March 3, 2020
Health pundits across the world are panicking. The panic is becoming a regular pattern, every few years there is a pandemic of some kind or the other. Most of these have a source in various food chains – birds and bats (Avian Flu, SARS) primates (EBOLA). Listeria outbreak recently was another case originating from vegetables, especially lettuce and greens as well as processed meat.
While the world needs to be cautious, we also need to put things in to perspective. WHO reports that in 2018 alone 1.5 million people died from TB. “Worldwide, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent”
Is Corona Virus a symptom of dwindling microbial biota – a result of the past 50 years of accelerated industrial food production, processing and movement of food around the world? The fall out of pollutants from such aggressive food production is heavily impacting not just our soils, but all the water-ways, rivers and oceans there by contaminating sea food as well.
Complicating matters further is the current obsession with densification of urban landscapes – another typical monoculture leaking out hazardous habitat syndrome from air pollution to heavily polluting chemicals from personal use onwards plus all the Pharma-waste byproducts, all stripping the living eco-system sterile, the only solution for the microbial biota is to become increasingly aggressive.
These are questions that policy makers, politicians, citizens, academics, researchers, health specialists must ask… there has to be a serious discussion on our current unsustainable lifestyle. But the efforts are diverted to more research on developing vaccines, more research on solutions that can take many years. Prevention and seeking simple solutions seems to have conveniently disappeared from the global agenda.
This is where permaculture, not simply as a food system, but as a lifestyle promoting real diversity and resilience can become a key factor in ramping up our internal and external immune system simply through enhancing our microbial biota, increasing diversity, eating locally grown food – at least start moving away from food chains that are globally moving food around – avoiding supermarkets as much as possible is a good start.
We have forgotten that life is too complex. Life evolves and mutates in mysterious ways. Our scientists pretend to know everything from how to gene edit (Crisper technology) specially bio-engineered drought resistant cows and pigs for African farmers to studying how ammonia can be used for powering ships – despite the fact that no one really knows if these cute creatures bred in the laboratory can survive real draught scenarios in Africa, or that production of ammonia itself produces lot of carbon. Studying the wild and intricately complex world of micro-organisms or gene-editing can still attract billions of dollars, but something so simple as no-till farming, or simple permaculture farming to create a vibrant soil ecology and resilient food system is not on the radar of the global pundits and change makers.
Perhaps the new planetary cycle is finally going to awaken the people – at least those who are still able to wake up from the slumber of deep consumerism, fake news, fear psychosis and paranoia; perhaps the realisation is going to dawn that we do have a choice in how we live and die – in quarantine, and cut off. Or embrace vibrant local living, die any way joyfully, connecting and leaving a thriving eco-system and food garden for the young to enjoy and work on.
The Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) is located on a Permaculture demonstration site in The Channon NSW, and is headed by Geoff & Nadia Lawton. They specialize in education & training worldwide.
Permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. Permaculture studies and applies holistic solutions that are applicable in rural and urban contexts at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development.