How we can decrease the amount of extreme weather

The temperature gradient between ground and cloud level is a key factor in driving extreme weather. The solution to avoiding extreme weather is to lower this gradient with more vegetation, less bare land , less concrete, and less asphalt.

Imagine two flat plates with a spatial gap between them in the lab, with the one on the bottom having a slightly hotter temperature than the one on top.

Heat will flow with a mechanism called convection, which means heat is carried by air molecules moving from place to place. In this case a columns of hot air will be flowing up, and cold air will be moving down next to it, and an oval path.
Increase the temperature differential even more and we get turbulence in the air patterns. (its similar to how the water in a pan gets turbulent as the temperature gradient gets larger)

Hurricanes are driven by the temperature differential between ground and atmosphere, as that influences the upflow of heat through the hurricane, which is part of the power that drives the hurricane.

To decrease the temperature gradient on earth, the solution is to grow more vegetation, as vegetation cools the lower level as water evaporates from it carrying some of the heat and releasing it back out at the cloud level when it condenses. Growing more vegetation will lower the amount of air turbulence, strong winds, and hurricanes.
The concrete and asphalt of the urban environment heat up a lot more from the solar radiation than vegetation does, so it creates a steeper temperature gradient. Depaving concrete and asphalt and putting in nature, community gardens, food forests etc will help decrease extreme weather. Towns and cities can organize to depave, and regreen their land. When hurricanes hit land, after gaining energy from the ocean, the extra vegetation can help slow it down more than it normally would.

In the case of the two plates in the lab, imagine now we also put some water on the lower hotter plate. And that water evaporates there, and then condenses back at the upper colder plate. We now have water transporting the heat between the two surfaces, and not just air patterns. This means the air does not have do as much of the heat transportation work, and so can remain calmer.

The story of climate change has so far been one of increase in temperature. That has hidden the effects of water because while the water cycle cools the earth at the surface, it also warms it up again at the cloud level, so it seems the net heat change of the water cycle is not that great. However if we retell the story of climate change as also, in addition to temperature increase, to also being about the increase in temperature gradient, then the importance of the water cycle becomes a lot more clear.

Macropermaculture – permaculture on size scales that affect the climate

I was thinking we could have a field called macro-permaculture, this is permaculture on the size scale where it begins to influence the climate. Its permaculture+metereology.

There are scientific studies that show forests create rain. The water evaporates from the trees, and then high up in the air, coalesces around small biological particles, which also released from the trees, and thus forming rain.

There is also another newer theory called the biotic pump which says that forests create a low pressure system that creates wind and draws in water from the ocean. If there was a corridor of forests leading inland from the ocean there could be rain further inland from the ocean.

Permaculture has a number of methods to then catch the rain, and filter it into the soil and aquifers below, methods like ditches, ponds, beavers, and mycelia. When the water goes into the groundwater table, it stays there longer, and can keep plants hydrated into drought season. Water can come out of springs during the dry season, and help streams to keep running. Rains can then happen during the drought season, thus shifting the meteorological cycles. The water feedback loops are thus altered, shifting the climate

Ponds and swales can catch the rainwater and guide it into the soil, rocks and branches placed in the path of rainwater to slow it so it can seep downward, and beavers build dams that overflow streams so that water enters the floodplains, and then down into the water tables. Mulch and mycelia can enrich the ability of the soil to absorb water. This then shifts the water cycle, it affects when the water moves into the atmosphere, thus shifting the air and rain patterns in those areas.

In China, a desert the size of France has been regreened, through slowing the rainfall with terraces and swales/ditches so it could seep down into the soil, and then planting trees in the more hydrated soil. As the vegetation flowered it brought back the rains.

Most people, including many permaculturists, think of permaculture as something that happens in backyards and small organic farms, not something that can influence the climate, thus permaculture have not been that involved in the climate debate, but if this field of study and work called macropermaculture becomes more well known, then permaculture could become more fully part of the climate movement.

  • It occurs to me another name to call this Macropermaculture field is Climate Permaculture. That way it can draw the attention of the climate movement more. There are many people with the mistaken view permaculture is only for backyard gardening and small farms.

