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Podcast 303 - Interview with Willie Smits  RSS feed

 
Cassie Langstraat
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Summary

Credit: Cassie Langstraat

In this podcast, Paul talks with Willie Smits while he is at the labs for the rocket mass heater workshop. He first talks about his university in Indonesia, and the half a million acres farm he has recently come by. Paul notes that the information about him on the internet is sparse. He is famous for being able to increase rainfall by 25% on 5,000 acres initially. He talks about that a bit more in detail but concludes by saying that if you bring back the trees, you bring back the rain.

So the first question is from Burra:

"I'd like to know his thoughts on what the rest of us could be doing. What problems does he see in other parts of the world that we could address using permaculture principles? Where are we slacking? What does he dream that he could inspire by making this podcast? "

Willie starts by saying what he is trying to do, which is bring some transparency into all of this, to develop systems that lead to solutions. He notes that nature has been around longer than us, that it has been total and successful system converting energy and keeping biodiverstiy in place so we need to mimic it. He says this can be done when we put people and planet before profit. They talk a little bit about how Willie spoke about permaculture on a really enormous scale at the Permaculture Voices conference and how those videos are available for purchase online here.

Next question comes from Duane:

"I don't have a specific question
but would like him to discuss his "rainforest"
and his current views on "getting things done"


Willie has a very simple answer to this one, keep spreading the message and try to talk to the public about all of this.

The next few questions come from Q Kealoha:

"Soil sucks here; pure adobe with top soil nonexistent due to severe run off and lock of organic material. currently attempting a Back to Eden garden approach. your recommendations for best way to build the soil?"

Willie affirms that breadfruit trees are a good choice for this type of situation. He mentions a few other species and goes on to say that they will probably need biochar and compost.
Paul asks a question about organic matter sitting on top of the soil. He thought that the half life might be a couple of days in those tropical climates. However, Willie assures that it is not that bad, but if you have biochar and compost you have a much more stable build up. Also, if you can cool the soil, it won’t decompose as quickly. He talks about this technique existing within the three sisters technique - bean, corn, and squash.

They talk a bit more about soils in tropical climates, how they are much different, more like cement almost, because all the nutrients are in the plants and vegetation. Paul mentions a surprising fact he just learned recently - tropical seeds are viable for only 2 weeks or less, you just cannot store the seeds in anyway.

Lastly, Q Kealoha asks when Willie and Paul are going to go to Hawaii?

Paul talks about how he would be up for it if someone set up an event but even when there had been a little bit of talk about it on this thread, no one took serious initiative to get something planned or organized.

The next question comes from bob day:

"This is about the rainforest/ orangutan sanctuary, and it's current status. Just generally how close it is to becoming self sustaining."

Willie starts by talking about the sick orangoutangs that are on islands. Then he speaks about how they determine whether the animals are ready for release. Additionally, he talks about how there is a tribe of local people there that are protecting part of the rainforest from people trying to take it for oil palm plants.They then spend quite a bit of time discussing sugar palm vs oil palm. The very simple conclusion that comes from this is that palm oil is bad and unsustainable while sugar palm is the much better alternative.

They talk a little bit about coconut oil and how yes, it is better for you but it is the very poor people doing the work for very little money and it’s monoculture. So, coconut oil could be a good alternative but it still has some problems. However, oil palms are the biggest problem.

The next question is from Jackie Neufeld:

"My husband and I are skyping someone in the Phillipines who's garden gets flooded by monsoon rains right now. He's wanting to make a raised bed with cement blocks. These cinder blocks are expensive for them. The land is flat where they live. Do you have any suggestions? "

Willie gives the advice to plant crops that can withstand flood and they need to deal with issues at the top of the hill. Paul chimes in and says add texture to the landscape, like large swales.

Next, Chad Sentman asks:
"What can be done to really push his work forward, and what opportunities exist for people to get involved, either on-site or remotely."

Willie talks about how he is setting up a permaculture institute and it would be wonderful to invite everyone out to help soon. At first, they want mostly experts but more cooperations with everyone later.

Next question comes from Grant Shadden:

"I do PDC teaching in Africa, mainly Uganda thus far, and would be interested to know the cost of such a Village Hub system, as well as the estimated payoff period if the system is fully utilized. Also, where is a good seed source for the sugar palm tree Masarang is using (Arenga Pinnata, I think)? Does Masarang sell the seeds internationally?"

Willie explains that you need to get permits internationally and that it is not that easy. You will have to go through all the technicalities which can be a pain. The cost depends on scale. For about 160 families he says it would be about 200,000 to 250,000 dollars.

Lastly the workshop participants ask a few questions of Willie. One asks where to get a good list of stuff that has palm oil in it and Willie says that there are quite a number of websites that have these sort of lists. One asks what would someone do to help? Willie mentions you could volunteer for the animal shelter, or when the permaculture institute is up and running there will be more opportunities. Another participant asks if there was something that got him started with all of this and he says yes. The first orangoutang he rescued, he has a special, but long story about her and mentions that she is in the wild now and still comes down and sees him.

Paul talks about his permaculture voices presentation where he presented on trolls and how people that are detractors focus more permaculture because it is a threat to corporations profits. The reason why there is so much resistance and it is because we threaten them. They talk about how it's just easier to have profound innovation in other industries because there is not much push back. Lastly, a participant asks about biochar methods and Willie just says they used the simple drum method.

At the very end Paul does a shout out to Burra to create a new forum dedicated to Willie Smits so we can discuss all of the many facets of his methodology and techniques!

Relevant Threads

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Burra Maluca
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:
At the very end Paul does a shout out to Burra to create a new forum dedicated to Willie Smits so we can discuss all of the many facets of his methodology and techniques!


