Exciting, isn’t it? Toby Hemenway has a new book coming out and I’ll just go ahead and say it: it is incredible. I received an advance copy, clocking in at 288 pages, from the publisher Chelsea Green and, even though I’m a slow reader, sat down and read the whole thing, cover to cover, in a day.
What I like about this book is that the way it is written and organized reminds me of my own permaculture path. In the beginning there is an examination of the ethics and principles and why they matter. Then there is an look at design and considering techniques, but then stepping back and to organize our thoughts with the tools provided by the permaculture design process. To re-examine the elements and how they relate to systems. As that understanding grows to take another step and use small examples, such as water systems, to expand our thoughts further and realize there is more to this work than just the land and includes the people involved with caring for it, for maintaining it, and that those living communities matter. They embody why we care for Earth, care for people, and share the surplus.
As importantly Toby also addresses the real fact that we can’t expect everyone to become hunter-gatherers again or subsistence farmers. Even if we could that idea isn’t reflective of the resiliency that permaculture design engenders. Using resiliency as a basis he uses several examples, including home and community gardening, water, and energy use, as informal case studies to explore how to apply the principles to step back and ask bigger questions so we can create useful strategies.
This last point is important because, to me, The Permaculture City is a book about better understanding our design strategies, those often nebulous ideas that separate the philosophical underpinnings of permaculture, the ethics and principles, from the techniques that represent the physical practice that all of our on-paper design results in. There is time for techniques when we implement, but that can only come after consideration and design.