Responding to Crisis – Henry Nelson Wieman

“It is a time of danger and suffering; but there is glory in it for him who will face it alert, fearless, and with capacity for transformation of his own personality and all the ways of his life.”

Dorothea Lange Country filling station owned by tobacco farmer, Granville County, NC Jul 1939
From Shorpy Historic Pictures, which I discovered at Automatic Earth

It’s not hard to find evidence that we’ve entered a period of crisis. See for example John Michael Greer’s post on Heading Toward the Sidewalk or Ilargi’s post on Oil, Solar, Dollars and Fairy Tales.

It’s time we start preparing ourselves for understanding and handling Crisis (esp. if it’s going to be long and sustained). I’ve recently become enamored with the writing of the mid-twentieth century philosopher of theology, Henry Nelson Wieman, whose influences include John Dewey and A.N. Whitehead.  Here’s what he had to say on the topic:

A crisis is an experience which we have never had before. It throws us into a state of disorganization. An experience which affects us deeply, and is different from all that has previously befallen us, must inevitably throw us into a state of disorganization, for we cannot react to it in any other way. The only other alternative is to be wholly unaware of it and insensitive to it. An experience of sensitivity and disorganization is a necessary stage to a more inclusive organization of our world and of ourselves as functioning members of that larger world. Without it we could never enter so deeply into that progressive integration of more significant and unified worlds, which is the work of God.

Our habits constitute one condition determining the kind of world we live in. When our habits are disorganized that condition is removed. In so far as disintegration of all habits is a state out of which any kind of habits might emerge, it is a state out of which any kind of world might arise in so far as the emergence of any kind of a world is dependent upon a certain system of habits. Therefore crisis offers the golden opportunity for creativity. It is the call of God to join with Him in the making of a better world. It is a time of danger and suffering; but there is glory in it for him who will face it alert, fearless, and with capacity for transformation of his own personality and all the ways of his life.

Crisis shatters the little dome of daily life. Can we find a vaster dome above? We have tried to sketch a method by which it may be done.


- Henry Nelson Wieman, Methods for Private Religious Living (The Macmillan Company, 1929), pp. 114-115.

Wieman points out that crisis can be an opportunity for “the progressive integration of more significant and unified worlds,” and “a golden opportunity for creativity.”  May it be so.





In PatternDynamics, this is the Order/Chaos polarity pattern:

The Order/Chaos Pattern represents the oppositional dynamics at work in the creative process. Order/Chaos demonstrates the relationship and interplay between states of orderly functionality and states of breakdown and irregularity. Orderly states must be balanced against periods of breakdown that allow the rearrangement of previously fixed elements into new, more appropriate forms. The role of Order/Chaos is to facilitate adaptation and evolution. – See more at:

The 2014 Whatcom Skillshare Faire!

Whatcom Skillshare Faire

Photos below from Day 1 of this year’s Skillshare Faire, held just north of Bellingham, in Ferndale Washington. Come on out for Day 2 tomorrow (Aug. 24, 2014), beginning with the Northwest Permaculture Convergence Annual Meeting from 9:30 to 11:30, and various skillsharings from 11 am to 4pm, including (just to name a few): Dowsing, Homeopathic Survival Skills, Seed Cleaning and Processing, Soapmaking, Winter Food Storage Techniques, How to Make a Rain Barrel, Backyard Chickens, Swashbuckling for Kids, The Alternative Economy, Appropriate Use of Hand Tools (scythes and more), Bike Maintenance, Raising Rabbits, Commercial Uses of Hemp, Making Buckskin, Sun Dials, Aquaponic Gardening, and Spinning and Combing Wool.

See for more info.

And then extend the learning with the Permaculture Living and Learning Seminars at Inspiration Farm!
Monday, Aug. 25th: 12pm until dusk: Extended farm tour, potluck and tele-vision and music around the fire.
Tuesday, Aug. 26: 10am to 5pm: Choose from 8 different workshops (including yours truly on PatternDynamics)!
Get all the info at




talking to people


Lissa Carter at True Beauty Always has another well-written and insightful post that reminds about the perils of us vs. them thinking, and of the importance of interaction, listening, and talking: “Turns out, if you want to know what someone is thinking or feeling, the most accurate way to find out is to ask them. Which requires us to talk to people.”

