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Networking Pre- and Post-Internet - Plus a Review: Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

I signed up to Linked-In a couple weeks ago, since I was getting so many invitations to join from people I love and respect.  It is quickly mushrooming and I have about 200 connections now. My Facebook pages have many more than that, but I have not capitalized on the networking that it offers either.   Anyone have advice for me on how to use Linked-In?


I used to be way better at networking. I built up a network of over 15,000 people and organizations even before the internet existed. Maintained largely through correspondence in the mail.  My postage bill reached $4,000 one year in the 1980s!  I maintained a large international correspondence in the 1990s when I ran my Travelers’ Earth Repair Network.  This was epitomized perhaps in the publication of my Third World Resource Guide in 1993 which listed 425 organizations, 95 periodicals and over 275 other useful references.  It was designed to aid people working for earth restoration and social justice in Asia, Africa and Latin America (today I would title it the Two-Thirds World Resource Guide). We printed 3,000 copies and sent them all around the world. I still have some copies left and will send them for $5 each postpaid.


I never moved fully into the internet age. Although I do use it, I am not very proficient at it. My email list to which I send periodic email newsletters is now built up to 4,500 contacts. Currently most of my networking is on both sides of the Pacific Northwest (Maritime and Interior) and with my recent move to Montana I am expanding in Montana the most. 
Perhaps someday, a computer-, internet- and database-savvy person will join forces with me to make my network grow and be more effective. 
At the moment, most of my networking is based in permaculture circles, herbalism and nature-spirit communication (aka fairies). Sustainable agriculture, restoration forestry, wildcrafting and ethnobotany are still minor components,
I wrote in my Linked-In description that I am a One-man Band.  This is true to a certain extent because I am the only person focused full time on Friends of the Trees activities, but I do work in cooperation with hundreds of people in any given year for certain projects.  Such as putting on permaculture convergences, permaculture design courses, fairy congresses and other local and regional events.  Social cooperation and networking have been a big part of my life since I started organizing/networking in 1972.
Farming and growing plants also remains a big part of my life.  This is my first year of growing in Montana and I haven’t found any piece of ground big enough for my ambitions so I have gardens in 5 locations this year.  Maybe ¼ acre in total.  Most likely I will double that next year, especially if some help comes along. Mostly I am putting in medicinal food forests  which eclectic mixes of annuals (vegetables) perennial herbs, berries, shrubs and trees.  Given the unsettled world situation I am uneasy if I do not have big food gardens in every year and given the changing climates I am particularly big on hardy perennials that can produce well given the vagaries of weather.
Gary Paul Nabhan really makes this point in his new book “Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty”. Chelsea Green Press, 2013.  I had pre-ordered the book, because I highly respect Nabhan’s writings and it just came in a couple days ago.  I highly recommend this book, especially to people who live in arid or semi-arid climates anywhere in the world. Nabhan’s key premise is that climate changes are going to negatively affect food production around the world. A point I have been making for several decades myself, but Nabhan will reach a great many more people than I can.  Some people have been promoting the idea that elevated CO2 levels in the atmosphere will lead to higher crop yields.  While plants do like higher CO2  in the air, the changes in weather extremes (droughts, floods, changing of weather patterns, etc)  will reduce crop production in many ways and in greater measure.  The big 2012 drought affecting the US and Mexico is a recent example. 70% of all counties in the US were declared disaster areas in 2012! Unprecedented in history and perhaps becoming the new normal.
Nabhan spends part of the book making this point clear, but more importantly he gives us techniques and strategies to adapt to these changing climates with a focus on food production in droughts and lowered rainfall.  This information is very valuable for humanity at this point.
Nabhan mentions permaculture in his book as a valuable source of information and is clearly familiar with permaculture. It is noteworthy to me that all (or almost all) of the growing techniques that he mentions are taught in permaculture design courses, such as water harvesting, rain gardens, quanats, ola irrigation, perennial guilds, nurse plants, biochar, etc.
Nabhan’s book made me run to my bookshelf to review my “Reference Guide to Sustainable Land Use in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands” which I wrote in 1988 and published in my 1988 International Green Front Report. It is a reference guide to techniques, books, organizations and periodicals on the subject and is still very germane today.  I will endeavor to get a pdf of my guide onto my websites.  I have about 100 copies left of my 8,000 printing and am willing to send copies to people for $15 postpaid. It is 196 pages and includes some outdated and some still useful sections such as a plant species list for the Interior Pacific Northwest and much else.
Growing food in a changing climate is one of the most important topics in the world today and permaculture publications are one of the best sources of this information available. I will review more pc publications in future blogs. 
Horticordially yours,
Michael Pilarski

