Toby Hemenway: Permaculture is horticulture

This is a deeply informative one hour youtube video that I would recommend for yourself, friends and family, at a potluck for your neighborhood association, for service clubs in town, at schools for people of all ages, and so on. In a wonderfully clear and low key presentation, Hemenway describes humanity’s march over millennia into and through various practices and ways of living that when pushed too far, turn destructive, and that, at this point in history, imperil all of life on earth.

Then, at about minute 41, he transforms the feelings of doom and gloom that attend his listing of increasingly toxic trends into regeneration by showing specific examples of permaculture as horticulture: not agriculture (monocultures, using big machines, big oil, and tending towards hierarchies and central control, and needing territorial conquest to continue) and not primitive hunter-gatherer, but in between. Small scale, household, neighborhood size. Decentralized and interconnected. We certainly do gather, and some people hunt. But in the main, what permaculturists envisage is a world where ecosystems thrive in their natural variety and diversity. Where polycultures (plant, animal and insect) abound, with succession from small plants to shrubs to trees encouraged; where humans, as one species interconnected with other species in the ecosystem, use creativity to design natural systems to mimic and enhance the way nature herself shows us for maximum health and wellbeing. In this way, Hemenway says, we can save both humans and earth, but not civilization, since civilization, which depends on toxic agriculture, is just about done.

The photos and graphs significantly illustrate and enhance his talk. One photo especially haunts me: that of a bare ruined field in India, deeply fissured and salted. That field, one end-stage product of the so-called Green Revolution, is now out of commission for one thousand years.

BTW: The first part of this presentation reminds me of the first part of the movie “Thrive,” both with detailed maps of doom and gloom. Both presentations offer a transformational shift, but Hemenway’s permacultural shift feels much more real than relying on torsion fields (which is how I remember Thrive, and may not be accurate). Hemenway remarks that his original students tended to be pagan and wiccan, a fact that puzzled him. Then he realized that permaculture is more oriented to Earthy spirituality than to sky gods.

Hemenway forgot to mention the Sun in this context, which I’m sure he would agree, powers all life on Earth. That’s one sky god we all bow down to.

Uploaded on Sep 22, 2010

Hemenway is a frequent teacher, consultant and lecturer on permaculture and ecological design throughout the U.S. and other countries. His writing has appeared in magazines such as Natural Home, Whole Earth Review and American Gardener. He is an adjunct professor in the School of Graduate Education at Portland State University, a Scholar-in-Residence at Pacific University, and a biologist consultant for the Biomimicry Guild.

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0 Responses to Toby Hemenway: Permaculture is horticulture

  1. ohnwentsya says:

    Reblogged this on Spirit In Action and commented:
    Thank you for posting this. I did not know it existed. I hope my readers will also share this onward so more will see it. The only thing between most people and a better world is lack of knowldge(and a bit of elbow grease!:-)

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