It was at the permaculture day and Permaculture Australia annual meeting in Nimbin, Northern NSW last May that permaculture educator and Permaculture Australia board member, Robyn Francis, raised the idea of republishing Bill Mollison’s writing in the pages of Permaculture International Journal. I had thought of doing this before but had done nothing about it. Robyn’s mention of the idea was the motivation I needed to get going.
Unlike print magazines, online publishing keeps the long tail of past articles alive and makes them more accessible than they were in print. So it was that on returning from that Nimbin meeting I set about scanning the pages of the PIJs I have, a far from complete set I should point out, with an app on my iPad. This converted the image of text-on-page into editable text-on-screen. Far from perfect in its conversion, there remained much editing to do.
It was the same with the photographs in PIJ. These were half-tones, a format that used ink dot size and density to delineate lighter and darker areas in black and white images on the printed page. Photographed, the pictures on the screen appear grainy. It was better to have imperfect images rather than none at all.
A contribution to global permaculture practice
Bill did not write for every edition of PIJ. He kept a busy schedule, travelling within Australia as well as internationally to consult on permaculture design solutions, teach permaculture and developing, first, the Tagari community project in Tasmania, then the Permaculture Institute in the subtropical Tweed Valley of Northern NSW. Later, he relocated to Tasmania’s Bass strait coast near Sisters Creek, not far from where he began his varied and inspirational life.
We decided to call the republished articles The Lost Stories to signify their disappearance from the everyday world of permaculture design and, now, their resurrection.
Permaculture Australia believes the republishing of the collected articles of Bill Mollison to be a contribution to what has grown to be a global permaculture movement.
We also offer them on this, a year after Bill’s passing, as a way of remembering Bill and the continuing contribution he has made to creating the potential for a world of abundance and opportunity.
Thanks again Bill. Russ Grayson, Sydney. September 2017. SaveSave SaveSave
THE WHOLE THRUST of this report is to value the natural yeilds of fragile systems like the eastern Kalahari, to listen and report on the extensive local knowledge, to care for ordinary people, especially for their nutrition and basic needs for clean air, water and food, and to try to reduce the impact that broadscale agriculture has had in creating deserts.
More food of better quality and value can be obtained from compound gardening and smallholder training than can ever be obtained by large herds or large field crops. All but some 84 percent of the land area of Botswana can be freed from the devastating weight of cattle and crop if rainwater is conserved, producive compound forests grown and high value perennial forages fed to good local strains of livestock.
Or, Botswana can follow Ethiopia and Mauritania into oblivion and take with it the great resources of the Kalahari _ a world loss. This is for the people of Botswana to decide, and their decision needs all the education and information that they and others can bring to it.
It is my strong belief that the innovative development of natural yields and use of local knowledge will ensure survival. To continue with unthinking ‘development’ will obliterate lands and people alike.
Tswana people are vigorous, intelligent, good observers, of a very hospitable and cheerful nature and perceptive in learning new skills. However, past superstitions and a great deal of popular misinformation means that quite hamless animals (lizards, frogs, snakes) are regarded as dangerous, evil or bad, and killed. This ‘zoophobia’ is striking to visitors. It could probably be cured by TV nature programmes and sensible school instruction. Most striped snakes are harmless or beneﬁcial.
One of the unforseen results of this fear of animals is that almost all compounds are beaten flat and swept clean to prevent snakes from approaching unseen. Thus, the towns present the aspect of a hard red desert despite the example of a few (often European) productive gardens and orchards. There are dangerous snakes (mamba, cobras, sand vipers) but also a host of beneficial or harmless snakes that eat termites, slugs, snails and rodents. Many snakes seek refuge from heat or drought in termite mounds or in the rock caves and stony slopes of ridges and cliffs, so care must be taken in these areas.
Thus compound gardens are a rarity although water is available at all settled areas from dams, bores or wells and normal greywater can be used in gardens. One of our strategies was to create domestic shower gardens, pit gardens and vegetable gardens using wastewater and mulch, with conservative water use. Trickle irrgation equipment is scarce and expensive, so we used mulch-filled soak pits for these gardens or placed vines near taps or washwater areas. All the rondavels (thatched huts) and modern homes would beneﬁt from trellis shading to the north and west.