Accompanying podcast

Other references:

Charles Eisenstein animation video on why water cycles affect the climate

Charles Eisensteins chapter 4 from his book “Climate” about how the water cycle influences the climate

Earth Repair Radio Episodes 2 and Episode 22

Professor Millian Millan on connection of land use and climate

TED talk about creating 20% more rain, 11% more clouds with the planting of 20 square kilometer forest in Borneo

Projects you can join to help the make the world more sustainable.

One way to create change in the world is to through bottom-up, self-organized local communities that are part of a larger global network with a common purpose.

Here are sampling of some of the projects that involve a network of local community actions that I think are currently the most important in helping to evolve humanity into a healthier future, lessens climate change, extracts less from the earth, rebuilds local community, relocalizes our economy thus unties our binds to multinational corporations which are extracting from the environment, and moves us towards being a resilient, zero-waste society. They provide a route for the normal person to contribute in a positive way to building a better eco-social system. These projects are not protest-oriented. Protests focus on getting people in higher up positions to make changes. This is important, but not the focus here. The networks listed here are about making positive change from the bottom up. You can join a node, or start a node. It something you can do for sustainability, beyond the more commonly known acts like recycling, using public transit, and not using plastic bags. In addition these projects provide a new social system for you to enter into, they are community niches, embodying cultural scaffolding for constructing the new work, for you to live in, and create new relationships.

Ecosystem Restoration Camp : These are camps where you can go volunteer to help eco-restore degraded lands. The camps work with permaculture techniques, indigenous methods, watershed management, soil enrichment etc… As of 2021 there are thirty something of these camps around the world.

Buy Nothing Project: These are local groups where people post to Facebook things they are giving away, others can then come over and grab them. Its spawned community and an (un)marketplace of second hand goods being redistributed, rather than thrown away.

Repair Cafe – A community event where people can come bring their broken stuff, and volunteers help, and mentor them to fix their goods.

Slow Money – A locally organized investment network. “Slow Money Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to catalyzing the flow of capital to local food systems, connecting investors to the places where they live and promoting new principles of fiduciary responsibility that “bring money back down to earth.”

The Food Forest Project – Helping catalyse a network of community food forests

Food Not Bombs – Food not bombs serve food to people in parks and community spaces. “Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer movement that recovers food that would otherwise be discarded, and shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities in 65 countries in protest to war, poverty, and destruction of the environment.”

Food not Lawns – Self-organizing networks that help people turn their lawns into food gardens. “Using friendship-based community organizing and principles of permaculture, gift economy, and mutual aid, Food Not Lawns has been turning yards into gardens and neighborhoods into communities since 1999, when we were conceived by the Food Not Bombs family in Eugene, Oregon. For more than twenty years small, self-organized groups of grassroots gardeners have been organizing local seed swaps, joining together for garden work parties, and making lots of friends while learning more about the simple act of growing food can radically improve your home, your community, and your life. ”

Slow Food ” a global network of local communities who are united by the will to: defend biodiversity, educate the wider world, sustain our efforts and influence the public and private sectors …in order to achieve a food, clean and fair food system for all.”

City Repair – Bring community and eco-connection to neighborhoods by activating street intersections as places of gathering, and doing permacultural design in the local urban landscape. “City Repair facilitates artistic and ecologically-oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. City Repair has accomplished many projects through a mostly volunteer staff and thousands of volunteer citizen activists. We provide support, resources, and opportunities to help diverse communities reclaim the culture, power, and joy that we all deserve

Complexity University Gigatonne Challenge Teams: Local self-organizing teams which work in agile ‘sprints’ to sequester carbon.

Gaia University This is a university where you design your own ecosocial regenerative project, and have a peer group, mentors, and project tracking methodology. You pursue your project wherever you are. “Gaia University is an alternative university fostering a purposeful, global community of thoughtful learners and unlearners focused on ecological regeneration and social justice.”

Ecoversities : “There is an emerging knowledge movement that is slowly building all over the world, though it often goes unnoticed by the media and most formal education systems. A part of this movement can be described as a network of ‘eco-versities’—people, organizations and communities who are reclaiming knowledge systems and a cultural imaginary to restore and re-envision learning processes that are meaningful and relevant to the challenges of our times. Although diverse in its origins, these different pedagogical initiatives both critique the existing education systems, and cultivate new practices to regenerate ecological, social and cultural ecosystems, whilst also reflecting on the meanings of ‘home’ as locality and as an ‘economy’: hence the name ‘eco-versities’.”

