… and the echo follows, Permaculture North and South

Yesterday I attended a lecture in Atlanta  by author Nic Paget-Clarke. Nic’s new book entitled … and the echo follows was the basis of his lecture.  Both the book and the lecture explored the relationship between food and democracy. For over 15 years, Nic has been involved with farmers, peasants and farm collectives worldwide as the publisher of the web magazine, In Motion.  The book compiles photographs, stories, interviews and learnings gleaned from his work.

Democracy in its true sense allows people to collectively make decisions about the factors that affect their lives.  Nic has observed that people interested in achieving greater democracy were often involved in food production.  Both farmers and activists for democracy are concerned with the same three things, land, diversity and culture.

The book examines the contrast between 5  pairs of opposing global forces in pictures and through interviews:

  • Agribusiness and the Green Revolution vs Agroecology
  • “Free Trade” vs Food Sovereignty
  • Central Government Control vs Autonomy
  • Alienation vs Connection and Creativity
  • Vertical Integration vs Networks of People

Nic Paget-Clarke

Although Nic never used the term permaculture, much of his talk was about the global movement toward agroecology as a reaction to the negative impacts of agribusiness and the green revolution.

The technology he calls agroecology is very much akin to permaculture.  Before the lecture I had never heard the term before but since learned it is a science that applies ecological principles to food, fuel, fiber, and pharmaceuticals production. The system seems to be grounded in agronomy and focus on farm rather than household production.

Connections with the Permaculture Flower

In reviewing my notes on what he said and trying to think how I would connect his discussion to permaculture materials, I realized that the permaculture flower would be a good way to look at some of the concepts he presented.  According to the Permaculture Principles website:

(The permaculture flower illustrates that) the permaculture journey begins with the Ethics and Design Principles and moves through the key domains required to create a sustainable culture. The evolutionary spiral path connects these domains, initially at a personal and local level, and then proceeding to the collective and global level.

The key domains it names are:

  1. finance and economics
  2. health and spiritual well-being
  3. education and culture
  4. tools and technologies
  5. building
  6. land and nature stewardship
  7. land tenure and community governance

Holmgren has identified a few specific fields, design systems and solutions associated with each domain within the  wider view of permaculture.

Looking at them now, these  solutions are obviously those that the people of  Europe, North America and Australia primarily use. These are the parts of the world where permaculture seems to have been most strongly embraced up until now.

Nic’s presentation focused on domains 1, 3, 6 and 7 from the points of view of farmers and peasants in Africa, South America, central America and India as well as family farmers in North America. The strategies he covers in the book and their associated domains of influence are:

  • Opposition to so-called “fair trade” agreements and agroecological farming  – Domain 1 (finance and economics)
  •  Art and other creative culturally-based  strategies to combat alienation, the connection between food and culture and  equality of women – Domain 3 (education and culture)
  •  Seed saving and food sovereignty (Rather than growing an export crop for money and then buying imported food; the food you need to eat is grown locally.) – Domain 6 (land and nature stewardship)
  •  Agrarian reform, land ownership, local autonomy, cooperatives and networks – Domain 7 (land tenure and community governance)

As this blog continues I’m hoping it will continue to be a place to capture global permaculture strategies not just northern ones. Listening to Nic’s lecture let me know how much this permaculture movement (under whatever name you call it) is a global one . The forces, the effects of which are so clearly identifiable in the global South are also impacting us here in the North.  This book provides valuable food for thought as we all try to add permaculture to our lives.