COVID-19 — PERMACULTURE RESPONSES
QUESTIONS for DISCUSSION on UNDERSTANDING & RESPONSES
USING PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLES
1) Observe & Interact – creatively interact with people and the planet
The 1st step is to observe and collect information on our time and place, given the spread of a very infectious but not that lethal virus.
What is happening, and what are the direct impacts of this coronavirus on people, government policy and businesses. Given the rapid (hard and fast) roll out of a ‘suppression’ lockdown approach, how are people responding, how effective and well thought out is the government response as we go through this lockdown? What is happening at a local community level, and where are there gaps in information and support?
What are the initial reactions and how diverse are they? How can we personally improve our access to information?
2) Recognise Patterns & Pulses – the patterns of natural processes and their pulse dynamic
The 2nd step is to use pattern recognition to provide a wholistic overview and an understanding of the particular system dynamics of this virus/lockdown bio-social ecosystem.
What can we foresee about the longer term implications of this ‘suppression’ lockdown approach and how people, governments and businesses are going to respond as the lockdown continues? (A ‘mitigation’ community empowerment approach would be very different in actions and consequences)
What are the likely longer term consequences, especially those that are not been recognised or thought about by governments or the financial/corporate elite? (From what we can tell.)
What are some likely changes in the patterns of responses?
3) Go Slow & Small – start with small steps and take time to adapt and modify
The 3rd step is to look for opportunities in the short term that can be levered for long term gains.
When and where will the openings occur, and what gaps will provide the most leverage to assist in a transition to a more localised, resilient and healthy way of living for people on this planet? What would support these opportunities?
Given the lockdown and centralised approach being taken, with the very extreme powers of government authorities and the police, there is very little community action and networking that can be done on the ground at present.
What then can we plan for? What do we look for, as the severe adverse impacts of the lockdown start to sway people more than the present very one-eyed focus on health. What will be the hindsight reactions from maintaining alive the most vulnerable in our society, which for this virus is those people with existing serious health issues and ‘end of life’ conditions, when we start to see the serious health problems from the consequences of the lockdown?
How do we direct frustration, anxiety about the future and anger over authoritarian impositions towards positive enhancement actions, of personal wellbeing and community building and supportive networks?
4) Catch & Store – conserve with storages at all levels
Our economy is based on just-in-time supply on demand, with minimal inventories or storages. These supply lines are highly globalised, with manufacturing being spread around the world, and as an export-oriented economy we are particularly vulnerable to global disruptions to supply lines.
How do we now respond to this fragility and rebuild some local capacity and resilience into our society and economy? What would be the key points where we should start, and how can local communities increase their resilience? Should people build up storages at different levels, from the household to local communities, districts, regions and nations?
How can we catch the necessities of life sufficient to accumulate storages, when the present system is based on an artificially maintained scarcity and dependence on daily supplies and weekly wages? Should there is positive incentives and subsidies to improve longer term resilience, and to ensure affordability for everyone.
5) Obtain a Yield – work where it counts, for the best return
What yields are we looking for from the opportunities that will arise as our socio-economic system buckles and breaks under the disruption effects of a worldwide lockdown of nations and communities?
Better nutrition would be an important start. Industrial agriculture, with its monocultures, use of toxic chemicals and destruction of ecological diversity, and the additives used for storage and processing, result in food of poor nutritional value, lacking in essential micro-nutrients. This gives rise to underlying poor health, of body and mind, resulting in cloudy thinking and unrealistic decision-making. Susceptibility to potential disease organism is increased, while responses become inappropriate and misdirected. Where are the gaps for promoting a regenerating agriculture that works with the cycles of nature and living processes?
Better health care would be another worthwhile yield, with the development of diverse wholistic approaches to health, based on maintaining well-being.
6) Generate Edges – stack in space and time as repeating patterns
Breaking the mould of ‘business as usual’ generates edges where changes can take place, but these opportunities are available to all players.
How do we make use of these edges to bring about changes that benefit all people and all of life on Earth, and not be used by powerful elites to further consolidate their power and influence? The greater the breakage and the more edges, the more opportunities for more people, and the harder it is for established powers to maintain control. But the greater the breakage the more the disruption and destruction, and the more likely a fearful retreat into authoritarian command and control.