I hear ya Paul! 'Ere ya go - new forum dedicated to Willie Smits
 
Julia Winter
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I love this podcast, because I can just feel how things are coming together at wheaton laboratories. I mean, Willie Smits loved the compost heated shower! That is so cool!

Also, my uncle David moved to Amsterdam in the 1970's, and when I hear Willie talk, it reminds me of David. (Of course, my uncle spoke fluent Dutch but with a Texas twang. Still, his patterns when speaking to me were so similar to what I hear from Willie.) So I just like hearing his voice.

Paul, I can't remember your whole libertarian argument about (not) getting a passport, but you're going to have to get over it already. I'm guessing you've never snorkeled in a coral reef. This is something everyone needs to do before the coral all dies from too-acidic ocean water. . .

I really do hope that Dr. Smits comes back to Wheaton Laboratories in 2015 or 2016 to enjoy some quiet work time on his book.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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I am curious to know about his libertarian passport argument! Do you know if it is mentioned in a podcast or thread or anything julia?
 
Julia Winter
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I honestly can't remember where I heard it, maybe a sepp holzer related podcast. I just get a feeling of not wanting to jump through hoops, and there's a few of those on the path to a passport.

Of course, I haven't left the country in almost fifteen years. My honeymoon was my last trip out of the country! I'll probably have to start the whole process over since my passport has expired, when I finally find a reason (and time, and cash) for taking an international trip.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Dangit, now I am really interested! I'll have to ask him about it the next time I talk to him.
 
Becky Mundt
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Just a lovely, lovely podcast. So over full with inspiration, actionable items, real serious hands on and insight for so many potential solutions and ideas - for myself it was just about as good as it gets - all the key elements in one place - what to do, why to do, what to avoid and a whole ton of new information and education thrown in at the same time.

If the rainfall increase translates across different climate zones then California might want to go on a massive tree planting adventure. As for me, it just made all my recent plans and work with permaculture designers for our property make a whole lot more sense - and gave me a lot more clarity on how to proceed - and why to proceed that way. Even if we're not in the 'tropics' it all made perfect sense.

Never mind the inspiration to help Willie Smits do all the other things on HIS list - total ally - Thanks SO much. Just brilliant.

PS also really liked the short bit at the end on the opposition and the real dirt slinging against real heroes - Cheney is a parasite on the people and he and his ilk are getting old - let them die - damn. The trolls need to go back to where they came from and leave the world alone. But even while they are still here behaving as they do, you guys carry ona nd just put it all out there. That is the only way to be - so glad you do that. Never back down. Never. Thank you for being willing to live 'on the edge'. Without you we would not know any of this - so grateful for your work and sharing!
 
Q Kealoha
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Wow...I'm so blown away that Paul answered my questions!

P.S. Paul: English is my first language, I just have fat fingers that don't work well with a smart phone keyboard.
 
paul wheaton
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Liberals are certain that I'm a conservative.

Conservatives are certain that I'm a liberal.

Libertarians are certain that I'm a libertarian.

Actually, I think that politics is made of a big bunch of scary clowns whose primary function is to distract you from what is really going on.

Maybe there are people out there that can figure out which liar lies less, but it just all sounds like a river of lies to me. So I try to focus on building a better world that makes all of those lies pointless.

----

As for the passport, every time I go to fill out the form there are a bunch of questions where the correct answer is "none of your fucking business." And when I submit that, they don't accept it.

Further, I am told that these questions are lightweight compared to what they ask when you are entering a county. And I suspect that they won't like "none of your fucking business" there either.

I'm told that even if you answer all of their questions they might still choose to fuck with you.

There are lots of interesting things all over the world to experience. And there are lots of interesting things to experience within a mile of where I sit.

So my choice seems to be to subject myself to their wickedness, blacken my heart and observe some interesting things, or keep my integrity, stay home and build a better world in my back yard.

The choice seems crystal clear to me.

As the great philosopher Popeye says:

I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam.
 
paul wheaton
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really liked the short bit at the end on the opposition and the real dirt slinging against real heroes


I think that most permies are blissfully ignorant of how much worse this is in the world of permaculture. And when I bring it up, I think most people think I am exaggerating or making it up. So when I have somebody like Willie in a podcast, I like to get a bit of validation on this point.

I think "permaculture" has been stuck for decades because of this problem. To move forward, we all need to understand that the problem exists and be vigilant about righting wrongs in this space.
 
John Polk
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Great podcast !
Willie inspires hope for many of us who have become jaded with the corporate drive to conquer this planet.

 
Julia Winter
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paul wheaton wrote:

So my choice seems to be to subject myself to their wickedness, blacken my heart and observe some interesting things, or keep my integrity, stay home and build a better world in my back yard.

The choice seems crystal clear to me.


(Julia looks down at chest . . .)

Huh, can't see the blackened heart from here.

I think I survived my passport experience with the same old meaty red heart I've always had. It's true that there are interesting things to see everywhere, but there really are some things that you learn from the experience of travel, serious, I-don't-speak-the-language travel, that you don't learn with other things.

Plus, Krameterhof.

In addition, orangutans.

And in closing, fucking coral reefs.



(um, er, that's "fucking" for emphasis, not as a verb. Don't fuck a coral reef, they are scary sharp.)
 
John Polk
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(um, er, that's "fucking" for emphasis, not as a verb. Don't fuck a coral reef, they are scary sharp.)

And...don't forget fire coral. Ouch!

If you get a handful of sea urchin spines, urine will dissolve them, so keep plenty of beer in the cooler.
 
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