Cultural capitalism at it’s sickest: Groupon fails bigtime

Permaculture Politics:

by @gaiapunk

Okay, I didn’t watch the superbowl but I did watch a couple of super bowl ads.  Now why would somebody like myself who detests most advertising watch cheesy superbowl ads?  Well, superbowl ads are excellent windows into the influential cultural zeitgeist (spirit of the times, or literally the time ghost)  The insights gained from superbowl ads can last much longer than the fleeting victories from the great spectacle itself.  I wanted to share a couple of quick insights I found related to modern culture, the economy, and ecology.  The first one came from the very cliché motorolo xoom commercial (“a tablet to change the world for the better”).  Yes, it may sound incredible, even heretical, but the tablet computer (and by extension smartphones) have replaced the automobile as the central cultural object of techno-fetish for the 21st century.  Oh my!, crazy I know.  In the previous century an author I admire greatly named John Steinbeck wrote “Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than the clitoris.”  Amazingly, our digital interconnectedness has officially dethroned the car for good and the percentage of young American who got a drivers license this year has dropped dramatically.  Overall, due to the mobile web we really don’t need to drive as much and that’s a good thing.

Look for the tablet to receive mythical cultural attention in the next three years filled with a blind optimism that will likely never examine the hidden costs that desperately need to be ethically addressed.  This is the dark side of optimism that all to often only comes to light in a tragic and inevitable flash.  Personally though, I feel that mobile web technology will continue to play a critically important -but perhaps not the most important- role in humanity collectively redesigning the way we do things on this planet.  My beliefs stand on a paradoxical position because I often look at the hidden costs of this very technology I advocate that society use effectively, expressively, and creatively to share those salient insights that can bring rapid changes in culture, world-view, and actions.  In a recent video I posted here by Van Jones on the connection between hidden ecological and socials costs he said, “We can’t trash the planet without trashing people first”.  This particular quote looks deep beyond trite quick fix “solutions” to get towards the roots of the controversy.  When we run from paradox and controversy we refuse to make sense of the complexity and interrelatedness of the issue and in the words of the zen tradition we “get stuck in the branches while forsaking the root”.

This brings me to my next superbowl ad insight provided indirectly by oh so clever Groupon.  Groupon as you may know is a multibillion dollar social e-commerce company known for social innovaiton and yet they deliberately wasted a considerable amount of money on a couple of extremely offensive and highly telling ads.  What makes these particular ads so offensive is that besides being callous and insensitive they also lead us to optimistically believe we can simply buy our way out of any ecological or social ill without  ever getting to the root of their causes.  In my opinion Groupon has not only promoted their company in a very disgusting way, but they are actively promoting a largely unnoticed ideology that is fundamentally dangerous.  How dangerous?  Well, maybe not as dangerous as dictators but very dangerous non the less.

It is my belief that by using Permaculture as a design system and way thinking about the world we can bring society much closer to alleviating root causes rather than continuously mitigating effects.  Permaculture does this by promoting the simple ethics of earth care, people care, and fair share, and also by examining the world in a holistic way that implicitly accounts for the interdependence of systems.  I’ve posted a example of one of the terrible Grouopon ads below along with another video, almost a rebuttal if you will, by brilliant modern philosopher Salvoj Zizek.  I want to know what your reactions are to this post and the videos so I also threw up a a little poll, enjoy.

(p.s. please come back for the next post where I rip apart the save the whales cliché (also insensitively made into a dumb groupon ad) and give some startling new details about why saving the whales may be one of the most important things humanity can do for health of the planet, and well, humanity.)

Best Resources for Retrofitting Suburbia Permaculture Style

by @gaiapunk
One of the major reasons I work in permaculture is because as a eco-city researcher I’ve seen the devastating effects of urban and suburban environments out of balance with natural principals.  It was my investigations in eco-city research that made me into a passionate permaculture activist because I saw how beautifully the design principals in permaculture imitated the evolutionary intelligence of nature’s own design work.  This new outlook changed the way I looked at our modern challenges and gave me a new story to believe in regarding humanity’s potential to help in the regeneration of our planet.  A huge modern challenge to this end is retrofitting our urban and suburban to be more resilient, productive, and ecologically harmonious.  One important thing to make note of is that as we make areas more attractive we need to be cognizant of economic divisions and use models like community land trust, co-ops, and mixed income planning to make sure the benefits of improvements can be shared by everyone.  This retrofitting revolution is a massive and essential undertaking presented nicely above by Ellen Dunham Jones author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.  I’m dedicating the rest of this post to give you best retrofitting resources I know so you can join me in creating better places both for the health of ourselves and the planet. This site features some of my favorite retrofitting content and has a focus on making society more shareable.
City Repair: is a retrofitting force to be reckoned with which started in lovely Portland Oregon and whose model of community based organizing and place making has spread all over the US
Suburban Permaculture: Jan Spencer is a consummate expert on suburban permaculture retrofitting, a good friend, and a great inspiration.
inhabitat:  Features great articles on urban retrofitting.
Planetizen: Great place to find recent retrofitting articles

Liberation Permaculture

Permaculture is occasionally criticized for being a bit insular and middle class oriented.  I feel that this type of characterization is only partially accurate and definitely things are changing for the better very fast.  The folks who are a part of the liberation permaculture movement are radical in their approach to actively changing this perception.

