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Permaculture Design by


​​Here we are -- humanity -- 7.8 billion of us (and counting), living on Earth. This 4.5 billion year- old planet we call home is a great sphere nearly 24,901 miles (40,074 kilometers) in circumference, hurtling around the life-giving sun at 67,000 miles (107,826 kilometers) per hour. The full biodiversity of Earth, from the atmosphere to the deepest oceans, inhabits an incredibly thin, 12- mile (20 kilometer) biosphere known to support all life on this planet. Our neighborhood as humans is the land -- the 30% of the Earth's surface that isn't made up of water.

Life on Earth is a great, glorious community of millions of species of plants and animals (1.3 million of which are known to us) to which we as modern humans (Homo sapiens) have belonged for some 300,000 years. For only the last 500 years or so, modern human society has begun to separate itself from the community of life on Earth by commodifying, exploiting and toxifying land, water and air, threatening mass extinction throughout the biosphere.



Earth is our only home, and the rich diversity of life is our only family. Understanding this truth, it is only natural to care, and to care deeply, that it is our species, and no other, which is abusing our family of biodiversity and damaging our Earth home. Those of us who care deeply find no choice but to act, urgently, to bring an end to the abuse and the damage. To rejoin the community of life. To love and respect all the children of all species for all time. Where do we even start?

We can begin by healing our relationship to land. Treating land as a community to which we belong rather than a commodity belonging to us. Living on land as a full member of the ecosystems and bioregions which support life, rather than as a species which considers itself separate. Creating places where human ecological design can thrive. Cultures around the world honor the traditional ecological knowledge of their ancestors, and are stewards of ecosystems as strongholds of biodiversity against modern extractive cultures. How can we learn to steward land as a commons once again?

This is the calling of our time, our calling as humans - to design WITH nature, to cherish the wisdom of the ancestors, to resettle the land. Let us all respond to the call.   Permaculture Living Lands Trust has recently received tax exempt status as a public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the IRC.  We are a nonprofit land trust receiving donations grants to acquire, protect and steward land for Permaculture projects.

What solutions are possible when the Permaculture, Conservation, and Commons movements collaborate?  
A group of us have come together as permaculture designers and educators, land conservationists, and ecological planners to find out. We founded a new organization – Permaculture Living Lands Trust (PLLT) – squarely at the center of these three important global movements: 

We are doing this to find out what solutions we as humans are capable of co-creating together to address the unprecedented, interconnected Biosphere Crises and Social Crises we are facing in a colonial, globalized economy.  
We are doing this to hold land in trust so we can all reconnect with and regenerate the communities and ecologies where we live. We can and must hold our ground.
We are doing this because humans have always been Earth Commoners. We have always carried and practiced traditional ecological knowledge. Before commodifying and extracting from land and water as private property over only the last 700 years. Before we ever needed public parks or land conservation. Before this polycrisis. We practiced human ecology. We designed with nature. 
Now, we have no choice but to find new ways to protect and steward more of the Earth as a Commons, as we have for 99% of human history. 
We have no choice but to learn from the ecological wisdom of our ancestors still in practice today. The wisdom of the 20% of humanity who steward 80% of Earth’s remaining biodiversity. 
We have no choice but to shift away from our colonial, globalized economy of commodifying and extracting wealth from people and nature to an economy of solidarity and reciprocity with Earth and with each other.  
Are we living well on Earth, all 8 billion of us? With all of the advances of modern society we have overshot the natural limits of the Earth Commons. We have created a planetary emergency of biodiversity loss, climate change, and toxic legacies and the social and political upheaval that follow.  We have externalized the true costs of our progress and profits. 
As we leave the late Holocene epoch and enter the early Anthropocene, it is clear that our broken human relationship to land and water is the root cause of the poly crisis we are living in. 
The real work ahead is that of healing the human relationship with Earth by restoring social, ecological, and economic well-being and resiliency. It starts where we live - communities and bioregions. It starts with reclaiming the commons that is our collective birthright.

