Permaculture in 2014 – a Year in review

Looking back at 2014

Looking back, 2014 was in some ways a year of revelation. Many a dark corner had light shed upon it’s spaces for the first time. New ideas became validated. New discoveries caught notice and older ideas once cast aside were reconsidered.

For people who study Permaculture, this past year has shown that the Bioneer’s efforts that pulled this movement together were right to do so.

There are more PDC teacher’s teaching and PDC designers practicing Permaculture than ever before. If they continue this sustained effort we may look back on 2014 as a small turning point in the way people think about concepts like “organic gardening”, or how we obtain resources like water, or even the usefulness of simple objects like a ‘roof’ or a ‘walkway’. These words are mere conventions that describe structures used in modern human experience. Because of Permaculture many concepts now have new meaning. There is no end to the expanding diversity of innovation that a person can apply to our everyday surroundings with the use of Permaculture and it’s principles. Permaculture is a ‘design science‘ that allows and incorporates change, emergent diversity and enhances creativity with feedback loops. To observe is a skill within the lens of a Permaculturist. This is great achievement in many ways. Suddenly the externalizations that clutter our lives are undiscovered territory waiting for someone to focus on these dark spaces and through an exercise of intelligent-creativity, create solutions to match our problems.

So much was presented in 2014 that I decided to list a selection of articles, videos and images that work as a peek into some of the years highlights.

1. A Tipping Point
Geoff Lawton explains this in a talk at the Permaculture Voices Conference in 2014 called, “Tipping Point”. This fits marvelously into the narrative that led through 2014.


2. Industrial Failures.
2014 was marred with a malady of consequences stemming from past decisions made by industries and politicians and the general public’s lack of awareness. Or another way to put it How the majority of general public has an inability to see how serious these issues are to them personally… Person to person and place to place, ranging through our entire society that we call ‘humanity’.

In the news:
Organic Consumers Condemns USDA Approval of Dow’s New GMO cropsSep 17, 2014
German Supermarket Giants Demand Return to GMO-Free Fed Poultry Sep 2, 2014
Bracing For A Battle, Vermont Passes GMO Labeling Bill – April 24, 2014
Monsanto GMO wheat contamination discovered in Montana – September 27, 2014
GMOs Expose Dangerous Science Disconnect in Agriculture – October 25, 2014
Former Pro-GMO Biotech Scientist Admits GMOs Aren’t Safe, Refutes Claims by Monsanto – October 30, 2014
Monsanto’s New GMO Cotton Will Unleash a Triple Whammy of Toxic Herbicides – November 4, 2014
GMO Myths and Truths – Second Edition – May 20, 2014
New GMO Studies Demonstrate ‘Substantial Non-Equivalence – February 21, 2014


In the news:
Fractured Country – An Unconventional Invasion – March 21, 2014
New York bans fracking after health report – Dec 17, 2014
Study: Bad fracking techniques let methane flow into drinking water – September 15, 2014
The Urgent Case for a Ban on Fracking – September 16th, 2014
Ohio Geologists Link Seismic Activity to Fracking – April 11, 2014
Fracking blast kills one Halliburton worker, injures 2 in Weld County – November 13, 2014

Oil Industry
In the news:
Perennial Polyculture Prevails over Peak Oil – November 8, 2014
Fiery oil train accident raises new safety issues – January 2, 2014
CSX oil train derails in Virginia, leaks into river – Apr 30, 2014
‘Knee Deep’: 10,000 gallons of oil spills on LA streets – May 15, 2014
Mississippi Oil Spill Closes Part Of River, Including New Orleans Port – February 24, 2014

In the news:
How Industrial Chemical Regulation Failed West Virginia January 29, 2014
California drought: $500-a-day water fines passed Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Ohio’s water crisis is a warning to all states August 4, 2014
The feds want to define “waters of the United States” scientifically. Farmers are freaked out. September 11 2014

