Ecotopia #44

Date:  8-4-09

Tonight our focus is on a sustainable approach to living called Permaculture, which is receiving great interest globally and here in the Northstate.  We talk with Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper, who is using the concepts of permaculture in landscape design, and with  Adrian Johnson, who is a certified permaculturist and co-convener, with Stephanie, of a new Permaculture Guild in Chico that aims to help people garden, farm, and live more sustainably.

World News About Permaculture

to give you a better idea of what permaculture entails, we read from a recent article in Examiner dot com by Amy Graecen. It’s called Permaculture 101: Getting the Most Out of :Small Spaces.  She writes:

Permaculture [sometimes called Biodynamic gardening…]  is a system of farming or gardening that generates high crop yields from small spaces — from four times to some reports of 31 times the yields of conventionally-farmed acreage. For those of us gardening in tiny urban or suburban lots, permaculture concepts offer the possibility of genuinely productive food gardening.

Permaculture gardeners see the farm or garden, and the soil, as holistic, living organisms. They mimic relationships found between plants and animals in nature, and adopt an intensive-management approach to plants. […]

Read the whole article at:


To emphasize the contrast between Permaculture and other forms of agriculture, from Permaculture Planet comes a story by Jeff Randall that the UK’s Prince Charles is warning that genetically modified crops and factory farming—the very antithesis of permaculture– risk causing the Biggest Ever Natural Disaster. He writes:

In his most outspoken intervention on the issue of GM food, the Prince said that multi-national companies were conducting an experiment with nature which had gone “seriously wrong”.

The Prince, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Telegraph, also expressed the fear that food would run out because of the damage being wreaked on the earth’s soil by scientists’ research.

He accused firms of conducting a “gigantic experiment with nature and the whole of humanity which has gone seriously wrong”. […]

Relying on “gigantic corporations” for food, he said, would result in “absolute disaster”. […]

Small farmers, in particular, would be the victims of “gigantic corporations” taking over the mass production of food.

The Prince of Wales’s forthright comments will reopen the whole debate about GM food. The Prince will be braced for the biggest outpouring of criticism from scientists since he accused genetic engineers of taking us into “realms that belong to God and God alone” in an article in the Daily Telegraph in 1998.

[…] The Prince, who has an organic farm on his Highgrove estate, held out the hope of the British agricultural system encouraging more and more family run co-operative farms.

When challenged over whether he was trying to turn back the clock, he said: “I think not. I’m terribly sorry. It’s not going backwards. It is actually recognising that we are with nature, not against it. We have been working against nature for too long.”

You can read the full article at http://www.permacultureplanet.com/news.html)

Our Questions for Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper

  • We know that “permaculture” takes in a lot of territory, but could you just start by giving us a general definition of what permaculture means?
  • What are some of the guiding principles of permaculture?
  • How did you learn about permaculture? What does becoming a certified permaculturist mean?
  • How do you translate some of these principles into practice? in your own life? in your own business?
  • What do you think are some of the best practices we already have in the Northstate? How can we extend these ideas?
  • How can people learn more about permaculture?

Our Questions for Adrian Johnson

  • Please tell us about the Chico Permaculture Guild.  What is it? What are its aims?
  • Why did you start it?
  • What has happened with your first two meetings?
  • What do you plan or hope to have happen next?
  • How can people get involved in the work of the Guild?


We want to recommend a source we quoted from earlier, Permaculture Planet, a U.K. group that publishes an Online Permaculture Magazine  “Solutions for Daily Living. Their August 2009 issue includes articles on:

  • KITCHEN GARDEN– the summertime flourishings of a prolific urban patch.
  • RECONNECTING LAND & PEOPLE– planning for genuine low impact development.
  • SUSTAINABLE BEEKEEPING to help reverse the global  plummeting of honeybee populations
  • CYCLING FOR SUSTAINBILITY–converting to pedal power for our daily transport.
  • A STITCH IN TIME—a guy learns how to shun the fashion industry and make and mend his own clothes.

These articles are not free, but they are inexpensive and you can download them and many more at.  http://www.permaculture-magazine.co.uk/

Another excellent source for practical and theoretical information on permaculture can be found at the Permaculture Activist site coming up from Australia. These articles are free and a number of them are written by major permaculture leaders such as David Holmgren and Joel Salatin.  In one of those articles Salatin talks about a kind of Permaculture Approach to his own children:

We have to appreciate their talents and create opportunities for children to express their natural abilities rather than saying, “Well, I raise chickens so you are going to raise chickens.” Let the children express themselves.

Read the full article about how Joel’s kids become involved in quilts, art, flowers, rabbits, and maple syrup.

Permaculture activist:  http://www.permacultureactivist.net/articles/articles.htmc

Salatin Article http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/familyfriendly_jun00.pdf

Playlist for Ecotopia #44 Permaculture

1. Nature’s Way        2:40    Spirit   Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus

2. Mr. Soil’s Song     1:45    Singin’ Steve   Billy the Bean

3. Dirt  4:20    Mary Mary   The Sound

4. Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)            5:11    Neil Young   Ragged Glory

5. Plant a Radish     2:34    Hugh Thomas & William Larsen  The Fantasticks

6. Weave Me the Sunshine           4:28    Peter, Paul And Mary   The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary

7. We Share Our Mothers’ Health (Ratatat Remix)        4:02    The Knife   We Share Our Mothers’ Health

8. Glorious     5:19    MaMuse   All The Way

9. Mother Nature’s Son       2:48    The Beatles   The Beatles (White Album)