All Tswana people of traditional mode (most people not in the City of Gaborone) have three-family settlements or compounds, each one of which consists of a series of three to eight thatched huts and a kitchen hut in a thorn-fenced or hedged compound (liveset Euphorbia tirucallis the ultimate hedge, but goggles must be worn when taking cuttings as the milky sap can blind people if not washed quickly from the eyes). One compound is in town, where much of the dry season is spent. This means that from March/April to October/ November the main group of people are in settlements.
In a broad zone of up to 30km from town are ‘the lands’. These lands are cultivated for market and sorghum, once tilled carefully by teams of donkeys and oxen but more recently the tractor (costs are subsidised by the government) is used; this can be a three-way disaster. First, because the thorn bushes, once preserved in the fields, are cleared (the fields are ‘de-stumped’, again by government subsidy or drought relief money) and the hot winds can sweep across the bare sandy fields. Secondly, the ﬁelds of tractor-owners and their families are enlarged, creating up t 100he of bare soil. Traditional fields are 4-12ha with trees as hedge and intercrop. Lastly and perhaps most disastrously, the tractor operators speed up all phases of cultivation, breaking down the soil structure to ‘snuff’ that blows away even in light winds, thus ruining topsoil’ Soils seal and cake or wash away.
People go to the land just before or after the first rains. The men plough the lands then go on to the more remote cattle posts where large livestock is ranged. The women and children plant and tend the grain crops, weed them, scare off birds (mainly weaver birds) from the ripe grain in summer. The men return to the lands to help with harvest and to cart in the grain to town in February-March, and from then to November only a skeleton crew of (often) San people or Basarwa tend the remote cattle posts. Their ‘wages’ are some milk, perhaps a calf, some clothes and the security of a well or borehole.
At the cattle post (some 30-80 km from town), wells and bore- holes or ponds dug in river sands provide water for livestock. Although the Tswana think of themselves as cattle people, and cattle have great status, there are very few large cattle owners (of more than 30 head) and these are for the main part absentee officials, chiefs on parliamentary people on relatively large salaries.
Most Tswana (60-70 percent) have no cattle and perhaps 25-30 percent have from three to 30 head. Thus, most of the large livestock of Botswana, perhaps as 80 percent of the national herd, are owned by nine percent or so of people already rich from salary or position. The total herd in 1980 was about three million head. Even though all land is tribal, cattle ownership is therefore unbalanced, and tribal lands stressed or eroded.
Small livestock (mainly goats, but some sheep) are more equitably distributed and form the largest part of the domestic meat consumed. These smaller livestock and a few milk cows and donkeys are kept in and near towns (Gaborone excepted) and of course in remote settlements and family compounds. A very unusual underutilisation of the national herd is evident from census data and abattoir records. Although Botswana just might be able to support 700,000 cattle ‘wet and dry’, the cattle numbers will climb to three million in good seasons without any increase in cattle killed or exported.
Only 200-300,000 cattle are killed annually for export to the EEC as hamburger or boned meat. Thus, wealth is wasted and the country devastated by unused herds — the problem is that large herds are part of high status — and a great dying takes place (as is now happening) every 18-20 years as wells dry up, vegetation is devastated and soils blow away. The main sufferers are the Tswana people, not the bureaucrats who own the herds and who can afford deep bores or expensive wells. Every drought therefore reduces the number of ordinary people who can keep cattle. Every drought kills draught oxen and donkeys and makes it difficult for smallholders to plough their fields. Every drought erodes more soil and destroys more vegetation, thus making recovery more difficult. Drought has a 18.6-20 year cycle as is common everywhere and 15 of the last 19 droughts were El Nino years, with a large blocking high-pressure cell in the South Pacific.
Desertification following drought
In my very sober estimate, Botswana is on the rapid road to permanent desertification via tractors, boreholes and the sustained overstocking of cattle. Another desertification effect comes from large fields without windbreaks.
Another such drought, or this one, will create a true permanent desert of what was (in peoples’ memories) a well-forested land of permanent streams, a great deal of wildlife and abundant food in all seasons. Botswana, as a viable nation, has modernised to near extinction since 1950.
