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In this section of the course the discussion turns to where the world might be heading if current modes of production and consumption continue. The lesson looks at various possible scenarios for the future given that populations are growing exponentially while resources are being used at an ever-increasing rate. The discussion then turns to how permaculture can play a role in changing the way we treat the earth – and so changing the future.

Learning outcomes

  • Reflect on possible scenarios for the future of the planet
  • Understand how permaculture can contribute to a more regenerative, sustainable future

What do you think about the future? Is peak oil going to arrive? Is Nature going to torment us with natural disasters and human plagues? Or will we experience a planetary awakening?

After a brief introduction, Jay engages the class in an activity to see where students align with possible future scenarios: (1) planetary collapse, (2) transition to stability using permaculture, (3) transition to sustainability using green technology while continuing to embrace the growth paradigm, (4) techno-spiritual fantasy of increasing our population to populate space and the moon, aliens are going to come and save us, we will have a planetary awakening, etc. At the end of the lesson, Jay encourages students to try an activity with a neighbor.

Video Translation

Jay Markert:  So, hi everyone, my name is Jay Markert.  I first just want to express my gratitude to Slav for having me here and to this place and the presence of all the gratitude in the morning circle.  It feels really good to be here.  I haven’t been here that long but it’s so beautiful out there, really exciting and grateful for all for all of you for really doing this for yourself and for your life.

So, we’re on this as a civilization, we’ve been on this peak right, you know peak population… we have been through this big growth curve and as everyone would probably for the most part agree we are at a certain point where we have different directions that we could go from here.  So these are kind of four different possible scenarios of what could happen from this point forward in human history, coming after 100’s or perhaps even 1000’s of years of growth.  One of them is collapse, things could just fall apart.  We’ve reached a critical mass of ecosystem destruction that we really messed things beyond a point whether it is war or just that things are going to collapse, it’s beyond the point of fixing it and we might start to see a drastic reduction in human civilization and population and quality of life.

One possible scenario, another would be transition where we can use different technologies, permaculture, start to reduce the damage that we are doing and figure out solutions for the many crisis’s that we are at right now.  And gradually you know curve the growth down and then start to level it out, call that one transition.  One would be green tech, technology would save us and we can just continue this growth curve that we are on, kind of in traditional economic models, it’s just kind of infinite growth, that’s how they measure the economy is going to keep getting bigger and bigger and you know solar technology, renewable energy and other kinds of technologies that will just allow us to continue on this growth curve that we’re on.  Another possible scenario, we call that green tech.

And the last one we call techno spirit fantasy where this would be in a scenario where we would actually increase our population, we can colonize the moon, aliens are going to come and bail us out of this crisis, we are going to have a spiritual awakening, evolution or other kinds of you know star wars, star trek kinds of scenarios, but basically yeah we have the creativity that we are going to actually be able to get through this.  So those are the four and I’m not saying these are… you now there might be middle ground between these things and other possibilities on here, but just saying of these four scenarios right now just kind of tap into your sense of self and where would you put yourself on this map.

You know I know some people personally who are on extremes of both ends.  Some people are definitely doom and gloomers, it’s really hopeless we are headed off the cliff and some people that I know are really, you now we are really going to ascend or something or back to the other side.

So how about if we position ourselves in the room again and we will put these four scenarios in four corners and you can move yourselves to that corner or somewhere in the middle perhaps and again it’s not set in stone or things like that.  Want to get a pulse and hear from a couple of different people in the different corners.  So if you are into…if you put yourself on more of the collapse end of the spectrum… let’s call the collapse that corner by the piano.  Let’s put transition over here in this corner.  Let’s put green tech down towards the corner by the lamp down there and then techno spirit fantasy in that far away part.  Yeah you can also put yourself in the middle.

Student:  Is this what we want?

Jay Markert:  Well yeah…what you think is going to happen, yeah just kind of where you’re at.

Student:  A graph of human population growth?

Jay Markert:  It would be human population…civilization basically the infinite growth of human civilization, with population being one of those factors.

