Conservative Christians and Permaculture: separating the wheat from the chaff.

per·ma·cul·ture
ˈpərməˌkəlCHər/
noun
 the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

 

Permaculture was originally a portmanteau of “permanent agriculture” and was related to forest gardening.  It has changed over the years though, and now has both very wise gardening techniques and quite absurd new-age-y progressivist elements as well.  This is a common graphic associated with permaculturists:
There is both wheat and chaff in permaculture, and I don’t have them all separated out yet.  Here are some of the things I agree with:
1. Rather than large swaths of sterile, barren lawns, humanity would be much better served if people learned to plant beautiful herb, vegetable, and fruit gardens.
2. Planting gardens the way God made forests is sensible.  Permaculture follows a “forest garden” model:

 

Without buying into the pagan new age spirituality associated with permaculture (to read a permaculture blog is to read the word “Gaia” ad nauseum), I’m still intrigued by their ideas about what it means to labor and obtain a yield, as well as their smart gardening practices.

 

We bought a little over ten acres of woods and disrupted farmland this past fall.  The land had been let go, which means it’s becoming overrun with autumn olive bushes, which are highly invasive thorny shrub that can grow ten feet tall and spread like wildfire.  Autumn olive was originally brought to this country from Asia as a means of controlling erosion; the fruit is supposedly edible, but it isn’t a smart plant to cultivate as it will take over and choke out native plants and trees; it even changes the soil chemistry, making the land good only for autumn olive.

 

I’ve slowly started clearing it out of our forest and meadow.  Here is an area I’ve cleared:

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Here is what an autumn olive thicket looks like up close:

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Here is another area I’ve cleared, transitioning from our yard into the forest; previously this was a thicket of autumn olive and thorns:

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Using some of the techniques I’m learning from permaculture, I aim to transform it into this:

Image source: Starter Permaculture http://starterpermaculture.com/


 
In the fall I planted apple and peach trees with raspberry and blackberry vines under them.  I’ll add sunflowers, strawberries, herbs and other plants, following the permaculture technique for creating a “forest garden”.  Instead of recycling our cardboard waste, I am using it to mulch under the trees and plants for weed control, which saves labor (saving labor and producing no waste are both permaculture attributes).
 
As I separate the pagan chaff from the beauty- and food-producing wheat of permaculture, I will share those lessons here.  Looking at ten acres of work feels overwhelming, but the permaculture approach of implementing small, slow solutions is comforting and compatible with both my conservativism and Christian faith.
 
[This is my second post in an ongoing series, “Separating the wheat from the chaff,” in which I consider the health of our natural world and environment in the context of conservatism and Christianity.  The first post was Conservative Christians and the International Day of Forests: separating the wheat from the chaff.]

 

 

Capitalism should serve humanity, not rule us.

Mainstream Conservatives have embraced the idea that we must all serve capitalism rather than insisting that capitalism must serve us.  When there is a conflict between capitalism and humans, liberals conclude capitalism is evil and thus socialism must be better, whereas conservatives conclude that humans are the problem and must submit to capitalism.

Both are wrong.

Socialism will always fail because it is unnatural, inefficient, and requires great oppression of humanity to work even in the short term.  Capitalism is the most natural way to organize human commerce, but it cannot be unfettered.  It must be made to serve humanity, not rule us.

A prime example of this is the commercialization of childhood.  Unfettered capitalism sacrifices the well-being of children for profit.  That doesn’t mean we should utterly throw out capitalism; it means we should regulate some aspects of it.  That is actually a more traditional approach; prior to the 1980s, television regulation was in place to limit some aspects of capitalism by limiting broadcasters’ ability to pander to our basest desires in competition for our dollars:

The years of the administration of President Ronald Reagan were a time of intense deregulation of the broadcast industry. Mark Fowler and Dennis Patrick, both FCC chairmen appointed by Reagan, advocated free-market philosophies in the television industry. Fowler frankly described modern television as a business rather than a service. In 1981 he stated that “television is just another appliance. It’s a toaster with pictures.” Fowler’s position was a far cry from the approach of Newton Minow, who argued that government needed to play an intimate role in serving the public interest as charged in the Communications Act of 1934. Deregulation supporters advocated a “healthy, unfettered competition” between TV broadcasters.

Here we see conservatives insisting that all of humanity serve profit.  If television programming, including that marketed toward children, is violent or laced with sexual perversion (Glee!), conservatives love to blame liberal Hollywood but conveniently ignore how their own blinding faith in and obedience to capitalist profit above the community good makes it possible for liberals to indoctrinate our children with their filth.

On an individual level, we can all simply turn off our TVs or get rid of them altogether.  However, humans are not solely a collection of individuals; we are also families, kin networks, and societies, and conservatives would be wise to consider how capitalism can best be made to serve humanity rather than how humanity can be made to serve capitalism.