Don’t You Quote Hobbes at Me, Nature Boy

13 April 2008

Marda is a small Palestinian village about halfway between Nablus and Ramallah, not far from the town of Salfit, nestled in the hills of the central West Bank. It is not atypical of other villages of its size, and though it has the pointed misfortune of laying in the shadow of one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank, its challenges mirror those faced throughout the Occupied Territories.

Images from Google Earth and B\'tselem

It is unique, however, for being the location of an experimental permaculture farm; Palestinian owned and operated, the farm is one of the few agricultural “experiments” in the West Bank (and in the Middle East more generally) that doesn’t depend on foreign aid and a bevy of overpaid foreign specialists. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Marda in order attend a workshop on permaculture, and stumbled upon a fascinating ecological philosophy, which engages provocatively with questions of design, community, sustainability, and ethics.

The earliest seeds of permaculture were sown almost 40 years ago by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, who were searching for sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural techniques as a reaction against the rise of large-scale industrial farming and extensive pesticide use. The two realized that the issue was not merely a technical or technological one, but rather a problem that had concomitant social and ethical dimensions. The movement which resulted has sought to synthesize the agricultural and social within one philosophy, and though many permaculture specialists seem content to ignore the political elements of the philosophy, it contains within itself a firm political and moral commitment, which I think is worth exploring.

Permaculture proceeds from a number of dire ecological issues, the foremost being soil loss and the loss of biodiversity. Though commercial farming operates on a perhaps intelligible economic logic, it maintains a jarring distance from the ecological processes which characterize natural ecologies. In the interest of producing an easily marketable and commodifiable crop, commercial farms specialize in the raising of specific monocultures (a particular type of corn, a particular strain of soy bean). However, natural ecosystems are built upon the innumerable connections and energy transactions among numerous and varied life forms in proximity (i.e., biodiversity), and the fertility and productivity of such landscapes emerges directly from the comprehensive and perpetual reinvestment of energy and organism. In the absence of this diversity, fertility and equilibrium vanish; thus, monocultural agriculture must artificially maintain a growing window through the imposition of massive amounts of external “energy” – through tillage (which actually destroys soil fertility), expensive and taxing irrigation, intense fertilizer application, and extensive pesticide use. Without these investments (and often despite them), soil that is deprived of the biodiversity necessary to sustain it essentially dies, its fertility dissipated. In arid regions, desertification results, and in wetter regions, catastrophic erosion follows. According to permaculturalists, this process represents the greatest threat to humanity – the pervasive destruction of our means of sustenance.

Permaculture is primarily a design philosophy, a way of consciously arranging elements to produce a given end. Curiously, its focus on productivity and yield resonate with the driving imperatives of commercial farming, and it has no reservations against speaking of ecosystems in the language of use and utilization. Despite panegyrics to the inherent value of ecosystems, it seems to me that the underlying leitmotiv of permaculture is premeditated intervention in order to meet human needs (which seems to be a pretty standard meaning for “design”). The crucial distinction is that those interventions are inspired by the observation of existing natural systems, a kind of ecological bricolage. We see this ethos in permaculture’s forthright willingness to employ, and consume, animals in whatever configuration is most beneficial for the sustained health of the system (which causes a definite tension in the traditional alliances between animal rights activists and environmentalists), as well as in the mainstream permaculturalist’s willingness to introduce foreign species to fill whatever ecological niches might be lacking in their design. This is not meant as an outright criticism…I am accusing permaculture of anthropocentrism in its considerations, but that is not inherently problematic.

In any case, then, permaculture as a design methodology becomes a way of utilizing and augmenting the potentialities already available in the ecosystem; essentially, to work with nature rather than against it. Design techniques are based on several principles of natural systems:

– Everything is connected to everything else.

– Every function in the system is supplied by many elements (diversification).

– Every element should serve many function (redundancy).

