Eco-nomics: A Permaculture Design Perspective 生態經濟:樸門設計觀點 | Tammy Turner 唐敏 | TEDxTunghaiU

Translator: Queenie Lee Reviewer: Robert Tucker Hello, my name, as you’ve heard already, is 唐敏 [táng mǐn], or Tammy Turner It’s very interesting that you have these two cultures that come together in my name And it is here in Taiwan that I learned to bring what I learned from a long time ago in biology, and then, to have such a great experience with people here in the culture, and then to bring them back together; and what I teach which is permaculture design So permaculture design is an ecocentric holistic design approach, and it’s used in a wide range of human habitats When I say human habitats, this is what I mean: this is where I live; this is where I get my food; this is where I have my family; this is where I have my community And in this place, this is just like every other animal, they have their habitats too It’s also in Chinese, what I would call my 地盘 [dì pán – territory], it’s very much my 地盘 [dì pán] So talking about permaculture, a very particular thing that’s different than probably other forms of education is that it really looks at things from a more systemic point of view We look at relationships, we look at patterns, we look at the flow of energy, just like here in this image, where we look at the ultimate energy source, which is the sun, and how it flows through an ecological system, including the plants, the animals, the animals that eat animals, then after everything dies, and then it returns to the earth, via fungi and through bacteria, and then back, it becomes the raw materials for life again This is really what we focus on, is this holistic picture of how things come to be In practicing permaculture, one of the reasons that I really started looking at it was because of this Everything that we know tells us over and over again, that we have to grow the economy, we have to get more jobs, we have to make more jobs, and we have to get more money, which then creates more jobs That is really kind of the pattern for everywhere, all of our country’s plans, everything, are based on this thought that we need economic growth in order to survive In fact, a lot of people believe that you have to have economic growth over ecological anything – well-being It’s our economic well-being that takes precedent over our ecological well-being But right now, the biosphere, that thin layer of life that covers the earth, is under unprecedented stress from human activities of a wide range, and those activities come from how we think about our economic well-being This is what happens, this is where we are now: we are cutting down more trees than we can regrow; we are fishing and getting more fish than the oceans can restock; we are pumping the rivers and the aquifers so fast that the rainfall can’t replenish them; we are emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than the oceans or the forests can absorb; we turn energy and lots of non-renewable resources into lots of stuff, That stuff has a very short life, most of the time less than 6 months, that then pollutes our lands and our waterways and is quickly filling the oceans Because of all of that, the number of wild animals worldwide has halved in the last 40 years alone

I assume for many people, this is not really news; actually, a lot of people know this already So let’s call it the elephant in the room Even through so many people know about these things, we seem unable to adequately address the situation We grapple with the problems, we take them on one by one, but we oftentimes fail to see what the root cause of all these problems are And it’s precisely our thinking about economics that are at the root of the cause So, and the problem with this economic thinking is that we are not simply economic actors, – and we all know that – but our economics, and our way of dealing with our economics, does not see that We are biological beings, and, as biological beings, we need a suitable climate, we need clean water, we need clean air, we need food just like all the other biological beings So we need to do some serious soul-searching and own up to the fact that we, all of us here, including myself, are really using too much of the earth, and not allowing the earth to replenish itself and renew itself So I have a proposal: we need a lot more people with a holistic sense of what it is that the world is We need to know about ecology; we need to understand about energy; we need to understand about the basic building blocks of life And I believe that this can be done, really through permaculture education – which is what I have spent the last 10 years doing I am specifically focusing on permaculture education, which I’ll give you some information about Unlike maybe other economics, we actually have ethics, and those ethics are known as earth care, people care, and fair share Earth care prioritizes protecting the earth, the climate, our natural systems in general, the soil, the water, animal life, and plant life But more than that, it actually calls on us to restore the earth, to rebuild natural capital, and to create abundance, which the earth can do quite well if we allow it And, of course, there’s people, and we need to care for them, but it starts with caring for ourselves, just like in the morning, we had a lot of talk about that internal world, and we do need to care for that And we also need to care for the people we love, and our communities One of the best ways to do that is actually to take care of the environment This is the one where economics has something to learn from permaculture, which is that we acknowledge that the earth limits – they’re there, and we really just need to say the earth has limits, but we each and every single one of us also has something to share We have abundance, and even the earth has abundance, and that needs to be shared And it’s just not for humans, it’s also for non-humans That’s something that we could probably look at These ethics, they keep reminding us that not only do we prevent further destruction or damage, that we should really take things in our hand, understand the root cause, and rebuild and restore I don’t know what happened with this graphic, for some reason, it’s not the way I drew it, but I’m going to speak to it anyway So, at the heart of permaculture education, we actually go about it from different lenses, the ground is where we work, everything is about that We learn about ecological systems, we learn about climate, we learn about soil and soil life, and everything that is alive That is the most important thing, to have a strength of that knowledge,