Transition Town – This began as a way to activate towns to become more ecological and lower their carbon footprint. Its evolved into a project with people organizing local currencies, sharing projects, crop swaps, repair cafes, gardening collectives etc. “Transition is a movement that has been growing since 2005.  It is about communities stepping up to address the big challenges they face by starting local.  By coming together, they are able to crowd-source solutions. They seek to nurture a caring culture, one focused on supporting each other, both as groups or as wider communities. In practice, they are reclaiming the economy, sparking entrepreneurship, reimagining work, reskilling themselves and weaving webs of connection and support.” Transition Streets

Global Ecovillage Network – Ecovillages are a community of people living in harmony with the land. “The Global Ecovillage Network envisions a world of empowered citizens and communities, designing and implementing pathways to a regenerative future, while building bridges of hope and international solidarity.”

Circular City Initiative : The circular economy is the idea that the waste of one business can the input of another business eg used coffee grounds from a cafe, can be reused as fertilizer for a gardening company. There does not have to be waste in the system. The Circular City initiative attempts to guide a whole city into the circular economy

Sharing City Network – “a grassroots network for sharing innovators to discover together how to create as many sharing cities around the world as fast as possible”, “Imagine a city where everyone’s needs are met because people make the personal choice to share. Where everyone can create meaningful livelihoods. Where fresh, local food is available to all. Where affordable housing and shared transportation are abundant. Where the poor are lifted up, the middle class is strengthened, and the rich are respected because they all work together for the common good.”

Earth Regenerators : An education platform which leads into building a nodal network of land based eco-restoration projects, bioregional learning centers, and bioregional economies

Rewilding Network : Bringing together rewilding land/marine projects and groups. The Rewilding Britain Network Rewilding Europe

Permaculture : “Permaculture is an approach to land management and philosophy that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems.” There are local permaculture guild meetings where you can meet permaculturists, and find out about local projects to take part in. Permaculture Design Courses are intensive courses, where students may come to a piece of land for 3 weeks to learn the various techniques of permaculture like design thinking, sustainable living, composting, mulching, rainwater harvesting, passive solar, local economic methods.

Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) “is a worldwide movement to link visitors (WWOOFers) with organic farmers, promote a cultural and educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming and sustainability practices. WWOOF started 50 years ago and has grown from a small group in the 1970’s to a worldwide community of hundreds of thousands of people today. As a WWOOFer, you will participate in the daily life of your host, help on the farm, learn about sustainability, experience a new culture and meet new people, and receive free room and board during your stay. As a host, you will open your home to receive visitors who want to connect with organic food, farming and support the sustainability movement.”

ChangeX : This is a metanetwork of networks of local circles/projects. It gives you a list of say groups who are doing micro-granting dinners all over the world, and invites you to start one in your area. Amongst the networks they list on their site neighborhood treeplanting groups, a Slow Streets program to build community in your neighborhood, Urban Thinkscape which transforms public spaces into learning opportunities, river cleanup programs etc… It also allows you to propose your own local social innovation, and see if others around the world want to create similar local projects.

How to help permaculture become mainstream

A. One of the ways to do help permaculture mainstream is to increase the number of places, the number of outposts where the mainstream public can come across, and interact with permaculture.

Libraries, universities, and stores can all become outposts for permaculture

LIBRARIES – Libraries with permaculture gardens and food forests with signs explaining what is going on the garden is a way the public can learn about permaculture. Libraries can be places where not only people can get free books, but also free food from the libraries’ food forest, and free seeds from a seed bank that can be set up at the library. There can also be regular permaculture talks at the library.

If people host their permaculture meetings at the library, over time they can get to know the librarians. The idea for permaculture garden design and seed banks can then be proposed.

