"Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order."
- Bill Mollison (The "Father" of Permaculture)
This definition speaks deeply to us. We need a stable and sustaining society to live in. And, tragically, we didn't inherit one. That gives us some very difficult choices: make a new society from the ground up (literally); run away to the fringe and resent and ignore the problem; become a criminal; give up, join the masses, and silently pray for a miracle; or totally go for it and become a leader within the consuming, polluting, madness, make a lot of money, live a comfortable life, and don't worry about the future or the Earth. It either looks very bleak or like a lot of hard work that might not even pay off. No wonder people are angry and resentful, or numb and complacent.
Those of us who have landed at Pangaia, or at other similar permaculture sites, have opted for option number one-for better or for worse. We have a commitment to sustainable living. It feels like a marriage, and in some ways this commitment is even greater than that of a commitment to another person, because it includes the relationship and the context that holds that relationship. We have many reasons for choosing and practicing permaculture, spanning the whole range of human concerns-political, environmental, social, artistic, spiritual, therapeutic, emotional, and even hedonistic and egoic reasons. We believe that a permaculture lifestyle, when mastered and shared by a village or tribe of people, has the potential to integrate all of our needs into one sphere, one cultural milieu, such that we can live a righteous life without having to be an ascetic, or a martyr, or a superhuman, or a hypocrite, or an ungrounded famous leader who can't walk their talk. Amazingly, we can make the great changes in the world simply by living, speaking about, and teaching our lifestyle.
It's quite a relief actually.
When most people think of Permaculture, nowadays, they think of planting fruit trees, bamboo, mulch crops, and perennial gardens; using swales, solar power, chicken tractors, and less resource demanding housing like yurts, strawbale, or earth homes; and they envision working with what is locally available-- adapting to conditions rather than importing ideal conditions. This is a very necessary part of Permaculture, but it's really only the beginning, only the infrastructure, habitat, or womb for a sustainable human culture to be born into. There's a whole process of recreating sane human culture that ain't easy at all. We have a saying around here, "Living in a tribe is natural, creating one is not." Nonetheless, it is most rewarding work that is growing us as individuals and growing the society we want, one day at a time.
It's also important to understand that we believe farming or creating a permaculture is also quite unnatural. If we could get away with it in the 21st century, we'd be nomadic hunters and gatherers as our means of survival. That seems a lot more true to our nature than managing and micro-managing hundreds of species of plants and animals, while additionally maintaining a very intensive infrastructure on one tiny plot of Earth. Permaculture is the best response we have to the present state of the world.
We are standing (just barely) in the wake of the absolute insanity that has led to the world-wide desertification and defilement of continents worth of human habitat and the near total genocide and debasement of indigenous cultures. This makes a nomadic lifestyle impossible (unless you count dumpster-diving). The holocaust that has occurred, in the name of progress and civilization, is perhaps the greatest shaper of our identities and our activities. Since we didn't inherit a viable human habitat or culture, we are making one. But the fact that we even need to do all this work is really just an indication of the magnitude of this global holocaust.
We're like the first sprouts growing out of the napalm crater 30 years after the bomb blast. And yes, we do feel very blessed to even have the opportunity to do permaculture for real, to sprout. But the blessing is certainly growing admidst the smoldering ashes of immeasurable world suffering.
This sense can easily lead one to martyrdom, hopelessness, and suicidal fantasies. And though we all have those feelings, we are able to get beyond drowning in them, and we have found a real desire to live a happy life-for ourselves and as a message and sign to the world. For, truth be told, we all want to live like wealthy and powerful people. We want to have all our material, emotional, and social needs abundantly provided. We don't believe wealth and power and material prosperity need be wed to oppression, pollution, and/or deforestation. As far as we can see, the difference is that we are designing our society so neither other people nor the Earth are made to suffer for us to live in the lap of luxury.
We want our cake and to grow it too! We're creating carbon-based wealth. We all want to be "mulch millionaires". We're still quite a ways from our goals of sustainable day-to-day living, but we are perpetually making practical, measurable, and sincere movement towards it.
In personal terms, most of us came to live this way driven by a few different motivators. 1) We were devastated, disgusted, distraught and outraged at the various versions of Western culture we came from. 2) It wasn't enough to just simply complain about the state of the world, put some bandaids on the mortal wound, paint some pretty colors on the destruction vehicles, or dance in the halls just outside of the torture chambers. We wanted to be in (and create if necessary) a culture that we could feel proud to serve and enjoy, and feel excited about birthing children in. 3) We wanted to learn how to grow our own food organically and sustainably. 4) We wanted to be able to eat raw food all year round directly from the trees. 5) We wanted to escape, lick our wounds, and rebel. 6) We wanted family, tribe, or community. 7) We wanted to save the world.
Each of us would tell our story a bit differently, but in general, each of us were led to Pangaia by a synthesis of all of these factors-part moving away from pain, part moving towards pleasure.
Now that we are here and living the life, our understanding and practice of permaculture has changed and continues to change. Why we do it is different too. Again, for each of us it's unique, but in general, we find great joy and purpose in working ("landancing") together; in being in direct relationship with what sustains us through foraging, gardening, animal husbandry, and coconut climbing; and in designing and creating all the different aspects of our life with the people we live with at the place we live. It's intimate-we get to see the results of what we do quickly and learn from our mistakes together.
What you just read probably pretty well describes how most anyone living at any permaculture homestead would feel. The main distinguishing aspects of Pangaia is that we are integrating a raw food lifestyle and inspiring and challenging social experiments into our version of tropical permaculture.
We personally feel that living in and maintaining a raw food, sustainable lifestyle is easier, more efficient, more natural, and of greater benefit than a cooked food lifestyle. (This is in no way indicates that we believe a cooked food culture can't be made sustainable.) There's a lot more about raw and cooked food to discuss, but for now we'll just leave it as a simple statement.
There are so many ways to live on Earth. And there are a lot of ways that are enjoyable to the people living them. But amongst those, only some of them are sustainable for the Earth or whole cultures.
That's really it; we want to enjoy our lives AND have it be sustainable as well-a way of living that everyone on Earth could do for generations on end and the results would be that individuals, cultures, ecosystems, and the Earth herself would be more fertile, more diverse, more beautiful, and more pleasurable. A lofty dream, but someone's got to grow it.