Student:  Yeah.  Okay.

Jay Markert:  Yeah that we’ve been on this growth curve.

Student:  Where we think we’re going to be in 10, 20 years say.

Jay Markert:  Yeah, kind of like where do you think we’re going to be, where are we going to go? We’re at this point in now and say 10 or 20 years.  Yeah in 10 years, where do you think we are heading as a civilization? So again collapse in that corner.  Transition in this corner where it’s… you know we actually might…we are going to hit limits and things will in fact have to decrease a little but then we will kind of level it out.  Green tech down by the lamp and techno spirit fantasy down in that corner.  How about over here the other ones in the collapse area? Anyone over here want to share anything?

Student:  Yeah, so I guess collapse is being described as a doom and gloom and negative thing.  I almost like I feel bad for anyone that the collapse effects, but I’m almost of the opinion right now that things are deteriorating too slowly.  It’s not enough of a wake up call and so I think the collapse could really be a tool to push us forward a bit into the transition and the green tech movement.  It’s almost because this is happening on such a long time scale in terms of human life but that’s almost it’s own down fall so… That is kind of why I’m in between both transition and collapse is that I see it as a positive thing.  So…

Student:  I feel like that its going to take the collapse of our economies in order for us to actually band together and create these intentional communities.  You know I think yeah I think it’s going to require like a massive event to force us to re-culture ourselves and to kind of like in pockets because so much research shows that localization is really the way to go in terms of resource using, sustainability and so on and so forth.  My vision of the future is like maybe close to apocalyptic events but then coming out of that with like just small communities that are like self sufficient, self sustaining and kind of scattered all around like I think that would be ideal.

Student:  And for better or worse some noticing what has happened to our economy so far is starting to bring our families back together.  You know it’s not like the college students coming out can’t necessarily find work.  They’re saying they’re going home.  Maybe that’s the start of the shift.  I don’t know.

Jay Markert:  So the collapse can help instigate transition or even these other scenarios?

Student:  Yeah because also human…I feel that humans often times don’t take action unless it directly affects them or affects their families in some way, so it can be a very positive thing.

Student:  I interpret it collapse as the end.  Right, I interpret it that you get to a collapsing mode and then transition has to take place where we are.  Something, it might be Waterworld but yeah.

Jay Markert:  You have faith that we’re going to be able to bounce back.

Student:  I think we’ve already had a collapse.  We have to transition.

Student:  I actually wanted to something on the lines of, I actually feel that all of them are happening and a little bit it of it all might actually happen, so things like collapse, might instil some green tech, there might be some spiritual ascending happening and there might be some people who get into the transition.  So I’m standing here with you but I’m actually really standing over there with those freaks over there.  I honestly believe that I am actually waiting for it.

Student:  That’s reality.  So reality is any population study says that climates are at breaking points, whatever populations, the natural thing is, so why are we so spiritual? What is the human race going to escape? We’re so far with medicine and everything else but we’ve already used three world’s worth of resources.  At some point you’re going to run out of those so are you going to mine the moon or dig up the ocean.  So I think it’s inevitable, there has to be some supply and demand to a certain degree.  There’s going to be a decrease in demand and resources and it’s going to be dog eat dog for a bit, maybe.  Well it might be a Waterworld.  Something along those lines, but there will always be because the population is always a population that will initiate the next infestation.  Conquerors, whatever.  That’s what happens and the resources determine where you are from there.

Student:  (Unclear response)  _____[00:10:10] I am standing here because I am in the team, the team of transition

Student:  Damien here talking.  Anyway I’m standing in the transition end mostly because of what we’ve already been doing with the earth has been very devastating and if we keep doing it, it’s just going to you know something is going to change and it’s not really good and coming from a generation of doing, my fellow peers a lot of the majority of people that are growing up now just don’t really care.  You know they’re kind of sucked into all of these material objects and they all, I mean something has got to happen and as long we keep pushing towards a better world, there’s still going to be people out there that just don’t care and contributing to the systematic rape of Mother Earth.  Something’s got to go and it’s not really good, so…

Jay Markert:  Thanks Damien.  How about anyone from the green tech?