and then, based on this ground, we will look at different areas, and we’ll spend some time looking at them at depth So, whether it be water or soil or food, which is a very big deal – a lot of people talking about food today – and, also, it informs what we need to do in order to ensure that our food, which is also plants and animals for the most part, is healthy And we will teach people about how to deal with that So, as mentioned here, it is often through the concept of food gardening and farming that people learn about nature and life Bill Mollison, one of the co-originators of permaculture, is very famous and very fond of this saying But it’s because gardening and farming are based on a mutual relationship between humans and nature, it is where we can adopt new values, and these values are key to making changes to our economics Right now, people are especially concerned about food Is anybody concerned about food here? You don’t care if it has plasticizers in it, or whether it’s laden with pesticides? Who’s not concerned? Everybody is concerned And that’s a good thing, because what’s happening now, is that we have a lot of people wanting to learn permaculture And we have a saying in permaculture which is: “The problem is the solution.” So, okay, people want to learn how to grow their own food It’s a great opportunity to teach them all about a lot of things about food, about how to grow their own food, which means to understand the soil, to understand the water, to understand the ecosystem in which these things exist And even more important is that you can do it anywhere You don’t have to have a farm: you can have a rooftop; you can have a balcony; you can have a farm, and we teach a lot of farmers, and I’m not a farmer What do I teach them? I teach them about ecology If they are somebody who knows about ecology, I probably teach them about farming It’s not all the same for every single person and how they learn We do customize what we teach to different people, but the principles are the same For food, in terms of energy, it needs to be close to where we are If it’s very, very faraway, it’s imported, what happens if we have some disaster? Right? The important thing is to have security and resilience, and that happens to be from rebuilding our local ecology and our local economies, when it comes to food A very key learning is about water People raise a hand, people who know this fact: That all of water on the earth, there’s less than 0.007% that is available for us to drink You would think that’s pretty precious, right? Do we treat it like it’s a precious thing, right now? I think that would be a good place to start, and that’s where we start So we learned that water is precious, and that we shouldn’t waste it, and that we should actually use it very, very wisely And how we use it wisely is that the water supply needs to be close to where it is used, and it needs to be stored in the ground first, just like this picture here Storing it in the ground mitigates drought and in flood, and it also replenishes the groundwater This image here for the Chinese readers, will show this is local rainwater harvesting and storage, and groundwater reuse These are key to reducing the energy footprint of our water supply And the risk of over-reliance on a centralized system right now – everybody gets the water from, of course, the faucet, but from a dam somewhere And the dam can only hold so much, and that’s also a risk in some sense So we also need to redistribute some of our local water supply And then, this image very specifically shows how water can be captured on site with rainwater harvesting It can be cleaned and returned underground with prewater reuse in the landscape, and it can be retained in beneficial ecoponds, which very much enlivens the whole landscape and creates biodiversity This is composting, this is a picture of my compost barrel at home

