Episode-923- Geoff Lawton on Site Selection, Main Frame Earthworks, GMOs and More

Geoff Lawton - Managing Director of PRI Australia

Geoff Lawton – Managing Director of PRI Australia

Since 1985, Geoff Lawton has undertaken 1,000’s of jobs consulting, designing, teaching and implementing in seventeen different countries around the world. Clients have included private individuals, groups, communities, governments, aid organizations, non government organizations and multinational companies.

In October 1997 Bill Mollison, upon his retirement, asked Geoff to establish and direct a new Permaculture Research Institute on the 147 acre Tagari Farm previously developed by Bill. Geoff Lawton developed the site over three years and established The Permaculture Research Institute as a registered charity and global Networking centre for Permaculture projects. Geoff Lawton is the managing director of The Permaculture Research Institute.

Geoff joins us on TSP today to discuss site selection in both the suburbs and rural areas.  We also discuss the threat of GMOs and two “almost disasters” related to GMOs most people have never heard of.  A huge problem and even bigger opportunity with the Mississippi river.  The challenges of desert permaculture and why we should focus on “marginal desert areas” first as we begin to repair man caused desertification.

Resources for today’s show…

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29 Responses to Episode-923- Geoff Lawton on Site Selection, Main Frame Earthworks, GMOs and More

  1. Pingback: Geoff Lawton on Site Selection, Main Frame Earthworks, GMOs and More « occupysecession

  2. Another great podcast from the two of you Jack. I so want to take a PDC course and want to find one here in the Dallas Tx. area. Anyone know of a teacher in this area. What we really need is a Permaculture Institute here.

  3. Thanks for the continuing education!
    Our budget doesnt allow a PDC as yet…good thing there arr libraries.

  4. I haven’t started watching this yet so I don’t know the quality, but there is a free online “Introduction to Permaculture” course which includes a couple dozen hours of lectures.

    http://mediasite.online.ncsu.edu/online/Catalog/pages/catalog.aspx?catalogId=f5a893e7-4b7c-4b79-80fd-52dcd1ced715

  5. Thanks Geoff! We love your teaching!

  6. I love the mindset and goals discussed… but Can someone explain to me how Permaculture can possibly relace the Mexican labor required – if anything it would increase it from what I can see?

    • Modern Survival

      @MmmBBQ

      1. see the three ethics.

      2. Take a look at my permaculture series on youtube, http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEA7BA330871366B8&feature=plcp

      3. Consider that it isn’t that these people would not be working, it isn’t that they want to not work, the key is who would they be working for, what would they be producing etc.

    • what is this mexican labor you speak of? If you are of sound mind and reasonable health, you ought to be doing most of the work yourself and your family. That is what self sufficiency is about, right?

      • Modern Survival

        @peter it was a question in response to how Geoff stated Mexican labor is so abused on large organic farm. The question was more about reducing manual labor, unfortunately it seems no one can hear Mexican any longer without making it political.

        • Got it, Jack, MmmBBQ. In that context, then my response was a brain fart, my bad. I wrongly thought the question was more on a homestead type scenario than on a big operation.

  7. A top three episode for me. I’m really starting to wrap my head around what’s required to succeed with a Permaculture project in the desert, a goal of mine.

    One bit about corporate planning. I work for a global Japanese tech oriented firm. We have annual plans and 3-5 year plans. I know of some working in R&D with longer lines than that. These kinds of time lines are not at all unusual in the corporate world, so that’s not it really. It’s a matter of vision. If they can be convinced of the profitability of changing they will. More likely there will need to be disruptive upstart actors, then established interests will respond. Perhaps something sorta kinda like micro brewing has disrupted mega brewers.

    • Modern Survival

      @Vettezuki, you say that but I guarantee, sales, marketing and the board are driving the company on 90 day cycles and annual goals. R&D creates stuff they don’t make decisions on taking it to market, etc.

    • It is simply impossible to develop high order production on 30/90/360 day “plans.”

      Of course we have to hit our numbers (monthly, quarterly, annually) but our numbers are based on years of preceding planning and development of industry. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been in China for a few decades and there were HUGE costs and obstacles in getting up and running there loooonnng before the substantial payoffs now. That was decades of planning and execution with an eye on the 21st century and expected emergence of China. NOT five years. My point is that thinking relatively far into the future is not only not uncommon, it is the norm for manufacturers in my experience . . the five year envelope for product line is common, much longer for global market strategy. Simply a fact of my experience. I’m living it and I have close ties to S&M. However, it is a Japanese firm and I’ve never worked for an American firm, so that may be part of it. On the other hand I know Jobs left Apple with at least 36 months of tech in the pipeline with an S&M plan.