Student:  (Unclear response) _____[]

Jay Markert:  Great thank you.  Thanks for sharing that.  I know it would be great to hear from everyone but in the interest of time, anyone else really popping to share, I want to give you the chance the two the furthest in the class.  Maybe just two more.

Student:  So the reason why I’m standing in the middle is because there is so many different people and energy on this world that I feel like its going to be hard to…either we go green tech and I think that would be the best way to go about it personally but it’s so difficult to get everyone to change their mind and to start living in that way and the people that are spiritual are going to be working in their one way as well as the people who are so negative and also Mother Earth trying to shake us off, which is where I come from, the whole collapsing part.  I feel very strong towards the transition because I fell that all of the other things are going to lead us into the transition because it’s going to happen a little bit slower than if it were just continue in a green tech way and bring everyone on board.  So…

Jay Markert:  Great thanks.  Yeah, it’s interesting they are all happening at the same time it seems like.  It’s nice to hear from all the perspectives too they are all pretty convincing huh?

Student:  It’s nice that we can share them.

Jay Markert:  Yeah.

Student:  I want to hear more from the freaks.

Jay Markert:  I think in the interest of time we should move forward.  Is it Christina? You want to share?

Student:  I don’t see like, I’m more towards the collapse because I don’t see any good symptoms that’s happening towards transition.  So that’s why I keep the hope inside me, but I don’t say it.  I’m expecting collapse because in this collapse, we’ll learn a lesson.  Human beings will learn a lesson, not from hope.  If they have hope, they won’t stop doing bad things like.  It’s the hope that makes motivation to make the earth better.  So I would strongly say collapse.  I’m expecting it.

Jay Markert:  Great.  Thank you.  Thank you.  So let’s see if we can just move back and find your seats again.

All right folks let’s just keep rolling.  I think we’re not quite at a break time yet.  Thank you everyone for participating.  I really value all the perspectives where everyone was standing in.

Tech:  30 seconds.  I’m going to turn the camera off and walk with it.

Jay Markert:  Okay.  All right sure.

Personally I understand I think that they’re all happening at the same time.  If we look at where permaculture fits into this scenario of these four possible scenarios, permaculture generally speaking, the approach and a lot of the people involved are in this transition world view that really that we’ve definitely reached finite limits.  We have done a lot of damage and a lot of destruction to the planet right now.  Just a few months ago in October we hosted a course with Jack Spirko who is one of the top permaculture designers in the world right now, he is running the Permaculture Research Institute and I talked to him about this and he said, just quite straight forward, he says we don’t have much time, you know we have really done a lot of damage maybe even some people in the permaculture community might even veer more towards collapse.  There is a definite understanding that we’ve reached limits on our consumption, on our destruction and all the things that we are doing to the earth, like Richard Heimberg’s book.  If anybody knows of Richard Heimberg, I will put him under this collapse category but he makes a very, very articulate case of the damage that we’ve been doing but mean while we do have the solutions too.

One thing that is so inspiring to me about the permaculture community is that we really do have the solutions to grow food, clean water, energy, all of it.  So that is kind of where permaculture is that recognising that we’ve really hit a point that we are going to…there’s going to need to be some sense of a collapse and we’re trying to implement all these strategies to mitigate that collapse and kind of re-design civilization, so that we can level out and be more sustainable and more regenerative.

So I am going to shift now into talking about permaculture and overview and history ethics, definitions and then we’re going to move over to the permaculture principles after that and I’m going to queue up a little visual thing for this section.  So while I do that I want you to just turn to your neighbor, find a partner and just share with you neighbor what is permaculture? What’s your definition of permaculture? What does it mean to you?

Does anyone want to share? What is a big definition of permaculture? What did you guys come up with? I love to hear new ones all the time.  Anyone?