The designer’s task is to maximize the available connections among elements of an ecosystem in order to bring out that system’s fertility. Multiple species of vegetation may be grown in close proximity to maximize certain symbiotic effects. Planting varieties of species, with different shapes, colors, life-cycles, and resistances largely precludes the necessity for pesticides. Large trees offer shade to smaller vegetation, certain types of which improve the tree’s root health. Connections may be nurtured through physical design, wherein area shapes may be molded to maximize “edges,” or opportunities for interface among organisms. Designs also strive to conserve water onsite through careful consideration of erosion patterns and contour details; thus, not only does the site sustain itself with its own rainfall, but soil damage from erosion is avoided. Additionally, the designer applies this design philosophy to architectural design. A dwelling should utilize the assets inherent to the site. Solar power, in combination with orientation, reduces energy needed for climate control. Moreover, the house itself becomes part of the overall landscape design, whereby greywater (and sometimes even blackwater) may be conserved, filtered as necessary, and used for irrigation.

There are aspects of permaculture that I particularly like. I appreciate the ease with which permaculturalists acknowledge and celebrate the historical precedence of and continued ability of mankind to productively interact with his environment (while recognizing the destructiveness of some of the later instantiations of this ability). Mankind is likewise bound to the networks of ecological connections, though with a degree of flexibility, which permaculture tries to mobilize. And, personally, I likewise appreciate the sense in which permaculture design tries to break down the boundaries between the house and the garden, and explore ways in which they can fruitfully interact with each other, such that the house can become inseparable from the garden, and vice versa.

The problem with permaculture (you’ll notice I don’t talk about something unless I have a problem with it), though, emerges when you start to talk in terms of scale. In terms of volume of sellable produce, a permaculture site does not even come close to the yield of a commercial agricultural operation on a commensurate area. Permaculturalists readily admit that permaculture cannot supply the agricultural economy as we know it today. Their response, naturally, is that our economy and society in general is fundamentally flawed, and that true sustainability is not attainable in the current configuration.

This is not a particularly novel argument, and I don’t want to weigh in here on whether or not capitalism is structurally irreconcilable with sustainability (it’s a huge and contentious debate, and I don’t have the time or competence to do it justice right now). But most permaculturalists recognize that permaculture is more than a design ethic or a set of techniques. It is not a technical fix. It is rather the material side of a comprehensive and revolutionary philosophical/political project.

As the workshop progressed, I was struck by the centrality of the motif of the house in permaculture. As Mollison writes in his textbook for permaculture, the “prime directive” of permaculture is to “take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children,” and that “we need to get our house in garden in order so that they feed and shelter us” (italics added). Moreover, the illustrations and design examples in the book overwhelmingly (if not exclusively) depict single family dwellings, surrounded by acres of effectively permaculture-ed landscape, complete with cow pasture, pond, and wind turbines. Even beyond the distressing and culturally limited romanticisation of idyllic homesteads, I think (as I have alluded in a previous post) that the “home,” conceived of as the unassailable seat of morality, liberty, and identity is distinctly problematic, and far less libratory that libertarian models would suggest.

This focus on the home is not accidental…the last chapter of the textbook departs abruptly from the more practical focus of the preceding chapters on trees, soil, and keyline irrigation. Entitled “Strategies for an Alternative Nation” (partial text available here), the chapter details a vision for alternative sociality which appears to consist of autonomous hamlets, bound together by the shared practical and ethical involvement of homesteads in subsistence production. I’m not going to criticize the vision for being a bit far-fetched… David Harvey has written persuasively about the importance of such broad, utopian imagination, and Hollison’s vision is almost faintly reminiscent of the anarchist colony Annares from The Dispossessed which is my very favorite book. But I feel that the terms of the vision, and Hollison’s explanations, demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the histories and cultural practices which give our contemporary social structures meaning and significance, despite their demonstrable and myriad problems.

Firstly, later in the chapter Mollison creates an arbitrary and rather trite set of population thresholds beyond which certain forms of social life are or are not possible. Most maddening is his condemnation of urbanity, expressed in his contention that a social group of more than 10,000 people breeds crime, fear, and anti-social behavior. As someone who has studied urbanism a bit, I find this to be at odds with a substantial battery of urban ethnography that refuses to write off urbanity as a perversion, but rather explores its liberatory potential alongside the malaise. Furthermore, urbanity is not merely a spatial manifestation of late-capitalism, or an engine for lucre and accumulation. Cities existed before capitalism. Archaeology has outlined (though by no means exhausted) the complex interplay among ancient agriculture, economics, and settlement patterns such that the convenient historical narrative of hunter-gathering/egalitarian society to agricultural/hierarchical society becomes little more than a caricature. [This brings me to a particularly pointed criticism I have of the permaculture literature (and much of the environmental literature in general): a few scattered and unsubstantiated stories of romanticized aboriginal ecological sensitivity DOES NOT constitute anthropological proof of anything. The fact the Bill Mollison grew up in Tasmania, where there were once some aborigines, does not entitle him to speak for them, or to mobilize their history (which he doesn’t appear to know beyond anecdotes) for his purposes. This noble savage, paradise lost narrative of indigenous tree-hugging has been criticized by anthropologists for decades. If indigeneity is coupled with environmental sensitivity, it is a political claim to be fought for. It is not self-evident.] And, to return to the present day, urban centers continue to have complex interactions with their hinterlands and with the economic/material regimes that constitute their lifeblood (see Cronon’s magnificent Nature’s Metropolis).