Our Strategy: Combine the strengths of the permaculture and conservation land trust movements to: secure land and funding; establish nonprofit Agroforestry Nurseries; propagate regionally-adapted tree crops; design, install, and steward Community Food Forests; and ensure protection of these sites as a permanent land base for perennial foods. Add to this the community prosperity focus of the cooperative business model and community economic development agencies to partner with employee-owned tree crop co-ops, tree crop nursery owner/operators, landowners, local governments and community organizations and funders on non-market-based solutions. 


In our lifetimes, defusing the biosphere crises generated by our “developed” human societies requires that we begin resettling the land and redesigning our land use patterns and technologies to operate within the ecological commons. For Permaculture Living Land Trust, this resettling and redesign begins at the confluence of three of our most dire and interrelated crises: food and water; biodiversity; and climate. 

We can, and we must, produce and distribute food as part of the ecological commons in ways that: cleans and replenishes precious fresh water with riparian forest buffers rather than degrades and wastes it; restores habitat for declining native species of vegetation and wildlife rather than destroys it; sequesters carbon in living soils and woody plants, rather than releases it through fossil fuel and chemical-based agriculture; and holds land in trust as a community inheritance rather than a private commodity for short term investor returns. 


This means: more perennial polycultures and less annual monocultures; more local production and distribution and less shipping; a more secure, equitable community land base than privately owned or leased land can offer; and community supported cooperative business operations for tree and land stewardship, rather than private small and large businesses competing in the agroforestry marketplace. 

The sense of urgency for implementing these strategies is very real, and not just for our converging biosphere crises, or because food forests take years to grow: 

The loss of genetic stock and intergenerational knowledge about regional tree crop production is rapid and widespread. As fruit and nut grower hobbyists and nurserymen/women are aging out, the better-tasting and more prolific hybrid varieties of native edible species they developed over time are being lost, and their production sites are changing hands, unprotected. 

Tree crop nurseries are generally small businesses run more for passion than profit, and face ongoing challenges of competing in a niche market. Larger tree crop nurseries aiming for mass production for corporate clients and national distribution rather than regional genetics and community food systems.


New generations nurserymen/women with a passion for tree crops often don’t feel incentivized to choose a career as owner-operators of a small operations or as employees of large ones.  

Climate change is highlighting our food system overdependence on vulnerable growing regions of the Midwest and West, and our misallocation of farmland for commodity crops to feed hogs, cows and poultry. 

The “plant millions of trees to offset our carbon footprint” mantra/mania is taking attention away from the vital work of restoring native ecosystems in harmony with regional food systems, and may not achieve the massive drawdown of greenhouse gasses needed in a short enough amount of time. Meanwhile, massive land grabs and forest clearing for industrial export agriculture are accelerating globally. 

We believe that the path forward through these biosphere crises must include innovating food production with unique combinations of permaculture design, community land trust landholdings, cooperatively-owned agroforestry nursery businesses, and community-supported food forests. Rediscovering our ancient relationships of reciprocity with native ecosystems will allow this transformation to accelerate and expand, as we rediscover our ecological imperative as human beings: to love all children, of all species, for all time. 

We launched PLLT to create a regional, national, and potentially global network of permaculture land commons by holding land in trust for human communities to meet our needs within the natural limits of the ecosystems and bioregions in which we live.  Creating cultural landscapes that provide long term resilience. Increasing the diversity, quality and quantity of yields for more farm-based economies, in ecologically restorative ways.

We are currently applying for grants to develop a more robust network of Tree Crop  Nurseries to grow the stock for planting out more polyculture perennial forest garden landscapes, combining wild genetics with appropriate, selected, domesticated and cultivated tree crops. Much of these tree crops we see being planted in riparian buffer reforestation projects on sites where conservation easements can ultimately protect the trees with allowances for sustainable harvests and uses permitted by the easement.

Permaculture Living Land Trust helps to create and spread an inheritance of multi-functional agroforestry agro-ecological landscapes that take decades to create, that produce yields for centuries, and that future generations will thank us for!  Let us create permaculture designs supporting all forms of life, on land that is as free as possible from deeds of ownership, titles to property, mortgages with banks, subdivision surveys, and real estate speculation. Let us create permaculture commons! 

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