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Permanent culture


I finish my journey. Graham Burnett, who lives here, taught the course I began with and I’ve read two of his delightful, self-published booklets.ˆ1ˆ We share a past in urban activism. What he says resonates with me, and I think he’s the right person to wrap things up.

David Ransom

‘It does feel like there’s a whole counter-culture going on,’ he says. ‘Not like the hippies or beatniks of previous eras, but ordinary concerned people starting to connect up. What people like OrganicLea are doing is fantastic. People have had enough of supermarket culture, I think. Given the choice, they will choose high-quality, locally grown food. There is the question of how affordable it is, but that’s why projects like OrganicLea are important, because they’re making it affordable. It’s not something that’s just for the middle-class élite. Anyone can grow food – it’s easy!

‘Looking back at the kind of experiences I’ve been involved with – socialism, anarchism, those kinds of political groupings – there never seemed to be any real holistic awareness. One does need tools for building consensus and making groups work properly. There are movements that focus on “the environment”; there are “people” movements that aren’t particularly concerned about the world out there. Permaculture and “people care” bring the two together.’

For my part, I know perfectly well – like everyone else – that there will soon be no more fossil fuels to consume. But we are making the Earth uninhabitable – and it is this, rather than exactly when the fossil fuels will run out, that matters most. I now think permaculture, with its emphasis on teaching, learning, practice, and personal as well as collective responsibility, offers an opportunity to prevent this happening. It opens the way to a more permanent and pleasurable culture than the unjust, self-destructive scramble to consume that so dominates our lives at present.

Whether enough people will, together, apply their time, energy and intelligence to designing their way out of trouble remains to be seen. The change is surely more likely to happen if it is willing and positive rather than enforced and negative. I felt compelled to make a change by my personal circumstances. But, had I known how it would turn out, I might well have done much the same thing more willingly and a good deal earlier. I reckon permaculture is now going to make a difference to me – and it might just do the same for you as well. •

  • _Towards an Ecology of the Self – ‘Zone Zero Zero’ permaculture design notes_, and _Earth Writings_, both published by Spiralseed, www.spiralseed.co.uk
  • New Internationalist issue 402 magazine cover This article is from the July 2007 issue of New Internationalist.
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