People and planet are one, says Anima Mundi: Permaculture, Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Soul of the World. Australian director Peter Charles Downey’s film advocates permaculture, a “science of resilience” for mindful and sustainable living.
Old paradigm blues
With thoughtful discussion, exciting music, montages and archival footage, Anima Mundi shakes loose old beliefs. When you hear a 1950’s announcer call pollution “necessary” so we can enjoy “a chicken in every pot,” you’ll cringe at our outdated world view.
Overconsumption and reliance on dwindling oil supplies threaten our survival, leaders and scholars say. Downey interviews them to explore solutions.
What is permaculture?
Permaculture is a practice of cultivating land sustainably, relying on renewable resources and self-sustaining ecosystems. It treads gently on the Earth.
David Holmgren, who co-founded permaculture, summarizes the philosophy and design principles behind it. Examples from Holmgren’s book Permaculture Principles and Pathways include:
the built environment (passive solar); tools and technology (reuse and recycle); culture and education (participatory arts and music); health and spiritual wellbeing (yoga and other body/mind/spirit disciplines); finance and economics (ethical investment); land tenure and community governance (eco-villages and co-housing); and land and nature stewardship (seed saving and forest gardening).
Soul of the world
Anima mundi, meaning “soul of the world,” challenges the mechanistic world view. Treating the Earth like a dead machine has been a terrible mistake, Holmgren warns. “We need to re-ensoul the world” by applying “the same design principles that sustainable societies did before using fossil fuels.”
Holmgren believes we must redesign “our centralized, highly efficient industrialized machine” as abrupt climate changes begin. Nature teaches us how to survive with diversity and flexibility, he says.
Evolve or perish
“The choice being presented to mankind now is either evolve or perish,” says author Michael C. Ruppert. “Grow up or die. Change the way you view the world and your relationship to it.”
“It’s as if we in science have just discovered a sixth kind of life, which is life at the level of our planet,” says Dr. Stephan Harding, ecologist and professor. “We have to act now. Immediately.”
We need to bond with Gaia as our mother, says Dr. Christine James, psychologist. Dr. Mark O’Meadhra, integrative medicine specialist, believes exploiting the earth is “a public health problem.”
Protecting food and seed
“If we don’t relocalize our food system over the next decade, you or your children will be lining up with your ration ticket,” says Holmgren. Centralized food production and transportation “is extremely dependent on the era of cheap energy, and the era of cheap energy is over,” he adds.
Human rights activist Dr. Vandana Shiva protects seed from biotech food giants. Shiva compares seed to Gandhi’s spinning wheel, a metaphor for life and self-empowerment. “Earth is the most generous employer and job provider,” she notes, but “lack of work is a product of the marketplace.”
Adam Grubb and Dan Palmer of Permablitz redesign people’s backyards into “very edible gardens.” It’s also a way to meet people, have fun and learn.
Shop ‘til you drop?
“Classical economics is the real religion of this age,” says environmentalist John Seed. “It’s a very insidious religion. It’s consuming the Earth with a fervor.”
Seed was director of the Rainforest Information Centre, which successfully campaigned to save the sub-tropical rainforests of New South Wales. He co-authored the deep ecology classic Thinking Like a Mountain.
Our wasteful way of life is a “systemic trap,” says Holmgren. Harding agrees that “suicidal growth cannot continue.”
Perpetual growth is a dangerous practice, Holmgren argues. “Natural systems only grow at a maximum of 5% per annum.” We exceed that at our peril, he says.
Holmgren foresees “the economy of the household, the economy of the community” in gift and the barter economies. Money economies like LETS (Local Energy Trading Systems) are free from “the perpetual need to grow.”
Energy ROI stats startle
Holmgren cites world averages in energy returns on investment (ROI) compared to energy expended (e.g., the costs of drilling).
Oil currently gives a 10:1 ROI. (When oil was plentiful, the ratio was 100:1.) PV Solar achieves a 10:1 ROI. Wind energy yields an impressive 25:1 ratio. ROIs from coal (3:1), tar sands (2:1) and nuclear power (2:1) are relatively poor.
“Biofuels (2:1 or less ROI) are a bit like emissions trading schemes,” says Seed. Holmgren warns that using “renewable versions of what we’ve got” to perpetuate overconsumption would “drive us over a cliff.”
Earthships take off
Eco-architect Michael Reynolds, creator of the Earthship concept, says our way of life must change because of the effects of “population explosion and climate change and dwindling resources.”
Earthships are built into the ground with recycled and/or natural materials. Solar energy can fuel flat screen TVs and computers in an Earthship, while heating, cooling and electricity are powered “off the grid.”
Musical mind journey
The director-cinematographer-editor says he followed permaculture design principles to make this independent, low budget film with love and minimal resources. (4 out of 5 stars)
Anima Mundi 2011 / NR / 1 hour, 17 min
Cast Overview: David Holmgren, Dr. Stephan Harding, John Seed, Michael C. Ruppert, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Michael Reynolds, Dr. Christine James, Dr. Mark O’Meadhra, Dan Palmer, Adam Grubb
Director: Peter Charles Downey