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The Art of Healing the Earth

NIOO Seminar: John D. Liu

NIOO Seminar by Chinese-American filmmaker John D. Liu. Title: ‘The Healing of the Earth’. The seminar took place on 26 January 2015 in the Colloquium Room at NIOO-KNAW in Wageningen.

Using excerpts from his films, Liu talks about his life’s work of convincing the world that ecosystems damaged by human activity can in fact be repaired by human activity. Why, Liu asks, aren’t more students, academics and others embracing ‘the great work of our time’?

The Permaculture Research Insitute

PRI Zaytuna Farm functions as a model farm (in development) and permaculture training facility. Geoff and Nadia Lawton, world-renowned permaculture educators and consultants, lead the project. Much of Geoff and Nadia’s time over the last few years has been spent away from the Institute, consulting and helping set up projects in diverse locales around the world. Seeing the worldwide demand for knowledgeable permaculture consultants and teachers increase exponentially, as fuel and fertiliser prices skyrocket and the effects of climate change, soil depletion and water shortages begin to hit hard, priority and focus is now shifting back to the Institute, where growing the training program will increase the output of quality teachers to help fill the growing need for them.

6 Comments

  1. Yes, that is remarkable and it would work under controlled circumstances, like paying Chinese workers for ten years using World Bank and charitable foundations.

    However, as he says, the population increases at a billion people every 12 years. Then he says you have to be aligned with natural systems. Well, okay, it’s time to talk about that.

    When the population increases at three additional people PER SECOND that is not a functioning natural system. That is an obsession based on superstitions which must be questioned.
    Many many people lead and have led happy successful lives without having children. It’s a fact. You do not HAVE to breed to feel human and happy. And until these permaculture groups begin to talk about this, it’s basically a feel-good fantasy which will fail due to simple math.

    Even at it’s most abundant, the planet has finite resources. Even at its most abundant, humans will want luxuries. Even at its most abundant the difference between need and want can not be determined through personal choice without greed spoiling the plan.

    This is why he went to places with strong central authority to make this work. However, the people running the show were not in the fields digging holes. They were in their condos in Beijing counting the money.

    Also human beings did not emerge in paradise. Human beings emerged in a violent predatory world. To live past twenty years old was remarkable. The slightest infection, the slightest change in weather, the slightest disruption in society, destroyed human beings. Wars were common. Brutality and oppression were common. Ignorance and superstition which lead to violence were common. Just because he got depressed and wants to believe in a fiction does not make it so.

    Further, you have to take into account that you’re not going to turn Los Angeles and London and Moscow and Lagos into gardens filled with food. Beijing is not going to suddenly tear up the concrete and put in plateaus of forests. You are not going to dig up the farms of Kansas and put in permaculture. Nor would you want to do this. Because it is killing us, but at the same time, it is sustaining us. To shut it down, would be a disaster. So you’re going to have to make a transition happen, and at the same time maintain the old system.

    And for that reason alone we need to talk about sex education and controlling population growth. If indeed you want to make a transition, you first must stop the increase in population. If you’re going to transfer people from the cities into these rural permaculture gardens, you must curtail the increase in population. And soon.

    That is the final problem. Time. The destruction is vast and increasing daily. Look at Houston today. Look at India today. This needs to transfer over quickly to even begin to change global environments. So again, you can not do this if you’re losing ground due to population growth. But even if you can get the world to make this transfer, it has to align with current knowledge about CO2 and the damage already done. Those farms in China need water. It is very likely they won’t have any in the next few decades.

    So yeah, go for it. But he’s being very silly in his approach. If you insist on this “the Earth is Gaia, a paradise, we must return to the natural way,” kind of thinking, you are just being silly. Nature does not care if we live or die. If you insist on doing things for your kids and grandkids, then you are being silly. Nature will soon show them a very grim future. If you insist of having children without looking at the cost, and then thinking we can just build a big beautiful garden and we can all eat, drink and be merry, then you have never actually been in nature.

