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Geoff Lawton @ PV1 - "Permaculture and The Tipping Point"

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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Me again!

So, are you sad that you didn't get to go to the Permaculture Voices conference? Did you go but you can't remember what was said? Well, I am an obsessive note taker (most of the time) and I took notes at most of the talks I attended.

I will share them here with you!

Please note that this is in no way a transcription. These are my notes, taken in real time, on the fly, whilst trying to look at the slides and follow along. I find that note taking helps me synthesize information. None of this should be construed as an accurate quotation, even when I put it in quotes. (For example, I'm pretty sure not a single speaker used the utterance "Yo.") Much of the time, I am trying to summarize and it's entirely possible that I've gotten some things wrong.

My last (!!) notes document is Geoff Lawton. The topic this time was "Permaculture and The Tipping Point" This was the big finale to the whole conference!


Geoff Lawton: Permaculture and The Tipping Point

"I can’t resist it: What a guy!" (meaning, Diego Footer) We need more people like him, meaning, people who get things organized. I’ve been involved in permaculture since 1980 and this is the best conference I’ve been to.

A lot of you might not know this, but I emigrated to Australia in 1979. I got involved in permaculture in 1980, I was 26 yrs old. I took my course with Bill Mollison in 1983 and I figured this would be national policy by 1990. When that year came around and nothing had changed I kind of had a mid-life crisis and I jumped into it.

I’m seeing things get better and I’m seeing things get worse. There’s no point pushing the negative side of things, there’s a plethora of choices for the biggest negative. The tipping point in a bad direction would be quite horrific.

There’s only one game in town that I know of that’s putting all the right systems together, and that’s permaculture. We have all these things, technology, finance, overpopulation, those things don’t scare me. I think we need all the people we can, working in a positive direction.

We are the resource that can make that change. We may be the only resource that can make that change. Some scientists think that removing all humans from the planet would not save it. We are needed, now.

So, we’re not changing yet, not enough. We need to set some examples, and some of the best could be set here, in the US. There’s a lot of people aspiring to the american lifestyle.

It is such a story, it is such an event. It puts together so many opportunities. You become comfortable with the infinite possibilities. The microbiota in the soil, the complexity of ecosystems, and we end up in absolute abundance.

An absolute abundance of community, of friendship. Those things are deficient in the “developed” world.

We are an ethical design science. Our controlling elements are ethics. Ethics of how we behave, how we integrate ourselves into the earth.

We are a moderating element. We moderate systems.

When we look at pushing to a tipping point, we. . . (ed: lost it)

Bill said if there could be a PDC on TV running 24/7, we could make a change. We saw that there’s another screen to use (ed: on your phone, or on your desk).

(video: Images of detroit, I think.) When people leave, the plants return. The water keeps flowing. The overshot water well is still the most efficient machine made by man. . .

For us, we’ve given people all sorts of different examples. Our land based systems, our animal systems. We have so many stories to tell. How do we get them out there in time?

I’ve been obsessed with this subject of “the tipping point.” It’s my life’s urgent desire. I would love to be redundant. I’ve been teaching and teaching and teaching, I’ve lost track of how many countries, how many students. I do know I’ve got over 6000 students.

I’d actually taught more courses via translation than in English at one point. (Not now.)

We are actually in the universities now. The young people love this.

I wonder, am I done yet? Have I made up for my carbon footprint? I was more familiar with international airports than my own home. I’m still pretty familiar with a few of them.

I used to spend thousands of dollars on photographs. I’d take a still photo and a slide photo of everything. I remember Bill got funded $5000 to sort his slide shows out. I thought that was wild, but I ended up with 30,000 slides, that seriously needed sorting out. My first digital camera had a floppy disk in it and took 6 photos.

When I worked my first aid project, we thought faxes were high tech. Now it’s all on your phone. We can record like crazy. You really have no excuse not to. We’re getting more and more data, all the time.

Still, how do we push that tipping point? I was really proud when my students became teachers (within the first 125). I’ve got 4th generation students (students of my students of my students...) probably more in Brazil—they breed pretty fast down there.

Is it enough, is it enough? Am I even paying all my carbon credits, for all those flights?

A year ago I signed up on Facebook. I did it for a social media experiment. Of all things, when I went on Facebook, things were great! I kept saying yes to everyone and I quickly had 5000 friends. I put them all on Skype, which was insane. I started hearing from people saying “I’m in Mongolia, because of you” “I’m in the *** mountains, because of you.” I saw your video, I saw you on YouTube. . . .

it was because of Facebook that I realized I’ve paid my carbon credits (big applause)

It’s true that you read so many books just to mine a paragraph. As permaculturalists, you mine out paragraphs. Someone gave me “Tipping Point,” by Malcom Gladwell. He researched it, whether it’s epidemics, fashion, revolution. There’s something really surprising about tipping points.

According to research, you hit the tipping point at about 12-18%. At that point, you go viral. It becomes national policy. We go from forming to storming, then norming.

OK, let’s think about 14%. We have 7 billion 153 million 489 thousand. Nearly 7.2 billion people and rising. We’ve got 317 million in America. We’ve got to hit a billion people globally. What would that be - a billion people taking a PDC?

In America, we need 43 million? How are we going to hit them? If I’m teaching 30-35 at a time, 5 courses a year, that’s not going to get there.

It’s hard to imagine how it’s going to get there. That’s when I realized I’ve got to make some significant risks. That’s when I started to look into, maybe we could do it online. So, I decided to go for it.

So everybody was pirating my dvd’s anyway, I might as well just give them away (as long as you give me your email address). If you like what we’re doing. . . . Then I ran a PDC online to see what happens. I’m really not a techy person, I’d much rather be outside on the land.

Well, I just gave it a go and it just exploded. It went nuts. I had ten years worth of students in one course.

How many here took my online course? (a lot!) You are all in the next course. (yeah!!! big applause) You can’t ask questions. (oh.) You can answer questions. (ok) You can ask each other questions, you can ask other students, just not the authority (pointing at self). You can watch all the new videos, have all the same access (big applause)

I was blown away by the quality of the designs that came in on my online course. 20% of them I’d never be able to match myself. It was amazing, what people came up with. Something about social media: people set up help groups, they set up IT help centers. Things went viral INSIDE the course. One lady sold her car to do the course, got three design jobs before it was finished and bought a new car! I had people say “my husband wasn’t interested, but now he’d like to buy a ticket so he can get the certificate.”

People say “can you do permaculture home school?” (big applause)

At the free videos, someone said “I’m watching this at work” then a lot of other people said “I’m watching this at work too!”
I’m glad ( . . . lost it)

You know when most people open their email? 9am on Friday morning: Google analytics. That’s why I release my videos then!

Maybe this is how we can get to the tipping point. I’d really hope so. I’d really like for you (all) to make me redundant. We have to push this.

I’ve lived on solar power for 20 years, I’ve never once wanted to feed back into the grid. Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t feed the dinosaur (the grid).

We need to make these moves. It’s not about it all being perfect tomorrow. It’s when we all start to make that move. We can move very quickly when we all move with intention in that direction.

You may have seen “Greening the Desert” That’s the original thing I made with the filmmaker that I still work with. I was pretty grouchy when I talked to him, having been pulled from my work, and he took that grouchy footage and made “Greening the Desert”

How many people noticed I missed out olives. In Jordan. Just about the national tree. Nobody picked up that I missed out on olives!

I’ve been working with that sort of system for years. It was just a happy little accident (the massive viral-ness of that video), how did I do that? It wasn’t even intentional. That’s what I’ve continued to do.

I will definitely continue to support things like this (the PV1 conference).

Thank you.
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