279 – Geoff Lawton Q&A

Published 10 years ago in Permaculture , Podcasts - 0 Comments

Geoff Lawton reached out to Paul to discuss the peoples questions. Paul explained how the forum generated a lot of questions. Some of the questions were answered by other forum members. Paul thought that they should focus on the tougher questions.

Question: How can trees generate more moisture thru condensation? What is the critical number of trees needed.

Geoff: The leave area is critical to the solution. The more surface area a tree has in leaves the better. In a dryland system the hardiest of trees and tress that can reduce loss due to wind are important. You sequence fast pathways of trees. It is hard to estimate what the density should be. In the inner zones where human interaction occurs some species such as legumes are to spikey. You want to aim your goal at trees that are pioneers. Less spikey trees are better. One crucial species are the succulant ground covers. High gel leaves on ground covers work very well, one that works well is ice pratt. Geoff thinks that when you get those ground covers they insulate the soil and you speed up the sequences. The denser the foilage the better. Fast tracking the sequences with diversity thru pioneer succession will work best. Geoff stated that windbreaks that reduce the wind and also collect airborne nutrients. Windbreaks will also create shade and reduce evaporation. You build on the benefical plants you have to look at when the best time is to sequence things out.

In the video with the gabion baskets, when there are people who live in a flood plain, Pauls suggestion is that people should move out of a floodplain. If you build good soil in the flood plain there is a chance that soil coming in would be polluted with toxic gick. Especially if there is a large rain event. Rather than gabion baskets a C shaped berm might work as well. Geoff mentioned a type of irrigation called SPATE that is popular with the UN. These are used just off the edge of a waterway and used to settle out water carrying soil. Silt is deposited on the downstream side and organic matter on the upstream side. Geoff made a video about using Bamboo to trap silt.

A person asked a question about doing work in third world countries Geoff felt that its easier to work with people in the third world because they are still in touch with the land. A question was asked about what to do with the waste of a food forest.. Food forest need to be pruned pretty regularly. Paul feels that one of the great things about a food forest is that they keep producing wether people are there or not…what people do not take the wildlife do. Geoff discusses his second food forest dvd and wants to know if people want to see food forest 2. Paul asks Geoff for more details about the dvd. Geoff was amazed at what occurs within the food forest in jordan. It has a massive legume tree system. Paul asks Geoff what his future plans are as the education thru online pdc is taking off. Geoff is interested in doing what is best for all. He likes that he could teach so many in one class. The social component of the class amazed Geoff. Geoff mentioned how people stay on. The community is growing at an amazing rate. Geoff wants to get as much info out to people as possible. Geoff has a three hour earthworks course available as well. He likes that he does not have to travel as much. Getting info out can now be more of a focus. He has about 175 more videos. Paul has a ton of video which he is thinking of releasing soon too. Paul points out how each site is so different. Geoff explains how the dvd makes surveying so very simple. The videos are short enough and simple enough that they can be viewed over and over until people understand them. Geoff is happy if someone else can do it better. If someone signed up they can keep attending over and over. Geoff hopes to keep the momentum going. Paul asks if people step away can they attend in the future. Geoff will allow people to watch the next videos. You can help other students but you wont be able to ask questions. Geoff feels this is the way to go.

Keeping with scale is there a limit and how far can greening the desert go? Geoff feels there is a limit. But over large broad areas eventually it will take off on its own. Will mycellium play a larger role in the next pdc with respect to design. Geoff says that yes it will. There are a number of high tech ways to apply mycellium to speed the process up.

Question came in about how a previous participant can continue to learn. Design projects continue to come in.
Stats on 2013 course how many people attended! Videos got watched up to five times. Patterns got watched a lot along with waterworks. Geoff thinks 1500 students took the class. 90% got their certificate. The quality of the designs was amazing.

Question: How will info be distributed. On line information will be made available thru a hosting service. Geoff likes the dvd because people enjoy getting packages. Paul remembers programming with paper tape. They dicuss how technology has changed so much.

Question: Where would Geoff like to go to work. Geoff does not have any particular place in mind. Geoff likes to work where people are in the worse trouble. War zones are are probably the worst places to work. The better you get the tougher the invites. Geoff wants to be unemployable. Where everyone knows permaculture. Geoff would like to do a permaculture garden at the UN in NY City. What would Geoff do with a million dollars? A million does not go far in the aid world. Paul asks if he would set up a few projects. Geoff would like a few billion and would extend permaculture sites all over the world with training centers. They would set up kits with really capable people set up in all the climates and all the different landscape profiles. Paul has an idea about how to prove permaculture can work by buying 2 million acres in the desert. Geoff suggests trying it in Neveda or Arizona maybe. Paul thinks picking a famous place would work better by being more famous. Pauls goal is to get it to grow on its own. Geoff wants to help people where Paul wants to prove it works.

Permaculture works for agriculture. Are there example of Permaculture working on mines?
Geoff says the a lot of Permaculture is done on mining reclamation sites. How do we make sustainability cooler? As more people become aware and it becomes more popular it is taking off and becoming cooler. Should the focus be on food shelter energy income producing assets? Yes all of them. Value of a developed property is typically underestimated. Daily needs are food and clean water. A garden is a good first start. How to get large scale ag to buy in? You need to diversify their systems on a small scale. We redesign the supply line and we scaled things out of order and now they are destructive. They need to rescale and reposition so they are more stable. Paul thinks money can attract farmers to gain interest. Permaculture scales well to large scale ag by doing some pilot projects. Paul says by subdividing farms into small chunks and cooperate. Geoff likes the idea of making a portion of the large tracts woodland and then trial main crops within the forests. By growing easy crops we can get farmers interested. Prices are going down so farmers are looking to make more money. Localism is the way to diversify. Subsidies aside maybe the farmer can start to feed his chickens potatoes there by raising the value of the crop. Paul feels if you took subsidies organic food would be cheaper than the chem ag one. Geoff feels the government should subsidize the gentle shift from chem ag to Permaculture.

Geoff wants to continue but has chores to do. He ended by saying how he would like to continue the conversation with Paul at a point in the near future.

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Credit: Kevin Murphy