Harvesting Civic Culture in a Neglected Filbert Grove


My first blog posts for MOTHER EARTH NEWS were about my quarter-acre suburban property. For 16 years, I have been creating a suburban permaculture landmark in the Northwest — grass to garden, reclaimed automobile space, passive-solar retrofits, edible landscaping all over, energy-saving investments, 6,500-gallon rainwater catchment system. See www.SuburbanPermaculture.org for more info and photos.

Graphic of a transformed suburban property using permaculture techniques

Vision for Sustainable Communities

During the same 16 years, the growing threat posed by a changing climate has stimulated interest in technology that is more planet friendly: solar electric, windmills, passive house, electric cars, etc.

Overall, these technologies fall short. They are still products of mainstream economic thinking. For the most part, they are still supply sided, meaning, they are still intended to support a growing demand — automobiles (eco/social footprint of a car is far more than simply carbon), energy-intensive food system, homes that are still too large (kudos to tiny houses). Advertising that claims a product to be green does not necessarily make it so.

This writer believes consumer culture, even the emerging greener version, does not honestly address the deepening trends. Mainstream “green” strategies still take too much from planet Earth. A very different set of goals and culture is called for.

Green technologies and home scale permaculture are urgently needed, but to address climate change, damage to the natural world and economic malpractice; the goal should be to trade consumer culture for a culture where humans fit within their ecological and economic means. In simple terms: to use and buy less, to live closer to home, to consume far less meat and animal products, to trade “stuff” for social uplift and human relationships.

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