by Peter Greg
The idea of how Permaculture parallels with politics has been a question that has been stuck in my mind for weeks now, and I’ve been fascinated with the idea of how we can use Permaculture to recover some of our political power. The more you look into politics in the modern day with an open mind, the more it starts to resemble a ‘mutated’ eco-system of sorts, and what better teacher than nature and its associated design science — Permaculture — to help us rebuild this important ecology to good health. As Geoff Lawton says “Let’s get to the core of the problem. Let’s get down to the mainframe of the issue,”and it struck me like a paradigm hammering my brain, as I was pondering how niches in an eco-system apply to political systems.
It dawned on me this morning that probably the main reason why we have the problems we do in the world, is that we have left the niches in our political eco-systems open for virulent and parasitic species! Just like we see in eco-systems with the fast carbon pathways of pioneer species taking up niches in an eco-system, we are seeing the almost exact parallels in modern society, with pioneering elites and other aggressive species taking up the niches we have left after centuries of abdicating personal and communal responsibility, and allowing that responsibility to become very centralized, just as viruses and parasites thrive in animals that possess a weakened immune system.
A fascinating premise to ponder is this: just as the weaker animals in an eco-system are killed off by parasites and viruses, will political societies and cultures with a weakened immune system be killed off too? As great threats to the cultural eco-system grow and compound, I believe this is inevitable.
It seems to parallel also with hierarchies of problems in the environment.
3 — Political pollution or corruption as a result
Without community power or individual power within a political structure, opportunistic personalities and self-centred interest groups can act as parasites or viruses attacking the weakened immune system. They also evolve to become more destructive as they centralize power and co-operate with each other to attack the ‘host’.
2 — Individual disempowerment
Instead of removing the unit of soil creation (tree), we are removing the single building unit of personal and community creation — individual choice/responsibility — which becomes singular disempowerment, which then leads to the biggest singular problem we face today within society and culture, expressed below as:
1 — Community or collective disempowerment; associated loss of freedom
Just as soil fertility sustains physical life though our food, community fertility sustains culture and society, through freedom, or the ability to freely engage in life expression, especially as it relates to harvesting the source of all wealth: our natural eco-systems and natural resources. The fundamentals of life being clean air, clean water, clean food — with ‘clean’ meaning unspoiled and giving nutrition to sustain our life. So we can see that community and individual empowerment, and the freedom which grows from that, forms the very foundations of government and all the good things we appreciate — what we consider a part of a happy and healthy society. For every nation and culture, the basic intent for government or public office is to serve people and the earth.
Is it any surprise that societies and cultures (past and present) that live closest to the land — the source of their sustenance and wealth — also experience the greatest freedom and prosperity? Is it any wonder that we are losing more of our freedoms, prosperity and happiness as we spiral away from our very source of sustenance?
Freedom is a creative choice and desire to better apply (everyone wants to apply themselves to something) our great human energy and creative force to livelihood that gives us more joy and sustenance, directly connected through our interaction with the natural world. Community power, which is that collective expression, leads to the enjoyment and benefits of freedom, which are an expression of that individual and community health, just as prosperity is a direct measure of how much that community can sustainably and efficiently harvest the source of all prosperity: the natural world. This ethical interaction as a culture or society, provides greater scales of return for all, while maintaining a healthy immune system that denies any small niches for an elite, versus the current paradigm of exploitation, with a diminishing scale of return for most, and an increase in destructive niches for an elite. The fascinating and suppressed truth about pre-Christian European history is that our ancestors who lived in healthy, naturally sustainable societies must have inevitably had an ‘opening’ for a small destructive niche to establish a foothold, and that I am led to believe was the aggressive and sometimes violent infliction of a certain spiritual world view, just as we have seen historically with the interactions of missionaries and tribal cultures across the world.
Without having the freedom to sustain what is essential to life — clean food, air and water — what freedom can we truly have? And this leads to many other areas of vital importance that directly connects to these themes: right to use of land, over-regulations literally threatening our very survival, and the formation of communities that have Earth-care and People-care as their core theme.
So just as great permaculture designers capture energy, creating designs that create fast carbon pathways and capture stored sunlight, perhaps, as cultural designers using permaculture as a design theme, we can look at capturing human energy expressed as responsibility and choice, and look at building fast-responsibility and empowerment pathways, literally creating the new ethics- and solutions-oriented paradigms and governmental structures that can take over the functions of the parasitic, negatively-oriented control paradigms we are seeing rapidly imploding and collapsing. We will then start to see: 3) political integrity and a high degree of service to Earth and People, 2) individual empowerment and 1) community and collective empowerment, increased freedom and prosperity for each member of the community.
This is a mentally stimulating and exciting topic to explore within permaculture design, and I will be talking about further permaculture parallels within culture and society in the next parts, including how we can use Mollisonian principles, elements, niches, interconnections, hierarchy of political units, and other Permaculture design elements to help us decipher the eco-system of political energy within culture. I am confident that new paradigms and strategies around political systems within the mainframe of Permaculture design will allow this design science to more effectively grow and evolve to meet the needs of an increasingly complex and turbulent world.