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Permaculture & community sufficiency – regenerating ecological culture and economy

In June 2021, a small French film crew came to Australia to interview several people who are, in very diverse ways, responding to the predicaments of our age. Alongside permaculture elders and friends Su Dennett and David Holmgren, we have been featured in what is now published as a French TV series directed by Thierry Robert, starring Cyril Dion as the narrator. The series is in three parts and this short clip is an excerpt from ‘Regeneration | A New World (Part 3)‘ in which David, Su and Artist as Family speak of the cultural and economic shifts we have implemented in our lives.

When Thierry and his crew visited us to film the conversation we had with David, we recorded an audio version of it for our own purposes, which you can listen to in its entirety here. And you can watch all three parts of Thierry and Cyril’s series here: Resistance I A New World (Part 1) I ARTE.tv, Adapting I A New World (Part 2) I ARTE.tv , and Regeneration I A New World (Part 3) I ARTE.tv.

A little while ago we asked our friend, the talented Catie Payne, to illustrate a simple graphic to demonstrate our household’s transition from money to subsistence neopeasantry through applying permacultural community sufficiency principles. We gave Catie a crude sketch representing our 15-year transition of decoupling from a destructive, incarcerating and extractive economy to how we are living now, and she came up with several evocative drawings for us to use as teaching aids.

A transition from money, for us, has been a transition from debt to indebtedness, from gratuitousness to gratitude, from mistrust to ever deepening relationships with the living of the world. Yes, money has played a role in our transition, but step by little step it no longer masters over us and crushes our souls.

Barter is a crude and clumsy form of economy, not one we wish to dwell in for very long. However, it is essential for building trust on the way from money to what we call a flow of gifts economy. Trust is always conditional in order for us to arrive at unconditional love, which is the place our economy now mostly resides within – a deepening love for the living of the world.

This transition from scarcity (indulgence mind, unproductive waste, greed, hoarding and miserliness) to abundance (the continual flow of gifts and the reverence for life as sacred, suffering, dying and renewing) is what we have found after 15 years of setting out into the unknown. Knowing what we were moving away from and what we were longing for was all we needed to begin this journey towards a more beautiful world of connection, relationships and self respect.

Thank you Catie, for the gifts of these drawings, thank you David and Su for your wisdom and continuous collaboration, and thank you Thierry and Cyril and crew for the gift of sharing heterodox stories.

Where are you in your transition, Dear Reader? Are you finding it difficult to begin? Are you unable to begin because you lack support and resources? Are you already a certain way along but feel stuck or limited because you are waiting for your community or family members or neighbourhood to step onboard? Or, are you radically flying with abundance because you come from a cultural or family setting where self-respect, generosity and the flow of gifts have always been your main lifeways?

15 comments

  1. Laura says:

    Hi

    Thanks for this. I live in central Scotland. It’s hard here. I have just been given a small patch of land (starter allotment) to grow vegetables. I have a garden but all attempts to grow there have been smothered by couch grass and creeping buttercup. I do have fruit bushes and fruit trees out there. When I have grown excess before the garden has been taken over, I have shared it with my friends and family.

    I find the principals of permaculture inspiring.

    1. Hello Laura, that’s wonderful you have access to some land. We have couch or bent grass here too. We find if we keep disturbing it after a while it gets easier to manage. If we’re on a long phone call we usually head outside and weed. We’re always amazed how much we’ve done without knowing it. Then there’s the opposite approach – mindful weeding where it becomes a meditation. And then there’s social weeding – doing it with others while having a yarn. All in all we weed a little bit everyday to keep food flowing into the house, while many weeds are beneficial to perennials, veg and trees, and aid their growing we agree tenacious couch grass is a bit of a bane. The rhizomes make a medicinal tea for treating UTIs, so finding the virtue in each plant helps us approach this plant too.

  2. "PermaGrannie" says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. This message cannot be stated enough! People need to know that community sufficiency need not require a home of one’s own. People in apartments or mobile homes who grow food on their balconies or in flower boxes, shop at thrift stores and op shops, sew their own clothes, cut their own hair, cook their own food, and so on are also living the dream of self and community sufficiency. You two are a treasure to the planet. Thank you so much for your commitment to this narrative.

    1. Thanks for your wisdom PermaGrannie!

  3. Dante says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I find your perspective on barter interesting. Have you written more about it elsewhere? Why are barter transactions are crude and clumsy?

    Thank you!

    1. Hello Dante, thanks for your question.

      I think we have written about this in a number of places. You cld try our Belonging Economies essay, which you can search for in our blog or listen to us reading it on our YouTube page.

      Not heaps of time here to spend, but why (in a nutshell) we call barter clumsy and crude is because it attempts to replace money, which itself is a very efficient token of exchange. Barter is a poor form of economic exchange or accounting as it is trying to replicate a an efficient system already in place, at least this is the case with formal barter like LETS. Barter is not, for us, an end in itself, it is instead a useful process of building or breaking trust, esp informal barter, ie can I garden for you for an hour in exchange of a massage? If such an exchange is honoured by both parties and repeated many times trust builds and the two parties are on the way to helping each other’s households without registering who has done what. This is what we call the flow of gifts economy, which is our main economy.

      As David Graeber states in his book Debt, money is for ‘strangers and enemies’. For us barter is either on the way from strangers and enemies to a flow of gifts (unregistered abundant exchanges with people that fully support you as you support them), or moving away from gifts to money, thus the breaking of trust as money (debt) doesn’t require relationships, doesn’t require indebtedness and connection.

      Hope this gives a little more context.

  4. Lynn Moss says:

    I share your inspirational content. We are in Michigan USA in a very contrived scarcity situation making people more fearful and less open to possibility; by design yes?
    Your example means everything.
    With much gratitude, Lynn

    1. Cláudia says:

      Hello! It’s always so inspiring to see you all! I see the videos you make and post, over and over, it’s like I’m “feeding myself” through you, and really feeling the community spirit! (That’s the thing I miss the most) Again, has I’ve said other times, you are really close to me through your blog! Thanks you so much! Keep sharing!!! Tight hugs from Portugal!

      1. Thanks Cláudia, we appreciate the love. Sending tight hugs back to you.

    2. Thanks for sharing and for saying, Lynn. All power to you and your community as we all learn to live again beyond neoliberal psychopolitics.

  5. Pat Hockey says:

    The matter of finding somewhere to live and garden is conspicuous by its absence in this material.

    1. As a member of the Labor party, Mr Hockey, with Labor’s full backing of a predatory housing market, rewarding multiple home ownership and making access to land now almost impossible for both younger folk and less privileged households, your comment is a bit rich. We have gone car-free for 15 years to have access to land. That’s a lot of pedalling our bikes to buy into your party’s and Liberal’s reward-the-rich housing policies.

      1. Pat Hockey says:

        There’s an interesting solution – go car-free and buy a house – how does that work exactly? Membership of any party is not synonymous with support – you can quite rightly join a political party (and arguably should) to advocate for change.

  6. jo says:

    Inspiring as always guys! I look forward to sitting down to watch the rest of the series made by the French team. Thanks for doing what you’re doing 🙂

    1. Thanks Jo, we hope our paths cross again soon. Sending much love, AaF

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