In a similar vein, Mollison contends that the explosive population growth that the world is facing, and which is making issues like soil loss ever more dire, would cease to be an issue in his utopian configuration. He is parroting here the reductive and facile maxim that reproduction rates vary inversely with economic security, which is used as a truism requiring no further elaboration. However, some excellent anthropology would argue that human population growth is not purely a function of resource use and species viability, but is richly framed by cultural and discursive logics of fertility, reproduction, nationhood, etc. Mollison’s Malthusian perspective is not insightful or nuanced enough to really get at this, and consequently I have my doubts as to not only the internal coherence of his vision, but also to its wider applicability.

I also am distressed by the simplistic understanding of politics as perversion of the social order. Let’s look at a quote in a bit more detail:

The world needs a new, non-polarised, and non-contentious politic; one not made possible by those in situations that promote a left-right, black-white, capitalist-communist, believer-infidel thinking. Such systems are, like it or not, promoting antagonism and destroying cooperation and interdependence. Confrontational thinking, operating through political or power systems, has destroyed cultural, intellectual, and material resources that could have been used, in a life-centred ethic, for earth repair.

It is possible to agree with most people, of any race or creed, on the basics of life-centred ethics and commonsense procedures, across all cultural groups; it matters not that one group eats beef, and another regards cows as holy, providing they agree to cooperate in areas which are of concern to them both, and to respect the origins of their differences as a chance of history and evolution, not assessing such differences as due to personal perversity.

It is always possible to use differences creatively, and design to use them, not to eliminate one or other group as infidels. Belief is of itself not so much a difference as a refusal to admit the existence of differences; this easily transposes into the antagonistic attitude of “who is not with me is against me,” itself a coercive and illogical attitude and one likely, in the extreme, to classify all others as enemies, when they are merely living according to their own history and needs.

Mollison makes the same movement that the Archbishop made so many posts ago. In subordinating difference to some cultural garnish to the natural main dish, he refuses to take difference seriously. He doesn’t deny difference; worse, he trivializes it. Cultural difference results merely from the “chance of history and evolution,” and if we all could just understand our shared, biological need for sustenance, we could base an apolitical polity on it, and dispense with the tiresome politics of difference. Of course, permaculture, like other environmental rhetorics, professes an attention to difference, insofar as it frequently and readily utilizes indigenous conservation techniques. Alliances are often forged between environmentalists and indigenous peoples’ movements. I am not accusing them of necessarily being infelicitous or disingenuous, but I think it is something of a marriage of convenience. Permaculture gets to decontextualize and harvest the indigenous technologies of other cultures. Permaculturalists in Jordan can wear kuffiyyas and talk about Nabatean irrigation. But they have allowed themselves to avoid any experience with fundamental alterity.

The demonization of the political (which I am provisionally connecting to a notion of colliding difference) seems to be a substantial element of the permaculture ethic. The workshop was taught by a Canadian couple working on a project in Jordan (which I hope to visit), and while I did not for a moment doubt their technical competence, I was struck by their constant refrain that they were against “politics.” As one of them remarked, “I don’t talk politics.” But as I have tried to demonstrate, by talking about populations, about urbanism, about ethics, about human needs, by trying to bring about profound structural change, you are doing politics. Moreover, as I found in my research in the West Bank, the ability to claim environmental sustainability offers tremendous political purchase in the global community. Interestingly, a common criticism of Israeli settlements is that they use exponentially more water and produce far more waste than the surrounding Palestinian communities. But I have often wondered what would happen if the settlers were to embrace permaculture, and transformed their illegal settlements into paragons of sustainability? Would the already fairly weak international criticism of the settlements be weakened further? Permaculture matters politically, whether or not it realizes or acknowledges it. This ignorance of one’s own politics, of one’s own contingency, blinds one to the limitations and assumptions of one’s vision.

