Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“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.” ~Annie Leonard


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—or reevolutionary—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. As a movement that has been building momentum for the past 40 years, it now 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. 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 changes that incorporate the wisdom of the past is truly revolutionary.

Sustainable Revolution 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 Fox 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 a significant ally to marginalized groups, such as the urban poor and native communities resisting the pressures of globalization. Sustainable Revolution uplifts and inspires with its amazing array of dynamic activists and thriving, vibrant communities.

Lynn says:
"The first time I picked up Birnbaum and Fox's book, I was curious to read it simply because of Annie (The Story of Stuff) Leonard's little blurb on the back cover. I was seeking an antidote to the effects of what Leonard calls "today's sped-up, hyper-individualized, consumer-frenzied society" having just spent at least half an hour searching for a parking spot (I usually take lightrail or bus to work, but this day I had been house-sitting so was borrowing a car, a rare 'luxury' for me) and by the time I managed to park and get to work, I was hoping to find a new book on car-free living I hadn't seen yet. This was it! Actually, cars are barely a blip on the book's radar screen, but the profiled communities in Sustainable (R)evolution exist with such tiny carbon footprints, it hardly matters. I found myself completely absorbed, reminded of a fact I'd learned from both visiting and living in intentional communities over the years; that they are everywhere... and so easy to overlook!

Familiar with just a tiny handful of the 60 communities profiled, I initially was drawn in by the many gorgeous photos of the diverse assortment of places and projects. Then I read the dedication page to Juliana Birnbaum and Louis Fox's daughters and Birnbaum's introduction's moving description of time spent at Plum Village while pregnant, inspiring her to "seek spaces of hope and resistance in the context of a profoundly broken world". I was hooked.

The last several decades have shown that collaborations between those raised in indigenous cultures and those seeking a healing alternative to the dominant economic globalization norms can clarify for both that there are indeed viable alternatives to our monetized, carbon-intensive lifestyles, and permaculture has had no small part in that, due to its guiding principles of 'earth care', 'people care' and fair share'. After reading the book, the (R) in parentheses in the title indicates to me that this is no movement of magical-thinking cult-followers or militia-style survivalists, but simply people devoted to co-evolving with the other life-forms and natural processes of their bioregions in response to or despite a mainstream culture obsessed with maintenance of an unraveling, heavily polluting, and often violent status quo. Whether in urban or rural settings, the initiatives examined in the book illustrate how working out how to live in harmony with each other, the land and the flows of the seasons is not only possible, but is being done in a multitude of small-scale settlements that are guiding examples of how human beings can and do thrive, and not at the expense of others or of the environment.

There are surprises and fascinating detours galore in this travelogue of alternative lifeways that the most experienced off-grid permaculturists as well as hard-core urbanites who have never tended one plant will find illuminating and relevant... possibly even life-changing. With contributors like David Holmgren on land-tenure and community governance, Vandana Shiva on Climate Change and Charles Eisenstein on local currencies and with a wealth of diverse projects spanning the globe across each continent, we see living proof that 'right livelihood' can truly be a reality and offer a path forward that can positively impact future generations. We see how communities are transforming/healing challenging environments ranging from heavily urbanized landscapes in L.A. and Hong Kong to relatively remote areas in the Arava desert, Israel, or in war-torn Chimanimani, Zimbabwe. This is because these communities are learning to live harmoniously in tandem with others, valuing and nurturing the welfare of all, including the welfare of the land upon which they are based. For anyone needing an infusion of hope or a jumpstart on getting a community-building project or even just a small garden underway, check out this treasure trove of a resource and share it with others."

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