Impermanent Culture

I’m interested in linguistic shifts. We are in one of those moments right now with the word sustainability. More on that in a future post. First, an earlier language shift, one that will be important to that discussion.

In the 1960s, Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer introduced permaculture; the concept was developed and popularized by Australians, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s. It is basically a closed-loop system, where all the elements are interconnected, in mutually beneficial relationships, designed to make us more self-sufficient. Permaculture is founded on three moral principles: care of people, care of the earth and fair shares. This ethical framework guides all decision making, thereby creating a more sustainable community or “permanent-culture.”

For decades the permaculture movement was considered fringe and its followers dismissed as “back-to-the-landers.” Then along came the Transition Town movement. The grassroots network follows a set of guiding principles designed to buffer the effects of climate change and peak oil, to make us more resilient, so that instead of falling off a cliff, the downhill slide is a little less dramatic.

Now here’s where the linguistic impermanence is revealed – the principles are just permaculture design principles re-worded. The Transition Town folks simply dropped a lot of the hippy dippy language contained in the early permaculture writings, and found a new vernacular that appealed to municipal governments. Now cities around the world are signing on to become Transition Towns. Village Vancouver is the official Transition Town training group here. They have helped to set up small neighbourhood villages all over Metro Vancouver, including one in Kitsilano. Just google around to find a Transition Town or village near you.

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