Originally posted on truebeautyalways:

imageRecently my son and I attended a week of surf camp.  We had an incredible time swimming all day, gathering seashells, meeting with old friends and new, and yes, even catching some waves. In the afternoons we learned about the wider ecosystem of the beach we were surfing on, attending talks by the Cape Fear Riverkeeper and the founder of the Plastic Oceans Project and participating in rain garden maintenance with the Coastal Federation.

The Plastic Ocean Project slideshow affected my son profoundly.  After showing us some of the damaging effects plastics have on the turtles, fish, mammals, and birds of the ocean, and reminding us that the ocean is ‘downhill from everywhere’, Bonnie explained that one simple way to take action is to refuse a plastic straw at restaurants.

My son became an anti-straw zealot on the spot. And since we’ve been on the road visiting family for the past week, he’s…

View original 1,130 more words

A Transition Whatcom Invitation: Share, Learn, Teach, and Converge

Transition Whatcom, in northwest Washington state (Bellingham and surrounds), has a unique series of events coming up in August, and we welcome participation from all friends in the region (and beyond).

photo by C. Mauricio

Skillshare Faire, 2012

The 3rd Annual Whatcom Skillshare Faire (Aug. 23-24) is a fun, family oriented festival about teaching and learning all kinds of useful & practical resilience skills. Our August-sunny Faire this year will have two days of family-friendly Workshops and Demonstrations, plus a great lineup of local Musical Talent, tasty local Food Offerings and the ever-popular local brewery Beer Garden and Fermentation Station. Watch the promo video here, and see the Peak Moment TV episode filmed at last year’s Faire here.

photo by C. Mauricio

Skillshare Faire, 2012

This year we are pleased that the Northwest Permaculture Convergence is occurring within and alongside our Skillshare Faire!  The Convergence will have its own tent, which will host the permaculture workshops and demos at the Skillshare, and will hold its annual meeting on Sunday the 24th at the Faire.

photo by D. MacLeod

Feet in communion at Inspiration Farm PDC

For those who are ready for the full-meal-deal of permaculture, we invite you to attend the Permaculture Design Certificate course at Inspiration Farm (just north of Bellingham), running August 17 – 29th. This course is being designed around, and will include at no extra charge, participation at the Skillshare Faire and Convergence! [Registration deadline for this PDC is coming up soon on July 15!]  Watch the Peak Moment TV episodes filmed at Inspiration Farm here.

More details below for each of these offerings:

PDCGroup1) Permaculture Design Certification course at Inspiration Farm!
Be part of the solution!
Learn a skill set for uncertain times
Registration for the PDC will close on the 15th of July so don’t delay, sign up today!
Extensive 72 hour Curriculum Includes: Design Methodologies ~ Site Mapping ~ Ethics ~ Design Principles and Goals ~ Pattern Recognition ~ Natural Cycles and Processes ~ Plant Identification ~ Wild crafting ~ Micro climate ~ Tropical and Dry land Farming ~ Indigenous Land Management ~ Natural Building ~ Forest Gardening ~ Mushroom Growing ~ Myco-Remediation ~ Renewable Energy ~ Passive and Active Solar Design ~ Soil Ecology ~ Compost Systems ~ Aquaculture ~ Animals in the Landscape ~ Plant Propagation ~ Slow Food ~ Urban Permaculture Strategies ~ Graywater Harvesting ~ Emergency Preparation ~ Appropriate Technology ~ Seed Saving ~ Nursery Set-up ~ Food Preservation ~ Local Economics ~ Currency and Community Structures ~ Non-Violent Communication ~ Pattern Dynamics…
Featured instructors Include:
Brian Kerkvliet, Co-steward of Inspiration Farm and Permaculture Research Institute Certified permaculture designer
Sarah Sullivan, co-founder of Hawaii SEED and director of the award winning school garden and scratch kitchen program
David MacLeod, from Transition Whatcom, and the first individual outside of Australia certified to lead PatternDynamics workshops, recognizing, integrating, and balancing natural patterns that show up in human systems.
With special guest presenters,
Doug Bullock, Washington’s premier permaculture designer and teacher,
Larry Dobson, Northern Light Research and Development,
Alex Winstead from Cascadia Mushrooms,
and more nationally recognized and local experts to be announced.
Courses held at Inspiration Farm an established 12 ac. Permaculture / Biodynamic farm setting! Enrollment includes free camping space and prepared wholesome beyond organic farm meals.
Paul Wheaton, of, has named Inspiration Farm as the premier Permaculture Farm of the Pacific Northwest. You can learn much more in the Cascadia Forum at here.

