I just viewed a very recent (2016) and sobering address by Geoff Lawton, the charismatic, internationally known teacher and proponent of Permaculture, who has traveled the world over the last 25 years, teaching and demonstrating Permaculture design principles and techniques with astounding successes in every imaginable climate and bioregion--even in the parched deserts of Jordan. (See Greening the Desert)
His address was given at this year's International Permaculture Conference in London, and in stark contrast to his usual ebullient enthusiasm, his tone in this latest address is quite melancholy--a clear and sad assessment of the desperate and disintegrative state of our global ecosystems---but it is not hopeless. He clearly sees, as I now do, that Permaculture design has the potential for being our last, best hope for propagating the spontaneous remission of the Cancer of the Earth--the next phase of human evolution, into a symbiotic, rather than parasitic, relationship to the Biosphere. He points out, however, that less than .01% of humanity has ever heard of Permaculture.
Should we therefore be discouraged, and simply give up? Never! In times of encroaching darkness, such as now, with the global corporate oligarchy on the verge of taking over completely and destroying the last vestiges of real democracy under a neofascist Trump regime, I often contemplate this poem by the pious 17th Century Anglican divine, George Herbert:
Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright, The bridall of the earth and skie: The dew shall weep thy fall to night; For thou must die. Sweet rose, whose hue angrie and brave Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye: Thy root is ever in its grave And thou must die. Sweet spring, full of sweet dayes and roses, A box where sweets compacted lie; My musick shows ye have your closes,1 And all must die. Onely a sweet and vertuous soul, Like season’d timber, never gives; But though the whole world turn to coal, Then chiefly lives.
The resonance derives from the image of a "sweet and vertuous soul" as being resilient, like "seasoned timber." And that, I think, is the key. If all hell breaks loose, whether from accelerating climate catastrophes, tyrannical crackdowns on dissent, global nuclear conflict, economic collapse, swarms of refugees, religious fanaticism, and roving bands of brutal and predatory marauders, those who have quietly mastered the arts of permaculture--growing regenerative gardens, restoring damaged ecosystems, exchanging skills, designing for the long term, and building community--will still be better off than everyone else, still be able to share their abundance with those in need and propagate their skills. Even if we are only .01 per cent of the population, if a handful of seeds survives a forest fire, they can still regenerate the forest.