Liberation Permaculture, a framework and design science that invokes the traditional knowledge of land-based peoples, provides organizers with a methodology to resist systems of oppression through building resiliency in our communities. It is a means to prepare oppressed communities for the oncoming environmental disasters while building the world we want and need now.”

Learn more about what liberation permaculture is all about and how it’s transforming the permaculture movement and it’s politics on

A Peace of the Anarchy!

What do punk, permaculture, and anarchy have to do with the 21st Century?

Answer: Everything!

A Peace of the Anarchy produced by is a quick summary of 20th century radical activism in the USA featuring prominent antiwar hero Kathy Kelly and permaculture eco activist Star Hawk.  Has notable focus on the pacifist christian anarchist Ammon Hennacy. Folks from the War Resisters League, the IWW, Earth First! and the Catholic Worker, along with Mr. Hennacy exemplify the marginalized prophetic witness for peace and justice in the USA as they attempt to appeal to the dominant culture. These people speak on the benefits of anarchy and peace, following the radical (rooted/basically grounded) ideology and optimism that goodness will overcome evil, love is superior to hate and truth trumps falsehood.”

~evan (@gaiapunk) [tweetmeme]

Strait from the teat (AKA Goat Fest)

Goat fest

Goat fest

Hey Gaia Punk here,

I have two amazing events to report back from this weekend.  First off, I have to say that I was very excited to witness what amounted to probably the biggest amassing of bike punks in US history friday night in Seattle WA during the Dead Baby Downhill after-party compounded by the fact that Seattle was also hosting the North American Bike Polo Championship that same weekend (congrats to Seattle for winning another tourney!  Good luck at the worlds in Philly)!  After the Dead baby after party a couple of friends and I drove to the foothills of Jacksonville, OR for the first annual Strait from the Teat Fest (aka Goat Fest) at the Boone’s Farm.  This festival was a punk and dance festival hosted by an organic permaculture farm and goat dairy.  There were lots of wonderful bands including, the Hail Seizures, Razzamatazz, RVIVR, Mutoid Men, and many more who played on a wooden stage in the midst of a beautiful oak grove under a massive moon.  The hosts were extremely gracious and I think everyone had an amazing time. Below is a interview I did with Mookie about the Boone’s Farm and history of Strait From the Teat Fest.

mookie milking a goat

mookie milking a goat

Gaia Punk: What is the history of the Boone’s Farm and how many folks are involved?

Mookie: I had been doing sustainable agriculture for a few years when I came to this area 8 years ago with the intention of starting a agricultural education center that would promote the next generation of farmers and radicals.  This was the goal around which the Boone’s Farm was founded.  Right now we have 8 people living here, 3 full timers working with the organic goat dairy,  2 working with the veggie farm, and 3 half time interns who help all around and also work on political campaigns.  Besides our growing commercial operation we have a revolutionary program called Turning Tables in which we grow and 1 acre of veggies that we give away at no cost to families in need to help ensure that everyone in our community has access to wholesome organic produce.

Gaia Punk: That fits perfectly with the permaculture ethic of “fair share” or returning the surplus to your community and to the earth.

Mookie: Yes, exactly.

Gaia Punk: How did Strait From the Teat (aka goat fest) evolve and where do you see it going?

Mookie: A lot of us here at the farm have punk and or DIY influences.  Farming of course can be very DIY.  Eventually folks learned of our farm as a inviting punk friendly space and it became a way point for various band and musicians on tour.  It was from these relationships and friendships that the idea for Strait from the Teat as a yearly festival arose.  This festival is a place for people to speak out against the oppressive systems that we don’t want, but most importantly a space for folks to see and realize community in action.  During the festival a natural skill share organically emerged and in the future we hope to bring  even more educational aspects for the benefit of everyone attending.  It seems obvious to me that there can be no resistance without food and no celebration without music.

Gaia Punk: What permaculture techniques and or principals do you employ at the Boone’s Farm?

Mookie: Well water management is critical and recently we just finished a key line dam that after this years rainy season will provide ample amounts of water for the farm during the summer.  We also employ many permaculture practices in our produce production.  Two principals that really stick out for me on the farm are planned redundancy and on site resourcing.   Something that we don’t do is employ hierarchies such as the teacher/student dichotomy because as far as I’m concerned we are all learning and sharing from one another.

Gaia Punk: Do you think permaculture is being popularized by it’s interactions with various sub cultures, and if so will it have lasting effects?