*BONUS!  This PDC includes free admission and participation with the Whatcom Skillshare Faire/Northwest Permaculture Convergence happening in nearby Ferndale, WA on Aug. 23 and 24!*
Class meets 9am to 5pm Additional Hands-On Farm Opportunities throughout the course. Evening Permaculture and Eco-Films
Space is limited- first 10 students- $1295; regular tuition- $1395
Registration will close on the 15th of July so don’t delay, sign up today.
Some work-trade positions and payment plans available.
A great way to fund your PDC course fee and support the global work of Permaculture! We The Trees is a crowd funded stacking of functions, a win -win-win!

Attending a PDC is one of the best investments in future abundance you can make.For more info. and registration: Visit or Call 360-398-7061

See also the informative forum discussion at here and view the Peak Moment TV episodes filmed at Inspiration Farm here!

Whatcom Skillshare Faire2) Whatcom Skillshare Faire! August 23rd & 24 – Two days with camping!
“Share your skills – Trade your wares”The Whatcom SkillShare Faire – a fun festival about teaching and learning all kinds of useful & practical resilience skills. Years ago, lots of people knew how to repair & sharpen tools, make a braided rug, raise chickens, make soap, build a fence, make simple toys, & much more.
The goal of SkillShare is to help revive those skills, showcase some new ones, and provide a place where all of us can come learn from people more experienced in these crafts and trades.
Our August-sunny Faire this year will have two days of family-friendly Workshops and Demonstrations, plus a great lineup of local Musical Talent, tasty local Food Offerings and the ever-popular local brewery Beer Garden and Fermentation Station.Lots more information at our website! http://whatcomskillsharefaire. org
(Camping scheduled through Hovander Park – see our website for details)

Do you have a skill to share? Register at http://whatcomskillsharefaire. org/share-your-skills/Volunteers have a great time at the Faire. To volunteer at the Skillshare:http:// volunteer/

The Northwest Permaculture Convergence Board is happy to announce a new partnership (umbrellad-er-ship) for the 2014 season.
We encourage all our members to attend the Whatcom Skillshare Faire happening August 23-24 outside of Bellingham. We will have a ‘Permaculture’ area of the fair and on Sunday morning will hold our annual meeting there.
The Skillshare is a project of Transition Whatcom, and the worldwide Transition movement began with a Permaculture course! (toot toot)
Registration happens through the Faire and we are able to offer a discounted meal plan for members (see for more detail).
Also, we are looking for several hardy volunteers to help with setup and breakdown of our area on Friday and Sunday evening. If interested in that, please send an email to
For many reasons, we are tickled with this partnership. Not the least of these reasons being that many wonderful permaculture events are happening this summer!
See you at the Skillshare!
Or, if you’re a woman, see you at the West Coast Women’s Permaculture Gathering happening this year in Washington.
Or, if you’d like to converge with the whole western hemisphere, see you at the North American Convergence (link)

Survive and Thrive with Permaculture

david_holmgren_talking_2013-100x100David Holmgren, co-originator of Permaculture, and systems analyst Nicole Foss have begun their summer tour of Australia, which is being billed as “Strategies for a Changing Economy: Survive and Thrive” (click here for dates and here for further details about the tour). Foss will outline the links between the converging crises that include economic contraction, peak energy and geopolitical stress. She will also share her thoughts on the implications for how it will impact everyday lives and will offer practical solutions.  David  Holmgren will outline practical strategies drawn from 30 years of permaculture to help households and communities survive, thrive and contribute to a better world. Holmgren will also present an update of his well-known and popular “Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability” presentation:

Returning to Aussie St, David shows how the permaculture makeover and behaviour change is progressing through the Second Great Depression.  Aussie St is not only surviving but thriving through the “dumpers” that property bubble collapse, climate chaos and geopolitical energy shocks have unleashed on the lucky country.  An endearing, amusing and gutsy story of hope for in-situ adaptation by the majority of Australians living in our towns and suburbs.

