Edited by Juliana Birnbaum & Louis Fox • Design by Erika Rand, Foreword by Paul Hawken
“In today’s sped-up, hyper-individualized, consumer-frenzied society, it’s hard not to feel off-kilter. Birnbaum and Fox’s book is the perfect medicine for the moment, offering guidance and inspiration to reclaim and repair our relationship with ourselves, our community and the planet. Put down your screens and pick up this book and you’ll feel better in the morning.”
- Annie Leonard, Founder, The Story of Stuff Projecthttps://www.facebook.com/storyofstuff
Urban gardeners. Native seed-saving collectives. Ecovillage developments. What is the connection between these seemingly disparate groups? The ecological design system of permaculture is the common thread that weaves them into a powerful, potentially revolutionary—and evolutionary–movement.
Permaculture is a philosophy based on common ethics of sustainable cultures throughout history that have designed settlements according to nature’s patterns and lived within its bounds. It is taking form as a growing network of sites developed with the intention of regenerating local ecologies and economies. Permaculture strategies can be used by individuals, groups or nations to address basic human needs such as food, water, energy, and housing, and the movement has been building momentum exponentially for the past 40 years. As a species, humans are being called forth to evolve, using our collective intelligence to meet the challenges of the future. Yet if we are to survive our collective planetary crisis, we need to revisit history, integrating successful systems from sustainable cultures. To boldly confront our position on the brink of the earth’s carrying capacity and make change that incorporates the wisdom of the past can be truly [r]evolutionary.
Sustainable [R]evolution features the work of a worldwide network of visionaries, including journalists, activists, indigenous leaders and permaculturists such as David Holmgren, Vandana Shiva, Charles Eisenstein, Starhawk, Erik Assadourian, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Albert Bates, and Geoff Lawton. This beautifully photographed collection of profiles, interviews, and essays features 60 innovative community-based projects in diverse climates across the planet.
Edited by anthropologist Juliana Birnbaum and award-winning activist filmmaker Louis Fox, it can be read as an informal ethnography of an international culture that is modeling solutions on the cutting edge of social and environmental change. The research presented in the book frames the permaculture movement as significant ally to marginalized groups, such as the urban poor and indigenous groups resisting the pressures of globalization. Sustainable Revolution uplifts and inspires with its catalog of dynamic cultural pioneers stewarding vibrant communities and bringing regenerative design strategies to the mainstream.
Excerpt from the Introduction
by Juliana Birnbaum
An ecological design revolution is here, and I pray it has arrived in time. Ecology can be defined as the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment. If human culture is to sustain itself, and thrive, we must consider our place in the larger pattern. The permaculture design approach considers the interwoven whole of our connections with each other, as well as our broader relationship with the natural world.
My mother was born in 1946, when the population of the world was 2 billion. That spring, Albert Einstein wrote a piece for the New York Times stating that “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” He went on to expand in an interview: “Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive…. Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation.”
Einstein’s comments were in the context of a world emerging from the Second World War and newly possessed of nuclear power. I am reading his words today in 2013, now a mother myself in a world of over seven billion people. Radioactive waste continues polluting the Pacific after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and I am finding deeper shades of urgency. The portentous-feeling 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the continental United States. That year also had the second most extreme weather year on record, with widespread droughts, raging forest fires and a destructive hurricane season, including Sandy, which hit New York (where my co-author Louis Fox and I both grew up), wreaking destruction and death. The year dawned with the international protests of the Occupy movement and the building revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring, and closed to the clamor of demonstrations and strikes in Greece and Spain.
Economic instability, climate change, environmental degradation—the limits of global system based on unlimited growth are becoming painfully exposed, telling us that clearly we must adapt—we must fundamentally shift our relationships to each other and the Earth. While tapping into fossil fuels has allowed for an explosion in human numbers and technology, the current system was developed for a very different world than the one we now face. We are, as an increasingly global culture, starting to recognize the need for change, even to demand change on a systems level.
Permaculture is a design approach founded in the patterns and relationships of nature and the ethics of sustainable societies throughout time. Based on indigenous knowledge from cultures throughout history, it is geared toward transitioning communities to a new paradigm. Brock Dolman, who co-founded an ecovillage and educational center near my home on the Northern California coast (see profile in Part 5 on OAEC) calls permaculture “the cutting edge of a 10,000-year-old technology.” The paradox of his words reflects the concept of the sustainable [r]evolution catalogued in this book, where cultural pioneers are adapting for the future with a connection to ancient principles. We are being called forth to evolve, but moving forward in a healthy direction means a return to the ethics that sustained healthy cultures of the past.
This evolutionary and revolutionary change is not just an abstract idea; it is happening right now on every continent, in cities, in suburbs and in isolated villages. It is taking form as a blossoming network of sites developed with the dual intention of working toward meeting community needs and stewarding thriving ecosystems.
Sustainable [R]evolution documents the growing, international sustainability movement, using the permaculture framework as a lens to identify locally-based projects (and networks) that are cultivating beneficial relationships between humans and the natural world. Beyond developing systems that are simply sustainable, permaculture thinking holds the promise of regenerating communities and landscapes and even mitigating global warming. This book details the culture of permaculture on five continents and catalogues its successful design solutions at urban farms, indigenous villages, and suburban cohousing communities.
The 60 profiles featured here include education projects in Japan, South Africa, and Brazil, ecovillages from Los Angeles to Sri Lanka, permaculture regenerative design solutions from China to Australia to Belize. These are examples of projects that empower local people with techniques that provide sustainable sources of food, water and energy, while conserving and restoring ecologies and strengthening communities. The book’s sections are divided by climate zone, grouping sites with comparable ecologies and design strategies together into five distinct Parts: Tropical, Arid, Subtropical, Temperate, and Snow.
(end of excerpt)
The book was released on February 25, 2014, published by North Atlantic Books and distributed by Random House. Interested in contributing? We need your help to promote Sustainable [R]evolution this year! Contact Juliana (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have resources to contribute– financial and/or organizational assistance in putting together book signings and events is especially needed. Let’s help permaculture move more into the mainstream, and bring its ethics and strategies to higher levels of policymaking around the world.