In October of 2015, Toby was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He completed a course of chemotherapy at UCSF in San Francisco, but a CAT scan taken a couple months later indicated that the cancer had spread to his liver. He began a second course of chemotherapy in October 2016, which was interrupted when he developed septic shock in November.
Since then, additional scans show that the cancer has continued to spread in his liver. Toby signed up for home hospice on December 16, 2016.
Toby is no longer able to work, and his wife, Kiel, is his full-time caregiver. We are asking for support to help us meet expenses for living and caregiving.
We want to extend our deepest gratitude for all those who have already offered their prayers, time, food, and friendship. Thank you all. And please know that no offering is too small, and prayers and good wishes are so appreciated.
It’s with the deepest grief that I tell you that Toby passed away early this morning, Tuesday, Dec. 20. We were both so very moved by the outpouring of love and support from all of you. Before we settled down for the night, Toby was looking at your messages and the notifications of donations. He was touched beyond belief. Those were the last moments that I saw him alive—bathed in your love and appreciation. I couldn’t have wanted a better end for him.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget your love.
I will use your donations to pay for his hospice care this past week, as well as cremation and service (details are yet to be worked out) and to help me with living expenses while I start a new life. We will close this site [YouCaring page] soon. If you feel moved to make further donations for my support during this transition, it would be deeply appreciated. But please know that your love and support have blessed Toby’s and my life forever. We are so grateful.
May Toby’s legacy be carried forward by all you good people.
Blessings and gratitude,
2016 took Mike Oehler on groundhog's day, and then Bill Mollison in September, and now Toby on the day before winter solstice.
Gaia's garden 2001 - first mention of hugelkultur. whenever he felt down, he would go to amazon and read the reviews of his book. Maybe folks could go to the page for Gaia's Garden and write a review.
Made himself available online. Somebody would post some ridiculous barrage and and no matter how nutty and hateful, toby would patiently unravel it.
Our paths crossed regularly. He spent a summer in montana about five years ago, and he contacted me to say that he would like some permaculture company. So we rounded up about eight permies and spent the weekend at his place. We recorded a bunch of video and podcasts over cherry pie. I learned that he likes to swim; there was a large pond there.
He was coaxing us all into a better world. Every year his writings and presentations were more profound. I miss the idea of what he was going to say to us three years from now. Or six.
If I was going to pick one thing that Toby would want us all to do now, it would be to come up with a way to measure how much permaculture knowledge a person has. He wanted "certified permaculture designer" to mean something closer to two years of formal training rather than two weeks.
I'm not sure if you have ever heard of my "wheaton eco scale", but a
guy made an amazing graphic and put you at the head of the line for
"level 9" ....
Thanks for this; very flattering to be considered a 9 (and a cute image as well). I’ve always thought your eco scale makes great sense and helps people figure out how to talk to others about eco-living. This is a terrific graphic, and I think people will understand that it’s not gospel—you can be a 5 or an 8 without exactly duplicating what’s on the graphic as criteria, as long as the whole picture adds up.
I would have put both Mollison and Holmgren equal to Sepp as 10s, as they have both walked their talk just as well—David’s site is just as impressive to me as Sepp’s, in terms of providing inspiration and being an example of implementation, and Bill’s old Tagari site was just as good, too. David’s been so quiet that it’s easy to miss his achievements. There are some others, too—Tom Ward should be a 9 or 10, [...] Roxanne Swentzell’s “Flowering Tree” site is one of the best in the world; Crystal Waters, Penny Livingston; someone mentioned Jack Spirko and I agree, etc, etc; it’s a long list.
Very cool stuff. I’ll pass it along. Thanks!
The scale is a reverse logarithmic scale, so there are exactly ten
people at level 9 and exactly one person at level 10. I think that
right now I might pick Willie Smits for 10. I think part of what is
involved at levels 8, 9 and 10 is global impact. So these have to be
the people that are reaching thousands and/or millions of people and
infecting brains. Not just with permaculture, but things that are
actively making positive change.
And, of course, I try to emphasize that anybody can make their own
scale and do it whichever way they think is best. And maybe even do
something other than "reverse logarithmic"
Maybe darren should be at level 9? I've heard only good things about darren.
Well .... the thing is that I picked a few people for level 9 about
6.5 years ago and olof filled it out to ten with his own picks. I
think the graphic does more for my thoughts in this space than my
I hope to meet a lot of the people you have mentioned. I need to get
back to my dopey youtube videos someday. For now, land ownership
makes it so that I now have a canvas to express all of my own
permaculture ideas ....