Reading about the announcement of this Foss and Holmgreen tour, I was reminded of an observation I’ve had that when people really get educated about this triple threat of climate chaos, energy depletion, and economic instability; and when they seriously consider the options for how to respond; that permaculture very often comes up as the number 1 recommended approach.

Let’s review just a few.

 Energy BulletinAdam Fenderson and Bart Anderson‘s predecessor was the venerable Energy Bulletin, co-founded in 2004 by Adam Fenderson as a clearinghouse for information on peak-oil. Adam clearly latched on to Permaculture early on. He did some excellent interviews with David Holmgren that are still very worthwhile to listen to (check out transcript here). He then changed his name to “Adam Grubb” and resigned to pursue Permaculture in more depth. He became co-founder of the Permablitz network and director of Very Edible Gardens. Longtime editor of Energy Bulletin/Resilience, Bart Anderson is also a proponent of permaculture.

HeinbergRichard Heinberg

Richard Heinberg is one of the most longest standing and well respected “peak oil educators.” When you read his work, note how often he recommends permaculture and Transition Towns as a response.  Heinberg also toured with Holmgren in 2006, and practices permaculture at his home (as demonstrated in this Peak Moment TV episode.)

BatesAlbert Bates

Already a well known permaculturist, Bates authored one of the early practical response books to Peak Oil: The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook.

HopkinsRob Hopkins and Transition Towns

Hopkins was also already a permaculture educator when he and his students experienced what he calls their “End of Suburbia moment” in 2004. The Transition movement was born as a permaculture “energy descent” design plan – social permaculture in action. As Hopkins said in an interview, “It [Transition] is my attempt at lifting permaculture principles onto a whole other level of effectiveness and relevance. We try and integrate permaculture principles into the whole process, and they certainly underpin the work that I do. I recommend Holmgren’s book to anyone who is interested in all this.”  In his review of Holmgren’s book, Hopkins wrote, “This book is the clearest elucidation of what this new paradigm might look like since his permaculture co-originator Bill Mollison’s seminal ‘Permaculture, a Designers Manual’ was published in 1988. It is no exaggeration to call this the most important book published in the last 15 years.”
MartensonChris Martenson

Martenson developed his highly regarded “Crash Course” as a response to energy depletion and economic instability. Martenson found his way to “Financial Permaculture” and more recently Permaculture has had a more pronounced presence on his ‘Peak Prosperity” website – for example, see his post on Permaculture and the 8 Forms of Capital with Ethan Roland, and the excellent discussion with Toby Hemenway: Explaining Permaculture .

FossNicole Foss

Posting as “Stoneleigh” on The Oil Drum and then The Automatic Earth, Nicole Foss has a well-earned reputation for deep analysis, penetrating wisdom, and a unique ability to connect the dots using her complexity and systems thinking skills. In the last few years she too seems to be increasingly mentioning permaculture, and participating with permaculture teachers and courses, culminating in the current tour with David Holmgren.

I am increasingly involved with permaculture (teaching it in Belize this February), as it represents one of the most important paths towards building workable life-support systems in our era of limits to growth. We are rapidly running out of options as we deplete our natural capital worldwide. While we badly need to make some informed hard choices, we collectively do not, as our consumptive system has tremendous inertia. As we reach the limits that lie in our not too distant future, permaculture can be of tremendous use, for those who implement it, in mitigating the impacts and facilitating rebuilding from the bottom-up.
Nicole Foss


We could mention many others, but the point is made. The next question is – what is it about Permaculture that makes it so attractive as a response to the challenges we’re faced with today?

shop_principles_800s-400x400First, it can be said that Permaculture was designed specifically for declining availability and use of fossil fuels. In the Preface to his 2002 book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren wrote very clearly that permaculture, from the very beginning was founded on fundamental assumptions about the environmental crisis, the ongoing impacts of global industrial society, the limitations due to the energy laws that govern the material universe, the role of fossil fuels in enabling the industrial era, and the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels – likely sooner rather than later.