      The implication, at least for mass food, timber, textile production, etc., is can any of the existing providers see the long run profitability of these systems and just as importantly a viable transition path from the current modality. My guess is probably not, though they may adopt bits and pieces of biodnyamic production techniques, which isn’t bad either. Wholesale transformation, if there will be any, will most likely come from “creative destruction” IMO.

      My personal expectation is something analogous to the micro-brew/home-brew revolution. The vast majority of total production as a percentage will be carried by the heavy weights deep into the foreseeable future (I just don’t see why that would change), HOWEVER, like the micro-brews and home brewers did in the beer world over the last few decades, there could be a bit of an upset revolution with influences back onto the mega producers. JMO. We’ll see. Interesting times.

      • Modern Survival

        @Vettezuki

        See you just said it all, if you must always hit a 90 day number NO absolutely NO they are not actually thinking in 5 year timelines. They may be thinking about what they will be doing in 5 years but they are not thinking about 3-5 years as being more important then 12 months. That is the key, your point is frankly moot, if you doubt it just look at the current state of affairs.

        I spent plenty of time in the corporate world, often running things before I understood what I do now. 5 year plans are about product development, market share goals, etc. They are never about true investing in the long term. It is all bullshit pie charts to insure more capital from your investors.

        It isn’t really the fault of the people doing it, it is the system itself. It is set up to work this way.

      • The point was whether firms deploy capital/resources in the near term to build profitability for the long term or not. That is using a resource now to invest in processes, tech, and market development, to increase income in the future, specifically out past five years. This is what was briefly discussed in the episode and this is what I’m talking about. As a matter of material fact in the real world, at least some of it, certainly mine, but maybe not yours, this is absolutely the case. The key you may be missing is the numbers to hit are parts of these plans, not separate; bottom line estimates INCLUDE ongoing long run capital outflows. Otherwise we could just cut long term investments to increase our short term bottom line right? It may not fit a simple “what’s wrong with the world today” narrative, but there it is. I AM NOT saying you’re universally wrong by any stretch, only that by no means is every firm run the way you seem to be implying.

        • Modern Survival

          @Vettezuki

          Here is the problem for you, EVERY WORD you are using in your debate with me I would have used myself about 7 years ago. We are speaking a different language at this point on two totally different points from which we view the world. Nothing you say is going to change my mind because I am listening to myself from the past.

          You do really remind me of myself in my late 20s and early 30s, frankly though in some ways quite ahead of where I was at that point. At least you are aware of things like permaculture, I wasn’t.

          Yes I too believed that the quarterly and annual measurements were about meeting five year goals, I thought is wasn’t just lip service to a forward looking statement, etc. To put it bluntly if any major company was thinking even 1% in the direction Geoff and I were speaking about there wouldn’t be a huge waste of capital on any corporate campuses. There would be no fields of grass on them, if they can’t even get that far, well, there isn’t much to discuss in this vein.

      • I think I understand your feeling about companies generally and how they might be better able to use their campuses in a productive/beautiful environment and they’re almost exclusively not doing so as far as I know. For one I can say that I tried and failed to get the use of just a small out of the way part of the campus for an employee wellness garden (my pitch) but it was rejected on liability grounds. Here in California that’s probably a legitimate concern because of how liability works here, but in any event, they briefly entertained the idea then punted, even though we have an extensive “wellness” program as part of our self funded medical insurance. (At our HQ in Japan there is no such waste of property on big pieces of grass, it’s a hive, but that’s a another tangent.)

        So IF you’re talking about generally getting companies on board with altering their environments and thinking sort along permaculture lines about their properties (never mind the structure/function of their organizations) I’d have to say you are correct and it’ll be a long hall before that changes much probably. Simply from their POV when a campus is pulling hundreds of millions, just a few 10s of thousands on at least nice looking environment for visitors that they farm out and forget about is just not on their radar as an expense. Relatively small logistics errors or currency problems blow that out of the water. On the upside, I do now take as much of the cut grass as I want from my increasingly epic compost piles, so there is that. :) And I’ve spread the good word among my fellow employees who are down with gardening etc. Bottom line, if you’re talking about companies generally and their properties, etc., I basically agree.

