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The complete list of instructors is finally up, the schedule is nearly finalized… and I’m just getting more excited about this course. As far as I know, this is the first course ever to focus specifically on the permaculture – research connection. (I’d be happy to be proven wrong, let me know if you’ve heard of another.) First, the updated flyer. After that, more about course content and instructors. For more information or to register, please email One thing I’m excited about is how this course has been influenced by my time with the Climate Change Impacts and Modeling research group here at University of Lisbon. This is the most transdisciplinary and action-research orientated environment I’ve ever been part of. Thanks to my collaborators and colleagues, the course will be as much about applying permaculture thinking to research projects, as it is about using research methods to investigate permaculture […]

Update to Permaculture Research Design Course

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Not too long ago, two of our most internationally renowned permaculture teachers/consultants had some vigorous disagreement on social media. Hordes of commenters weighed in on either or neither side. The explicit topic of the disagreement was the value of contour ditches  – known in permaculture as ‘swales’ – for managing water in the landscape. Are they (A) a universal solution for every landscape? Or are they (B) barely worth considering, and then only in a few limited contexts?  It’s worth reading, if you’re into that kind of thing. (If you’re on FB, you should be able to find the thread here.) In brief, Geoff Lawton occupies the position A: swales pretty much everywhere. Darren Doherty takes position B: swales rarely or never, because off-contour ripping (aka Keyline) and woody perennials make swales superfluous at best. For what it’s worth, I’m delighted to see this discussion emerge in public. Let 100 flowers bloom, […]

Permaculture’s Dogma Problem

In his recent article for Jacobin, Cedric Johnson tosses off an eloquent description/demolition of the historical roots and political insufficiency of white liberal self-flagellation: “Unfortunately, the arrival [with James Baldwin] of the black intellectual as gadfly and conscience of the nation in the television era bore a new set of problems. Too many well-meaning whites mistook their guilt and pleasure of self-flagellation for genuine unity with blacks and authentic antiracist political commitment — in other words, solidarity. That problem of replacing politics with public therapy endures to this day, and it flourishes in a context where social media linkages surrogate other historical forms of social interchange and collective action. Antiracist liberalism thrives in a context where the performance of self-loathing, outrage, and concern are easily traded public currency, instead of the more socially costly politics of public sacrifice and the redistribution of societal resources. Like Baldwin, I think Coates fulfills a similar […]

The white confessional gesture isn’t solidarity – and it isn’t ...

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That full title is: “Grassroots engagement with transition to sustainability: diversity and modes of participation in the international permaculture movement.” It’s been a long journey from collecting this data way back in 2012, through what ended up being a very involved statistical analysis, and on to writing, submission, revision, and final acceptance. I’m delighted to have it out there, particularly in a great open-access journal like Ecology and Society. You can find it at if you have an account (which may benefit my reputation score or something), or freely downloadable through the journal here.     Here are some of my favorite bits, from the Introduction and Conclusion (spoiler alert!): [snip] The evident successes of the permaculture network are balanced by problematic assumptions and implications that evoke the hazards of insularity, exclusivity, particularity, and scale mismatch to which grassroots networks are prone. The emphasis on individual responsibility, and the proposed abandonment […]

New paper out in Ecology and Society: “Grassroots engagement with ...

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So this guy has a canoe for sale. It’s a good thing too, because the river is flooding. The water is rising fast and you’re going to need to navigate it. You need a good boat. You go to check out the canoe, and it’s clear that it’s something special. They spent years refining their design – for speed, weight, stability, practicality, aesthetics. Searched far and wide for the strongest, lightest, wood, to painstakingly mill and shape and sand. Researched the finest adhesives and resins that modern technology has to offer, to bind it together and seal it. This is a boat that could last a lifetime, with proper care. It’s versatile, powerful, and durable. It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful. Just as you are getting ready to shake hands and seal the deal, the guy says: “And if that’s not enough, buddy, get this – the canoe can fly.” Debates […]

The Parable of the Canoe

I give talks and lead workshops. Interested in hosting one? I’ve updated the Education page with a bit about what I do (and where I’ve done it).    

Talks and Workshops

I’ve been stingy (read: lazy) with making my conference presentations available to the public. I’ve been working on that, and you can now access most of them through links on the Publications/CV page right here (or via the drop-down menu under Publications up top). I’m archiving conference papers, posters, presentation slides, et al., on – so you may need to open a free account to download. RG does a good job tracking readers, downloads, sharing, etc., so thanks for putting up with registering if you weren’t otherwise inclined to do so.

Backlog of articles and presentations becoming available…

In the heart-poundingly dramatic realm of website improvements, I… …finally started consolidating links to interviews and talks I’ve done to a Media page. …updated my Contact page to encourage the kinds of emails I’m really excited about, while steering common questions toward a Resources page. …even fulfilled a minor life-goal of creating a page with helpful suggestions for those who are about to engage in Asking Busy Strangers for Help on the Internet. As my old adviser John Todd liked likes to say, “Onward and upward!”  

Media, Resources, and Contacts

Robert Wallace is an evolutionary biologist and social epidemiologist, and co-author of the mindblowing Farming Human Pathogens (2009). I had the pleasure of meeting him at a recent symposium in honor of the great ecologist, systems thinker, and activist, Richard Levins (on the occasion of his 85th birthday). In a recent blog post, Wallace addresses the recent – and ongoing – outbreak of avian influenza in the US. In this short essay he dissects the public discussion and institutional response to the outbreak, and lays bare the economic and ecological issues surrounding them. Wallace make a very compelling case that industry and government are responding in ways that serves industry first – and the public not at all. Originally posted June 10, 2015 on Farming Pathogens: Made in Minnesota Industrial turkey and chicken in Minnesota, and other states Midwest and South, have been hit by a highly pathogenic strain of […]

Avian Influences: The Politics of the Mid-West Bird Flu Outbreak

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This was originally a FB post. It resonated with some people and generated some good discussion, so I’m bringing it over here to the blog. It’s not as developed as what I usually post – but this way it won’t get lost in the misty depths of my FB wall. (Also, maybe if I let myself post shorter/rawer stuff, I’ll post more?!)   I worry about statements like these. It’s tempting to console ourselves with all kinds of individualism (and small-groupism) when we live in a culture where the fabric of reciprocity and solidarity has been most comprehensively unwoven. But we’re getting duped if we believe we face the question of individuals (or small groups) versus movements for making change – let’s ask instead how we as individuals come alive in groups and communities that are embedded, with scores of others, in movements as vast as the problems we face. […]

The Problem with Small Groups

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For the last several years, Eric Toensmeier and I have been working (ever so slowly) on a scientific review of global perennial staple crops. Last year we received an invitation to present our work at the annual American Society of Agronomy conference, in a session that was otherwise composed of perennial grains researchers. This was an exciting opportunity (as well as a deadline to light a fire under our slow progress). Eric and I decided that he would attend and present. He had never had a chance to present at a scientific conference – and more importantly, he has done the vast bulk of the work feeding into this project. He’s been painstakingly combing through scientific and technical literature over the past five years, and assembling a formidable database of 100s of perennial crops. My role in the project has been to help frame that tremendous work in terms of contemporary scientific frameworks, act […]

Perennial Agriculture Now! Our presentation at American Society for Agronomy.