You are here

French Riots prove that Permaculture is the only viable future

We like to blame politicians for the lack of action on climate change. But how prepared are people to really pay the price of change? We like to imagine that all politicians need to do is cleverly tax carbon and magically renewable energies will arise to take their place. The situation in France shows the fault in this thinking. Renewables cannot possibly replace fossil fuel - not on the scale needed to avert environmental disaster. Someone must pay the price - and it is the poor who get hurt most.

In France an attempt to raise diesel and fuel prices has resulted in mass riots, led in large part by people from rural communities who were most affected by the rises and had fewer alternatives. We have the same sort of phenomenon in Australia - wealthier Australians get solar panels (with subsidies) leaving renters and poorer people picking up the tab for the electricity distribution system.

The truth is our system is soaked in oil. Any attempt to reduce the flow will be catastrophic, financially, socially and in even more fundamental ways i.e. famine. Our food production system is particularly dependent on oil - you cannot run tractors, combine harvesters and trucks (especially refrigerated ones) on batteries - even if you could, you need massive generation capacity to charge these - which is not going to happen, and certainly not in time. Thus if we attempt to tax fuel in a way that has impact people will start to go hungry - the ones on the margins first, then increasingly more.

So what do we need to do? We need to fundamentally, radically and actively decouple our societies from the fossil fuel system. Modern industrialism will not survive the transition, so relying on high-tech solutions is a mistake - these technologies will not be able to be produced or maintained on the necessary scale given the changes required to avert ecological disaster.

How do we decouple from the fossil-fuel system? With massive sacrifices from everyone. Lets not kid ourselves - these changes will have more impact, and require more effort, than both world wars. Also, if we do not actively take charge, change will be forced on us by circumstance, and that will be even less pleasant. Thus WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER - and all must be prepared to make great sacrifices.

What is to be done? We need to divide up all the large farms in Australia's non-arid regions (which is about 2%-3% of the land mass - and shrinking with housing expansion and climate change) and create smaller Permaculture farms of around 10 acres - with families, or small groups of friends, running these farms. It has been shown that Permaculture can be done with zero fossil fuels. Masanoba Fukuoka ran his large farm for over 16 years using only hand tools and buying no chemicals or fertilizers. Also the American Professor Russell Smith demonstrated with his book 'Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture' how small diversified farms could produce higher quantities of calories than large farms (see the graphic above) The trouble is it can take 10 years or more to establish such a farm - thus we need a massive system of support to enable this (eg. to grow and distribute trees and plants) and to feed people until the Permaculture farms are producing excess. Thus we need to carefully move from the industrial farms that are feeding us now so as to gradually shift that land to Permaculture production whilst feeding the whole population. This will require people giving up things to support the transition - and most of all it will require us to work together, be selfless and not hold grudges when things do not go our way - as they surely will not sometimes. We all need to develop super-hero levels of self denial and perseverance (but unfortunately without the super recognition that comic book heroes get).

Will it work? Many studies have shown that small farms out-produce large farms. This was demonstrated by Nobel economist Amartya Sen and also acknowledged by the U.N which has been trying to encourage smaller farms around the world (but meeting resistance as you can read about here).

What is the promise? I suspect that the benefits of a Permaculture future for Australia (and the world) will be healthier and happier people with better relationships as we engage in animal and land husbandry, craft and local-industrial production - not to mention a future for our planet and our children.

But WE must do it, WE must call for it - WE must support our leaders in achieving this - we cannot sit back and expect them to fix this alone - especially if none of us is prepared to go without.

So who is up for being a super-hero? Who wants to give all to save the world?

What to do now?

Help spread the word! We are looking to start a political campaign called "A Permaculture Future" to promote Permaculture as the viable alternative to our current fossil-fuel based system. Please respond in the comments or contact Permaculture Victoria if you are interested.

Image icon tree-crops.jpg13.61 KB


Thanks for article Matthew, however, I think the most critical parameter in the face of climate change is TIME. I believe that we only have 2 or 3 years to take affirmative action on climate change before it becomes irreversible. I also don't believe that we're being told the truth or at least all the facts regarding global warming. Below is an email I sent to Will Steffen of the Climate Council.

Professor Will Steffen,

Thanks for your email, however, I believe that climate change has us by the short and curlies. It is high time we started calling a spade a spade and instead of calling a drought a drought we call it climate change. We receive report after report of extreme temperatures, wild weather and raging bushfires, but we still call them freak events and make excuses for their occurrence.

The latest has been the Deepwater National Park blaze where rain forest (which is not supposed to burn) went up in smoke. This was treated by governments, their bureaucracies and the mainstream media as a freak event! There was no science attached to the cause of the fire to proliferate whatsoever!

An example of this was realised this week when the Bureau of Meteorology (BoMb) released an information bulletin regarding the existence of an Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event taking place off the Western Australian coast. JAMSTEC (the Japanese weather bureau) heralded the arrival of a Positive IOD back in June saying that it would be moderate to severe and would last from July until the New Year.

The Indian Ocean Dipole has a dramatic effect on the weather of south eastern Australia, a Positive IOD will render drier than normal conditions while a Negative IOD will realise higher than average rainfall. In the 13 years of the Big Dry, 6 of those years (1997, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008-9) were Positive IOD with only 2 years of El Nino. While we splashed around in puddles from 2010-12 all 3 years were both Negative IOD and La Nina.