As for the small—stock (established at 8,000,000 head), the goats and sheep, donkeys and chickens so important to the domestic economy have also been increasing the pressure on the every-failing plant resources. Consequently, yields are low, milk production per animal minute and local foodstuffs rare. This is a golden opportunity for South Africa, and the Boers export most market food in Botswana. This despite a not-so-long-ago self-sufficiency and a previously sound range land. The whole real economic position of the Tswana people is therefore precarious, tied as it is to the unstable South African economy which in itself is in a state of change and whose future looks bleak.
Thus our emphasis on the elements of self-reliance — home gardens and compound orchards, high-value intensive fodders for small stock, careful domestic and field rainwater harvest and a decrease in reliance on broadscale grains and beef.
Given careful local economic analysis, a great many jobs can be generated by decreasing reliance on South Africa and by compound gardening trials of high value food and fodder, while the future sale of managed wildlife rather than the dependence on beef (of which there is a world glut) would assure specialist products indefinitely.
It has been clear for several decades that the processes that lead to desertification are rooted in economic-political factors and Botswana still has a narrow chance to use her resources to save herself. But time is not on her side and to ask bureaucrats to change is to wish for the moon.
The role of agencies, bureaucrats and government in desertification
We later note the role of the EEC in the death of herds of game animals by cordon fences, the desertified ﬁelds subject to Acacia destumping (removal) for tractor ploughing and the fast-speed cultivation that destroys soil stucture following subsidised mechanisation.
But the most insidious role is played by the development of wells and boreholes by aid money, plus the deforestation of great strips of country as drought relief money is diverted to road building and whole villages employed to cut, burn and waste useful trees to create dust destroyed roads.
The role of over-used wells and bores in desertification is long attested in India, North America, Africa and Australia. Not only are clean groundwaters exhausted and aquifers collapsed, but the larger herds and annual crops developed around these water sources are the main cause of nucleated desertification. Nor are sophisticated analyses of water quality made, so that very dangerous radioactive and mineral pollutants can be brought up to pollute local soils, to be ingested by people or to be washed into streams in flood.
Very narrow, well made, gravelled and winding roads with swales are useful in transport, and clean-water wells ideal for the development of permanent tree crop and domestic water, but the latter do nothing that village roof tanks will not do if rainwater is harvested. Any method of rainwater infiltration is beneficial whereas bores are destructive and tempt people to ignore the realities of cyclic drought, and thus to maintain destructive herds.
Aid, bank and government money should therefore be critically reassessed or these funds will create insoluble future problems. Small local schemes are always preferable to grand policy systems. As for forestry, in it’s pitiful present state it poses a threat via dieldrin that will threaten long term exports. Local sensitive forestry hardly exists.
Next issue: Wafer problem, exotic plants, and insect foods in Botswana.
At the 1985 Australian National Permaculture Designers Conference Bill Mollison gave the following talk, having just returned from teaching several courses at Alice Springs in Central Australia. Hard hitting, it describes the situation faced by most Aboriginal communities in Australia. Although some progress has been made in recent years it is not signiﬁcant enough to make this thought-provoking assessment out of date.
There are about twenty years of active aid programs to review. Broadly speaking, the record has been abysmal. From technological aid to food aid it is difficult to find any successes although the efforts have been enormous and the amounts of money spent very large.
In the Northern Territory in 1985, the budget of $17.6m is supposedly going to Aboriginal communities, yet it is hard to find an area where aid has actually reached anyone in any meaningful sense or solved any real problems.
We have a Third World in Australia. A Third World whose infant mortality is greater than in any other area of the world; a Third World whose spectrum of illness is more severe than it is in any other area of the Third World; a Third World which has a peculiar addition to those illnesses — the modern diseases of affluence — on the top of the diseases of poverty. This is a unique condition.
There is gross malnutrition, no vitamin C testable at all in urine or in mother’s milk. The children are subject to every sort of infection. Seventy percent of the children suffer middle ear infection identifiable by a snotty nose, then bursting eardrums — not once, but three to four times. About the third time the inner ear is rotting, the tympanum is gone and the bones behind are rotting. The skull inside the ear rots also. The lungs become infected. The child can be deaf for life.
