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  • Writer's pictureJeff Steele

Toward Real Sustainability

Updated: May 5

In the sprawling chaos of the 21st century, with Earth on the brink of ecological bankruptcy and society teetering on a wire, the UN's grandiose Sustainable Development Goals beacons us toward green solutions like The Northern Star in a desertified landscape. For all their shimmering promise, these goals have largely inspired faith in piecemeal solutions, like shrines to deities, missing the potential forest for the few remaining trees. To often we mistake good intentions for sustainable living, while endorsing plans that straddle the line between guardianship and global tyranny. 

But just beyond the limelight, like a conductor still curtained on the periphery of players, permaculture stands ready to orchestrate holistic solutions to a triumphant crescendo.

Permaculture isn't your garden-variety environmentalism, nor your typical social movement helplessly demanding handouts. It's a radical reimagining of our relationship with the Earth, blending scientific realizations with the ancient rhythms of traditional knowledge, to design the mechanism of abundance required for peace & equality amongst all life.

Rusty Sustainability Goals

The machinery of the current environmental strategies rattles like a rusty catalytic converter sanitizing the oil industry's ubiquity.

Electric vehicles..!? A glittering oasis that scarcely quenches our insatiable thirst for non-renewables.

Big AG feeding the hungry..? A mirage shimmering with the toxic sheen of pesticides and the unnatural heat of desolate monocultures.

NetZero? An elitist scam for power and money that ignores most pollutants and plays ignorant to real solutions.

These are ideas born of a system in a tailspin, desperately slapping buttons to engage failed hydraulics instead of strapping on a parachute. If we're going to keep our civilization aloft, we're gonna need a new way to fly.

The Permaculture Cosmology

Permaculture isn’t about slapping a green label on the status quo; it’s a revolution against the compartmentalized thinking that got us into this mess. It's not a beckoning light or a roadmap home because there's nowhere for us to go. It's instructions on how to create a thriving existence wherever you are.

Permaculture is a design methodology that dives into the heart of Mother Nature's playbook, pilfering her best moves and spinning them into a manifesto of symbiotic life on this planet. It's about crafting landscapes that mimic the self-sustaining, self-regulating systems found in the wild—where waste from one fuels another, where food grows in layered abundance, and where biodiversity is wealth, health, and resilience.

As industry depletes, permaculture regenerates. Instead of working against the forces of nature, permaculture works with them. Instead of depending on mined non-renewables, permaculture grows its own resources. Instead of segregating and compartmentalizing, permaculture integrates and broadens the scope. Instead of scaling & centralizing, permaculture tessellates & distributes. 

Instead of runoff, it sequesters. Instead of loss, it creates. Instead of polluting, it remediates. Instead of exploiting others, permaculture shows us how we’re part of a grand planetary system of species that must each find a symbiotic balance or else become destined for extinction.

Permaculture sees the Garden of Eden in the wasteland. It offers us wealth through information and shows us the power of a handful of seeds. It recognizes that the keys to happiness lie not in dominance and extraction, but in symbiosis and regeneration. It teaches us that the rule of the jungle is not about competition, but cooperation and efficiency.

Permaculture bridges the gap between science and tradition, rectifies scattered potential into a holistic plan, and intertwines modern technology with the timeless wisdom of the land. It is the essence of nature, potent and heady, distilled into language to create a practical vision for a sustainable future. It's a promise to utilize our superior minds to amplify, not annihilate, the rhythms of the natural world.

Permaculture can help us redefine what it means to be human in the Anthropocene. It offers us the lexicon for this new era, a language of resilience, interconnection, and respect for the web of life. 

The existential dilemmas we face require a paradigm shift. The shift is inevitable. The question is, will it be forced upon us as a means of surviving, or will we change of our own free will towards a life we really want?

Surviving or Thriving

We are certainly capable of striking a balance with nature. We managed a perfectly sustainable existence for eons as myth-fearing illiterates. With our catalog of shared knowledge reaching new highs daily, we could certainly figure it out if we wanted to. Especially with recent AI advances.

If humanity was truly circling the Darwinian toilet bowl, the power brokers would sort it out, at least for themselves, in a jiffy. For the rest of us, it'll likely be a Marxist ant farm or Mad Max hellscape as the fearful elite insulate themselves from the rest. And if things got that bad, who would have the patience to research the complex solutions and watch plants grow?

How much worse will things get before average folk begin to whisper of a practical salvation they can conjure with their own hands? Instead of waiting for social calamity, driven by ecosystem degradation to traumatically adjust our cosmology, wouldn't it be nicer to do it calmly, to create a world we genuinely want?

In the end, permaculture, or a similar holistic and nature-based system, isn’t just what we need to solve our existential sustainability problems; it’s the only thing that ever could. Instead of killing off, holding back, and domesticating nature, we need to align our material needs with this tremendously productive force. 

We need to align the concept of economic growth with ecological health, recognizing that the natural world is the source of all our raw materials. Therefore, investing in greater natural abundance is the logical way forward. 

As we stare down the barrel of ecological collapse, permaculture offers a choice: continue down the path of self-destruction or forge a new trail toward sustainability. It's time to leverage the power of nature to create a healthy and abundant world for all life.

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