Awareness is the first step of realisation. When our bodies are showing clear signs of imbalance then we may become aware something must be done about it. Nutritionally, many symptoms are created by mineral imbalances in the earth's topsoil. Depleted soil will no longer provide the nutrients for plants that we need to assimilate in our diets in order to maintain a healthy body and mind. If we are aware enough we may realise that for many nutritional deficiencies, depletion of the earth is the root cause of the problem and something must be done about it.
I have just completed a Permaculture Design course in Thailand and I'll be travelling around some more to gain experience in the principles and techniques of permaculture and self-sustainability. I went to Thailand with an open mind and had no expectations of what I was going to receive from the course.
The teacher Christian Shearer shared with us teachings that went beyond the physical realm and a little into the emotional and spiritual aspects of the holistic, integrated system of Permaculture Design. Through effective communication methods, clearly stated goals, the desire to meet basic human needs and effectively and consciously directed action we can form communties where all members can use their creative gifts to support it.
Permaculture seeks to create agriculturally productive systems with the diversity and sustainability of natural systems in order to provide food, water, shelter and all other needs in a a sustainable or even regenerative way.
Parallels between human and earth health
Science can be a little daunting, but science is everything we observe in the world around us and beneath us. The soil is the main part of what I am writing about here and it is literally teaming with billions of bacteria. Guess what - so are we! Our bodies have more bacterial cells inside them than human cells and if we can understand parallels between the earth and our bodies, we can more deeply understand the problem and what needs to be done about it.
The simple yet crucial observation that I made was the distinctive similarity between the way the Earth is treated through modern agriculture, and how humans are treated - by themselves or otherwise. In Permaculture there is a model based on inputs and outputs, which shows us what elements we need to survive and thrive off an area of land and which of these the land can give us. The earth really can give us everything we need, so this simple model is not complete without considering and actioning what can we give the earth in return.
Let's take a look at the monoculture production of iceberg lettuce, keeping in mind this process is common among all modern agricultural farming techniques who produce a monoculture. In many parts of the world, the seeds for this crop are sourced from Monsantos.
Monsantos is a sizeable corporation that monopolises the production of the most widely used crops in the world and sells their seeds to farmers in the most remote regions of the world. Once planted these genetically modified seeds produce plants that mostly produce no seeds and pollinate crops all around the vicinity to take on the same characteristics, hence no more seeds except from Monsantos.
This is disastrous for marginalised communities struggling to survive. Monsantos provides GMO seeds to disaster stricken communities sometimes for free. Once these seeds are up and growing they require fertiliser - and it's compulsory to use Monsantos fertiliser or legal action can and is taken against farmers. This fertiliser is a cadmium (heavy metal) based salt, which rather than making the soil and plant stronger as in organic farm methods (by balancing out the semi-permeable membranes of the plant), this chemical fertiliser bloats the plant so it's basically water.
The plants appear to grow bigger and faster but it's not in any way healthier. This is when hungry insects come in to devour the compromised plants. These insects are then killed with insecticide which is cleverly stocked on the Monsantos shelf. The soil progressively becomes more acidic and the soil structure is weakened. The bacterial balance in the soil is disturbed as pathogenic lifeforms multiply and plants are unable to utilise the normal decaying organic matter to be healthy. Fungal disease then sets in and Monsantos again stocks the fungicides used as a bandaid solution to the mounting problem.
A minor saving grace to provide beneficial nutrients to the soil is this: once the crop is gone and in the travelling process to Woolworths or Coles, a piddly spread of three elements is dusted over the soil in the form of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). This keeps the soil weak enough to remain sick and strong enough for sellable plants to grow. Under this model, when the bare minimum of three elements are used as sole fertiliser, the Monsantos chemical cocktail is necessitated to keep plants alive.
It seems to me like the Earth's soil is on a life support system. By continuing to operate in this reductionist system we are inevitably the ones paying the price in our health and that of the earth.
This is the same process used by the meat industry and poultry. How long does it take for a chicken to get to your table? Around 6 weeks. Six miserable weeks of being fed antibiotics, growth hormones, and being stuffed into a lot with thousands of other birds. The birds are unable to partake in natural chicken behaviours - moving around the garden eating insects and fruit, and scratching about helping feed back manure into the system of life. The chicken can't move and has broken bones as it grows too quickly and puts on mass too quickly for the bones to catch up. It's a quick solution to get the money in the poultry meat industry's pocket as quickly as possible. Let's not mention the marketing that goes with it.
Food is one of the most basic ways for a human being to nourish his or her mind, body and spirit. How can we possibly have a fighting chance if we are being fed a chemical cocktail of hazardous sprays, heads of lettuce mostly made up water and a mix of three basic elements out of the dozens that our bodies need?
When we mix the problem of depleted soils and nutrtiionally devoid produce with highly processed convenience foods, we create a state of health and a corresponding societal structure that leaves many people feeling stressed, depressed, and empty on so many levels. Intentionally or not, this feeds another infamous industry: pharmaceuticals.
We are being kept alive enough to keep the major food industries profitable, and sick enough to assist the pharmaceutical industry. Those in control are not dealing with the problems, but rather applying bandaid solutions that are cheaper. If this is sounding eerily similar to the health solutions applied to humans, you are justified in your alarm. All health issues, whether human health or land fecundity, need to be dealt with at the root cause of the problem, rather than symptomatically. This is what holistic human health systems and permaculture have in common.
It doesn't take a genius to work out that the underlying cause of suffering in the world can begin to be solved by healing the earth's soil. Leading permculturalist Geoff Lawton said, " You can solve all the worlds problems in the soil". By improving the quality of the soil - the source of where our food comes from - and by creating massive diversity in our gardens, plants will be healthier, stronger and more resistant to disease. We would have no need for insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.
By supporting local growers in your community, you will know where your food is coming from and you'll be eating food that's in season. We are a product of our environment, and by obeying the laws of nature, living in harmony with our natural biocosmic and bioregional cycles, our own health and immunity is bolstered.
We each have a role to play. Humans are just as important as the bacteria and fungus in the soil, just our being here creates an environment for other species to survive and interact with each other. We have the power to form communities and grow our own food on a local scale, thus creating more unity, more beauty in bio-diversity, and greater health on every level.
Are you in?
When I return, i'll be bringing with me a plan to establish community gardens, building on the progress we are already starting to see in our local community and on the Gold Coast in general. This plan will require community support from anyone interested in taking control of their lives. There is no need to be bound to an unsustainable system when we can instead utiluse tried and true systems that have nurtured and sustained indigenous cultures all over the world for tens of thousands of years. I'll show you what to grow, how to grow it, when, where and why. Time is going by fast we need to look after ourselves and each other, NOW, to end the suffering.