The Paradise Imperative

Humans must create paradise or they cannot live on the planet Earth. Paradise here is described as a human community that lives in perpetuity and in peace on one place on the earth, over many generations. In the modern view, generated from the Alternative Culture and Cultural Creatives, we have a permaculture design in a valley that has been ecologically restored and has added additional trees in different ecological niches to create a food forest of fruits and nuts. Under the forest canopy are tall bushes also of fruit and nuts. Under this, the lower berry bushes and vining plants grow. Lower, are the forbs: perennial vegetable plants that grow year after year and require no disruption of the soil community. Below this are the perennial tuber plants and also down in the soil are the edible mushrooms. This is a perpetual food design that will produce more food per acre than the industrial agricultural system, without digging, disrupting and damaging the thousands of species of the soil community, and at the same time, continually building soil fertility and preventing soil erosion.

Next, we add hand made housing of straw-bale, adobe, log, rammed earth, or other local material, along with attached solar green houses according to many successful contemporary designs. The humans, of course, maintain a stable population and live with a stable biological unit.

Then we add a new human culture based on aiding the life force rather than its consumption and destruction.

Paradise is obviously not a new idea. Richard Heinberg in his book Memories and Visions of Paradise says, ” We are faced with some extraordinary facts. In virtually every culture on Earth we encounter a myth telling how humankind originated in a time of peace, happiness, and miraculous power and, because of some mistake or failure, degenerated to its present condition. Moreover, nearly every tribe and nation reveres the sayings of some ancient prophet who foretold the corrupt human world will one day be consumed in a purifying cataclysm to make way for a renewed Golden Age. And, as if the similarities of these ancient myths and prophecies were not remarkable enough, we are confronted by the additional fact that much of our civilization’s greatest literature and many of its most inspiring theories and experiments seem to derive their vitality and appeal from these mysterious memories and visions of paradise.”

This paradise can be done now. All of these systems have been worked out in the thousands of ecovillages around the planet and in many other similar designs. The above permacultural design has the effect of putting us in biological adaptation to the planet Earth. This is the key and crux of the matter. We as a species must be biologically adapted to the biological energy flows (food chains, biological webs) or we as a species cannot live on the earth. This is not to say that we must adopt a loin cloth and eat roots and berries such as the incredibly successful two million years of our ancestors, but it does mean that we somehow must biologically adapt to the earth. This means that the very foundations of our human culture of materialism must change.


Human agriculture has been one of the most ecologically destructive disasters to hit the planet. When agriculture began and the first plow or digging stick was struck into the breast of Mother Earth, the destruction began. Soil scientists say that it takes between three hundred and a thousand years to accumulate each inch of topsoil in optimum ecologies. This is what agriculture drains from the earth. Surpluses from the life force of the earth is what the civilized are after and have been after for eight thousand years, draining the fertility of the earth through agriculture, overgrazing and deforestation The more surpluses that members of the empire can haul to the capital city, the more their social stature, in a materialistic society. Now that ninety per cent of the large fish in the ocean are gone, we are down to ten per cent of the planetary forest and soil erosion, exhaustion and desertification are racing ahead on all continents, even the unconcerned can see the problem. “Civilization,” since its inception has accomplished its growth by sucking the fertility out of the life force of the planet.

The phrase, “survival of the fittest,” was taken up out of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and made into a violent cultural norm by the British Empire. “Social Darwinism” soon followed. Those who ruled by violence, theft and lies, considered it obvious that they were the ‘best,” and on the forefront of evolution, since they ruled. Those who ruled Babylon in the now ecologically destroyed “fertile crescent, the Han Chinese who ruled a country that was once half covered by a fertile temperate zone forest and those imperial rulers who occupied the once fertile Indus River Valley, no doubt thought they were the “best” – eight thousand years ago. That human culture has descended through the years to the point that “pioneers” on their way to loot the U.S. west, killed thousands of buffalo, took their tongues to market for money and left the carcasses to rot on the plains. This is an appropriate image of the culture of civilization and its ten thousand year project of killing the life force of our planet.


Another part of Darwin’s theory — that the English ruling class neglected — is the value of biological adaptation. When the banker leans on the farmer, the farmer leans on the soil, for more surpluses. The city dweller eats some of the food and throws the scraps, along with all other organic material in the landfill where its mass becomes an ecological problem. This is a simplified version of the whole of the culture of empire. There is no reward for the upstream supplier of biological energy, there is simply looting.. The ecology that provided the soil is not rewarded with the organic material so as to continue its growth. In many cases the old growth forest that originally provided the topsoil is gone.