Howard T. Odum

Holmgren also acknowledges “a clear and special debt to the published work of American ecologist Howard Odum.” Odum was the first listed reference in the first permaculture book (Permaculture One), and is referenced over and over in the 2002 book, which is dedicated to the memory of Odum, who passed Sept. 11, 2002. This is significant, because Howard T. Odum spent much of his life work on the topic of energy and the inevitable decline of fossil fuel availability.  In 1994, Holmgren wrote:

Odum was one of the leading ecologists who developed a systems approach to the study of human/environment interactions. He uses energy as a currency to compare and quantify the whole spectrum of natural and man-made elements and processes.

In Holmgren’s 2002 Permaculture book, he states that “Permaculture is a creative design response to a world of declining energy and resource availability.”

Other features Holmgren names offer additional reasons permaculture is being recognized frequently as appropriate response to the current state of affairs. Permaculture:

  • gives priority to using existing wealth to rebuilding natural capital…
  • emphasizes bottom-up “redesign” processes…
  • more fundamentally was predicated on the likelihood of some degree of collapse and breakdown…
  • sees pre-industrial sustainable societies as providing models that reflect the more general system design principles observable in nature and relevant to post-industrial systems.

Here’s an interview with Holmgren on Permaculture and Peak Oil, recorded circa 2007, I think. He covers many of the most important features of his thinking in relation to energy descent.

Hopefully it is becoming obvious that permaculture is much more than a quirky form of organic gardening.  It is when people come to this realization that they start to see the real possibilities and potentialities.

Now we come to that pesky problem of trying to define “permaculture.”  Holmgren, again:

“…I see permaculture as the use of systems thinking and design principles that provide  the organizing framework for implementing [the vision outlined in Permaculture One of] …’Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for provision of local needs.’ People, their buildings and the ways they organize themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent (sustainable) agriculture has evolved to one of permanent (sustainable) culture…It draws together the diverse ideas, skills and ways of living which need to be rediscovered and developed in order to empower us to move from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible and productive citizens.”
Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, p. xix [to get a concise definition, I've rearranged the order of sentences, but it all comes from page xix of the Introduction]

In this more recent video, David Holmgren talks about permaculture as a way to change the world:

I envy those in Australia who are able to attend one of the presentations of the Foss and Holmgren ‘Survive and Thrive’ tour. If you live elsewhere in the world, the best way to learn permaculture is to attend a ‘hands-on’ full immersion Permaculture Design Certification course taught by qualified and experienced teachers using the full 72 hour course material from the Permaculture Design manual by the other co-originator, Bill Mollison.

You can check out to find a course being taught this summer near you.

Brian Kerkvliet

Brian Kerkvliet, steward of Inspiration Farm

I’m hoping to see some of you at the Inspiration Farm PDC course I’ll be a co-instructor at in Northwest Washington state, Aug. 17-29th.  Lead instructor Brian Kerkvliet is PRI certified, and Paul Wheaton, of, has named Inspiration Farm as the premier Permaculture Farm of the Pacific Northwest. You can learn much more in the Cascadia Forum at here.

Dawn at Inspiration Farm

Dawn at Inspiration Farm



Shaping Water & Soil at Inspiration Farm

Janaia Donaldson interviews Brian Kerkvliet at Inspiration Farm

Janaia Donaldson interviews Brian Kerkvliet at Inspiration Farm

Reblogged from Peak Moment TV, by Janaia Donaldson and Robin Mallgren

“If you grow good soil, everything else falls into place. You grow good plants, you grow good animals, you grow good people.”

Permaculturist Brian Kerkvliet shows how he gently shapes soil to form ponds which overflow into connected swales (ditches on contour). They slow and retain water while distributing nutrients through the whole landscape. On the mound of soft earth dug out from one swale, he planted mostly edible cover crops, berry bushes and 25 fruit tree species in only three days.

