Who Will Lead Us to a Design-Intensive Future?

Before the industrial revolution, the majority of people were likely to be involved in some sort of production. Human or animal power was the source of energy underwriting the production, quality of production varied and was limited by down-to-earth constraints. We can call this the labor-intensive era. As industrial and corporate power grew and centralized through exploitation of cheap and abundant fossil fuels, more and more people outsourced that productive capacity and settled for assuming the role of consumers. This might be labeled the energy-intensive era. We are still seeing the momentum of the transition from labor-intensive to energy-intensive unfolding today especially in the developing parts of the world. However a new trend is emerging where more and more people are hoping and succeeding to reclaim their own productive capacity with the advent of technologies such as the Internet, 3D printing and methodologies like Permaculture Design. These regular people, individually and in collaborative groups are perhaps at the forefront of ushering a new era; the design-intensive era.

But is a design-intensive future guaranteed?

Anita Berghoef

Photo Credit: Anita Berghoef

If every school in the world taught Permaculture Design to pupils from the earliest of ages; if every business accounted for Permaculture Design as part of the bottom line; if leaders and policy makers considered Permaculture Design when crafting legislation and debating policy; if everyone in the world deeply understood and applied Permaculture Design in whatever they designed and built, and in whatever work they did, what would human spaces look like?
I don’t think anyone knows the exact answer to that question as human imagination and creativity hold infinite surprises, and such a vision might be exceedingly beautiful or intensely uninteresting depending on who was beholding it. I would venture to say that whatever it looks like, it is undeniable that a civilization that sincerely and competently invests heavily in design methods that regenerate more than they consume or destroy is certainly better off than a civilization that does the opposite.

Those of us who are promoting Permaculture Design must set that as the goal and take it as far as we possibly can. Achieving such a goal should not be left to happenstance, but as much as possible we should discuss and devise strategies to actually make it a reality.

“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.” Seth Godin

Permaculture is not the only thing out there being proposed as a solution for the challenges that humanity is facing, environmental or otherwise. All sorts of technological fixes are being proposed to satiate humanity’s demand for energy and resources that are inconveniently finite.

The proposed fixes are often expensive, likely to be ineffective and are potentially even more disastrous for both people and planet. Whether many of these proposed fixes are real or imaginary, they divert the masses away from deeper understanding of the natural world and the potential to develop balanced technology and infrastructure using Permaculture Design.

If we believe in the superiority of Permaculture Design, we must make every effort, to not only win that contest, but to dominate it.

Crafting the message to promote Permaculture Design further is of utmost importance. The popularity of Permaculture has increased dramatically since it began yet it must be taken further. Spreading awareness and educating people about Permaculture must be expanded quantitatively and more importantly qualitatively.

The clarity of people’s understanding of what Permaculture Design actually is; is critical.

The relationship people have to the idea of Permaculture Design and the people who introduced it to them is critical.

The value of Permaculture Design to the lives of people is critical.

We must even be prepared to abandon the word Permaculture, where necessary. Using terminology such as agro-ecology or ecological design or whatever is palatable to the audience being targeted must be done. Loyalty should not be specifically to the “brand” of Permaculture, but to the substantive ideas behind it. Sophisticated marketers known how to segment markets and differentiate messages and we need that capability as well. I will continue to use the terms Permaculture Design in this article and beyond, but when using those terms I am referring to any idea or practice that furthers the goal of balancing people’s relationship to the planet.

To really be successful and accelerate the adoption of Permaculture Design, we must use schooling and education, we must use business and commerce based solutions, and we must influence government policy at local, regional and national levels.

Some suggest that elites of the early industrial era secretly conspired to manipulate the education, business and government sectors to meet their own needs and we are living within the confines of that legacy today. Whether this is completely true or not, what we can and need to do is to openly conspire to redesign the education, business and government sectors.

The societal changes that occurred when labor-intensive production transitioned to energy-intensive production happened in within a century or two, thus it should be possible to make similar society-wide changes, albeit in a positive direction, in just as fast a time, if not faster.

Convincing people to adopt Permaculture Design or equivalent methodologies for design is only half the battle. We also need proactive approaches to counter ideas that are detrimental to the successful transition to a design-intensive future.

Advances in genetic engineering and nano-technology may seem like science fiction but we should not underestimate the potential for theses technologies to be a very real threat to living in balance with the planet. There may be other as-yet unanticipated technologies that also could pose equal or greater threats and so continuous monitoring of technological advance is a necessity.

Physics of the Impossible, a book by Michio Kaku, is the type of book that must be scrutinized. Among other things discussed seriously in the book is whether it is actually possible to build a weapon that can incinerate an entire planet. There are many other “visionary” ideas circulating around and we can’t ignore or underestimate their potential for becoming real. We need to anticipate and address these technological lunacies as difficult as that may be. Gardening alone is not going to cut it. We must develop and employ expertise in communication, law, fund-raising, policy-making and more to discourage and prohibit humanity from experimenting in technologies that could be risks to all of humanity. Well-funded approaches are what many of the proponents of the various technological solutions will be using and so should we. We should maintain integrity and ethics in whatever we do (although we have no guarantee others will)we still must be as competent as we possibly can be. There are going to be serious discussions and debates regarding these technologies and we have to make our voices loud and clear.

We therefore need to devise not a single strategy, but a set of strategies that will help further the spread of deep understanding of Permaculture Design and we also need strategies that will diminish the prospects of potentially dangerous alternatives. This two-pronged effort is required because ultimately the reality of a planet where humans are living in balance will not only require an appropriate methodology such as Permaculture Design to guide the development of technology and infrastructure but at the same time will require the guarantee that no dangerous technologies can be unleashed onto the public.

Just to put this in perspective, we should recall that we currently are living in a civilization that is not following the precautionary principle at all and creating and releasing all sorts of technology, chemicals and products and releasing them to the public so long as they are marketable. We honestly have no idea what the full extent of the effects are. We can rightly discern that there is a connection between this release and observable negative impact on people and eco-systems. Imagine if we continue with this laissez-faire attitude if and when genetic engineering or nano-technology were to be commercialized.

We may have all heard the phrase that Permaculture is a revolution disguised as gardening, so let us not forget the revolution part as we tend to our gardens and avoid the risk that the gardening is simply posing as revolution.

We need engineers, architects, politicians, bankers, lawyers, contractors, doctors and more to fully embrace and be passionate about using Permaculture Design. We need to make it clear that Permaculture Design is not just for “hippies”, but we also need to demonstrate that it is for “hippies” too! We need to be as inclusive as possible, and as civil and respectful of each other as possible.

So who will lead us to the design intensive future? No one and everyone. We can’t rely on celebrities and exceptional individuals no matter how great they are. They can inspire us for sure, but to make a real impact everyone will have to be involved if the design-intensive future is to be a reality.  I am hopeful because people have already begun creating all sorts of amazing strategies to help us reach the goal described above and no doubt more will follow.

We all have a role to play, different set of skills, different set of contacts and different cultures which we operate in. We need to promote, adopt, and implement Permaculture wherever and whenever we can to the best of our capacity.

Murujan Permaculture Design has helped 50 people so far to receive the Permaculture Design Certificate. Below are some profiles of individuals who received their Permaculture Design Certificate and snapshot of their unfolding contribution to this amazing process of diffusion of Permaculture Design to all parts of the globe.

Past Participants of Our Permaculture Design Certificate Courses

Join us for our upcoming Permaculture Design Certificate in February 2015 in Malaysia and help pave the way to a design-intensive future:

Murujan Permaculture Design Certificate February 2015 Malaysia

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