As always Toby, you are welcome to come by anytime.
Jocelyn has brought up podcasting about the last chapter in gaia's
garden ... we have already covered the rest of the book. It would be
nice to finish. Once we are done, I would be glad to do another
podcast with you. It would be great to have "a review of the review"
podcast - if that would be something you would like to do. ??
Happy to do a podcast, you bet.
Yeah, if global impact is what the list is about, and if it’s a log scale, then WIllie Smits would just about be the single 10. I do like that it says, make your own list. Darren is definitely a 9; he has reached a ton of people, done huge work on many thousands of acres, and has planted, last I heard, over 2 million trees.
There’s too much bashing of Pc colleagues altogether. And so much of it is done without mentioning names, which to me is unethical; if you are going to criticize “permaculture” or point out bad behavior, then it’s essential to say exactly whom you are criticizing. If you don’t, there is no way to verify the criticism. Like the guy who wrote the “Permaculture is a Gringo Movement” article claiming that someone earned $20,000 in one workshop; he needed to say who that was and how he knows that the guy made $20K, or he's not believable.
[...] One thing I liked about being in science was that people make specific, verifiable accusations of bad behavior—data fudging, plagiarism, that result in actual retractions or dismissals. If we don’t name names, it’s just rumor and behavior won’t change.
Would love to get out your way sometime. And ditto if you are every in Sonoma County. And I need to crank out some real videos, too. I have a long list of topics; just gotta film them!
Thanks for your forum—I lurk but am not posting much, but I’m sure someday I’ll get inspired to add something.
> [XXX]’s stone-throwing really sucks
That's a good way to put it.
> I‘m still trying to get the story on the rumor that he [...]
I hear rumors about me all the time that I know are utterly false.
So I kinda think we have a negativity engine or two amongst us (I'm
sure you can guess where), as if the negativity that comes from the
corporate trolls isn't bad enough.
I suspect that the [...] is bull. Probably the closest thing
to the truth is [...] He
is digging a big pit with that tack.
> There’s too much bashing of Pc colleagues altogether. And so much of it is done without mentioning names, which to me is unethical; if you are going to criticize “permaculture” or point out bad behavior, then it’s essential to say exactly whom you are criticizing.
I dunno .... I feel it is important to keep the public bashing to a
minimum. Focus on the positives. Caution people to be wary of some
of the land mines. When publicly warning people about [XXX], I say
"some regional leaders will insist that you cannot call it
'permaculture' unless you vote the way that they vote, pray the way
that they pray and shake your fist at the people that they shake their
fist at." So I am leaving the names out. And when it is positive,
then work in oodles of names.
> “Permaculture is a Gringo Movement”
That was a festering piece of shit. The fact that it was published
just shows how desperate that outfit is to publish anything. Why
don't you write some good stuff for those guys? Balance out the
message. A shop like that won't publish my dreck, but I am sure they
would love to publish your stuff.
My response to that festering piece of shit was
> people make specific, verifiable accusations of bad behavior
Sometimes. Scientists can be bitchy gossips just like any profession.
And depending on the shop, it can even get worse. In fact, when
you add a lot of intellect to bitchy gossiping, it can take a much
I have stumbled into having a freaky large ... stage? spotlight?
And so I feel I have a huge responsibility to use it properly. I
think the thing to do is to shine the spotlight on strong positives.
And if there is still a mess as bad as [XXX], just try to keep the
spotlight off of [XXX] and [XXX]. In the meantime, with each cool
thing that pops up, shine the spotlight there. And there are some
people where we give them "some" spotlight, but not as much as we give
BTW: jack spirko has taken a strong stand against [XXX]. For any [XXX]
stuff - I just direct it all over to jack.
bottom line: each hour that passes, we try to make the best of it.
Try to make things a little better and a little better. Years and
years of hard work does, eventually, pay off. It's the permaculture
> I lurk but am not posting much, but I’m sure someday I’ll get inspired to add something.
Let me know what I can do to help tip the scales toward you visiting
more with our community.
Yeah, I agree that the public bashing needs to be knocked way back; it’s the easy and low road, plus most of it is just jealousy or rumor and lies. But if people understood that they were not going to be believed or listened to unless they substantiated their accusations with specifics—who they are talking about, how they got that info—i think it would also cut down on the amount of it.