Permaculture and Fairies: A Perspective

By Michael Pilarski
How can permaculture benefit from nature communication? Anyone who has worked closely with indigenous peoples cannot help but notice their respect for nature, other lifeforms and the natural elements of water, earth, air, and fire.  All are given respect.  All are talked to. Shamans are the ambassadors to these realms and other spirit realms. The animals, plants, etc have spirits which we can communicate with.  We communicate with these spirits (intelligences) to seek their aid and/or to placate them. 
I have been studying and teaching permaculture since 1981. I have been studying and teaching about nature intelligences since the mid-1970s. Both of these studies have been ongoing concurrently for three decades now and I see no dichotomy. They fit perfectly well together. I do not know anyone into nature intelligences who denies the usefulness of permaculture, but I have met permaculturists who deny the existence or usefulness of working with nature intelligences.
Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.  It is only religious fundamentalists or fascist states that outlaw spiritual beliefs. Science scoffs at nature intelligences, but at least it does not make it a crime to believe in such.
I am somewhat saddened by the virulent anti-spiritual attitude by some permaculture people, including some of the Geoff Lawton crowd. I am more circumspect in mentioning fairies, etc in my permaculture design courses these days.  Some of them would excommunicate us if they could. That said, I make sure to include singing, fun, love and respect for nature into my courses.
Here are some ways to work with nature intelligences in designing or implementing permaculture. 
* Ask nature intelligences for input into plant selections, placement, companion planting, fertilizing, crop rotations, etc.
* Ask for input into placement of buildings, ponds, infrastructure, etc.
* Ask for help in bountiful harvests, good plant growth,
* Ask for help in controlling pests and diseases.
* Use dowsing or awareness of subtle energies to find ley lines, power points and places to put (or not put) elements in the landscape. Australian permaculturist Alanna Moore talks about this in her chapter in the new book Permaculture Pioneers. 
* People can use ceremony, prayer and intent to heal the energies of places which have been abused or atrocities were committed on.
* People can seek information from nature intelligences in how to restore degraded or contaminated land.  For instance, a restoration team working on cleaning up soil contamination on Vashon Island from the ASARCO copper smelter in Tacoma worked with a nature intelligence communicator to get practical ideas on soil remediation. 
* Weather shamanism is about communicating with the forces behind weather.
The indigenous worldview incorporates many of these things.  In our contemporary western society there are more and more sources of information on these things including the Findhorn material, Maechelle Small Wright’s Perelandra material, Peter Tompkin’s books and much, much more. 
Even though I use these pathways in my work with the land, I definitely also use science and permaculture as well. We still need to use our brains and intellect. We still need to use our finely tuned senses of observation.  Mind and spirit working together are better than either one alone.  Sometimes we refer to it as heart and mind working together. 
Nature intelligences come in all sizes. There are small, local nature intelligences which are sometimes referred to as fairies.  There are large and powerful nature intelligences which work with larger areas and processes in the landscape (and waters, atmosphere and fire). Sometimes referred to as devas. Some of us believe that all physical manifestations have spirit intelligences behind/within them.  We can talk to bear, salmon, raven, coyote, cedar, etc. The planet Earth/Gaia has its planetary logos. There is a lunar logos, a solar logos, etc.  From tiny individual flowers to whole ecosystems to planets, stars and galaxies each has their spirit counterparts.  Intelligent, cognizant, powerful and deserving of our respect. As my friend Eileen Kilgren tells us, “Praise the little ones and placate the big ones.”
This tiny little article just touches upon the vastness of the spirit realms.  Humans are, or can be, powerful beings in their own right.  Our ability to love, communicate and collaborate with these realms has been the study of shamanistic cultures and mystery schools back into antiquity. The recent age of Christianity and materialistic science has largely drummed these abilities out of most people.  But some people never lost these abilities and countless people today are taking up these studies and practices anew. 
There are a number of us within the permaculture movement. A few of us are willing to talk about this publicly.  I am one of them. Alanna Moore is another one and I recommend her books and writings as a bridge between permaculture and this spirit world of nature.  Her main book on this topic is “Sensitive Permaculture”.
I firmly believe that permaculture along with nature communication can restore the world’s ecosystems and create an abundant future for all life forms on earth. 
If you would like to read more along these lines check out my website www.fairycongress.com  It is the website for the Fairy & Human Relations Congress. In 2012 we will hold our 12th annual Congress (in North-central Washington).  It is the foremost event in the world focused on exploring communication and collaboration between nature intelligences and humans. 
With respect for all life,