In the news:
China Admits That One-Fifth Of Its Farmland Is Contaminated April 18, 2014
Only 60 years of farming left if soil degradation continues May 12, 2014
Pesticide drift a persistent problem for organic farmers September 6, 2014
Salt Poisoning Costs Agriculture $27 Billion Every Year October 28, 2014
Can organic crops compete with industrial agriculture? December 9 2014
State Departments Of Agriculture Are Attempting To Regulate Seed Banks Out Of Existence

This should be a clear message that we need to do something and right away, Permaculture has emerged as a way forward. Whether you look at Paul Stamet’s research into how mycelium can rehabilitate soils that are contaminated from oil pollution. Or Geoff Lawton’s research into rehabilitating salted soils near the Dead Sea, each are excellent examples of how Permaculture has proven to be a viable solution for many of the biggest problems we face in the world.

3. A Permaculture Degree?
Permaculture is now being offered and accepted as a degree at many Universities across the United States. This development by itself could be seen as a turning point in many ways. Bill Mollison had a lot of reservations to this in the past, unless the institutional teacher’s themselves took a PDC course and subsequently kept in-tact it’s curriculum. Now there are a growing number of institutions that are offering a Certificate in Permaculture. One that sticks out is offered at Bastyr University in Washington State. I had a visit to Bastyr in 2013. The campus is comprised of two Monastery’s converted into a campus. The campus was redesigned as a living biological system, very reminiscent of the work of Dr. John Todd or Dr. David Orr on “biomimicry” and “living machines”. (Click here to see some photos of the campus’s design features.) Bastyr started out as primarily a Medical School for master’s programs and today it is arguably a top school in the country in those fields. In the past few years they added a Permaculture Certificate, recognizing the important of the study. If someone plans to do both it might be best to take a PDC Course first, before enrolling into a university. With a PDC in hand earning a Certificate in Permaculture from an accredited school such as Bastyr would bolster your background in all subjects that Permaculture deals and opportunities would be greatly enhanced while crossing more borders.
One could see this as validation for Permaculture as a ‘design science’ and as an excellent ‘system of ethics’.

4. Drought resistant landscaping.
2014 was a tough year for many the entire Western half of the United States which has been in a horrible drought. After an ongoing water shortage for more than a year, some relief has fallen from the sky dipping into the winter months of 2014 but no where near enough to supply the western-most state, California. Other states in the west might not be in dire straights yet, however the outlook is still very concerning. Other Countries in the world also experiencing droughts. This is quickly turning into a slow occurring-disaster of unknown proportions, even in the face of all that, there are some small highlights and successes in the mix. There are people residing in those areas who have created drought resistant landscapes using Permaculture Design and mixture of pioneering creativity. It appears that Geoff Lawton has enough data to show that his Zaytuna Farm in Australia survives drought years.
Warren Brush in Southern California has a sustainable farm in an area stricken with the driest part of this drought surge. Within the time-frame since the drought began he taught Permaculture course there and added more trees and produced plenty of really nutritious food and his well did not go dry. North or Reno another PDC teacher, Neil Bertrando,(a student of Darren Doherty and Geoff Lawton) continues to develop his Steppe One farm in the middle of the current drought with a great success. It might be hard to imagine but this horrible drought gave those designing with Permaculture a rare opportunity to see how much effect Permaculture’s design science can match the negative effects of drought and also produce a bounty during the driest of times.

5. Urban Center’s embrace Permaculture
2014 had a great amount of progress in urban areas, within cities and suburban communities groups of like-minded people took on projects and initiatives to create their own sources of food and at the same time cleaning up their environment; lessening their impact on the environment and food resource marketplaces. None of this is GMO. This is truly a huge success for us all!
In the News:
Empty lots now can be designated agricultural zones : legislative process still pending June 18, 2014
Forest Garden Needed to Reduce Air Pollution July 16, 2014
Urban gardening: How to go green in the city, Even the smallest of urban nooks and crannies can become a productive green patch

6. Scientific circles are catching up to Permaculture’s premise that trees, shrubs, grasses and ground cover retain and actually create more precipitation in any landscape. And furthermore that bulldozing, clear cutting and subsequently eliminating species from an environment, whether fauna or flora will seriously damage hydrological cycles and increase desertification. More validation that this design science is revolutionary and will benefit mankind.