I’m thinking, again, of the Gringo permaculture article, where there is no way to verify what that guy said, and also of things like [XXX]’s several articles in which he claims that [XXX]. I know most of those elders, and we’re all wondering, who does he mean? We all think we give plenty of credit. Does he mean me? Because I have taught with him, so he might. Then he makes it worse by saying “Don’t take this personally.” C’mon, there are only a couple dozen of us; how can we not take it personally? If the expectation were that he needs to back up his accusation with specifics, he’d either be unable to make such a bullshit claim, or the target would be able to reply and defend. But neither of those can happen with vague, “there are permies out there who . . .”
Overall, like you, I’d much rather see energy toward the positive, like, “How do we get more people of color in permaculture?” than yet another critique claiming that permaculture is elitist and excludes people of color. No, it’s not and no, it doesn’t. It just got started by white academics, like most sciences, is all. We don’t know how to welcome others, I agree. But there is a big difference.
And, yes, scientists can definitely be just as assholic and petty as anybody. But official science tries to offset that with standards of criticism, and we don’t have those yet.
The big spotlight is a steep learning curve, for sure. Ron Finley (TED talk permie) told me, “too bad there no instruction manual for rock stars.”
Good to know about Spirko vs [XXX]. I really like Jack; we’ve connected well the couple of times we’ve gotten together. I know he’s controversial, but, damn, he’s doing a ton of good work and has brought a lot of people out of survivalist mode and into “grow it rather than hoard it” mode. I can forgive a lot for that.
And I like your Ferd/Gert article very much. Sums up the situation well. It’s easy for me to forget that for every criticism I get (and there aren’t many) I get about 50 thank-yous and nice-works. We’re wired to notice criticism tho—it’s a survival strategy. [...]
Okay, back to the real stuff. Thanks for what you do!
> C’mon, there are only a couple dozen of us; how can we not take it personally?
I think a good, direct question is in order. Ask him.
For me: sometimes I ask. Most of the time I think of it as "office
politics." And my rule about office politics from my corporate whore
days is that a high quantity of excellent work trumps all office
politics. So if somebody is bitching about what a dick I am, but in
the last month I have cranked out a dozen excellent articles, a few
podcasts, a bunch of software upgrades, 30 dailyish emails, helped a
couple hundred people and funded two cool kickstarters ... while the
person bitching hasn't done shit .... I feel like it is clear to
other observers who is doing cool stuff and who is just a fucking
> But neither of those can happen with vague, “there are permies out there who . . .”
If I say something vague like that and you ask me privately, I will
tell you. But publicly, I generally don't want to be so specific.
I think my whole keynote at pv1 was “there are permies out there who . . .”
> How do we get more people of color in permaculture?
I think it is a noble goal. I suspect that pandora has put a lot of
thought into that.
Personally, I think time would be better spent on "how to get 100
million more people in permaculture?" I bet that would probably bring
more "people of color" in than if you tried to target "people of
> yet another critique claiming that permaculture is elitist and excludes people of color.
What makes this your problem? Just because somebody is a dumbfuck and
whining about this shit doesn't mean that you become their personal
bitch. If they have detected a problem, then they have the
responsibility to solve it. They wish to make you a slave to their
whims, but your plate is already full.
> I can forgive a lot for that.
I'm in the same boat.
> And I like your Ferd/Gert article very much.
Thanks Toby! That means a lot to me!
> for every criticism I get (and there aren’t many) I get about 50 thank-yous and nice-works.
Because you are the sweetheart of the lot. I am on the other end
of the spectrum. I suppose I get two thank-yous for each criticism.
> Thanks for what you do!
I met with the oncologist yesterday and the news was not good. The tumor on my pancreas, which had been stable for several months, has spread into the liver and perhaps into the abdomen. I have started a new round of chemo which will run for 6 months. This makes for a very sober prognosis, as once it spreads like this, conventional medicine labels it as “incurable” and their approach boils down to “how long do I want to keep fighting it?” I’m doing a lot more than just conventional medicine so there are a lot more options open to me, but the bottom line for you is that I can’t undertake any new projects. I’m really excited about an online PDC as I think we could rock the world with it, but with chemo and the effects of the disease, my energy level is far too low to take this on.
What I’d like is continue to look at what an online PDC entails so that when I am ready to get back in the saddle we can hit the ground running. So if you have any resources on those courses, let me know.
Thanks for all your support and for making the CGG course go so smoothly. I hope to get thru the rest of the homework over the next few days, but it’s slow going.
I do think we can continue to work on CGG and get the next round ready.
paul wheaton wrote:My last email exchange with toby. A couple of months ago. . .
This exchange started with me sending him this:
I'm not sure if you have ever heard of my "wheaton eco scale", but a
guy made an amazing graphic and put you at the head of the line for