I am about to start a course in Permaculture design, and am trying to read up on the topic. So I was thrilled to see Permaculture ideas in action in crisis-struck Greece.
Permaculture is an attempt to answer the fundamental issues of our time in a coherent way - how can we live without depleting the Earth's resources. Be it oil, phosphorus, benign climate conditions or top soil - if we keep on the current trajectory, it will be very hard to generate food enough to feed humanity 50 years form now.
How could we arrange things differently? The answer that Permaculture gives is that since gardening is an incredibly efficient way to produce food, we must base our food consumption on local gardening, not global monoculture agriculture and food chains.
What can not be produced in the consumers own gardens, will have to be bought on the market of course. But it will be bought by nearby farmers, with a relation to the consumers.
Traditionally, high costs of transportation made it more profitable to sell potatoes to your neighbour than to foreign citizens. Today, there are a number of initiatives to achieve this. One is that customers "subscribe" to a farmers produce, pay a bill and receive a certain amount of potatoes each Friday.
Another is that a number of consumers get together and do the farming themselves and share the produce. Hopefully that will not be so much work per participant.
A third way is CSA - community supported agriculture. Wikipedia defines CSA as "a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to
support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the
risks and benefits of food production".
I very much think that this is how we will get our food in the near future, so I have been browsing for similar projects in Sweden. There are some, run by idealists, but it is still a very new movement. In other places it is already becoming the norm.
The Guardian is reporting that a new movement is taking shape in Greece, where local authorities help linking local farmers with local consumers. Buyers and sellers then get together at local fairs and exchange goods and money. Farmers get paid instantly, and consumers get food much cheaper than in the Supermarket.
The Greek potato movement could be an idea straight from a Permaculture textbook. But as Marx would have pointed out - this revolution is not created by idealist radicals, but by the grim realities of a capitalist crisis. Permaculture is a very non-Marxist movement, emphasising individual life style choices over political action and ignorant of social classes. But I think Marx fundamental analysis - that the ideas do not become real because they are good, but because they are economically necessary is right. Fortunately, Permaculture might be such an idea.