Of Aboriginal children, 30 percent have gross malnutrition;all of them have had scabies; all of them have had lice; 63 percent have sugar diabestes; 47 percent of children have kidney damage; some are chronically ill.
The horror story of aid is phenomenal. In any one Aboriginal settlement, if there are a hundred adults at any one time about six of them will be in sufficiently good health to do anything. This means that nowhere within the Aboriginal population is there a signiﬁcant number of adults to handle any sort of program.
Unless the health level changes nothing else can change. Since 1967, with huge inputs of Government assistance to Aboriginal society, the health level has declined. There is a population sector which will grow up chronically ill. That is, another fifty or eighty years of sick people. The damage done to children before the age of five is so severe that their future as adults is reduced. After 20 years of government assistance health has gone backwards.
One of the reasons is that Aboriginal communities are fairly small. It would be unusual to have 300 people in a community. But government and non-government organisations are in such multitude that there is literally one of them per Aboriginal adult.
The Aboriginal industry
If there is a typical community of seventy people and there are seventy-two government and non—government organisations to serve this community, there is created a Major Disturbance Factor (MDF).
Each group depends for its existence on some input into the Aboriginal community. If there are six or eight people the demands on them and on the unfit people are a major cause of stress. There a about 70 organisations or 60 percent the Northern Terriory so employed.
The Aboriginal industry is enormous. It supports about 30 percent of the public service in some areas where there are Aboriginal communities and easily 30 percent of the commercial business people, particularly those in alcohol and junk food.
So. a lot of people, both public servants and commercial interests, depend for their living on maintaining a basically ill and uninformed group. That is, if the group were neither ill nor uninformed, a very large section of employment would collapse.
The Aid business is enormous. It can be assessed by calculating who employs whom, who draws wages or commercial gain from the business. All sorts of groups view Aborigines and other distressed peoples as their major activity.
The problems in the Aboriginal community are personal and domestic. The responses are public and organisational. Can these responses deal with personal and domestic problems? The whole hierarchical edifice has very few people at the contact point. There may be one or two well-meaning Europeans long in personal contact or with personal knowledge of one Aborigine. The greatest part is out of contact with the clients.
Where the money goes
Most money is expended in the high salary, high administrative area. It is basically absorbed there and minute amounts come to ground level. This is particularly true of government aid. At the interface where people are in contact there is very, very little money, hardly any although the officially designated money is apparently enormous.
In 1984, DAA (Department of Aboriginal Affairs) stated that $4 million out of a total $8 million in CEP grants had been earmarked for Aboriginal gardens in Central Australia. A further analysis was requested since there did not seem to be any gardens. DAA said 80 percent had gone into salaries and most of the remainder into fencing — for what? — for cattle.
So the money earmarked for gardens went into fences for cattle and benefitted white business. The rest went into tree programs. The trees were purchased largely from forestry and other supply centres and planted by CEP teams. But very few were fruit or food trees. After $4m spent there are no gardens. There is still no food in the settlements.
In South Australia in white recorded history, about $4000 was allocated directly for funding for gardens. Managed locally, it banked $40,000. It was very successful aid that got through, and aid that gets through can be very succesful and cheap to fund if it goes directly to an Aboriginal group.
In the service area of government, just behind the contact interface, there is a peculiar and unexpected thing which becomes obvious over time. That is, the people who seek employment close to service in the Aboriginal areas are almost all racist. These people generally hate the client population. They are probably in high bureaucracies but just behind contact there is hardly anything else than racists. Not just Aboriginal racists. People who service aid programs almost aways hate the groups they serve. They are there for the high wages with many extras (vehicles, fuel and generous living allowances). Many run a racket. They live off, not with the people.
The problems of aid are rarely logistical problems. They are seldom technological. They are almost always problems of appropriate people for the job. Rarely are these people chosen from the local community of activists.
Another group are the amateurs and failures. People who have not been personally successful. This is their God-given opportunity to make a paid success in contact with people who they consider to be inferior. They are well meaning and fairly plentiful on the ground. They dash off and knit socks for Balinese children.
Now almost by definition, those in constant contact cannot be racists. They would not be in contact and contact would not be sustained. So people in actual contact have to be fairly tolerant and acceptable people. Othenrvise nothing works. No one comes to see you.
