Violent Tendencies

I saw this photo on Friday when waiting for my car’s service to finish. It was on the gate to a rural supplies store and I stared at it for a while before it’s shocking-ness struck me. I think it’s the violence of it that is so unappealing, the desire to KILL everything. Proponents will say ‘we only want to KILL the weeds’, but even though the main target will be such and such a weed, anything in it’s path gets KILLED – directly or indirectly. I am part way through Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, where she cites case after case of aiming poisons at one target but the damage affects the entire area’s ecosystem. Spraying to KILL a beetle that transported a disease within elm trees (which arrived due to humans), and within two years there’s no birds in the area. The birds didn’t even eat the beetles, they ate the earthworms that died because the poison’s residue decomposed into the soil after the leaves fell off in autumn. Nature is pretty complex, therefore we must KILL it.

I’m pretty sure a correlation or study exists somewhere that connects our use of chemicals in agriculture to the KILLING of ourselves too. [I just need to research a little more]. Slowly but surely our desire to rule nature is coming back to get us, through minute traces of chemicals that make it through to our position in the food chain. Or in the case of this ad, large amounts of synthetic chemicals that are applied directly to the plant that supplies our bananas and sugar.

Another thought comes to mind when thinking about the ad, is the relationship it has not just to our willingness in KILLING weeds but also relationships with others. Yes, weeds are not people it’s true, and I’m not suggesting anything to do with KILLING humans, but KILLING anything is a violent act, especially when there are other methods available. For instance, a saying to come out of the Permaculture course I did a few months ago is – “You don’t have a slug/snail problem, you have a duck deficiency”. Nature has a way to combat everything, and when you consider the entire system as a whole, what you originally perceive as a problem might actually be a benefit. There are good and bad weeds/insects/diseases for every situation, blanket application of synthetic chemicals to KILL them all is violent. People who spray are ‘trusting their killer instinct’, whereas I’m going out on a limb here and saying people who buy organic bananas are not making wars…just sayin’.

Here’s an angry paragraph from Silent Spring that I quite liked – “Under the philosophy that now seems to guide our destinies, nothing must get in the way of the man with the spray gun. The incidental victims of his crusade against insects count as nothing; if robins, pheasants, raccoons, cats, or even livestock happen to inhabit the same bit of earth as the target insects and to be hit by the rain of insect-killing poisons no one must protest.” This is from 1962. 50 years later and we’re still fighting a struggle of market domination and hippy-labelling just for buying organic bananas. When we buy synthetically-sprayed anything (which is almost everything), we are supporting those who made and promote this ad, and KILLING.

Small Habit Change – Buy no-spray bananas and sugar.

Schurn’s Big Change

I’ve been neglecting this blog during the past few months, in favour of moving countries and all the associated events that come with that – including hiking in tropical National Parks (see photo). The delays will continue for a few more weeks for another reason – I’m doing a Permaculture Design Certificate down Sunshine Coast way. It’s something I’ve been keen to do for over a year since I first read about permaculture, but the timing and language barriers never quite aligned in Europe. Every new piece I read about permaculture confirms the light globe moment I had initially – that this what I want to do with my life. It only took 32 years…or maybe only 17-ish years from the age when school starts suggesting one might like to ‘think about one’s future’.

Permaculture seems to me to be a bringing together of ideas from all different cultures and ecological designs, to create a system based on maximum efficiency by working with nature rather than against it. By thoughtful observation rather than thoughtless action we can put the right pieces together to let nature do her thing, and she’s pretty incredible. It’s about taking care of the planet and it’s people, and sharing the benefits you create from becoming as self-sufficient as you can. I’m rather excited, hopefully the course provides many tools so that upon completion I can change my world and perhaps yours.

Hopefully the course also provides many interesting networks and ideas, something along the lines of Transition Towns, which I have been reading about the past few weeks. Their experiment sprung from a permaculture group, and looks at ways of building communities which are resilient against the impacts of peak oil, climate change and global economics; in a way that focuses on thinking the future could be much better without oil than our current inefficient systems based on cheap energy.

See you in the self-sufficient future folks!

Solving Multiple Problems At Once?

Differing interests have been converging for me in recent weeks. The carbon tax issue in Australia has highlighted to many the need to plan for a world where we don’t rely on fossil fuels. I have also been patiently awaiting a harvest for our balcony babies that sadly receive too little sunlight. The plants and herbs do add colour and character to the balcony but I wish I could grow more of our own food. Lastly, I’ve been reading about past societal collapses and ways in which we can avoid doing the same to ourselves.

All of these interests have magically wound themselves together in one bundle called permaculture. My introduction has been through a friend whose friend is a permaculture junkie, and then through further investigation in the form of reading; and watching a few documentaries – the foremost being “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”.

The premise of the movie is that we don’t need to wait to see what impact an oil-less future will have on our lives; an example already exists in post-Soviet era Cuba – whose oil supply was dramatically cut with the fall of the Iron Curtain. They had no oil to power their agricultural machinery and very quickly the big cities were facing a food shortage crisis (amongst other major problems). Havana today, a city of about 2 million people, grows 50% of it’s food within the city limits through permaculture techniques – doing away with those oil-sucking machines in the process.

The goal of permaculture is to mimic patterns that occur in nature to create interwoven relationships that grow the majority of a household’s food supply on their own block – everything within walking distance. The thinking that formed the techniques was that nature has evolved these relationships over such a long period of time and therefore she, and not humans, knows the most efficient ways to do it.

I have only read one book on the subject, but just 10 pages in I knew that I had potential to become an addict too. Stay tuned for more confessions.