This point was driven home for me in the last day of the workshop, in which the reins were handed to guest lecturer Jan Bang, an aging Nordic hippie with decades of experience founding and working on eco-villages throughout the world. In our last session, we were given the opportunity to set the topics to be addressed. One of the Palestinians in attendance, having sat though days of design techniques and practical considerations of permaculture asked a simple but crucial question: How is this economically viable? Jan launched into a detailed explanation of the LETS (Local Exchange Trading System), in which existing permaculture hamlets might trade via local, currency-free exchange networks, supplementing existing currency systems. As interesting as such a system may be (and frankly, it’s not really interesting at all), it completely misses the point of the question, and fails to answer or even address it. My research into and experience with the imbrications of water and Palestinian nationalism suggested to me that agriculture figures quite large in Palestinian imaginings of nationhood, and food production is a fundamental marker of national sovereignty. I imagine that Mollison and Bang would argue that the paradigm of the nation-state is fundamentally flawed, and inherently supports environmental abuse. However, I find this to be out of touch not only with the complexities of the nation-state, but also with the realm of possibilities open to Palestinians. If permaculture does not persuade, it is not because the listener is somehow infantile, unimaginative, and unready for change, but rather because permaculture is unable to meet the needs of the world as it functions. In that respect, I feel that permaculture often entails a peculiar reclusion from the outside world.

It is important to realize that permaculture is by no means a monolithic and stable movement, but has experienced a degree of fission and friction. I only had access to Mollison’s textbook, though I’m told that David Holmgren has written about urban permaculture at some length (and, honestly, from what I have heard, Mollison isn’t exactly the brains of the pair). I also do find the practical logic of permaculture to be engaging and enlightening. It is also a robust criticism of commercial agriculture. But the movement to human sociality is far from straightforward.

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6 Responses to “Don’t You Quote Hobbes at Me, Nature Boy”

  1. Jeremy said

    Very interesting post. I don’t have answers to the questions you raise, but I was particularly interested in your points about agriculture and nationhood, and the relative sustainability of Israeli and Palestinian agriculture.

    Seems to me the Israeli’s have for a long time been exporting expensive water (tomatoes, hothouse plants etc) and using the money to buy cheap water (grains and other staples). Collaboration across the borders, to use some of the good water technologies that Israel has developed to help agricultural development elsewhere in the Jordan valley would, I reckon, push the peace process faster than just about anything. But it isn’t going to happen. It’s also odd that the Israeli’s seem happy to import crops grown in Palestine using chemicals and methods banned in Israel, rather like the British when they banned “cruel” methods of raising pigs and then proceeded to import vastly more pork from Denmark, where those methods were permitted, because it was cheaper.

    Hypocrisy will always find a way not to put its money where its mouth is.

  2. […] have to hand it to ghirbaal. He entitled a recent post that mentions biodiversity Don’t You Quote Hobbes at Me, Nature Boy. That piqued my interest enough to go and take a look, and it proved a fascinating read. ghirbaal […]

  3. Starhawk said

    Hey ghirbaal, I was glad to read your report of the workshop that I was originally supposed to teach. It seems like Jesse and Tanya, the teachers who filled in when I was denied entry into Israel did an excellent job of conveying the fundamental principles and many of the practices.

    However, permaculture encompasses a wide spectrum of ideas when it comes to the social and the political. Mollison is great on some aspects–like swales and large scale land structures, but pretty awful on some of the social aspects (like his view of women.) And not all of us are against politics–in fact, the reason I was prevented from teaching the course, and deported, was because of my previous work in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement, a group which supports nonviolent resistance against the occupation.

    The Earth Activist Trainings that I and others teach apply some of the relevant permaculture principles to political organizing and strategy. We also have a strong, urban focus. I think you have some excellent critiques of Mollison, but I encourage you to also look beyond him and see that permaculture is going in many interesting directions.

    I was really grateful to Jesse and Tanya for taking over the workshop at short notice, so that it could go on.