    1. Hey Jim,
      I think there are few things to say about your arguments.

      First, let’s take :
      “Further, you have to take into account that you’re not going to turn Los Angeles and London and Moscow and Lagos into gardens filled with food. Beijing is not going to suddenly tear up the concrete and put in plateaus of forests.”
      Who is talking about turning cities into forests ? Of course you’re right, that is not possible.
      This guy is saying that there are so many places in Africa and Middle-Asia that are distructed and need to be healed.
      So the goal is not to turn cities in forests, but turn the deserts we have created by intensive agriculture into good land and forests.

      Then, you saying :
      “And for that reason alone we need to talk about sex education and controlling population growth. If indeed you want to make a transition, you first must stop the increase in population. If you’re going to transfer people from the cities into these rural permaculture gardens, you must curtail the increase in population. And soon.”

      In Europe, most countries have less than 2 children per family (with a balance around 1.5 to 1.7). I’m not a specialist, but I think one of the big reason to have a lot of kids in the past was that many would die. What happened in Europe ? The hospitals got better and better (so the chance to leave for a kid increased), the education became better as well, the women are now going to school and university for a longer time before having kids… All those reasons made the couples to have less kids.
      So instead of telling people how many kids they should have in countries in devellopement (because that’s were people have a lot of kids), why not just helping them to have a better education and health care ?
      But maybe that sounds a bit like a dream.
      What we see anyway, is that the more develloped countries go, the fewer kids there are. I would say that the number of kids will decrease by itself if we wait a bit (but that is a guess). But I think it is definetely not a priority to stop child birth. (and in europe we need people working anyway !)

      And about the argument that there will be no space in the countryside for all thoses kids (few lines after)…
      Well, it is true that land is hard to find if you want to start a farm (at least in europe where I live). BUT not because of the lack of space ! Because the land is owned by few big farm owners doing intensive agriculture !!!
      We just need to take back the land from those big compagnies and there will be plenty of space ! (I think that permaculture says that a family doesn’t need more than one hectare to live. let’s say say two hectares not to hurt anyone)
      If those guys have the all the land now it is also because people are not really interested anymore about beeing farmers, but if that change, there is great potential (in term of space) for europeens (just look at France and Spain, there are two big fields distructed by conventional agriculture)

      To finish, I think you missed the point of that guy… Maybe what annoys you the most is his idea that the earth is heaven ?
      All that he is saying, is that there is so much beauty all around in wildlife. He is not talking about how hard it was to survive or not. He is not talking to return to any kind of wild life, he is saying that we should help people to get independent on their land respecting the nature (that is as beautifull as heaven)…

      And how can you say that this guy is silly when he shows that recovering land on big scales is possible ? He is just talking about a solution !!! If he wants to do it for the next generation (I’m not even sure that is his idea but let’s pretend) ? Who cares ?
      No matter for what reason makes you want to make it happen. Personnaly I am just stunned by the beauty of nature and my wish is to preserve it.
      Maybe it is a selfish wish…
      But I feel most people feel better in nature that in towns (and in polluted area in general). If people can acheive happiness by saving the nature, let’s do it ! =)

      I hope I didn’t transform your sayings – I really apologise if I did.
      A big message of hope for everyone ! There is a solution, WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD WITH NATURAL FARMING !!!

  2. Why aren’t more students embracing this? I think he answered his own question when he showed the Chinese man talking about how ‘they want us to plant trees on the good land’. Systemic change, attitude change, enlightenment, whatever we want to call it, takes time. I have seen it happen but it seems slow to move and then suddenly a positive tipping point is reached and you’re on the way there.

    I work in congregations with people mired in tradition. Adopting a new way in an old system is next to impossible. Sometimes we have to do a new thing with new people and let the old ways die with those who will not change. I am so hopeful that permaculture will continue to spread and grow and reach a positive tipping point in my lifetime (I am 40) so that we can heal this planet.

  3. Excellent I’m with you on this there is so much work to do. I’m in Guatemala now and they have gone from 80% forest cover to 20% in the last 20 years! Reduced rainfall, diversity…

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