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Changing Legal Impediments to Permaculture and the larger Food and Self-Sufficiency Movements  RSS feed

Richard Kastanie
Posts: 96
Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Paying attention to events in the last five years or so, it's clear to me that big food companies and big pharma have been doubling down on their efforts to influence the media and the government in their favor. Not that there's anything entirely new going on, the battle has been around at least as far back as the 1930s, when people such as Weston Price and Royal Lee pointed out the failings or the industrial food system and the companies fought back to get the regulations in their favor. One of many examples is the battle over the legality of raw milk which is laid out in the book "The Untold Story of Milk" by Ron Schmid. Nevertheless, right now seems a particularly critical time to me. The permaculture movement has been growing as part of a larger movement encompassing organics, local food, sustainable agriculture, and holistic nutrition. Closely paralleling it and overlapping it considerably is the rise of holistic medicine. Sustainable building and general self-reliance have also been gaining traction. People come to these things for many different reasons, some start by paying attention to their health and noticing how important good food is. Some start by looking for solutions to global environmental issues and taking it to a personal level. Some start with simple frugality and realize how much less we need to buy when we can do more for ourselves. Some come to it as a prepper, seeing how vulnerable our system is to disruption and desiring to be more independent of it.

On the other hand, I'm seeing more and more of a pushback from big ag, big food companies and pig pharma, in collusion with the government, to actively stop the movement where they can't profit from it. Joel Salatin does a good job describing how the increased regulatory burden has had a disproportionate effect of small, sustainable food producers. This not only affects the farmers but everyone who wants clean, nutritious food. Add to the list zoning and building codes that prohibit so many effective, sustainable and low-cost methods from being practiced (or at least keeping people using them "off the radar") in so many places. Add to the list pharma-influenced regulations that force small herbalists and other natural practitioners to jump through ever-increasing hoops, legal kidnappings by the state of children and the elderly who's families won't comply with the system (see Medical Kidnap and This Case for examples), ever-increasing numbers of vaccines pushed on the population. The mainstream media keeps feeding us canned polemics that insist anyone who thinks for themselves is a a fool or dangerous. Or sometimes, the message is re-framed by someone who's supposedly on our side but then insists that these alternatives are only good as a hobby and the industrial system is the only thing that will gver work on a large scale (I'm thinking of This Thread as one example). I'm all for constructive criticism and debate about permaculture, holistic medicine or anything else, but so often there isn't any intention of having a costructive conversation, the other side is simply shut out and straw men are brought forth repeatedly to shout them down.

Personally, I'd rather ignore the talking heads and just live my own life as an example of a way that's healthier and more regenerative to the land. I just find myself paying attention to the political stuff going on because so often it's actually illegal to live the way that makes the most sense, and we're threatened with the noose getting tighter with each passing year unless something changes. I do also happen to think it's more and more likely that things will change as more people have a desire for something other than industrial food, medicine and housing, but at this point many things could happen and I see the next 5-10 years as a critical time for this. For me, change at the personal level is always important. after all, these corporations are so rich and powerful because so many individuals continue to support them with their dollars. Also, hypocrisy just doesn't tend to go over very well. When Al Gore with his energy-hogging mansion became the most prominent spokesman for climate change, most people didn't take him very seriously. I do believe climate change is a very real and serious issue, but its most prominent spokesman living such an energy-intensive lifestyle is kind of like if someone campaigned against drunk driving and then drove drunk himself.

Personal change is important but it isn't always enough, and I think considering what we're up against, there's a great need for the disparate threads of these movements I've described to see our common interests and be better able to affect change. There's not even a single word or phrase to describe the whole movement that I see. While some permaculturalists would place it all under permaculture, the fact is that there's plenty who share common interests but for whatever reason don't want the label permaculturalist. It would be nice if there were a specific word or phrase that describes people who advocate for the freedom to pursue more sustainable, self-reliant lifestyles, and do business with others who are working toward similar goals. Sure, there's plenty of disagreement within this movement, but there is within any movement and that doesn't mean there isn't a large group of people who share a lot of common interests. Another strength of the movement is that people come to it from very different places on the political spectrum, it could be a fatal mistake if the movement got lumped together in the public eye with other political (or religious) ideals, such as happened to the mainstream environmental movement. We all have other issues that are important to us, but if we insist that freedom to live a sustainable, self-reliant lifestyle has to be linked to specific views on abortion or welfare, it can only be a disservice to both causes.

Similarly, I now see "Libertarian" as being problematic in its own way too. I've called myself libertarian before at times, but it now seems to me that the big corporations are using Libertarianism as an excuse to get themselves out of being regulated, while the burden increases for the smaller players. Most ordinary libertarians are in it because they want the sort of freedoms I've expressed, but the term has been abused so much to further corporate interests that I no longer describe myself as such. Also, linking freedom to live sustainably with libertarian politics on other issues would end up causing the same problems that linking it with leftist or right wing politics would, driving away others who share common interests.

All I'm looking for personally is a level playing field. There's already a growing number of people who are looking for and/or practicing low tech/sustainable solutions in building, food and medicine, and it's my belief that if the playing field was leveled in terms of subsidies and regulations, the more sustainable solutions would grow and take over on their own, as the cultural change is already in motion and fossil fuel depletion, the decline of the American empire, and increasing chronic illness make the industrial system increasingly unaffordable and unattractive. I wouldn't complain if a few of those subsidies ended up going toward permaculture-oriented projects instead, but I'm not necessarily looking for that, leveling the playing field and letting what works proliferate sound like a good bet to me. Re-localization is a good idea for many reasons, one which I haven't heard talked about much is that if many things are being done in different places, some will fail and some will succeed to varying degrees. Then, the ones that succeed best will be examples to others. Any one-size-fits-all solution, even if it comes from the best of intentions, is putting all of our eggs in one basket, never mind being inflexible and not resilient to local conditions. All the debate within permaculture about different methods is a good thing, as long as we can recognize our common interests and not get too caught up in the enemy being the permaculturalist who does things a bit differently.

Here's a few examples of tangible things that I have hope could eventually happen in the political scene. Yes, they may seem a bit pie-in-the-sky at the current moment, but taking the longer view, other things that seemed less likely have happened in America when there were enough people determined to make it happen, like giving women the right to vote. One would be to disallow patenting of genes. The Diamand vs. Chakrabarty Supreme Court case in 1980 paved the way for all that Monsanto has done since. If the supreme court hadn't allowed patenting genes in the first place, the whole GMO thing would likely never have been very profitable for Monsanto to begin with, and they wouldn't have been able to go after other farmers who saved seed that crossed with theirs. The Supreme Court has already disallowed patenting of human genes, so disallowing patenting of any genes would probably be a more feasible path to go than trying to ban GMOs outright, although of course there's be huge pushback from the industry.

Another thing that I've been thinking of since getting the idea from Joel Salatin is that freedom to make our own choices about food (and medicine too) should be a right as important as the freedoms granted in the Bill of Rights such as freedom of speech, the press, religion and association. Could constitutional amendments be passed guaranteeing freedoms to make informed choices about the food we eat and the medical system we use? It's a long shot for sure, and I don't speak legalese so don't have a clue how it would be worded, but I just wanted to throw it out there and see if it's picked up by the collective consciousness at all.
Tyler Ludens
Posts: 9740
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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The city near me recently legalized urban farming throughout the city.
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