        But the point I was attempting to make, which is my personal experience, with the one and only firm I’ve been at for 11 years, is that we do think out into the future (within our business domain obviously, which is not ag related at all) and we do apply capital to build according to long run plans. That’s all. Of course we have to take care of current cash flow for thousands of employees and facilities that all are expenses that must be met, but this is not at all to the exclusion of thinking out further. From my/our POV, to be a successful firm, we have to take care of both, eat today, build for tomorrow.

        My example of investing into China from the 90s with an eye on the 21st century is more of what I’m talking about. We would have had bigger bottom lines then if we didn’t make those investments, but we wouldn’t now have entrenched production capacity along with premium brand marketing and distribution in China. (Interesting side note, American companies generally did not make these kinds of longer term investments earlier there because of the difficulty and expense in getting established within China. Another tangent, perhaps more closely related to your view.) Specifically I was attempting to communicate that in the case of *maybe* some ag producers, in their business domain which revolves around growing things, assuming that some of them may have similar approaches to longer run investment, that if they could be convinced in the return on increased productivity in the future, they will begin to entertain at least experimenting to test it out. This is what I was branching off from from what Geoff was talking about. I could be wrong, I have zero experience with ag firms and they may be radically more short cycle driven, perhaps because of the nature of crops and livestock, the fact they’re producing more to a need than a want generally, and the fact the stages of production are much simpler.

        Anyway, sounds like we might have been talking about somewhat different things. Sorry for the rambling. Don’t have time to make it concise. :)

        PS Hope you find a good pruning guy to do a show. Every time I try to look into it I get confusing and even outright conflicting information.

  8. Other than multiple green sites cross referencing each other, there is actually not a lot of evidence for ‘near miss’ version of the “soil ethanol GMO” story.

    Even the Green Party (which Dr Ingham was supporting) eventually withdrew portions of her assertions but even more importantly (since we can always argue about the pieces of research that remained), I don’t really find any evidence that she ‘stopped’ it just in the nick of time (or at all).

    As with similar rebuttals of things like ‘pink slime’ some will dismiss the rebuttal work disinformation by the biotech giants. There might even be some truth to that but for this particular case, it seems more like a story that should be treated like parable as opposed to a close call.

    http://www.biotech-info.net/ingham_rebuttal.pdf

    http://www.isaaa.org/kc/Publications/pdfs/myths/Myths%20and%20Facts.pdf

    (Warning Isaaa appears to receive at least 10% of its funding from biotechs such as Monsanto and other major donors that we would also tend to question)

    • Modern Survival

      @Jeff in NH, I listened to a very credible interview on the Dirt Doctor show (Howard Garrett) with a gentleman that was part of the research. It all seemed to jive with what Geoff stated here.

      About the only thing that can even be questioned is how close it came to release. That may be an exaggeration but it seems like a 100% fact that these fools did in fact create a bacteria that turned soil into ethanol.

  9. Geoff mentioned Dr. Elaine Ingham in regards to The GMO issue. I would add her to the must read/listen list for her wealth of knowledge on the soil food web. I listened to some audio CDs she put out several years ago and they provided an amazing knowledge of all the unseen critters living in the soil and how to manage our ‘micro-herds’ as she refers to them. See would make a great guest. Thanks for another great show Jack! Dr Ingams site is http://www.soilfoodweb.com/

  10. Amazing show Jack…
    “The real global economy is extending life systems not depleting them.” Right on Geoff.

  11. Pingback: A note to Geoff Lawton | Rambling Letters

  12. Great talk again wanted to add one more organisation that is looking at greening the desert it’s awesome project, http://saharaforestproject.com/. There is a great ted talk on it too, btw both you guys rock!!!

  13. I want to buy the DVD set, but am wondering if I’m missing something with the discount. When I click on your link, Jack, I get the price of $163.44, which is the exact same price that I get when I go directly into the site. I went through the process, all the way to the order summary page, and there was still no discount showing up. I listened to the show, but am wondering if I missed something…or is the $163.44 already the discount price (e.g. anyone who buys the 5-DVD set get the $163 price). Please clarify.

    Thanks, and I also want to let you know that I’ve taken a PDC and, while I learned a LOT from that, you are the one that has really helped me begin to think in a ‘permaculture way’. Great shows, keep ‘em comin’.

    • Modern Survival

      @Janet yes that is the discounted price, it isn’t a special for TSP it is simply a discount. The discount is vs. buying them one at a time

  14. Does anyone know of a US distributor for the Rocket Pots discussed. I went to the web page, but can’t seem to find out if they are available in the US or not.

    Thanks,

    BTW, if they need to be shipped from AUS, would there be interest in a group purchase?

    Thanks,

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