7. Soils are the engine of all agriculture.
Studies are quickly amassing that the health of any environment’s soil has a unique impact on all species animal or human. And that there is a direct connection to the balance of the soil with the nutrition in the food we eat or feed our livestock. The life-web from the ground-up provides our health.
Purdue team aims to increase agricultural resilience amid climate change May 7, 2014
USDA seeks partnerships to protect soil, water May 27, 2014
Soil Health Tool Shows Nutrient Availability and Soil Respiration November 26, 2014
FAO Declares 2015 as the International Year of Soil December 4, 2014
Soil: the sustainable alternative to oil income in Africa December 30, 2014
Soil health/cattle rumen health: More alike than different March 2, 2014
Nutrients for Life Foundation And Discovery Education Bring Integrated Earth Science Program To Middle School Students Nationwide April 4, 2014
Ethiopia: From Field to Fingers – Enriching Soils and Seeds to Improve Nutrition October 28, 2014
8. Crime goes down when Trees spread.
Studies have are in and suggest that areas without natural settings, IE Tree’s, animals, birds and plants have a higher crime rate and the highest rate of disparage on the planet.
More Trees = Less Crime
Vegetation May Cut Crime in the Inner City

9. The Amazon is in real peril.
The industries of mining, oil exploration and agriculture are putting the planet at risk. More and more studies are showing a clear picture that a stable environment suitable for life is created by a diverse culture that only nature provides. The ongoing pillage of the “lungs of the earth” in South America and in other rain forest’s across the globe are becoming a top factor to the amount of carbon in the air and are proving to be a large contributor to global warming. Hydrological cycles that stabilize weather patterns are now erratic in areas where the ground has been cleared.

The fertility in the ground then suffer’s loss of diversity as oxidation of the minerals increases immediately after the soil is uncovered. The solution however is in the problem itself. The soil loss and carbon increase in the atmosphere is a product of bad design. What our current large scale agricultural models are trying to achieve is utilizing a bacterial cycle food-web-system to grow produce in a landscape that is largely a fungal food-web-cycle.
Grasslands are a far more suitable for this type of agriculture and you won’t have to clear trees away to plant in these environments. One Permaculture designer named Mark Shepard has proven on his farm in Wisconsin that planting crops in between trees in a natural Savannah pattern that has proven to be excellent for building soil and at the same time growing a surplus of foods. This leans over strongly that the grasslands that have been greatly depleted and are currently desertifying are the best places to grow food in a bacterial food-web. But before we can do this we need to rebuild the soils there. Using Permaculture as a system of design this is absolutely possible.
Beef Production is Killing the Amazon Rainforest
Amazon rainforest losing ability to regulate climate, scientist warns
More validation, the solution is already in our hands. What we need to turn things around is adequately stated in the above video from Geoff Lawton “Tipping Point”. We need more people to get active and begin doing.
Learn permaculture and get started!
Here is a list of PDC teachers.
If you live near Reno Nevada you can get a PDC from Urban Roots Farm!

10. Creating abundance.
It is becoming more and more clear that small scale farming is the only way to supply the worlds needs for food and fiber. Using Permaculture’s “no waste” ethic shows us how our waste can be converted into substantial uses. This tends to lower outgoing funds used to clean-up, and also when you use wasted material and re-purpose it there is now potential for a new product. Using another ethic of “Observation” from the Permaculture handbook can show us that when you observe you find out how things link-up. This will help you define who needs your re-purposed goods.
More validation for Permaculture to becoming a natural response to all the problems we have in front of us.

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