These problems are not unique to Aboriginal aid. They are problems not atypical of aid anywhere.
There are no screening programs and appointments are made on flimsy grounds. Very few people come forward as shopkeeper in Aboriginal settlements or rush in as doctors and nurses in hospitals which are basically slaughter houses where people die all the time. You cannot cure the illness because you are dealing With the end results.
What works and what does not work
Short term, anything does not work. The problem are very long term. When planning Aboriginal health today there must be a 100 year plan because it will be that long working with chronically ill people. Long term programs and long term funding works.
There are two grave inpedtments to that. One is our governmental system which is quite incapable of long term anything. There is no certainty that any government will be returned to office longer than three to five years. Very often the opposition does have a policy which means discontinuing the policies of the previous government. The political process is totally unsuited not only to aid but in fact to any long term effective change. It is particularly unsuited to fixing soil erosion to reafforestation, to aid, to health. So the Government system is a totally ineffective and inappropriate way to deal with such problems which must somehow be solved outside the extremely short term, self-survival interest system of politics.
Public bodies don’t work. Their main concern is with their own survival. There is no genuine concern to cure a client when it is the end of their career. It the problem is fixed you do not need a department.
Much volunteerism is too amateurish and short term. It generally doesn’t work.
Occasionally, official self-help works by accident. That is, Aboriginal aid departments or Aboriginal policy units. However, irrespective of how many at these are set up they appear increasingly ineffective. In fact, to proliferate this money flow or even to maintain it is simpiy a very Major Disturbance Factor in the community.
Money does not work. Now, in the Phillipines, the Dole Fruit Company offers cheap plastic articles in exchange for land titles. Until the late 1960s in Australia, people would only sell goods to Aboriginal people for land titles. Today in Alice Springs you can stand outside an art gallery and for about a flagon of wine get a line traditional painting. That is what makes this so attractive to racists. They can get lots of money being near the contact area. So it is an area to enrich yourself.
Very often, work with people in the Third World is most effective in special groups. You teach sections to different groups of people. These are just basic cultural rules. Women go in there to teach women and men here to teach men. The most in are generally the women. Among Aborigines the male mortality is extremely high. They are often the main victims of addiction because they control the money. They are mobile, they travel a lot. Most communities consist of a majority ot women. They are the group to work with and male aid people do not do this.
There are four basic things needed in communities — clean water, home gardens, settling the dust, proper houses tor inland conditions. None of those has been achieved for Aborigines in Australia. We are just like the world in general. We need to find simple methods for looking after dying people. There is a job to do. It is very simple. Again it is called clean water, home gardens, well designed desert homes, excellent nutrition teaching.
Find those who can help run the community. Monetary needs are minute and modest.Dismantle the whole expensive aid process: all the money disappears into the bureaucracies.
Effective aid lies in feeding modest resources into a community; supporting the people who live and work there; doing excellent research and teaching; living very much as one proposes that others live; respecting language and culture, listening a lot and using just enough money to achieve joint solutions to the basic problems of clean potable water, nutritious food, good housing and to reduce dust in the settlements, all of which are easily achievable.
This presumes goodwill, long term planning and establishing teachers in the community itself. It does not lie in establishing large bureaucracies or in large funds carelessly applied.
I suppose that’s a pretty challenging lecture and no one is going to clap. I gave the same lecture in front of the CSIRO and government aid agencies in Alice Springs and nobody clapped because, by God, there is nothing to congratulate anybody about. No congratulations are in order.
Bill Mollison’s presentation at National Permaculture Designers Conference, Ottord NSW 1985. Transcribed by Lea Harrison. Edited by Rowe Morrow.
Rear cover, International Permaculture Journal, edition 29, 1988. The ad was for products sold at the Permaculture Epicentre, 113 Enmore Road, Enmore, The Epicentre was home to Permaculture Sydney association where the International Permaculture Journal was produced, courses and workshops held and that was home to Robyn Francis and Denise Sawyer (later of Crystal Waters Permaculture Village in the Sunshine Coast hinterland), as well as to the small permaculture-landscaped rear courtyard. At the time of writing the premises is occupied by Alfalfa House Food Co-op.
