If there was ever a time to add Permaculture to your property, it is now: whether you plan to buy a new piece, rural or urban, and transform it, or to redesign the property you have.
The last three years have begun to show the follies of globalization, just-in-time shipping and inventory management and the division of labour. It is time to rebuild the broad-based knowledge and diverse skill-sets that lead to anti-fragility despite unpredictable circumstances.
Since Henry Ford, the world has been on a mission to “divide and conquer” everything from the professions such as farming, medicine, engineering, and law to manufacturing like cars, smartphones and toilet paper. As civilization has become more advanced, this idea of the division of labour has allowed almost every facet of human productivity to deepen specializations. This has been good for specialized knowledge and efficiency, but bad for general knowledge and, ultimately, resilience.
Some consequences of this trend are easy to see when we compare humans from 120 years ago to humans of today. One hundred twenty years ago, almost everyone knew how to garden, build or fix a house, cook meals for their family, preserve food and hunt; today, these skills are becoming rare, being outsourced or reserved for specialists.
Let’s look at this on a larger scale: one of the symptoms of a capitalistic system focused on specialization is that as capital concentrates and politicians are lobbied, you can end up with monopolies where one company processes all of the meat, makes all the toilet paper or produces all the steel. This specialization can bring costs down, increase production or improve efficiency, but it does so at the expense of resilience.
The system we have built over the last 100 years works under a few narrow circumstances:
- An ever-increasing oil and gas source
- Global peace (which I would argue is related to an abundance of global resources, one of which is oil)
- A functional financial system
- Proper national and international co-ordination and co-operation
- A healthy national and international demographic
- A functional global ecology
The last three years saw the erosion of items #1-4 at varying levels. We have just started to see the decline of #5, and have been eroding #6 for the last 10,000 years. As a result, we witnessed empty store shelves, hoarding, shortages in skilled labour, financial misallocation and mismanagement at the highest levels and on and on.
Most of us came face to face with the sheer fragility of the global order and felt deep-seated unrest in our guts. As a result of hyper-specialization and loss of general knowledge over the past 120 years, many could not fend for themselves. Meanwhile, we all watched our supply chains disintegrate.
Bill Mollison and David Holmgren wrote about this in the 1980s when they coined the term Permaculture. They recognized the knife’s edge civilization had been walking on throughout the oil age or “carbon pulse,” as Nate Haggins refers to in his video, “The Significant Simplification”
Mollison and Holmgren recognized all six of the issues described above and, from there, created a systems design approach to addressing each one of these issues in a system called Permaculture.
All of the issues we are facing result from hyper-efficient, linear systems requiring every link in the chain of production to function. When one of these links breaks, the system ceases to operate. Every one of us witnessed this in the last three years.
If you’re wondering about the solution, it’s the decentralization of energy, food, water, waste management and shelter, but how do we get there?
In the next two segments of this blog series, I will talk about these systems individually and the looming fragilities that exist within them and how those may lead to black swans and systemic collapse.