Lack of Hope

Lack of hope is a big barrier stopping folks from creating a sustainable future and a meaningful life.

I’ve had students arrive at my program with so little hope that they arrive in tears. I’ve seen previous hardcore environmental activists burnout and and loose all hope such that they now prescribe to nihilism (nothing matters anyways).

But I believe that this lack of hope is unwarranted.

The “I can’t do anything” mentality stems from an assumption that top-down solutions are the only effective options. So for instance, the solution to a drought problem is for the state to invest in large hydro-dams or massive desalination plants. The solution to atmospheric carbon levels is to build carbon capture and sequestration schemes. The solution to energy problems is to build coal or nuclear power plants.

The belief is that if the problem is of a massive scale, then the only possible solutions must be orchestrated at a massive scale as well. It’s the large corporations and the governments who must solve the problems, right?


An individual, acting with or without a like-minded community, can be a monumental force or catalyst for change. Individual and personal actions cannot be understated and it is the aggregate of these daily decisions that has an enormous impact on systems. I believe this whole-heartedly.

And I also have research to prove it.

Dr Peter Coombes is an Australian researcher (and a mentor of ours) who has been studying decentralized solutions for twenty years, particularly in the area of water. Seeing how industry and government often claimed that decentralized solutions were economically and technically inefficient, he set out to use data and research to uncover the truth about the impacts of the aggregate of small-scale actions. In the last ten years Dr. Coombes (along with author co-authors) have shown again and again that decentralized and distributed solutions (water efficiency, energy efficiency, rainwater harvesting, small-scale renewable energy, rain gardens, small-scale storm water retention and more) improve the economic efficiency of the entire urban system and provide huge societal benefits.

Schematic of the elements contributing to decentralized solutions at the local scale. Source: Coombes, P.J. 2014. A Systems Framework of Big Data for Analysis of Policy Strategy. Used with Permission.

For Michelle & I, the changes we’ve made in our home and backyard have arguably returned a far larger value to us than simply an economic efficiency. The food we harvest from our yard is far healthier, we (& our children) are learning skills that we think are very important, the bees & butterflies and biodiversity in our yard is astounding (and wonderful to enjoy), no dirty stormwater leaves our property (eventually polluting the river), 20,000 liters of rainwater supports biology such as apples trees and raspberry bushes, and the neighbours we’ve gotten to know and the community we’ve built are far more important to us than anything else.

But we can also feel great knowing that our small efforts do make a difference towards the problems on the large scale.

And when someone criticizes that mass-adoption will never happen, I don’t get too concerned. Books like The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell, have shown that we don’t need to strive for mass adoption. In fact, the tipping point is likely in the single digit percentages.

In the end I truly believe that we can’t blame each other for the problems that exist on the global scale, all we can do is make the solutions more enticing than what exists right now.

And if we do that, change will happen really quickly.

In 2015 we won the prestigious Emerald Award, recognizing outstanding environmental achievement for small business. Watch for a 2 min overview of what we’ve done at our own backdoor.


It’s time to get inspired. Here are some suggestions:

  • Read Part I, Introduction of the Permaculture Primer Notepack that you just downloaded.
  • Watch Part I of the mini-documentary about the Transformation of Our Urban Home on YouTube.
  • Unfriend people on your social networks who are always sharing negative information (& check out this article on what constant negative news is doing to your mental health).
  • If you’d like to dive into the research I mentioned you can get started on Peter Coombes’ website, here.

Keep an eye on your inbox, and in the next email I’ll going to give you some tips to dissolve the second barrier – lack of knowledge (but’s it’s not just any knowledge, it’s a specific type of knowledge).

Are you ready to take action now? Empower yourself with the tools, knowledge & support to positively transform your land, your life and your livelihood in our live Permaculture Design Course.

Past Students Say…

  • These two weeks of permaculture have been the most useful and constructive education I have experienced. The practical skills, hopeful perspective and focus on solutions feel empowering.  

    Sara Renner, Canmore, AB
    Sara Renner, Canmore, AB Owner of Paintbox Lodge and Olympic Medalist
  • Nothing could have prepared me for Verge's PDC. I went from armchair activist to on the ground change maker in two weeks. Their course gave me the tools and resources to restore hope in a backwards world.

    Jordan Saunders
    Jordan Saunders Tree Folk
  • I think if I could use one word to describe what Verge's PDC gave me, it would be "hope". Completely life changing.

    Chrissy Begus & Sarah Haney
    Chrissy Begus & Sarah Haney Puzzle Permaculture
  • I can’t remember the last time I felt so inspired! So many things brought together that I knew but didn’t.

    Evonne Smulders
    Evonne Smulders

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Hope, Knowledge & A Plan...
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