    There is a whole political critique to be articulated about Israel, agriculture, and Palestine. Israel has developed export oriented, highly technological agriculture that uses tremendous resources–water and fossil fuels. Palestinian agriculture is much more traditional, water thrifty, small scale and diverse. But at the same time, the land, which has been worked for 10,000 years, is in many areas exhausted. The Israeli settlements are commandeering the heights and the acquifers, using most of the West Bank’s water. In that context, training people to intensify their food production, resource conservation and ability to provide for their needs is a powerful and political act of resistance.

    In solidarity, Starhawk

  4. ghirbaal said

    Thank you so much for the reply Starhawk! I really appreciate you taking the time to read the post, which is perhaps overlong. I did try, in the last paragraph, to point out the diversity of permaculture as a movement, though I definitely should have been more emphatic. And I also recognize and support the potential for resistance that self-sufficiency affords. But I have found that much of the discourse about permaculture in Palestine seems to dovetail with some of the more radical anarchist imaginings, that see Palestine as a great opportunity for experimentation with new social forms. This, I think, ignores the centrality of the nationalist narrative that informs Palestinian politics (and agricultural practices), and is more a reflection of what foreign activists want to see than Palestinian sentiment. And so while permaculture may indeed be a fertile and compelling means of localized resistance, I think to some degree it fails to address the larger Palestinian project of nation-building (and the agricultural practices that such a nation might entail). And so, while I thoroughly enjoyed Jesse and Tanya’s practical teaching, I was maddened by Jan Bang’s simplistic utopianism, and the profound disconnect that it represents. Thus, I witnessed at the workshop what I perceived to be permaculture’s strengths and weaknesses, and I tried to evoke both in my post. Thanks again for your comment!

  5. R. Newton said

    First, I would like to affirm the value of permaculture settlements as experiments in the impact that design can have on environmental sustainment. It was heartening to read that people are taking seriously the possibility of working with nature to meet human needs and investing so much personal time and energy into working out how to implement the corresponding design principles.

    Not having read the literature, I can’t begin to assess the feasibility of a watered-down permaculture, but I have to wonder whether it might be possible to follow the three principles you listed, interconnectedness, diversification, and redundancy, over a wider plot of land in such a way as to allow industrial farming. Utopian visions do not generally grow from the technical considerations that people propose to support them. The permaculturists’ ideas about healthy communities and impending catastrophe probably influence the degree and tightness of interweaving they prescribe for sustainable agriculture. I doubt they have seriously explored the potential for less self-contained designs to meet demanding sustainability criteria when the terrain receives regular biochemical maintenance or manipulation of some sort. Apart from the Palestinians, I would rather not switch to a rural agrarian lifestyle. I do not look down upon it. It just interests me personally as little as being a statistician. For the Palestinians, you make it sound like their agricultural goals stem from a desire for national self-sufficiency more strongly than from an ideal of community, so I would hope a looser application of permacultural design principles would better align with their (dis)inclinations.

    One of the difficulties in converting the Palestinian people, or anyone else who is not already a believer, lies in the permaculturists’ insufficient attention to demonstrating that their solution is necessary, or optimal, or the best understood within the time remaining to avert an otherwise impending catastrophe. Although a slow, grinding apocalypse of mass starvation is a certain outcome of current agricultural practices in the view of the permaculturists, those to whom they make their pitch might doubt the severity or the timeframe for action proposed. If it were true that within, say, 40 years, 45% of the Earth’s currently arable land would be too spoiled to yield crops unless current agricultural techniques were abandoned, then peoples of the world whose goals called for such techniques could go fuck themselves. If a prediction to that effect were provided to the nations with scientific backing that government officials would validate in stunned silence and humility like in a disaster movie, then permaculture might have a better chance at success among every people, even those to whom it would be gravely disappointing, because it sounds technically plausible, it would probably be one of the most comprehensively explored options on the table (since those with the solution would have had a head start by being among the first to recognize the problem), and no government would want to be seen by the others as the one threatening humanity by dragging its heels. Failing circumstances like this, as you said, permaculture must be shown to address the needs of the world as the world presently perceives those needs if it is to gain much traction.