“We don’t till [the soil],” he says. “The worms till. The moles till. We find the niche where each element works the best.” Episode 267. []

- See more at:

Be sure to consider attending the Permaculture Design Certificate Course at Inspiration Farm in August 2014!

New Energy Report from I.E.A. Forecasts Decline in North American Oil Supply

National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” reported this morning:

NPR’s Business News starts with the outlook for oil. This is a change of course – the International Energy Agency has released a report on global energy investment. And this group predicts the United States will have to rely more heavily on Middle East oil in the coming years, as North American sources start to dry up a little bit. U.S. energy production has boomed recently, much of it coming from oil and gas extracted from shale. But the IEA says U.S. production will start to lose steam around 2020, and that would put more bargaining power back in the hands of OPEC countries, such as Saudi Arabia.

This is quite interesting, given that in 2012, the IEA forecast that the U.S. would overtake Saudia Arabia in oil production by 2020, and that North America would be a net oil exporter by 2030.  The International Energy Agency (I.E.A.) is a watchdog organization considered the world’s leading energy analyzing institution.  This new stance coincides with a similar about-face from the U.S. government’s EIA (Energy Information Administration), which suddenly downgraded its assessment of the Montery Shale “tight oil” fields by 96%.

Well, that Shale bubble, didn’t last long, did it? As Sylvia says, “we told you so!”  One of the best recent analysis of the current energy situation, I believe, was done by Steven Kopits, which I wrote about here. and with a follow-up here.

The focus of the new report released by the IEA today is on how much investment in the energy sector is going to be needed in the next 20 years (World Energy Investment Outlook). The numbers are sobering. They estimate that $48 trillion dollars needs to be invested to meet energy needs…but really it needs to be closer to $53 trillion if we want to address climate change.  They don’t even bother talking about a 350 parts per million target, but rather 450 parts per million to limit global warming to 2 degrees C.

I am extremely skeptical that even these levels of investments would provide the levels of energy the world is expecting. The IEA is becoming increasingly more realistic as they move beyond demand driven scenarios, and acknowledge that the era of easy oil is over. The alternatives we are left with are becoming increasingly expensive – from unconventional fossil fuels like tar sands and shale plays, to renewables. However, at some point (a point we may have already passed), geology responds less and less to the human construct we call money.  We’re currently living at the high point of the fossil fuel Pulse, and I don’t believe we can negotiate an avoidance of the backside of the pulse’s decline – but we can take measures to make a graceful descent if we begin early enough (ten years ago).


The report itself (disclaimer: so far I’ve only looked at the accompanied introduction, fact sheet, and powerpoint) notes many risks and difficult achievements that will be necessary. To note just a few:

  • The middle east may or may not increase oil supply.
  • Depletion of conventional fossil fuels force reliance on more challenging fields which puts pressure on upstream costs.
  • The larger share of the trillions in investment would go just toward replacing existing production that is in decline, and not toward demand growth.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the investment will take place in emerging economies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
  • There are many political and regulatory uncertainties that will be difficult to navigate.
  • Financing the transition to a low carbon energy system is a major challenge (to put it mildly).
  • Getting the world to a 2 degree emissions path would mean a different investment landscape (and a breakthrough at the Paris 2015 COP).
  • Households need to make about half of the investment, with 40% coming from business, and 11% from government.
  • “The supply of long term financing on suitable terms is still far from guaranteed” – “the banking sector…may be constrained…in the wake of the financial crisis.” (to put it mildly)

This last bullet point above reminds us of the difficult bind we are in. Many of us believe we are teetering on the edge of an even bigger financial crisis, which would not only make the above investments impossible, but will lead to a steep decline in existing investments. Even now we are seeing signs of this.

On that happy note, below is IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven’s remarks at the launch of the report.

To read an introduction to the World Energy Investment Outlook, please click here.

To download World Energy Investment Outlook, please click here.

To download Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven’s remarks at the launch of the report, please click here.

To download the presentation at the launch of the report, please click here.

To download fact sheets related to the report, please click here.