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Deconstructing Dinner: Are agricultural systems sustainable? (Toby Hemenway on permaculture)


Much of the content of Deconstructing Dinner revolves primarily around the practice of agriculture; from examining the downsides and challenges of current agricultural systems to the opportunities and alternatives to those challenges. However, most of those alternatives that we examine are 'agri'cultural alternatives, and so from time to time it's important to step back and deconstruct that very focus... asking the question; "Are 'agri'cultural alternatives an adequate response if they're rooted within that same 'agri'cultural box"? On past episodes when this question has been raised, we've often arrived at the subject of permaculture - creating systems that mimic natural ecosystems while providing for human needs.

One of the outspoken voices advocating for permacultural systems in North America is Toby Hemenway - the author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture (Chelsea Green, 2009). On this episode we listen to a talk Toby delivered in February 2010 when he suggested that 'sustainable agriculture' might very well be a misnomer. He reflected on the rise and fall of past civilizations that help answer the question... "how 'sustainable' is agriculture?"

Voices

Toby Hemenway, author, Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (Portland, OR) -

Toby Hemenway is the author of the first major North American book on permaculture, Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. He's an adjunct professor at Portland State University and a Scholar in Residence at Pacific University. Toby and his wife spent 10 years creating a rural permaculture site in southern Oregon. He was associate editor of Permaculture Activist between 1999 and 2004 and he now works on developing urban sustainability resources in Portland.

Download the audio for this episode here.

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