Anyway, when we look at the soil, the major focus is really on building carbon and bringing it back to the soil So why is carbon important in the soil? Well, we have a lot of it in the air right now; it would be better to put in the soil If we have less carbon in the air, and have more carbon in the soil, then we will have less warming So this is a very basic concept as well In order to have better soil, you need more carbon in the soil, [because then] you will have more nutrients in the soil: you’ll have richer microbial life, and the plants can be stronger without any type of outside inputs like fertilizers So we focus on rebuilding the soil through adding compost and through carbon Which brings us back to the food lines And the food lines, we always just look at – everybody says, “Well, how do you keep the pests off?” Well, if you have a good ecosystem, you’ll actually have a lot of other things take care of some of the pests So, you would find out what eats that pest? And then you would make sure that you have a habitat for that bird or animal or other insects, and they will help to keep your plants somewhat free of pests But it takes rebuilding the ecology to do that And if you think that that’s not likely, I can tell you for a fact that it is This is an example of a low-Impact, biointensive, multicrop system of chia, ginger and turmeric And that protects the soil while also controlling weeds So do you see a lot of weeds here? No They weren’t picked, actually; they were prevented We do that through adding an abundant amount of mulch and other types of ground cover plants that we like and that are very useful This is a concept that is quite probably different for a lot of people who think in rows of vegetables and monoculture; it’s the absolute antithesis to that What is a monoculture? In my opinion, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for whatever insect that likes to eat the particular crop that you’re growing So this is the opposite, this is adding diversity, and planting a lot of plants together that help each other And some of those plants also provide nutrients, and some of those plants get bees to come over and help pollinate, while other ones will then get the beneficial insects to help you get rid of some of those other pesky insects that you don’t like And if you think that’s a fanciful idea – it’s just not Actually, it’s the new trend, it’s happening everywhere, but we need to learn it here in Taiwan That’s the main reason I actually got into doing this, because we need to make it happen here So we need to change a few ideas In the Africa, they can do it, and they’ve done it They use those same type of techniques which are looking at the ecology and saying, “How can we know that the ecology works this way, and work with it and mimic those patterns to actually have our food? And they’ve done it very well We have seeds that are important, and if we don’t care for our seeds, we are losing biodiversity as well in terms of our crops So we also get people to do a lot in terms of exchange of seeds What’s so bad about getting a lot of food that you really like, and that you really appreciate it? If, through the process, you learn to appreciate your food, and you’ve grown it, you end up appreciating the land, you end up appreciating the environment in which it comes from You also have a special affection for farmers who do that for a living as well These things cannot be dismissed: they really are integral for who we are as humans And if we step away from this, we’re actually inviting – you saw what I actually told at the beginning of my talk It’s continuing, it’s not getting better; but we can make it better every day, and we can do it very simply by just understanding where our food comes from Here’s some gorgeous food Doesn’t it look good? I will vary, just touch on it briefly, because my times up

We also talk about buildings and being comfortable and saving power bills and saving water This is my favorite It is a non-electric, insulating cooker You boil your rice, put it in a pot, and put it inside this insulated cooker, and it continues to cook And you don’t use an ounce of electric energy to do it It’s a traditional method, and it works really well, and you never burn your rice So there are lots of things like this that could be easily adapted, and made more modern and acceptable as well I’m going to ask and just tell you one thing that everybody could do for themselves: to understand how your own economic values work You can look at everything that you spent money on for the last week, maybe for the last, you know, month, write them all down, and then rank them according to what you feel is their well-being to you, impact on the environment, and impact to society Just that simple act You will suddenly have a different idea about the things that you spend money on And it’s a very easy thing to do Before you purchase you can do the same thing Just think about what it is, and the impact that you’re having And you can learn it It doesn’t matter, you don’t have to learn it with me You can learn it from books, you can learn it from lots and lots of online materials This happens to be a very participatory way that we learn And it’s a lot of fun, I know It’s because, you know, we sing, we dance, we also do a lot of other fun things We make rap songs about compost or composting toilets And then we do get down to the hard work of designing things And we design them with knowing all these ecological things And anybody of any age, and anybody of any walk of life, like here, can learn permaculture or these same concepts: it’s not rocket science In fact, in close, a great deal of what we teach everybody actually already knows; they just don’t have the bigger picture Permaculture does that by putting everything into perspective, and providing a framework for learning and gaining experience And then that experience allows you to take action This is how we provide economic ethics and principles for moving forward, for living not just lightly, but also quite well, on our shared planetary home, which is where we are right now I’d love to see you all in the garden Thank you (Applause)