by Andrew Langford

Gaia U is rooted in permaculture design.

Permaculture arose (in the 1970s) from various impulses, one of which is explained by Bill Mollison in the classic 1994 permaculture video “In Grave Danger of Failing Food.” Search for this seminal video on Youtube.

In the video Bill explains that, following a period of being a 1960’s activist engaged in intense protest against the policies and actions of various governments, he walked away from society in disgust, ‘cut a hole in the bush’ and lived there intending to be a self-sufficient, an active non-participant in mainstream culture. For more, see this pithy and fascinating interview with Bill here.

However, it wasn’t long before he came to the conclusion that ‘they’ wouldn’t notice his withdrawal and that ‘they’ would also ‘walk all over’ anyone whose worldview did not match their own.

Therefore, he decided that he had a responsibility to come back out to fight, although, this time, his chosen weapons were to be focused on designing into being what he did want for human societies instead of protesting against what he did not want.

In taking this constructionist orientation Bill may have been influenced by an earlier design oriented world-changer, Buckminster Fuller (d.1983), who is often quoted as saying,“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build (we’d say ‘design and build’) a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

This shift from protest towards constructive engagement is a significant piece of thinking in a permaculture worldview that also includes the understanding that a) humans are an inseparable part of nature and that b) ‘everything is connected’.

Therefore, when we are engaged in permaculture design (if we’ve truly ‘got it’) we will be designing with these key ideas in mind. These ideas (and beliefs, principles and attitudes), plus others, is a ‘worldview’- a complex, layered lens through which we make meaning of the world and our actions in it.

Used with this worldview, design is a constructive tool for bringing a world-wide ecosocial future closer, by the minute.

However, used with a different worldview, for example a worldview that includes memes such as ‘poor people are lazy and responsible for their own troubles’ design could just as well be used to conjure up an effective strategy for cutting public funding for education (or turning off water supplies) in collapsed, post-industrial, inner city areas.

Thus our ‘worldview’ is critical to the direction and intention of design.