Ecological Engineering Modeled on Nature: Geoff Lawton at TEDxMission TheCity2.0

Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Okay, I’m here to talk to you
about permaculture, and my first screen here
shows that reach – that humanity reaching
for something, some … permanence in culture. And I’m here to give you
an insight into that, what that actually means,
and what it can be, and how optimistic it is that design is the key – design with ethics
linked to provable science. So it’s a system of permanent culture, and it’s a reaching
for regenerative human culture. We’re reaching for something
beyond counterculture where we all wanted some individualism, we wanted something different
from the present culture. We wanted to move in a better direction, but we kind of provided
an opportunity for the present culture to supply all that individuality. So we wanted something
that gave us that infinite set of variations in identity,
some kind of status, but a common mission
that left us with a situation where the world would be
inevitably repaired, an Earth repair policy, if you like,
through our very action, to turn humanity
into the most positive element, the opposite to where we are now, with appropriate technology
and combinations of useful biology, so to move into truly a culture we are proud of, a real culture. Culture is defined
as a stage of civilization, and a way people relate to each other and the land. That’s what culture really is. For culture to be permanent,
we actually need to have that intention to design ourselves into a really
developed and really civilized world. So … the question: How did we relate to land and people in a way that is really regenerative? How do we actually do that? We are going to have to use
very meaningful connections, and we’ve got to connect
back into systems between disciplines, between the disciplines
that are important, the subjects and disciplines
that humanity provides its needs with, need to be connected
in a really positive way. And orientated
in the direction of solutions. So, connections between
elements in a landscape. Connections between land and people, so we really understand
the connectivity of design, and connections between people, so we share our skills,
share our understanding, and together move in a common direction, with total uniqueness, real status identity with a common purpose. So let’s just have a look
at those disciplines, the disciplines themselves. We’re going to have to look
at watershed management. Such an important part of life – water based in life and carbon cycles – we have to understand water, intimately. We have to slow the entropic loss
of water within our system so that energy is stored,
and life is increased as it flows. So we need a very serious
design connection between water management and agriculture, the way we supply our needs
from primary resources. Then we need that connection
to be absolutely clear that architecture, and architecture
of cities, and major cities have massive water collection
mechanisms in their hardware that can be designed to be so positive, instead of just fast run
straight into cities or into rivers, they can take long paths
over great distances with as many passive friction
life connections as possible, so we can really enhance
water flows from architecture, and also supply water
to our living systems of the cities. So watershed management
to people systems is so important because we need high quality water. We need that clear, clean, pure water
for ourselves as a priority. And then to soil science: In recent years, the science
of the soil has exploded, so that we really understand
more and more the life system and connection of importance
between feeding the life in the soil to feeding the primary
products of the soil so that we get true nutritional quality, nutritional density in our products. Animal husbandry
and its connections to agriculture are major links that need to have
benefit of connection because animal husbandry to architecture, animal husbandry to people systems, animal husbandry to soil science, because with the right design,
animals can benefit the soil, and soil, of course,
is a benefit to the animal systems so that their nutrition
and their links by design are all extensions of a better result. Soil science and agriculture has become the new cutting edge
of biological agriculture. All of this links back to healthier
populations within our cities. So people systems to soil science
is not only an environmental importance but people health importance. So people back to agriculture, people to architecture, our life systems
and our built infrastructure make everything an improved situation
for the way we live in human settlements. And agriculture to architecture – these are all links
that we need to understand. By design, the elements themselves,
if we look at people central to design, we can find that links happen
in all sorts of unusual ways – a dam in a pond linking
to a kitchen garden. Even obscure elements like bamboo
have links to dams and ponds in their stability
and their multifunctions, and irrigation from dams and ponds, and irrigation to kitchen gardens, irrigation to a greenhouse, irrigation to bamboo, irrigation from bamboo to even
an obscure element like pigeons which in a lot of cultures
are part of food cycles and part of nutrient cycles. And also a habitat within bamboo, and bamboo can be used
for many, many, many purposes to replace many non-living elements because bamboo
is so usable within systems, and can build greenhouses,
can be part of structures, and even link to irrigation systems, back to nutrient cycles from elements
like pigeons to gardens to food sources. These are all connections
we have to explore and extend through harmonious design within human development, developments within cities,
developments within landscape. So when we look at land,
we look at soil health, we look at that link
from soil health to plant health. We look at plant health
linking to animal health, back to people health, and animal health to people health, and the peoples’ health majorly comes
as a source from the soil. The soil is the main resource where everything returns
and everything initiates. So from that, we get
that great nutritional density within our plant health, and our animals from that again. So this really creates
a designed supply line through ecosystem-type thinking. We’re talking about ecosystemic systems as a human supply line. So once that link, that most imperative link is made, that we can design human supply lines
through ecosystemic thinking, our effect globally
is one that’s positive. So when we look at our people systems, our community, our community, in recent years, has had a great rise
in the communal voice. We voiced that we need a different system. Our community’s risen to say,
we need a better way, things are not the way
we would like them to be. There’s a permaculture initiative
that’s spreading worldwide, the Transition Towns movement. It came out of a Permaculture
Design Certificate course, and it’s initiated worldwide
to help people understand we need to move through
a transitional phase to a better cultural-positive future. Community land trust has become
a new evolution beyond the ecovillage. The Community Land Trust movement
has shown that there are possibilities of redesigning people back into villages,
back into the landscape as a positive part
of the landscape itself. Alternative currencies have become
part of new movements. Where conventional currencies fail, alternative currencies
immediately rise as an alternative, and a reskilling and barter
within economics outside of the money system where we share our skills
and barter our work exchange. So there is a whole reskilling
about what we need to remember that used to be understood. In the information age, self-sufficiency,
interdependency and resilience are the new possibilities because we have
the information available to us. We have more information available to us. We know more possibilities. We need to build our skills again, and we need to stop being afraid
and move forward with good design. So … a particular stage of civilization defined as a way people
relate to land and each other: culture. To quote here, “the measure of a civilization is not
how tall its buildings of concrete are, but rather how well its people
learn to relate to the environment and fellow man.” This is so important to understand. Having worked on
some of the largest proposed carbon-neutral city developments
in recent years, I was very privileged to work
as a consultant to the design team of the landscape architecture
of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, working with some of the best
technical experts on Earth, working on a wonderfully brave
and forward-thinking proposal, a carbon-neutral city. My continuous initiative
was to inspire people that we can go beyond carbon neutrality, we can go into carbon-positive cities, where cities can be a beneficial
positive element on Earth. At that point, we win the game by design. At the moment, the world is in check, that one checkmate move, that one community-people-
system affirmation, that we can be carbon positive
by our very actions. Working with the technical experts
there at Masdar City, it became rather obvious that the best technologies
we have to offer can only neutralize the carbon consequence of a city 60 percent; 40 percent is linked to the biology,
the living systems, the agriculturally-produced supply lines. If we don’t make more than 40 percent links between technology and biology with ecosystemic design, we cannot move into
a carbon-neutral situation and beyond carbon positive. We need to imagine what is truly possible, because it can be the new evolution of human future through a change in design-mind thinking, a new neural pathway where we actually take the position of a future that we truly deserve for the future generations. I would like to thank Kenton Zerbin,
who helped me with this presentation. I would like to show you
some of our major websites that give you information
on these systems: And a global connecting mechanism that shows you how much permaculture
action is out there in the world: And we’re about to expand
our permaculture education systems into an Internet expansion
which you can be part of, a major new educational program by connecting to very soon, we have a very special new system
available for everybody to be involved in. Thank you. (Applause)