It’s been bothering me. Having spent forty years beavering away in the green movement I still get upset when people say they are anti-capitalism. So I’m trying to work out why this is. I think I’ve got it at last.

When people say they are anti-capitalism they are talking about their fear that mega-corporations control the planet purely for profit. Their marketing plans are designed to shred our bank accounts by beguiling us with the desire to buy things we don’t really need.

Which then suggests capital is a bad thing.

Well, bite my head off if you want, but I think capital is not just a good thing, but essential to the very concept of permaculture. It goes like this. If you want to be creative (which is what permaculture is all about) you need resources to start with. That might be money in the bank. It might be property, land. It might be the skills you have. The languages you speak, literacy and numeracy. You might be a great mechanic, a brilliant carer, or just a kind person.

Garden Tool Shed

We call this Real Capital and we teach it on our courses. We need, all of us, to recognise the assets we have to hand and build on them. Permaculture suggests sharing surplus is an ethical act. But I suggest that surplus is what you share, not your core ability to provide in the first place- your working capital. This is something you need to grow and strengthen to increase your ability to feed your own, and then create surplus. Capital is vital to understanding and knowing how we can be able to help others.

Our Real Capital includes therefore not just money, but land, buildings, knowledge, time, energy, water, food, air (all of the right quality), friendship and allies, our belief in ourselves, and so on.

I know that only by developing real capital can we turn the world around from paths to destruction to creative futures. So join me and be a Capitalist.

Please join Graham on his next Permaculture Design Course at Zaytuna Fram, home of the Permaculture Research Institute Australia from October 17 – 28 2016. Visit the course listing page here for more details and to book.


Graham Bell

I live and work in the Scottish Borders. My wife Nancy and I have created a Forest Garden which is approaching its twenty-fifth anniversary and provides a great deal of food, fuel and company (wildlife). Our children Ruby and Sandy (now in their twenties) have also been great contributors to developing our house and garden as an energy efficient home place. I have written two books on Permaculture, the Permaculture Way and the Permaculture Garden which thousands of people have enjoyed as easy introductions to what Permaculture means in a Northern temperate climate and the society that goes with it. I have taught Permaculture on four continents. After many years engaging with business and politicians in my work to get these essential principles understood and used by people who govern and direct the world's economies I have returned (2012)to teaching courses and restarted a North Hardy Plant Nursery specifically designed to support Forest Gardeners. We welcome invitations to teach elsewhere, and visitors here by arrangement. Full details can be found on my website.

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