UNIVERSITIES – Start permaculture clubs at universities. Then form a university alliance of all the permaculture clubs. The clubs can engage in permaculture projects around town, like eg. helping grow the food forest at the library. They can help design parts of the campus according to permaculture principles. They can share their ideas with other students in the student union, on the boardwalk etc. The clubs can funnel people to Permaculture Design Courses, and to land-based ecovillages for internships. A Permaculture Summer School can be setup as for university students can go to during the summer months. The permaculture club could work with ecology and environmental professors to get some of permaculture curricula into the university curricula. And the permaculture club can work with the urban design department. If students go to college and can get exposed to permaculture we can have a new generation that is more aware of permaculture. There can be setup a program which helps professors, postdocs, and graduates students in the fields of agriculture, ecology, sustainability, hydrology, urban design, civil engineering take a Permaculture Design Course (PDC). Create a more academic PDC, where scientific results are provided why certain permaculture techniques work. Have a section of how permaculture can be used in urban design and civil engineering.

STORES: Permaculture landscapers and design consultants can get stores in malls and downtown areas where they can sell their services. The stores could be setup in a way to demonstrate what permaculture is, by for instance covering the floors with soil, and growing plants there in ways that are more permacultural. There can be educational programs there to explain why permaculture is beneficial and better in many ways than other ways of gardening. Permacultural then becomes seen by more the mainstream shopping crowd. Some of them may become intrigued by permaculture and want to hire a permaculture designer. These stores could sell plants and the services. Its a way of broadcasting the word out about this to the public. And in the store perhaps there could be simple demonstration projects of permaculture principles.

B. Another way to help permaculture go mainstream is to more fully integrate it into the climate movement.

Integrate permaculture into the climate change movement. Permaculture helps sequester carbon to a much higher degree into the soil, so is a solution to greenhouse warming. Permaculture can regreen deserts which then draws down a lot of carbon. In addition permaculture provides solutions to wildfires and flooding. Swales, regenerative grazing, keyline design, natural sequence farming, provide ways the soil can absorb the winter rains, so that it keeps vegetation hydrated into the summer, so it doesnt dry out and create wildfires. And swales are a great way to stop the destruction caused by floods.

Create a field called macropermaculture which studies permaculture on the size scale of bioregions and bigger, and studies how permaculture practices can influence the weather, and large scale flow of water cycles through rivers, soil, aquifers, clouds and oceans.

Create a climate-focused PDC, where the ways permaculture can be used to help stop climate change are emphasized and delineated.

C. Working with social media influencers to create viral challenges like the Ice Bucket challenge for people to do eg. set a challenge for people to increase the richness of their soil, or have teams work to rewild a suburban lawn. Have reality tv shows where contestants have to work in teams to grow a food forest in a community park, or see how much more carbon they can sequester in the soil. Get Tik Tokers and Youtubers who are making climate change videos, to make some videos about permacultures influence on the climate.

D. Create competitions. There is the 100 garden challenge where people were invited to turn their lawn into a garden, and document it, with prizes for the best gardens. This got a lot of people helping each other to garden. One can tweak this idea, and create a 100 food forest challenge, where people are invited to turn their lawn or garden into a food forest. Or they could be Rewild your Garden challenge with a prize for the person who does it best. There could even be 100,000 lawn conversion challenge, where the amount of carbon sequestered through that process would be quite significant.

In India a $60000 prize inspired 4000 villages to practice permacultural raincatchment practices, and soil management to regrow food where it had been dying because of drought-like conditions. Putting up a large prize money like that for the X Prize for the farm or large land that best uses rainwater, and creates the most fertile soil, can get large amounts of farms to switch to permacultural practices.

Permaculture organizations and environmental organizations can partner to put on a competition for the best idea/project to use permaculture to stop climate change. The best projects could then enter into a business/nonprofit startup incubator to launch them.

E. Infiltrate the Design Thinking movement, which is about using design practices to build products and services, and social systems, to have it include permaculture which is applying design thinking to humans relation with nature.

F. Work with people in the homelessness, food justice and food bank system to grow community food forests to provide a free food resource for those in poverty. Food forests can become as much a standard solution as food stamps for those less wealthy.

