The permaculture chapter: urgency to transition

See HERE for the provisional contents page of the study,

which gives you a proper chronology of sections.

Note: the content below is all in first draft format. It will change considerably during the time it takes for the study to be completed (especially by way of more academic support, generally). I post now ‘for interest’s sake’.

The urgency to transition

Note: this is a first draft of a section of my research. It will change considerably during the time it takes for the study to be completed. I post now ‘for interest’s sake’. Click on the PhD tab if you would like to find sections referred to in this post.

Before permaculture theory and practice are explored as Orphic alternatives in light of the Promethean context discussed and analysed in Chapters 1 to 4, it will be beneficial to acknowledge further the urgency and need to transition away from ACID – the Promethean writ large – towards a more Orphic dispensation, where a cooperative (versus competitive) approach is taken by human beings towards nature – indeed, in the spirit of the Orphic, it is a transition journey that human beings take together with nature. The observations below come from several thinkers, most of whom have already featured in previous parts of this study.

The first observations are offered by Kovel (2006: 122):

It is widely recognized…that habits of consumption in the industrial societies will have to be drastically altered if a sustainable world is to be achieved. This means, however, that the very pattern of human needs will have to be changed, which means in turn that the basic way we inhabit nature will have to be changed.

Considering what was explored in Chapter 1 – namely the horrendous state of global ecology, alongside that which was seen in Chapter 2, specifically human industries and ACID’s economy surrounding them – it is clear why Kovel points first to the habits of people in industrial societies as those that will need to be changed if a sustainable world is to be achieved. As will be seen in this chapter, permaculture offers a thoroughly viable, ‘down-to earth’ methodology for changing “human needs” and “the basic way we inhabit nature”, to repeat some of Kovel’s observations. Kovel (2002: xiii) early on in his Enemy of Nature also says that it is an illusion to think that “the overcoming of empire, which requires the undoing of what generates imperialism over nature and humanity”,

can be achieved without a profound restructuring of our industrial system, and, by implication, our whole way of being. The grip of imperialism, whether of oil or otherwise, cannot be broken within the terms of the current order. … A world must be built that does not need the fossil fuel economy, a world… without capital”. (Kovel 2002: xiii)

It is interesting and telling that this point, highlighted by Kovel, is so often unconsidered: stated simply and in possibly more of an accessible idiom that is widely attributed to Albert Einstein, “you can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created”[1]. As it will be seen below, permaculture actively works to ‘profoundly restructure the industrial system’, to use fossil fuels in the establishment phases of systems that gradually rely less and less on fossil fuels – i.e., to change “our whole way of being”. The exploration of various aspects of permaculture to follow will have relevance in light of the points here raised by Kovel.

In a similar vein to that just seen in Kovel’s observations, Harvey, as quoted by Baer (2012:304 ), speaks of a “global co-revolutionary movement”

critical not only to stemming the tide of self-destructive capitalist behaviours (which in itself would be a significant  achievement) but also to our reorganising ourselves and beginning to build new collective organisational forms, knowledge banks and mental conceptions, new technologies and systems of production and consumption, all the while experimenting with new institutional arrangements, new forms of social and natural relations, and with the redesign of an increasingly urbanised daily life.

Harvey’s sentiments about “self-destructive capitalist behaviours” are certainly understandable considering some inherent features of capitalism explored in section 3.4, and indeed what was seen at several points during the first four chapters of this study. As will be seen below when exploring its principles and practices, permaculture facilitates (via refreshingly practical means) in many of the ‘categories’ listed by Harvey: stemming the “tide of self-destructive capitalist behaviours”, the ‘reorganisation of ourselves’, building new “mental conceptions, new technologies and systems of production and consumption”, facilitating the “new forms of social and natural relations, and with the redesign of an increasingly urbanised daily life” – what follows below about permaculture will have clear relevance in light of these points.

Then Baer (2012:304), quoting Hardt and Negri, points out that ultimately

the climate justice movement needs to join forces with other progressive or antisystemic movements  that work together to create a postdemocratic global governance and that move beyond conventional representative governance structures in that they exhibit “flexibility and fluidity constantly to adapt to changing circumstances”.

It should become clear from what follows below that permaculture can assist dramatically in the achievement of adapting to “changing circumstances” via ‘flexible and fluid’ methods. Permaculture can therefore certainly be called “progressive” in in the very broad political context (i.e. the postdemocratic context[2]) alluded to by Baer.

Finally, Vetlesen’s following observation (2012: 42) is of remarkable relevance considering the ‘urgency to change’ so far focused on here alongside permaculture as a possible means by which to begin to respond to various issues encountered in this study so far:

Politicians urge the scientists to provide a technological fix in the face of the man-made destruction of species and habitats, especially in the form of anthropogenic climate change. But since these problems spring largely from frivolous consumption, would it not be more reasonable to prevent them from arising in the first place than to ‘fix’ them technologically?

Vetlesen’s focus on ecological “destruction”, “technology”, “politicians” (the implication being politics, which contemporaneously denotes oxymoronic ‘democratic capitalism’), and “frivolous consumption” corresponds directly to several previous central focal areas of this study. As will be seen in what follows in this section, the application of permaculture principles mitigates against “frivolous consumption” and thereby prevents “destruction of species and habitats” – indeed, permaculture actively works to rehabilitate habitats.

[1] accessed 19 March 2016

[2] See section 4.3 for the problems (indeed paradoxes) associated with democracy in a neoliberal capitalist context. ‘Postdemocratic’ therefore needs to be understood in the context where neoliberal capitalism has ‘hijacked’ democracy – again, see section 4.3.

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