Mookie: I feel permaculture is just the labeling of a ethic that could easily be describe as sanity.  I feel permaculture as an idea will eventually be absorbed into the mainstream and hopefully become accepted and commonplace.  I feel it is the destiny of the term permaculture itself to disappear.  I think it is very important that permaculture can’t remain as something to be bought or sold but must become knowledge that is freely shared.  This is what we’re working for at the Boone’s Farm

Gaia Punk: I agree completely.  Thanks so much Mookie I’ve had a incredible time listening to all the great bands at Strait from the Teat and learned a whole lot too.   I hope you know you got lots of allies out there.

Mookie: Oh, I know it.  Thanks to you too, have fun and keep up the great work.

Radical Community Profile: Free state Swomp (Amsterdam) under threat

recycled materials strawbale house

recycled materials strawbale house

I’m reposting this post because I just learned that they may be facing eviction 😦

There is a genuine non violent revolution going on around the globe.  One that crosses boundaries of race, creed, color, religion and subculture.  A revolution that heals the heart even as it dismantles the heartless systems of oppression.  It is of course the permaculture revolution; a revolution that is interconnected and diverse.

“…the greatest change we need to make is from consumption to
production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of
us do this, there is enough for everyone.

Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on
the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food
and shelter.” – Bill Mollison

I want to take sometime and give you a picture of some of these true revolutionaries….

The Swomp in Amsterdam is a collective squat that is guided by permaculture and its principals.  Besides providing for themselves with their garden production the Swomp does community outreach and education.  They are under constant threat of eviction and they may need some media attention soon.  Please take the time to read their declaration and the inspiring sustainable ethics by which the community abides.   Here is just a sampling of what they’ve accomplished:

  • successfully squatted a unused urban lot and turned it into a permaculture demonstration site.
  • built a strawbale home from mostly recycle materials
  • organized with numerous other collectives on a wide range of important global issues
  • provided free education to the community
  • demonstrated that one can live in harmony with one’s conscience and with the earth

Please visit their awesome blog and if you are aware of other radical communities in the permaculture vein we would love to feature them here.

p.s.  We are always looking for more contributors so if you would like to write for PRP e-zine please contact thejulianeffect(at)gmail with the subject “gaia punks.”

Landslide Community Urban Farm!

Radical Community Profile: Landslide Community Farm

Pittsburgh, PA

The history of the Landslide Community Farm is analogous to one of natures little accidents, a mutation if you will, that with in a certain given context becomes crucial if not startlingly beautiful.

Landslide has grown from a couple of fixed up “farm houses” to a non profit in control of multiple city plots used for urban farming.  Landsliders are using permaculture techniques, inclusive outreach, and smart campaigning to get strong rapport with city (even enough to fight off a unjust eviction attempt).   These permie punxs along with their equally amazing neighbors are making their urban environments more livable, more ecologically sound, and if dare say, all around more krunk.  Landsliders are truly stout folks with aspirations that include more than just themselves, but instead a desire to elevate the relationships around them, including the earth, and the greater Pittsburgh community as a whole.  Many Landsliders volunteer with collectives like Food NOT Bombs and most likely a dozen other awesome radical or progressive projects too numerous to mention here.

It is my view that permaculture is really 10 % physically oriented and 90 % percent community oriented because ultimately it is the community that will implement the work that is most needed.  The first rule for building community is just being inclusive by making what your doing accessible, affordable, and autonomously oriented.   Even when all the steel money is long gone it is the history of our relationship with the earth and others that will remain.  Landsliders are leaving a history in Pittsburgh that anyone would be proud of.

go Gaia punks go!









Heroes List!


Earth Activist profile

Earth Activist profile

Vandana Shiva Is A Eco Warrior Goddess…


Hi folks Gaia Punk here,

While I was having a blast at my Permaculture Design Course in Costa Rica my instructor Scott Pittman of the US Permaculture Institute started a “Heroes” and “Bad Guys” list.   Very high on the “Bad Guys” list of course was Monsanto and very high on the good guys list was the ever lovely Dr. Vandana Shiva.

Shiva participated in the nonviolent Chipko movement during the 1970s when woman actually hugged trees to prevent their felling.  A world warrior in fighting poverty and enviromental destruction with community resiliance and nonviolent action Vandana shiva has garnered countless awards and appreciatioin from numerous organiaztion, instituions, and countrys.  We have much to learn from her kind of militant wisdom!  See her excellent camio in the ONE Water documentary.

Ooooby! and One Million Gardens!!

 (Out of our own back yards) is a new social networking site on the Ning network that is dedicated to localvores, permaculture, gardening, and a lot more.  When you can also check the Transition Movment  and the One Million Gardens campaign.  Welcome to regenerative culture!  Gaia punxs unite!

I have a quote that I’ve been inspired by lately I would like to share with you:

“Revolution is based on land.  Land is the basis of all independence.  Land is the basis of Freedom, Justice, and Equality.”

–Malcolm X

“Message to the Grassroots” November 10th 1963