G. Integrate permaculture more fully into urban design and civil engineering. Find people to study both urban design and permaculture and then go into urban design or civil engineering sector bringing their knowledge. Permaculturists can build relationships with urban planners, city council, waterworks management, architects, working with them to fundamentally reshape the urban landscape. Find ways to give talks at urban planning conferences, civil engineering conferences. Work with the department of water to find integrate permacultural watershed management systems for stormwater and sewage. Then see if permacultural practices can be written into the legal building codes.

Permaculturists can form partnerships with architects, create a Permacultural Architecture Organization which facilitates this networking. These interdiscplinary partnerships can help architects design buildings, and the area around buildings ias permacultural demonstration sites – museums, businesses, city council buildings, sports buildings, gyms can all become permacultural demonstration sites.

H. Get the government using permaculture practices. When you do a cool permaculture project that helps the town, approach the town to make it a normal practice. Burt Lancaster at first illegally cut holes in the curb so rainwater could flow down the street gutters and into the area around street trees to water them. Then he approached the city government to show them what a good idea it was. They then passed a law to make it legal in his town. Then these laws spread to other towns.

In Los Angeles there is huge permaculture rainwater catchment project underway where they depaved a lot of concrete to create a wetlands for the stormwater to flow into it. The wetland helps clean the water, and then it seeps down into LA’s aquifers. When LA residents need water they then can draw it up. In this way as the project expands LA may no longer need to draw their water from other places for away and deplete the water in those places (LA has in the past depleted Owen’s Valley and made it now a dry barren landscape) …. Some of the next steps is to then approach other city governments to emulate what is happening in LA, and make it part of larger strategic plans. This could for instance be made part of the US’s Green New Deal as it fights the affects of drought by not depleting water supplies.

How natural hydration can lessen the wildfires

Wildfires have been ravaging the west coast of the United States in recent years. One of the main reasons wildfires happen is that vegetation grows during the rain in winter, but dry out during the warmer seasons. And with climate warming, the rivers run dry faster, the plants dry out faster. This then leads to less water evaporating from trees to create rain. Which means there is then even less water for the plants. So there is a positive feedback loop where drought conditions create worse drought conditions, where a lack of water leads to an even bigger lack of water. So what we need to figure out is how to stop this feedback loop from getting worse.

Now it is also true that nature lets wildfires run their course, and smaller wildfires clear the brush that stop the larger wildfires. So our approach to nature can be letting some smaller wildfires run their course, and also at the same time clearing some of the underbrush, to manually do some of the work that wildfires use to do. And we can also at the same time work to bring back the rains and hydration because climate change has made conditions different than they were in history.

In California there are usually a couple of big rains in the winter, there was one on Jan 27 of this year (2021). But most of that water is runoff and it doesn’t stay in the soil. What if we could keep the rainwater that comes in winter in the ground so that it is still hydrating the vegetation into the summer? That way trees and plants do not dry out, and wildfires are much less likely to happen.

There are a number of permacultural processes that can help this happen. One of the basic ideas is to build ponds on higher elevations to catch the rain water that flows during the rainy season, and create a series of swales or ditches that funnel the water into the land during the rest of the year. In addition, the ponds also help the water soak downwards and replenish the groundwater, which also helps hydrate the soils the rest of the year. Just such a project happened in India with over a thousand villages, in what is probably the largest permaculture project in the world. Many villages in India were having trouble surviving because the drought-like conditions for much of the year was drying out all the crops and food was scarce. A competition called Water Cup was created where villages were taught rainwater management systems, and then challenged them to compete with each other to see who could do it best. The winning village earned around $60,000. The villages built ponds and swales to catch and store the rains from the monsoon season, and the change was radical. Lush vegetation soon permeated all of the villages.

Similar projects like this have happened, and are happening all over the world. In Arizona there are places where most of the land is brown and dry, where desert-like drought conditions have destroyed most of the vegetation. However where swales have been built to catch the water, the land is rich and green and verdant.

In Australia, farmer Peter Andrews has pioneered an approach called Natural Sequence Farming which has helped farms remain verdant even during drought like conditions. Natural Sequence Farming is based on the principle of slowing the flow of water from the rains and down streams by allowing weeds to grow, creating buffers in the streams so that water overflows the banks and creates more fertile soil around the stream. This serves to build up the water table.