    The details of radically transforming a society cause me a lot of apprehension, at least as much as the envisioned result itself, and I would bet it does so for others. Have the permaculturists calculated the global population level that their design techniques would support if miraculously everyone were to adopt their libertarian paradise? If the number is less than the current population or any expected in the near future, then, again, unless an imminent catastrophe can be proven with devastating certainty, concerns about how to limit reproduction (or otherwise drastically reverse the population trend), how to redistribute surviving populations over recently “depopulated” areas, and who could be trusted to coordinate such endeavors would figure so large in people’s minds that no one would want to think about attempting to convert to this utopia. If the permaculturally-supportable population would be significantly greater than the current one or near-future projections, then there would be an even longer window for taking action. Since the utopia does not actually appeal or seem well-founded to many in its social structure, people would likely follow their disinclinations and just look unhurriedly for another solution. Without any such calculation, people will proceed on the beliefs that we’ll all just have to do the best we can and that the permaculturists’ utopia sucks, in which case other solutions will unhurriedly be researched.

    Urbanism would be entrenched against permaculture if for no other reason than the scale of a city’s physical structures. The city is imposing as a manifestation of a history of research, development, and labor. It’s one thing for a portion of city-dwellers each year to have a personal revelation to the effect of, “You know, friend, city life just isn’t for me.” It’s quite another for a civilization to abandon them, and implicitly to deny not only the intially intended benefits of cities but even the desire for many of those benefits. The Maya forced themselves to do this, of course, but their culture had neither our level of technology nor our scope of social stratification and specialization to administer. I can’t help but suspect that the permaculturist utopia, if adopted globally, would entail technological stasis after a period of deterioration. The infrastructure necessary to maintain our technological level would be truly unwieldy if we were to try to redistribute it over a million towns of 10,000 or fewer residents, a large proportion of whom would have to be full-time farmers for much of the year. Granted, the survival of humanity is ostensibly at stake, but without confirmation that permaculture is the only or best solution to an extremely imminent, comprehensive threat, the ability to hold onto something like a Western standard of living will be a concern for Westerners and for aspiring world powers.

    When you remark, “…a substantial battery of urban ethnography…refuses to write off urbanity as a perversion, but rather explores its liberatory potential alongside the malaise,” in what respect do liberation and malaise sit beside one another? Liberated urbanites living among those en malaise? Every individual being fundamentally liberated somehow but with a tinge of malaise, or vice-versa? I guess I’m also curious as to what urban ethnographers deem liberatory about the city.

    As for the prejudice against politics, the permaculturists’ definition sounds as though it consists of a skewed set of non-essential connotations of the word. Your turn of phrase “apolitical polity” nicely demonstrates this element of inconsistency between their vision and their method of realizing it. It also suggests how much plainer the word “politics” can be than they think. Politics is the domain within which one exercises influence to bring about or maintain a state of affairs that is dependent on some sort of group consent. The permaculturists apparently associate it only with manifestations such as the use of gossip and “rhetoric” (in a polluted form of the word analogous to the vilified “politics”) to amass influence, the cynical playing of a game where addressing important issues is subservient to holding positions of power. It is possible that they would accept the plain definition, but then they would contend that any complex political institution would corrupt either the people who appeal to it for assistance or the projects they would like the institution to undertake on their behalf. Thus, wishing to remain pure and to keep the permaculture movement pure, they aspire to be disgruntled if they should ever have to engage with governments and power brokers except on terms of the corrupted ones’ abject humility in the face of permacultural revelation. They want their vision to succeed at winning converts on its merits alone, but politics, according to their definition would not permit even a reasonably pure victory. (I am only going off the gist of what you said, but even if I haven’t characterized them quite accurately here, I do know that there are droves of people who think this way about politics regardless of whether they have a utopia to build).

  6. niles said

    Very interesting post. The author Wendal Berry articulates the interplay between politics and an agrarian lifestyle very well and has helped me understand why or how permaculture should have a future and he is worth reading in any case. Without being a permie insider Holmgren appears to have largely split from the movement. While offering suburban and urban solutions he focuses on energy systems, especially the work of Howard Odum (check it out on wiki for starters) and while this still may seem to simplistic (in ignoring politics) I think it helps explain a more nuanced understanding of what concepts like permaculture are based on. While I think some of the criticisms of Mollison are legitimate people who are limited in their vision, but have a very powerful and profound insight into one aspect of life are very valuable. I think Mollison has consciously thrown in his lot with a particular crowd which limits the movement but also gives it a base. Good post, as you say-the world is much more complicated then weekend seminars make it out to be

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