but rather a call to manifest change.

    The talk was a little like Dante’s Inferno – I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it out of the depths. I am thankful Toby got around to stressing our responsibility to institute new (or old) sustainable models of food production. It is apparent that this change must happen on an individual level and that we can no longer hope or believe that the governments and corporations of the world are working for the good of the people or our environment – we must manifest our own change.

    My thanks to PRI for helping spread the word!

  4. Really great talk, great speaker and well put together. I thought it, at the beginning, relatively normal, something you might get at uni, then it developed past where the university would take the subject, gave me more to chew on literally! I sincerely wish that this kind of talk enters educational programmes. Ahh I am motivated again, thankyou! Rebecca

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