Like most thinking people on the planet, I have a heavy heart this evening. Ever since our deranged, maniacal "president" impulsively ordered the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Iran's top general and second in command, our fragile global political order has been coming unglued, plunging ever-more rapidly downward toward the unthinkable cataclysm we have all feared for my entire life--"World War 3." As Thomas Paine once wisely said,
"He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death."
So it was when George W. Bush launched unprovoked invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan; so it was when Hitler bombed Poland, when the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian terrorist, when Napoleon invaded Russia, and so forth, through all the annals of history. But the (now apparently inevitable) war with Iran may spiral rapidly into a conflagration that will dwarf all these past horrors, especially if, in the acceleration of hostilities, Trump yields to his long-time fantasies of unleashing our vast nuclear arsenal, drawing Russia, North Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and likely India and Pakistan as well, into the general, apocalyptic melee.
Behind the scenes of all this political madness and folly, of course, is the ever-accelerating pace of climate change--or more precisely, climate catastrophe, which has already engulfed nearly all of Australia in vast, uncontrollable wildfires, while unleashing unprecedented heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, and floods all over the globe, along with melting ice caps, sea-level rise, ecological collapse on both land and sea. This could be it: the end of history; the end of humanity; the end of life on Earth as we know it.
So where is this "last, best hope" I refer to? Is it not somewhat of a bad joke, at this juncture, to even mention the word "hope?" At a macro-scale, probably so. I have little doubt that our money-and-fossil-fuel-based global industrial world order is doomed, inevitably, to collapse, whether rapidly or incrementally, into chaos and horror and mass die-off, which will probably take most of humanity and the rest of life as we know it along with it. (The extinction may well be total--in which case, obviously, there is no hope at all for us.)
But I still hold out some hope, nevertheless.
Why, you ask.
My short answer? Permaculture.
As one wag (I forget who) once put it, "Permaculture is revolution disguised as gardening."
So what exactly is Permaculture?
It is a method of gardening, but more than a method of gardening.
It is a method of landscape design, but more than a method of landscape design.
It is a systems-based approach to the design of healthy ecosystems that include humans.
But it is even more than that: It is a way of thinking, an ethical way of living, and a way of interacting with each other and our living world, our local (and global) habitat, that includes all of the above.
In short, it is the seed of a new global culture, a Gaian culture, that has already taken root around the world, and may rise like a phoenix from the ashes of our current dying industrial civilization. It knows no boundaries; it embraces and nurtures the entire planet (human and nonhuman alike); and it is not daunted by any challenges at all, but flourishes in every conceivable habitat, from deserts to rainforests, from equator to polar regions, from back yards to farms to cities to whole communities and cultures--even distressed communities like refugee camps.
And above all, it is resilient enough to survive apocalypse: as long as there are humans living together and trying to cope with adversity, permaculture can take root. And since its basic principles are common to all living beings, it can even survive the extinction of humanity itself--for all living beings follow the 12 principles: they observe and interact; they catch and store energy; obtain a yield, apply self-regulation and accept feedback, use and value renewable resources and services, produce no waste, design from pattern to details (if you don't believe this, watch a spider build a web!); integrate rather than segregate; use small and slow solutions; use and value diversity; use edges and value the marginal; and creatively use and respond to change.
And so by learning and teaching Permaculture, no matter what happens, we say YES to life itself.
I will end, as always, by sharing my Dharma Gaia mantra--a guided meditation I have formulated that helps me whenever I feel overwhelmed by grief and despair for our planet, people, and other living beings. On ten consecutive slow breaths, repeat (aloud or to yourself) each of the following verb phrases. For a longer meditation, you can try doing so three times in a row: first to contemplate them, then to practice them (in the present moment), finally to vow to adhere to them as long as you live and breathe, renewing that vow whenever necessary. The mantra is divided into three parts:
1. Reclaiming the Moment: Breathe, Observe, Let Go.
2. Setting a Day's Agenda: Be well, Do good work, Keep in touch. [with gratitude to Garrison Keillor]
3. Revisiting your life agenda: Learn, Teach, Heal, and Create
Finally, remember the Permaculture slogan I have devised as well:
Grow gardens; Grow community; Grow awareness.