Geoff Lawton, greening the dessert and much more


Hi, this is Geoff.

Even friends that have zero interest in politics can’t help but follow what is being called, literally, « The Circus » — also known as the US presidential election.

And even those who live hundreds of miles away from a phone, TV, or internet connection seem to know the latest about Clinton and Trump (except this guy here – who by some kind of extraordinary miracle has never even heard of either(!))

I think at this point, many of us envy his innocence.

As much as we might want to turn away, we can’t escape the implications of politics. Accordingly, this edition of the Friday Five addresses this dimension of permaculture (« people ethics ») more directly than I normally do.

Many of you may applaud the sentiments here, and a few might disagree. Regardless, this isn’t about me « pushing through » a 1-way flow of my own ideas; rather, the posts below are intended as conversation starters about how permaculture principles can inform the things that many of us get especially emotional about, and so I invite and encourage you to engage in a constructive, meaningful discussion in the comments section here.

Here goes…

Civil War? Is this the start of a new American civil war? It is (hopefully) just a mere, theoretical possibility, but if we’ve learned anything from the work of NYU professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb and « black swan theory, » things that look impossible before they happen all of a sudden look inevitable after they do. In 1906 Alfred Henry Lewis made a statement that has been quoted numerous times since: « There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy. » Rather than seeking salvation from national politicians looking after their own self-interest, perhaps it’s time to choose self and local reliance via permaculture?

Taking a stand at Standing Rock: The Dakota Access Pipeline project has garnered tremendous attention worldwide because it seems to pit two (seemingly) irreconcilable forces: Aggressive economic growth versus a regional population’s right (including a large indigenous population) to clean water and environmental safety. This is a simplified version, and there is much more to it than that, but it’s a start to understanding the issues at stake. More importantly, have the protests and principled opposition produced any results? Perhaps they’re starting to…

Not just local: To show that permaculturists can work both locally and at wider levels (nationally, internationally), I wanted to share some recent news: My mate Maddy Harland, editor and co-founder of Permaculture Magazine, has been asked to put together a timely document that has the potential for making real headway on the issues related to climate change: A draft Manifesto outlining guiding principles for climate restoration. The intended audience? The heads of the Commonwealth nations.

Something lighter: Think what you want of Russell Brand, but as one of my fellow countrymen, and one of my favourite celebrities, he expresses in the way that only Russell can, the surreal world of news and media manipulation. I of course don’t agree with everything he says, but I admire his down-to-earth style, and his courage in speaking his mind. The dishonesty he highlights while cautioning against pessimism lines up with what seem to be twin recurring themes in permaculture: Be optimistic, and take responsibility for our own lives. And if Russell Brand isn’t your celebrity of choice, check out Leo DiCaprio’s new film. Or perhaps Shailene Woodley and her activism in North Dakota?

Oldie-but-(very)-relevant: There are a whole slew of articles about permaculture and politics. You can find dozens pre-selected here. And here is a recent one from Jonathon Engels titled, « Permaculture as a Political Act, » and another (also from Jonathon) that attempts to tie together the US election, Standing Rock and permaculture. If you enjoy these posts from our sister site, the non-profit Permaculture Research Institute, be sure to bookmark the site as several new articles go up weekly, or check out thousands of other past articles, here.

Feel free to forward to a friend. Anyone can sign up for the next batch.

Cheers, and have a great weekend,

Your friend,



PS. Two free films you can watch this weekend:

The first is Leo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood film referenced above. You can watch it online here, for free, through November 6th.

The other is one that my team and I put together: Greening the Desert: The Unifying Video (a 20 minute clip combining old and new footage of GTD1, GTD2, updates, and forecast). It too is free to watch for 24 hours (Today, Saturday November 5th from 9 am EST until 9 am Sunday). And like Leo’s movie above, if you miss it during it’s « free screening, » the group sponsoring it (Mother Earth News) has put together a (paid) access option (for my GTD presentation plus 35+ other presentations related to homesteading and natural living).

If you have the time and flexibility to tune in tomorrow, then free access may be perfect. If, however, you know that other commitments might get in the way, or if you want to have access to all the other presentations, on-demand, then the paid option might make sense. It’s entirely up to you: My job is to share the information, and yours is to figure out which way best fits your time, schedule, and needs.

Finally, as I mentioned previously, after you register, the Summit folks may present you with a few of those old-style pages with different fonts and colors that seem to scroll forever. I know some of you don’t like that style (I must confess that I’m not exactly a fan of that format either), BUT, if you can look past the way it looks, the information itself is actually quite valuable, ethical, and transformative.

And I know many, many of you have expressed appreciation for the paid option, as it makes viewing on your own time much more convenient, as well as the pricing being more than fair (about $1 per presentation). We’re all adults here, and know what is best for our time, schedules, convenience, and priorities.

To register, free, click here, then ignore everything that comes after.

And to explore the paid option, simply follow the instructions on the page that comes after the free registration, or go here directly.

Sorry for that long PS – have a great weekend :)

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