Ad in International Permaculture Journal, edition 29, 1988. The ad is evidence that an alternative economics played a substantial part in permaculture in Australia in the 1980s. Earthbank was set up by Australian permaculture practitioners to stimulate the then-new social (aka ‘ethical’) investment industry in which NSW-based investor, Damien Lynch, (1998 story) played a major role. Damien had already started August Investments which invested only in socially and environmentally positive or neutral enterprises.
Published as an article in World Visions… and realities
AS YOU ALL KNOW we have collected a very modest Trust-in-Aid fund to assist teachers to go to groups who have requested courses in Third World areas. This small fund, subscribed by our Australian readers, went a long way this year.
Slay and Bill Mollison were able to visit Nepal and India partly from this fund, and in the USA and UK. Badri N. Dahal did miraculous work in Nepal convening an excellent, experienced, and well-qualified group of Nepalese (17 people) and expatriate aid workers (12 people). We believe this proup to be one of the most dedicated, skilledmand experienced that we have ever taught. Badri has already asked for two end-to-end courses, the first for Nepalese women, the second a mixed course, for November December 1987.
We have now very few funds left and will need to raise $5000 to send a teacher from Australia or the US in November. Although the first Nepalese teacher group is convening, they feel that these additional courses (with them acting as assistant teachers) are required in order to gain confidence. Thereafter they will be teaching courses in Nepalese.
Please assist us in raising this $5000 any way you can!
After Nepal, we visited the Deccan Development Society(DDS) and their projects in Zaheerabad (southern India). Joining us was Robyn Francis of Sydney’s Permaculture Services. The DDS is convening a course scheduled for July 1987, with Robyn and Bill to teach. The course is funded by EZE, a West German church group, contacted by Vithal Rajan of the Right Livelihood Foundation for this purpose.
Students will be expected to arrange their food network lodging in Hyderabad. We hope to get in excess of 50 students, many of whom are (or can be trained to be) teachers and project workers, and we expect that Hyderabad will set up further courses for India, possibly in conjunction with some of the teachers and graduates from Nepal.
There are serious enquiries for courses from Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe in Africa. It would be quite feasible to cover all these in one trip early in 1988. A school teacher (Mary Ann McNealy) in Portland,
Oregon, has offered to try to collect the $6000 needed for the tour from her wages and those of her friends to see that this happens.
The Chile group in South America (see Directory) requested a course, with 20 people definitely interested and without doubt more interested throughout the other South American countries. They can also organise a course for Buenos Aires, Argentina. Brazil could be included in any ant teaching tour as our contact Julio Taborda (Directory) can convene it. Already an, industrialist friend of Bill’s has offered to pay a round-trip ticket from the US to Brazil, so we’re halfway there!
However, other funds and grants will be needed before a tching tour of South America could be considered.
If we can get to Nepal, Africa and South America to train local teachers, consultants and development workers, we will have achieved a great deal.Let us try then, by hook or by crook, to get the money for Africa and South America by 1988. WE have just $600 left in our Trust-in-Aid but have achieved a great deal with the first $2400 (not the least being life subscriptions to the Permaculture Journal for the permaculture romps in Nepal, Zimbabwe and Chile, and a set of back issues of the Journal for the Spanish group).
In Nepal, we have funded a fulltime employee for 12 months researching local domestic crafts and skills. We plan to co-publish with the Permaculture Institute if Nepal a book on local village crafts and skills, recipes etc. What we are trying to develop is mutual aid to promote local funding opportunities for local Institutes. If this is successful we will be repeating it in other countries. We hope that this will benefit us both, with the local Institutes having publishing rights for their own countries and Tagari Publications the right to publish in Australia, New Zealand and the US.
We would be very pleased to hear from experienced funding organisation who could assist in any way with the permaculture courses in Nepal, Africa and South America. These areas deserve your efforts and a modest bit of money. And many thanks to you who contributed that first $2,400!!
Published as an article in World visions… and realities
A KEY DISCUSSION PAPER has just appeared, authored by Marc Nerfin for the IFDA Dossier (International Foundation for Development Alternatives.
It is called Neither Prince nor Merchant: Citizen, and probably predicates a new and long-felt movement towards a single global body representing ethical associations, not governments nor corporations.
