What’s the “Alternative”?

The end of the Mayan calendar, in the world of permaculture blogs, was supposed to herald a new dawn of co-operation and an end to capitalism : a typical example, from realitysandwich.com puts it like this :

“The shift we need to make is to see the world not as a bunch of separate things but as a web of relationships.  We are part of an interwoven whole, and our goal is not to win, but to connect, to nurture, to play, to dance”

and although I didn’t really think the planets were going to align, and pull the world out of its orbit, or that the earth’s polarity was going to reverse, wiping out the global financial system, I did have a small hope that it could be the start of something beautiful…

I was looking today at Damanhur, in northern Italy, which is “an eco-society based on ethical and spiritual values, awarded by an agency of the United Nations as a model for a sustainable future.” and if you look at their website, what’s not to like? You can apply for a New Life : Living in harmony with your fellow humans, investigating your spirituality and maximising your creative potential, doing permaculture stuff : what an amazing three months…

They do, however, ask you to make sure you have the means, from your savings, to support yourself, making a contribution to rent and food etc, for those three months. I know that isn’t much : probably it works out to less than  5 grand, but still, it highlights quite succinctly, how for me, it does seem that access to alternatives to capitalism is only really accessible to those who have benefited from it.

Whatever alternative lifestyle you are looking for needs a substantial ‘surplus’ from work : either your own, your forbears’, or the work of an unknown capitalist slave. Whether you want to live on the dole in social housing (good luck getting that!), immerse yourself in permaculture and go self-sufficient : you’ll need land, enough money to live on, plus time for those ‘small and slow solutions’ to bear fruit, co-housing or ecohousing : all need either capital investment, or a mortgage.

Anyway, I could go on, but I think I have crystallised for myself, the nagging doubts I have about particularly, the ‘homesteading’ way of permaculture : much as I love Paul Wheaton, Permaculture Giant (www.richsoil.com, youtube, twitter, and… hang on… yes,  Facebook….)

Paul_Wheaton (1)

for his knowledge, generosity, and energy, I don’t think that each of us getting our own bit of land and doing our individual thing can possibly provide for 7 billion of us, if the end of capitalism is really on its way. Permaculture does maybe have the answer, though, in the third principle of ‘People Care’ : the others being ‘Earth Care’ and Fair Shares’


“Self-reliance becomes more possible when we focus on non-material well-being, taking care of ourselves and others without producing or consuming unnecessary material resources. By accepting personal responsibility for our situation as far as possible, rather than blaming others, we empower ourselves. By recognising that the wisdom lies within the group, we can work with others to bring about the best outcomes for all involved.” (Permacultureprinciples.com)

Those who have benefited from capitalism are able to lead the way in Permaculture : and I look forward with hope and optimism to a time when people belong to the land that maintains us rather than the other way round.


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