Further to this JAMSTEC identified in October another influence manifesting itself on the WA coast, that of Ningaloo Nina. In 2016 JAMSTEC identified a Ningaloo Nino in the same area. I’m yet to scrub up on the latest phenomenon, but it has coincided with some wild weather in northern Victoria. From what I understand it was the wild westerly winds (Barra) that did the damage in Queensland feeding hot dry air onto the usually moist north Queensland coast at the end of the dry season that exacerbated the fires.

This was just another freak event for the MSM who in another shark feeding frenzy saw it for all it was worth. There was no science behind why rain forest went up in smoke like it did, there was no science from the BoMb. It was just a freak event!

We talk about climate change as if we have light years before it arrives, but I believe that we don’t have light years, we probably only have 2 or 3 years before we need some kind of affirmative action. Unfortunately, I, like Professor Steve Keen, can’t see anything happening until the penny drops that the shit has hit the fan and: what do we do??

The Paris Agreement is just a dream especially while we’ve climate deniers left, right and centre and one of them the President of the US. Leadership is leadership and the only other world leader capable of grasping the reins is Xi Jinping. Where are the China bashers now??

John Bentley

John, thanks for your comment. We have to be very careful to get details from people close to what is happening with regard to the fires, not believe the corporate and state press. They are hopeless reporters on fires and forests.

I have heard from someone affected that the rainforest belt stopped the bushfires, at least those along the Kings Bore track in Kaloola National Park, where there is a big belt of rainforest. He is a bushwalker and environmentalist with local government knowledge, who was informed by a fire fighter.

That is what you would expect and I would also expect to be misinformed by the corporate press, who all want to clear land by pretending rainforests are flammable like the rest. I heard what you heard, that the rainforest was burning, and that was really alarming, but I would need much better info than we get from the state or corporate press.

Maybe some other readers can give us more info.

There were of course many other fires. One was in the Tinninburra State Forest, which is full of [highly flammable] pines, not natural forest. Apparently it has also has a high rate of housing inside, leaving it both cleared, flammable and at risk of loss of infrastructure and human life - which are not big risks in rainforests.

There is another factor that must be considered with regard to disaster reporting. From the 1980s insurance companies have been predicting higher and higher financial and human costs from natural disasters. Not because they expected more natural disasters, but because humans were now building in high risk areas and populating them very densely. An example of this in Australia was the Brisbane Floods, where the PM and the Lord Mayor had allowed and encourage building on floodplains. This is widespread practice by our dollar crazy elites.

With regard to climate change and rates of natural disasters, independent of settlement patterns, I think that science has to show caution. Time will reveal the role of climate change.

Obviously if we build in high risk areas, on coasts and in river beds, if we clear rainforest barriers to fire, if we plant forests of pine with no barriers of rainforest, if we clear the land and increase the Albedo effect, and build heat islands everywhere, there will be local climate change to add to the effects of global climate change.

I agree with you that we don't have much time, but permaculture is a way of surviving as we go down. The Yellow Jacket manifesto would also be a good basis for encouraging localisation.

That manifesto has a lot of good points.

We have an interest in a property at Stanley - a creek runs through the property, until the last drought there was no record or living memory of it every going dry, any time of year (and they have long memories, many families have been there well over 100 years).

It did go dry in summer during the last drought (2004 - 2010 approx).
Normally since then in winter there is a largish wetland on the property, with the creek going dry in Summer. But this last winter, the creek had been dry all winter and all spring - with water levels under ground below what they normally are at the end of Summer (we see the levels because the animals dig down to get to it).

And in this in an area ranked among the highest rainfall areas in Victoria. I fear it will be a dangerous summer.

A local once commented that in all European history of the area there have only been two fires - and both of those happened in the last 18 years.


This is extracted from a reply I made to email discussions about how this proposal might work:

"I think we are firmly committed to the principles of Permaculture (unlike many movements, Permaculture has been built on established principles). I personally do not see this as an attempt to place ourselves within the frame of popularism, but to shift people to the frame of Permaculture - Mal expressed it thus: "Permaculture is a mindset". It is a mindset that is diametrically opposed to much of modern thinking and the materialist world. It is about a "permanent culture" - caring for each other and nature, and living simply, but well. It is about abundance (of certain things) - and it is this sense of a world in which we and our labour and crafts are valued, what we create is valued, our time with others is valued, it is about working together to produce an abundance of the basics of life and experiencing joy whilst creating and sharing these things - it is all this which we need to bring others to appreciate, see and understand and ultimately experience.

Thus it does require strong links with Permaculture theory, practice, and especially the people involved with Permaculture, as it is these people who will not only carry the message but embody and demonstrate all these things - as they have been doing in hidden ways for decades now.

This not a populist movement or party (as I see it). It is a about a way of evangalising a view of life, the world and relationships more than policies.

There may well be room for co-operatives etc, but as I see it they would be subsidiary outcomes or vehicles for people to explore how to work together. In that sense I am not sure how prescriptive we want to be about specifics. Many desirable outcomes could be added, and if they eventuate would be - I imagine - side effects of the changes of perspective that we hope will take place, not specific outcomes to aim for.

At least that is how I see it. Others may disagree."