The current crisis clearly demonstrates that our model of society has reached its limits and cannot continue to exert its absolute power over the entire world without serious—and in some cases irreversible—damage. The time has come to recognize that our affluent societies have more than enough to meet their essential material needs—provided it is done fairly. The time has also come to question whether we are all, globally, going to live with less, rather than more money. We have the necessary means to do so, provided we accept this as an irrevocable principle of our lives. Rather than causing us to lose heart, this crisis can instead awaken within us unprecedented creative forces so that together, we can construct a satisfying world for heart, mind, and spirit. During his pre-presidential run for the 2002 French elections, Pierre Rabhi adopted Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen’s principle of “sustainable degrowth” as the central tenet of his campaign and called for “an uprising of consciousness.” Although he has now abandoned the wording of this influential economist, which is often misunderstood despite its relevance, he has retained its rigor and now supports the “power of restraint.”
In the face of a joyless society of overabundance, yet one still afflicted with the material poverty in which so-called developed countries are now mired, “power of restraint” represents a realistic alternative. As a liberating moral and physical force, it is a political act of legitimate resistance to this juggernaut that is destroying the planet and isolating the individual. The time has come to break free of these bulimic habits and the constant quest for more and more, a race destined to end in an immense field of ruins. Pierre Rabhi adopted this way of life many years ago; he can share practical steps toward restraint, a measure of well being and equilibrium. He offers us a form of simplicity and gratitude which, as it spreads to our innermost self, gives meaning to our existence, along with a unique sense of lightness: the rewards of restraint.
One day in 2005, Rob Hopkins, an ordinary British citizen, started knocking on his neighbors’ doors in the small town of Totnes, where he had just settled in. He was proposing that they come together to organize nothing less than a new, locally based economy. A new model, the Transition Town, harnessed resources at hand and modeled a new way of life: no longer expect food to arrive from the other side of the planet at great fuel costs, but instead create short food supply chains and cultivate all the available land (gardens, rooftops, municipal parks); no longer complain about pollution, but rally fellow citizens around a project of local renewable energy cooperatives; no longer rail against the banks and the stock markets, but adopt a local currency that enriches the community. His experience has been successful not only in Totnes; it has spread to 1,200 cities in 47 countries. Each of the Transition Towns are transforming their communities, without fanfare, without outside funding, making them more autonomous and more resilient to the crises looming ahead—a network of oases offering a wealth of solutions.
Hopkins’ charisma and his story spur us all to become the best we can be. He has revived a sense of hope, buried under years of resignation and the disillusionment of “economic realism.” The saga of the Transition Towns movement inspires us all to take action and tap into the unimagined capacities we all have to promote change.
When Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates moved into a duplex in a run-down part of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the tenth-of-an-acre lot was barren ground and bad soil, peppered with broken pieces of concrete, asphalt, and brick. The two friends got to work designing what would become not just another urban farm, but a "permaculture paradise" replete with perennial broccoli, paw paws, bananas, and moringa—all told, more than two hundred low-maintenance edible plants in an innovative food forest on a small city lot. The garden—intended to function like a natural ecosystem with the plants themselves providing most of the garden's needs for fertility, pest control, and weed suppression—also features an edible water garden, a year-round unheated greenhouse, tropical crops, urban poultry, and even silkworms.
In telling the story of Paradise Lot, Toensmeier explains the principles and practices of permaculture, the choice of exotic and unusual food plants, the techniques of design and cultivation, and, of course, the adventures, mistakes, and do-overs in the process. Packed full of detailed, useful information about designing a highly productive permaculture garden, Paradise Lot is also a funny and charming story of two single guys, both plant nerds, with a wild plan: to realize the garden of their dreams and meet women to share it with. Amazingly, on both counts, they succeed.
Outdoor Classrooms: A Handbook for School Gardens is ideal for teachers and home educators who want to incorporate education at all levels of the school curriculum with an emphasis on:
setting up edible gardens
teaching children about growing food
food security and economics
human and planetary health
permaculture and sustainability.
Beautifully illustrated throughout, Outdoor Classrooms is presented as two streams of thought:
Carolyn takes us through the history of school gardens and articulates the need for a revival before leading us on an enticing journey of the imagination into the schoolyard and delight in the natural world.
Janet then offers a comprehensive and practical plan for developing “a successful, supported school garden that has the potential to benefit an entire community.”
With practical examples of alternative building, renewable energy, holistic forestry, no-till gardening, hospitality management, community outreach, and more
The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm describes not only the history of the D Acres project, but its evolving principles and practices that are rooted in the land, its inhabitants, and the joy inherent in collective empowerment.
For almost twenty years, D Acres of New Hampshire has challenged and expanded the common definition of a farm. As an educational center that researches, applies, and teaches skills of sustainable living and small-scale organic farming, D Acres serves more than just a single function to its community. By turns it is a hostel for travelers to northern New England, a training center for everything from metal- and woodworking to cob building and seasonal cooking, a gathering place for music, poetry, joke-telling, and potluck meals, and much more.
While this book provides a wide spectrum of practical information on the physical systems designed into a community-scale homestead, Trought also reviews the economics and organizational particulars that D Acres has experimented with over the years.
The D Acres model envisions a way to devise a sustainable future by building a localized economy that provides more than seasonal produce, a handful of eggs, and green appliances. With the goal of perennial viability for humanity within their ecosystem, D Acres is attempting an approach to sustainability that encompasses practical, spiritual, and ethical components. In short: They are trying to create a rural community ecology that evolves in perpetuity.
From working with oxen to working with a board of directors, no other book contains such a wealth of innovative ideas and ways to make your farm or homestead not only more sustainable, but more inclusive of, and beneficial to, the larger community. Readers will find information on such subjects as:
Working with pigs to transform forested landscapes into arable land;
Designing and building unique, multifunctional farm and community spaces using various techniques and materials;
Creating and perpetuating diverse revenue streams to keep your farm organization solvent and resilient;
Receiving maximum benefits and yields for the farm without denigrating resources or the regional ecology;
Implementing a fair and effective governance structure;
Constructing everything from solar dehydrators and cookers to treehouses and ponds; and,
Connecting and partnering with the larger community beyond the farm.
Emphasizing collaboration, cooperation, and mutualism, this book promises to inspire a new generation of growers, builders, educators, artists, and dreamers who are seeking new and practical ways to address today’s problems on a community scale.
Pascal Baudar is the author of The Wildcrafting Brewer and The New WildcraftedCuisine. He works as a wild-food researcher, wild brewer, and instructor in traditional food preservation techniques. Over the years, through his weekly classes and seminars, he has introduced thousands of home cooks, local chefs, and foodies to the flavors offered by their wild landscapes.
In 2014, Baudar was named one of the 25 most influential local tastemakers by Los Angeles Magazine, and in 2017 his instructional programs, taught through Urban Outdoor Skills, were named one of the seven most creative cooking classes in the L.A. region.