In a great cultural turn-around, thousands of ecovillages have sprung up around the planet, pointed toward reversing the civilized cultural values and seeking adaptation to the planetary biology. Biological adaptation is the only way that the human species can be on this planet in perpetuity.

Much concern has been expressed recently about economic collapse, but the big collapse right behind it is what most people in the materialistic society do not see. This is the biological collapse of the life force of our planet. In this late stage of the “crisis of empire,” the only beneficial act one can do is seek biological adaptation in some manner. All other activities are frivolous and pointless.

As the culture of looting crashes in flames, our hope is that some of the thousands of ecovillages around the planet will survive the cataclysm to thrust a new pattern of cultural values, and a new adaptation to the life force, into the future.

Wm. H. Kötke is author of The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future, and Garden Planet, both available from the usual sources. Read other articles by William, or visit William's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. lichen said on November 7th, 2009 at 1:52pm #

    Yes, the agroforestry system described in the first paragraph is beautiful–is paradise, and is the way to go. I, too, hope that a few ecovillages with this system could survive–people centered on sustainability and nonviolence. The cities of this age are frightening places–heavily polluted, toxic nightmares with all the soil covered in pavement and with all the rain being washed into the sea instead of replenishing the earth–and they do present a major drain on non-cities, whose food and water they gobble up.

  2. Wingnut said on November 8th, 2009 at 6:29am #

    Good article, and good comments, lichen. I lived in Minneapolis for a number of years, and I noticed another “interesting” thing happening in cities. Lots of small-town kids have gathered at the base of the “balcony of the trinket throwers at Richie’s Resort” (ie. the base of skyskrapers). They elbow each other in attempts to gather the trinkets being tossed from above. All these trinket jumpers/tuggers try to get a leg-up on each other (in classic pyramid scheme fashion) and get positions as far up the skyskraper as possible… so they can grab the trinkets before they trickle down to the elbowing minions below. But positions on the skyskraper are in high demand too, so high-elbowing/backstabbing is seen at those layers of the pyramid/rat-race, as well.

    Most of the small town kids are share share share people, or at least WERE until coming to the city of servitude/inequality. They HAD TO come, as nobody was tossing trinkets in their small hometowns, and all the small town colleges have been teaching about ways to collect trinkets in the city.

    The parents of these kids and young adults… taught share share share up until 18 years old. Then, there was a policy reversal and “the great nest kicking”… which is a “get out there and fight fight fight” policy. Non-sharing had to be adopted… OR ELSE. Near age 18, the kids are taught that you need to “get out there” and make a living… try to (de)fend-off the huge “cost of living” (size of free marketeers price tags blockading survival supplies). They’re actually “indoctrinated” into that policy reversal long before they turn 18.

    At 18, you get a job OR ELSE, missy/mister. Join the competer’s church (capitalism/imperialism)… OR DIE! “That’s life”, they are told. Its really NOT life, as not a single other living thing on the entire planet… uses economies or “join or starve” felony extortion. Capitalism is a church, a religion, a tradition, a bandwagon, a railroading… and its sure as hell not “life”. But capitalism is SO widespread, that it “seems” like life.

    Anyhoo, I’ve wandered off a bit, but that’s not unusual for me. Really, I just wanted to point out that many many formerly loving and sharing former small-town kids… are huddled desperately around the bases of skyskrapers… brutally lying on their resume’s… trying to get positions of trinket-catching. And, as best I can tell, the white people have a distinct advantage when it comes to getting skyskraper positions, even though they are LOW positions. There are a large number of non-white youngsters who have been doing trinket wars and living on the crumbs from skyskraper sweepings… for a LONG LONG time now. Most will die there and never see their home towns or hometown love/inclusion ever again. Truly sad. The small towns are predominantly empty… and broke… and blighted.

  3. Max Shields said on November 8th, 2009 at 9:03am #

    Excellent, though brief, article. Agriculature, to be sustainable, must be keenly aware that it is disruptive to the ecosystem.

    Permaculture provides and alternative, and dramatic increase in bio-diverse organic farming. We also need to see farmland as more than food producing, that it provides a myriad of environmental services which should be subsidized through local budgets, such as that which goes to waterfiltration. Runoff management is crucial and our open spaces, and farm lands can service these in ways that cannot be simply outsourced to “utility-type” companies.

    Heinburg’s 50 million farms – a lecture he gave to the E.F. Schumacher Society – speaks to this need to involve more of us in farming, that it should be de-industrialized and decommoditized. The notion of farmers simply looking out at consumers as mouths to feed, is not going to solve our food problem.

