The Seed Bank was packed last Thursday as Permaculture hero, Toby Hemenway, introduced his new tome, The Permaculture City, to a hopeful room full of people who espouse resilience (the capacity to recover from difficulties; toughness is one definition) and an underlying community that supports that. It’s assumed you know overcoming the challenges of climate crisis is a prime concern; building more close-knit and healthy cities is the focus. In the process, people get happy! See details at

Most came away hopeful and more connected to each other and to wonderful ideas and ideals of community spaces, food forests, people-made community centers around as small a space as a street corner, permaculture.

I came away with Toby Hemenway’s simple image of a one-line lump, like in The Little Prince when he was trying to draw an elephant in a bag – you had to have imagination to see the elephant. In this case, it took little imagination to comprehend that we are now at “peak everything” – plenty of resources just for now with – ouch! – a sharp downturn coming. In everything.

The presentation was brought to the Seed Bank by Ryan Johnston, Permaculture Skills Center, and as he says, a life-long Daily Actor and member of US Green Building Council. Note to self: belonging to several groups with this same goal seems to meld people together and create a community of sorts; people get inspired! I promised myself I’d get more involved with Daily Acts, check out the US Green Building Council and a few other favorites like UNICEF and now the Peace Alliance, all working toward a more resilient world.

This from Hemenway’s publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing:

Permaculture is more than just the latest buzzword; it offers positive solutions for many of the environmental and social challenges confronting us. And nowhere are those remedies more needed and desired than in our cities. The Permaculture City provides a new way of thinking about urban living, with practical examples for creating abundant food, energy security, close-knit communities, local and meaningful livelihoods, and sustainable policies in our cities and towns. The same nature-based approach that works so beautifully for growing food—connecting the pieces of the landscape together in harmonious ways—applies perfectly to many of our other needs. Toby Hemenway, one of the leading practitioners and teachers of permaculture design, illuminates a new way forward through examples of edge-pushing innovations, along with a deeply holistic conceptual framework for our cities, towns, and suburbs.

Fascinating to me Hemenway thinks our future on the planet depends upon (or works if) we develop small inter-dependent villages practicing not agriculture (think Big AG) but horticulture (think Victory Garden). If the vast majority of people migrate to cities, cities can absorb the crush better with public food forests. Here in Petaluma, Daily Acts with City government approval and many hands on board – has built up food forests around City Hall, Cavanaugh Center and even Petaluma Health Center.

So if its all downhill from the peak resources we stand upon, (quite possible!) why was the room for the most part full of smiles? The warm connections between the “permies” is what I think – the strongly held notion that with a lot of love we can prevail and still have a glorious, though insecure world even as the planet is heating past its raw stage and well into the cooked and burnt.

Admittedly, I’m feeling very concerned for the planet for several reasons, oddly, one being our trip to Paris in February/March. How could THAT cause worry? The armed guards on the streets dressed in camo fatiques is why. The immigrants from Libya, from Africa, from Syria, from Yemen, from the whole burnt world (check Drought and Libya or Drought and Syria, ex.), are coming en masse and nobody, nobody is ready. Migrants want to go to England but England doesn’t want them. They want to go to France and there they congregate in a ghetto and get involved in hip hop music (I hear on NPR). In Paris crossed “the periphery” of the city into the African and Muslim ghettos just North and found poor, angry, recent immigrants from Africa and Arab countries. Currently, about 20 million people are homeless due to disasters exacerbated by climate change.…/126287-20-million-people-made-homeless-by…

Here on Oasis Farm, drought caused the berries to dry up a month early. We didn’t water as much of course, but also the air is so very dry it sucks the water right out and the plants can’t perform. Way tougher to grow a healthy garden but still possible.

But back to Toby Hemenway’s book, a hopeful picture full of sweet ideas including a rocket stove bench many can sit on, traffic circles created with paint by neighbors who then build a mini park at their street corner, food forests you can grow around your house, your place of business, your health center. All these seem buffers that may just help when needed, emotionally and edibly. You can sit on a bench and eat a peach perhaps or pick some beans for protein when the grid goes down.

Toby Hemenway lives near us now, at least somewhere in SoCo, and this is a talesman in a way: we DO host some of the finest minds in the resilience business – Trathen Heckman at Daily Acts and Transition U.S., Brock Dolman at Occidental Arts and Ecology, Craig and Eric and now Ryan at Permaculture Skills Center, the solid and fine people at Sonoma County Conservation Action, but what to Do with all this sense of direction and knowledge of building soil, conserving/reusing water? Growing food isn’t quick or easy or lucrative – we’ll also need to make friends and be kind to each other.

Notes on Hemenway and his upcoming workshop here from Ryan Johnston, Program Director, Permaculture Skills Center:

Toby Hemenway is the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, which for the last seven years has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world. He has been an adjunct professor at Portland State University, Scholar-in-Residence at Pacific University, and is currently a field director at the Permaculture Institute (USA).

Toby Hemenway is also the lead instructor for Daily Acts Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) which will begin on the weekend of October 10th. Find out more about this life-changing course:

You can reach Ryan to participate at 707.486.8554

Toby Hemenway, Daily Acts and the US Green Building Council are not alone in calling for resilient cities.This movement is not only made of academic idealists with a following of college students. Rockerfeller Foundation now proudly presents its 100 Resilient Cities project, calling for cities to Be Resilient.
Join the 100 Resilient Cities movement to enhance city resilience worldwide.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating to be a program manager, also scary. Pleased to see Berkeley, Boston, Boulder, Oakland and San Francisco among the cities around the world participating.

This bold new approach to overcoming the mess we’re in is building, but the danger, of course, is that we will do too little too late as is already seen in the now TWENTY million homeless people around the globe due to natural disasters and man made. How tragic that we don’t have solutions, homes, schools, blankets, food for all these. We do have plenty of those for ourselves.