“When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before.” Henry David Thoreau

Targeting best in class and possibly build ROI. Funneling user stories so that as an end result, we create a better customer experience.

Communities change by recognizing and adopting new norms. What was once unorthodox and strange, becomes common and accepted. Language changes rapidly—just look at the evolution of the Urban Dictionary. Styles in modern clothing can change very rapidly—new colors or design lines shift every season. Similarly, colors and styles of flooring, cabinetry, furniture, paint colors, and throw pillows are designed to shift in order to drive markets and spending. We’ve been told that doing these things brings us approval from our knowing peers. We know that game is up. 

As permaculture people, we know that the old games are shifting. We can’t keep on keepin’ on. But can we really envision that gradual shift from where we are to where we want to go? Can we recognize the progress we are making and still push for the next step? When we are faced with opportunity in the guise of crisis, can we look at the systems that are disrupted and use that as feedback to create something more stable? 


One of the remarkable things about mainstream, modern society (MaMo Society) is how much it seems to adopt innovation and new norms. I am sometimes surprised, but also pleased to find that solar panels and passive solar construction are more common than they were 15 years ago when I began teaching permaculture. Recently, while supporting a community-led process, I was talking to a community leader and complaining about how radical I felt advocating for something five years ago. She pointed out that many of the things I mentioned were now codified in the city’s development ordinance. My internal response was to find out where the new edge is and begin advocating for the next evolution in order to keep us moving toward sustainable.  

What allows us to do this is vision and our commitment to the life and people affirming ethics we’ve embraced. Taking the time to discern our vision of how life can be for us, and what we have to offer our communities by way of that vision is essential to our health and the well-being of those around us. 


What is your vision?

I was on the website for a group today which promotes resilience using permaculture and Transition Town concepts among other things. I respect them a lot, and appreciate their capacity to foster amazing connections and projects. One of their declarations stated that they use ecological solutions, honoring indigenous practice roots, and supporting more resilient communities because of this. 

This argument that we can use ecological solutions to become more resilient has long bothered me—despite the fact that I promote the approach in permaculture design courses. Yes, using ecological solutions to work with nature instead of the extract and burn approach of modern society is an improvement. Yes, it is living more lightly on the Earth—maybe even regeneratively. 


But here’s the problem: using nature to meet your ends does not go far enough. It doesn’t admit the real locus of power. It is still an ego-centric approach. 

Humans are out of right relationship with the earth, and we have been for a long time. Hence the imbalances of power and impact between humans and Nature and among humans within mainstream societies. Permaculture design is a bridge to a closer connection to our homes, our energy and water sources, to our food. It is not the end of the road for our development as human beings. 

I believe our aim is to bring ourselves into right relationship with the Earth and the mystery of life by serving it—by listening. This is a spiritual revolution in our own being. 

Among the waves of viral infection moving across our communities, among people sick and dying, among those who are weary and fighting to keep on—whether they are homeless people or nurses or those scared where their next paycheck will come from—I have hope that we will wake up to our own spirit. That we will rediscover what is really important in our relationships with other people AND with the Earth. 

It’s not right to “use ecological solutions to meet our ends.” It’s time, and past time, as Bill Plotkin says to move beyond the ego-centric societies to the soul-centric/eco-centric self which is both our selves and larger than our selves. We aren’t working with nature: we are truly nature. 

This novel virus is a wake up call and an initiation. Our mainstream civilization has lost the art and understanding of rites of passage. So, the Earth has brought us one—however unwelcome that dance with the unknown is. 

In rites of passage, we are separated from our normal communities. There is loss of the normal, grief, and new capacities granted and fostered. At some point, there is an emergence into a new self which has grown from the struggle we faced. We are then welcomed back into our communities and can share our story. Our story is our opportunity to reframe ourselves. We articulate and incorporate the new self in a way that our community can recognize and honor.  

In this moment, we have the opportunity to go with the flow of this civilizational rite of passage. We can creatively honor our journeys. Bill Plotkin’s Soul Craft book is a wonderful resource for this.