    Completely concur that it is the biological collapse which is before us and that most of the material collapse is to the good.

    (I also agree that there are in motion much good on this score; but I’m less optimistic about the ease with which this will simply happen.)

  4. Rehmat said on November 8th, 2009 at 11:42am #

    Once a scholar said: “We have reached the Moon, but we still have to learn how to live as good neighbors”.

    Well it’s not planting trees or cleaning the street of garbage thrown randum – but tolerance of people of other color, religion, race and nationality – which would transform the Earth into a paradise.

    Racism, religious hatred and greed are the root of all evils going own in diffrent parts of the world. Take the case of India, for example:

  5. lichen said on November 8th, 2009 at 3:11pm #

    Good post, Wingnut. You are right; I’ve noted myself that at college graduations, they don’t say ‘look out for each other, and alongside your own success, organize politically and socially to make sure everyone in your graduating class and generation can live a good life.’ No, it’s all about individual achievement, and if you reach the end of your twenties and haven’t gotten to the top of the skycraper, you’re encouraged to feel enough self-loathing that another world seems impossible. Meanwhile, the air and water could be clean, and the land used for pistachio, persimmon, and cherry trees, with sorrel, grape vines, asparagus, and mushrooms below. And no one would have to smile for the tourists or pad their resume or cultivate a “winning personality,” and their wouldn’t be a hierarchy whereby young people are expected to work crap jobs for low wages and in bad working conditions, but keep a ‘positive attitude’ about it.

  6. Don Hawkins said on November 8th, 2009 at 3:27pm #


  7. Mulga Mumblebrain said on November 9th, 2009 at 3:39am #

    I think the root of our predicament lies in the psyches of certain individuals. While most people would be content with sufficiency in all material possessions, and being freed from the life sentence on the treadmill of ’employment’, with time freed thus to cultivate their spirits and their connections with others and the natural world, there exists the opposite type. The insatiably greedy individual from whose discontents, appetites, lack of scruples and antipathy to others market capitalism is formed, and who that system advantages and promotes in a deadly circle of re-inforcement.
    This type, and they number in the few millions, dominate the planet. They control the rest through money power, life-long indoctrination and violence. They hire a few million more individuals, without any inhibitions on inflicting violence, to suppress any attempts to overturn their dominance. If they saw eco-villages as a real threat to their power, they would destroy them. However, at present they are content to use their total dominance of the means of mass communication merely to denigrate and belittle such communities as the dwelling-places of ‘hippies’ and ‘Greenies’, both despised types, tolerated in the West, but often dealt with more harshly in the imperial outlands like Colombia, Central America and the Philippines.
    Our masters are, of course, insane, morally and psychologically. They have been warned for decades of the coming ecological collapse, but have ignored then abused the scientists who brought the bad news. They have, instead of acting to avert disaster, erected a vast industry of denialism, where every crisis is methodically misrepresented and lied about, and these untruths relentlessly propagated by the hordes of spiritually bankrupt hate and fear-mongers they employ to brainwash the public. So great is their appetite for profit that they cannot look beyond next quarter’s profits and bonuses.
    I was reminded, yet again, as one is every day, on several occasions, of their scarcely credible stupidity and single-minded greed, by a radio story regarding blue-fin tuna. The scientists employed to study this vastly over-exploited species had found that the spawning stock was down to 5-10% of its unexploited population. This is the level at which the Newfoundland cod fishery collapsed, with no recovery so far, or in sight. It effectively means the fishery is kaput, so the political geniuses agreed to a meaningless 25% reduction in catch ie to do nothing. Even that was too much for the Mayor of a local fishing port. Displaying the arrogant ignorance and devout belief in magical thinking that are such marks of distinction of the politician in a capitalist economy, he simply dismissed the science as ‘wrong’. As ever, it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
    I think the destruction is deliberate. I’ve been convinced for years that the Rightwing, business, mentality is an expression of a deep dread of life, of nature and of other people, that transmutes readily into indifference and hostility. I think it has to do with the fear of death, and the belief that life is an unbearable burden of fear, self-loathing, rejection and sickness, crowned by a death that renders everything meaningless to the egotist. The life destroyers feel less powerless, less hopeless, when they are in control and asserting their power in the face of meaninglessness by destroying things. And I fear that it is plain that in our species, their psychic and spiritual pathologies have proved stronger by far than the life-affirming impulses of the other human type.