Nerfin gives references and notes on the extremely targe number and wide-ranging concerns of modern associations and groups (non-governmental organizations). He notes that by 1981 France had 300,000-500,000 associations, forming up at the rate of 100 per day!
People who join or form associations subscribe to a common aim, ethic or project, and increasingly these associations are being formed to carry out a specific role or job in relation to environmental and human concerns at a local, continental or global level. There are large dictionaries of such groups, no doubt incomplete or out of-date even as they are published.
It has long been evident that if ethical groups could combine to direct their financial and consumer power they would be the largest unified world body in history. For while the ‘moral majority’ is a fiction of right-wing politicians, the ethical majority is a reality countable by the memberships of ethical associations.
Such associations are, in fact, small nations of peoples who subscribe to common objectives. We can only define a ‘nation’ by some common factor, irrespective of place of residence (as for the Sikh Nation, the Shoshone Nation, Jewish peoples, and so on).
If we are to support our own world body — and even an annual $100 from such groups as the permaculture and Earthbank associations would probably pay for an effective international registry and journal — we would need to define a clear project area and function for such a body.
It is certainly important for us to count our numbers and to see how many of us there are. Thus, to record, census, convene and to collate a global policy paper to guide all groups in their action would be an admirable first aim.
To set a true united body up needs an early agreement on basic ethics. Minimal ethics today, in global terms, would be about as follows:
groups and associations devoted to conservation, rehabilitation, protection and defense of the world’s natural, biological, atmospheric, water and soil environments.
2. Peoplecare ethics
Groups and associations devoted to the accountability of corporations, opposed to torture, terrorism and repression; supporting equal rights and representation, defending minority rights and caring for a defined group of disadvantaged people, health and peace etc.
3. Investment ethics
groups and associations ‘putting their money where their mouth is’ — associations for ethical investment, the redirection of money and resources from aggression and unethical enterprises, the application of social, environmental and fiscal audits and accounting to all enterprises, the establishment of trusts, charities and active projects; investment of human effort, resources, and capital towards all three ethics stated.
If any group feels no conflict in subscribing to the above broad ethical base, or at present have formed to act in one or other part of such an ethic, then they belong to or would be eligible for membership in such a body. Almost all governments would be excluded on the basis of ‘no common ethic’, torture, repression of minorities, non-accountability or devotion of resources to war, as would terrorist groups and exploitive industries or corporations and their members.
I would guess that within the next few years, again by co-evolution — an idea whose time has come — such a body will be put in place by a group or association formed to do just that. Even six to eight people could manage such a service to ethical associations.
All of us could then subscribe to a more detailed ethic in the areas of our interest and set the stage for the replacement of governments and corporations by a global association of small groups, trusts and charities devoted to beneficial projects.
The main role of governments to date has been to create monstrous bureaucracies, armies and secret services. None of these are needed by the world.
Story by Bill Mollison, 1987. Edition 27. Feature photo: Bill Mollison with Russ Grayson at an Australasian permaculture convergence at Robyn Francis’ Djanbung Gardens at Nimbin, northern NSW, in 1997.
JOE LYNCH AND NETH MASS have studied and revived an interesting construction method of raising barns without any internal structure. Pioneered in the 1900’s by a German settler in Iowa, USA, lamellar barn rooves may be of any curve, including half circles.
The basic module from which this structure is built is a 1.50m x 20 x 31mm (60″x8″x1.25″) plank, cut at a constant angle to fit the next 3lank at either end. A slight taper 3n the outer ends allow an 200mm < 25mm (8″x1″) purlin to fit flat on all joins to take the roof materials.
The two end arches are built up and raised, forming the slope, and the laminae bolted up in basic diamond shapes, creating a curved roof. Careful pre-cutting and modelling helps. Eaves can 3e added by extending the purlins or end laminae can be fitted to curved end-walls.
The structure is immensely strong. Originals had only one 200mm x 19mm bolt at junctions, but now two 200mm x 6mm bolts are used.
The series of photos taken in August 1985 show Joe and Nath in the process of construction. The stages of construction largely self-explain the system but would-be builders should be very careful to do their planning and paperwork first and to constantly use stringlines on purlins to prevent developing a compound curve unless it is intended to tile the roof, when a full half-dome can be constructed.
Hopefully the photos tell all!