What are the most productive edges for social transformation?
7) Make Connections & Accept Feedback – build relationships and act responsibly
Community actions and support come from networks of connection and an understanding of the nature of the local landscape and the skills and experience of local people.
How can we improve local connections and support networks to empower communities, firstly around the threats from this virus pandemic. And then for the coming losses, of reduced incomes, unemployment, business collapses and bank foreclosures — and the consequential mental distress and loss of spirit? How do we enhance community coordination, and do we advocate for government assistance to pay for community coordinators, and for educational workshops and training courses that empower people locally, and build resilience?
What do we do to monitor effects and gain feedback on what is working and what is not?
There will be many different responses and divergent paths as the established order breaks down, even if only to a limited degree. How then do we track such diverse responses, with their contradictions and conflicting outcomes?
8) Reduce & Re-Use – live with enough within the cycles of nature
We are living an over-bloated lifestyle of human consumption and indulgence at the expense of all the rest of life on Earth. This virus is a natural response to excess, and there is a message in this pandemic and how modern day societies are responding to it.
How can we respond differently, and move towards a sustainable lifestyle within the bio-physical limits of this Earth? What are the opportunities to reduce our ecological footprint and achieve a balance with all the other species we share this planet with, giving back at least as much as we take?
How do we sift the green-wash and image window dressing from real commitment and efforts?
Does the impacts of the virus on people and our panicked lockdown in response, provide the breakpoint for a very different level of consumption and the development of a fully circular economy? If so, how do we transition to such different socio-economic conditions?
9) Integrate – bring together in the appropriate proportions and balance
A healthy and sustainable lifestyle that is both productive and resilient depends on a well-balanced integration of diverse bio-physical processes and living organisms. Humanity is now disconnected from its natural home, and has expanded with an explosive growth that disintegrates and fragments us, as people and as a species of planet Earth.
The lockdown has isolated us from each other and cutoff most of the goods and services our society normally provides. However, it can opened up opportunities to re-connect with our partners and families within our bubbles, and provided time for reflection, new learnings and creativity.
Is there a potential for a reassessment of our lives and lifestyles by many people in society? And can this give rise to a way of living that is more connected and integrated, as communities of people and with the world around us?
How can we feel safe in our communities again, with warmth towards people, regardless of differences, not fear?
10) Be Present – accepting life as it plays out and being in the present moment
All action takes place in the present. Life is lived in the present. While seeking to understand our time and place and imagining different futures, choices and changes are made in the present.
Our vulnerability, personally and as a society, that this coronavirus and the lockdown response highlights, can focus our attention on what is important in life. It is a time when we can come to appreciate our relationships and our dependence on both other people and the natural world we are part of. Appreciating the simple things of life.
Can this reassessment be turned into actions that will bring about a different way of living and relating? Can vulnerability become a positive that engenders the creativity of living, rather than a negative of fear and withdrawal?
11) Celebrate Diversity – live within the complexities of life that increase both productivity and resilience
The more complex an ecosystem the greater its productivity and the more resilient it is to change and external shocks. Similarly, diversity in our society and social systems makes us more creative and robust, but also more prone to serious disagreements and conflicts. An external shock can trigger a cooperative coming together for support and assistance, and profound disagreements about the best way to respond.
As a society are we willing to listen to a diversity of views about this coronavirus and the lockdown responses? Or is there just the one truth as pronounced by the government, and diverse views just confuse people?
How can we encourage a wide range of perspectives and an honest evaluation of the evidence, especially given the very extreme restrictions imposed by governments and the fear that this has generated? With the main media meekly following the government line, what are the alternative means of communication, and how can we make use of them?
In what ways can we celebrate, in the present circumstances, the many different peoples and cultural expressions in our country, and their different responses?
12) Respond Creatively – accept what we cannot change, recognise what we can, and act effectively
Creativity involves effective actions that respond to what is present and its potentials. What we cannot change and what we can depends on where we are, and changes over time. Our resources and abilities can change as well.
What will be effective depends on the opportunities as they open up, and hence on our continued observations and interactions with people in our social and natural landscapes. Creative responses depend on accepting and acting on feedback, looking for the larger patterns, and recognising the yields we gain with the small steps we may be taking.