Student:  It’s like a Venn diagram with like seven circles overlapping.

Jay Markert:  Wow, cool.  Haven’t heard that one.

Student:  It is like ecology and _____[00:21:21] social justice, agriculture, philosophy, spirituality and _____[00:21:39], but it feels like basically just like this perfect little overlap of lots of different fields.  So that sweet spot where they all come together.

Jay Markert:  Thanks, anyone else?

Student:  Change.

Jay Markert:  Change? Permaculture is change.

Student:  Back to the past.

Jay Markert:  Back to the past.

Student:  (Unclear response)

Jay Markert:  A change back to the past on community scale.

Student:  We’re going back to the basics.  Going back to the basic of how we culture the land, how you live your way, because each community, each provision has his own way.  You got to learn your own micro climate in order to use it for your benefit.  You learn to listen to nature, to see the nature around you and then use that knowledge to your benefit.  So it’s not only for organic fertilizers and say I’m organic.  It’s not.  It’s much more than that.  It’s a whole concept.  It’s a whole living, the whole being, how everything comes to be organic in the way…is it organic that everything aids each other.  So I think permaculture is a great future.  We need to go back to the basics.

Jay Markert:  Yeah, yeah.  Thank you.  Well said.  Anyone else?

Student:  The word permaculture, the perm in it, it’s also like permeating I think we need to culture… trying to keep those forests edible and pesticide free and shading their houses and all those kinds of stuff, but also there’s a business behind permaculture to keep work for you and you want to know them and see what really feeds them with a business structure and so that they can do what they love, but most of what they love and keep the business going and then expect them to not just take off the business for a pay check and just come in and do whatever.  (Unclear response).

Jay Markert:  Yeah.  Thanks for bringing that in.  Not just the land but also the people and business even.

Student:  Yeah.

Jay Markert:  Yeah.

Student:  Looking at how nature works and using, implementing that system on how the, all the technology and housing and just growing basic ways that we live our life and everything and looking at nature because nature works great.  We are not doing so good, so maybe we should step back and take a little advice from nature.

Jay Markert:  Yeah.  Definitely, well said.  A lot of really great definitions.  Working with nature.  Anyone else want to share?

Student:  I just was going to say the same thing about the word permaculture standing for permanent culture and I also heard that that’s the reason it’s called permanent agriculture.

Jay Markert:  Yeah.

Student:  And I am really a fan of like not really promoting the use of the word sustainable or permanent but like regenerative and I think that is because even when you’re thinking (unclear response).  Who wants sustainable, you want to think of regenerative and evolving and growing.  He was saying well it’s kind of a little bit boring.  I think with our culture on earth, who wants to just live the same way all the time forever, permanently? I’d rather be regenerative and growing and evolving to something.  Maybe we can change the name to regenerative culture or something.

Jay Markert:  Yeah, sustainable was like five years ago.  Regenerative, thriving, yeah I’ve been hearing that a lot too.  It’s like sustainable is not quite good enough, we can do better than that right?

Student:  Yeah, but it’s funny because I still feel like we’re trying to modern, or get permaculture back on board with, or on board with sustainable and we’re so close and like suddenly they get it and now we’re going to change the word on it.

Jay Markert:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Yes sounds like … I mean you guys are here at this course so you obviously have an understanding already of what permaculture is and just a little side note here on the structure for the next like, for the rest of the course or particularly the next four days.  We are going to from pattern to detail which is something like saying, permaculture go from patterns to details, so we are starting pretty big you know what is permaculture? The big view, definitions, ethics, I need to share some things about the history and honor the people who have brought the movement to where it is today and then we are gradually going to get more into this specific strategy.  So these next two days with me will kind of end at the point of… we are going to talk about this broad level and then patterns and tomorrow we will go into more details about zones and sectors and maps and design process and other tools and when Max comes on the 2 days following that we are going to go into much more depth on like plants and water and soil.  Some of real hands-on components which might have been why you came here, but just trust there is a flow and it will all unfold in a good way.


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