The Five Stages of Collapse - Survivors’ Toolkit By Dmitry Orlov, 2013. New Society Publishers.

Dmitry Orlov’s new book The Five Stages of Collapse just arrived in my mailbox and I promptly read it. I have been reading Orlov for years now and consider him as having one of the most penetrating insights into the current crises the world is in and what is likely to happen as the crises develop further.  Permaculturists in general have a very good idea of the problems the world faces and in my opinion have the most practical ideas on how we can adapt ourselves out of the current mess, both individually and collectively. Permaculture is about solutions.  Alas, very few people are listening to permaculture’s solutions yet and so we are almost certainly going to go through at least some of the stages of collapse that Orlov describes. Increasing parts of the world are already in various stages of collapse. Take a look at the List of countries by Failed States Index.
Even within supposedly stable countries there are pockets of collapse already, especially in big city slums and among the increasingly large numbers of disenfranchised people.
Orlov’s book’s subtitle “Survivors’ Toolkit” is one of the reasons I recommend you read his book.  Orlov gives some good advice on how to survive whatever scale of collapse happens to your neighborhood. What it boils down to is building a network of relationships with trusted people in your neighborhood and area. Who can you trust?  Who will keep their word? Building mutual support networks is imperative.  Selling your labor in the job market to buy everything you need from the impersonal, globalized market will be less and less tenable for more and more people.  Growing food, making and repairing the things you need, setting up local barter systems, etc is what we need. Withdrawing our support and dependence on global supply lines is what we need to be doing and helping other people to do.  “Forewarned is forearmed” is an old saying that helps encapsulate why you would read this book. 
The five stages that Orlov describes are. 1. Financial collapse, 2. Commercial collapse. 3. Political collapse, 4. Social collapse; and 5. Cultural collapse. 
An optimistic person will recognize that the first three stages of collapse can open up avenues for society to create new and better structures and avoid the latter stages of collapse.  It won’t be easy. To quote Orlov: “The best-case scenario is that the old rules are consigned to oblivion quickly and decisively. The public at large will not be the major impediment to making the necessary changes. Rather, it will be the vested interests at every level – the political class, the financial elite, professional associations, property and business owners and last, but not least, the lawyers – who will try to block them at every turn.  They will not release their grip on society voluntarily, so it is best to make plans to forestall and thwart their efforts. When taking part in community organizing activities, if your envisioned community is to survive the transition to a post-collapse existence, it is important to keep in mind one vital distinction: is this community going to operate under the old rules or the new rules? The old rules will not work, but the new ones might, depending on what they are. You might want to give the new rules some thought ahead of time, perhaps even test them out under the guise of emergency preparation training.”
This brings to mind the work the permaculture-informed organization, Local 2020, is doing in Port Townsend, Washington. https://l2020.org/Home
To order Orlov’s book or read his latest writings visit: https://cluborlov.blogspot.com/