In California history, the beaver played a key role in keeping the vegetation verdant because their dams caused the streams to overflow and the water to move laterally. Because California has so many streams, bringing back the beaver would help increase the hydration of vegetation year round.

Another variation on the above ideas is called Keyline design, where terraces and paths for the water to flow are created along the contours of the land, to provide continual hydration throughout the year.

Joshua Smith, an 80 something year old permaculturist from Oregon, who came up with and was practicing permaculture principles independently before Bill Mollison birthed the formal “permaculture” movement, has seen many wildfires burn down neighboring properties, while the properties he has done fire mitigation on remain. His process involves thinning the trees by cutting some of the young trees, while keeping the older trees which contain more water. Then he lays the fallen trees on the ground in a way that creates a dam for the rainwater which helps the soil then get soaked. He seeds the soil with mycelium which then helps the soil retain water.

Geoff Lawton, a famous permaculturist, recommends the following steps to make your property fire resistant 1. Capture the rainwater and store as much rainwater as possible 2. Create head pressure, meaning you can use the water to fight wildfires. Dams and ponds higher up can help create higher pressure 3. Maintain open areas 4. Infiltrate water into soil. Use trenches and swales to help collect the water. And then swales drains the water deeper into the soil. He says the water then stays on the land for months. Also drain the water from roads and hard surfaces onto the soil. 5. Plant fire resistant species. Here is his video outlining these 5 steps

There are also ways to increase soil retention of water through permacultural processes like mulching and crop rotation.

All of these processes are very important to mitigating climate change, because if the soil and plants are able to sequester more carbon, the vegetation keeps the ground and air from heating up as much. This prevents wildfires and means we stop huge amounts of carbon in the form of smoke contributing to greenhouse warming. In the long run, we stop the desertification of the land.

In recent years, scientists have shown forests create rain. However if the plants and trees are dry then these rains probably do not happen, and so drought then creates more dry conditions. By harvesting rainwater and rehydrating the landscape, we can bring back the rains. A biotic pump theory also proposes that forests can create a low pressure system that creates a wind. This wind can bring in water from the ocean air. However if the forests become too dry, then this process may not happen, and inland there will be a lot less rain.


What we need is a massive educational program to awaken the environmental movement, the agricultural sector, and land owners to the power of these permacultural processes and water harvesting methods.

One way to help out is to volunteer for an Ecosystem Restoration Camp. These  camps are happening all around the world, with a number on the fire-ridden west coast of the USA, where people come together for a few days, and sometimes stay for years working to restore the land in permacultural ways.

If the environmental movement as a whole would make these Ecosystem Restoration Camps (ERC) more visible, then more people will be available to come and help. There are around 40 of these camps now and if plotted on a graph, one would see that their rate of growth is increasing at an exponential rate. This has the potential to go viral and we could have 10,000 of these camps before long.

If these volunteer take a Permacultural Design Course (PDC) they will be even more useful at these camps.

One way to get more people going to the ERC’s and the PDC’s is to activate the university system. If permaculture clubs start forming in universities, then students can be funneled to ERC’s for a few days at a time, and they can even take multi-week PDC’s during the summer. Another way is to target environmental groups like the Sunrise Movement, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Climate Action Network, etc. helping them become aware of the power of these permacultural methods to change our lands thus sequestering carbon and mitigating drought conditions. This could then funnel large amounts of people into the PDC’s and the ERC’s.

In order for a farm to switch to more regenerative agricultural practices it requires capital and 3-5 years to make the transition. Companies like rePlant help with loaning the capital to farms. The more the soil gets regenerated resulting in better water conservation, the better rates the farmers get. Marketing campaigns can  advocate directing philanthropic money, venture capital money, and government grants into helping farmers make this transition.

In Africa there is a massive project called the Great Green Wall of Africa which seeks to plant a whole corridor of trees across Africa to stop the Saharan Desert from spreading. This project has unified many other projects resulting in NGO’s and governments working together. A similar project could happen on the US West Coast to get rainwater soaking into their soils. Perhaps it could be called the Slow Water Corridor project. It could seek to get multiple stakeholders to work together to get it going.

An effective method to activate landowners and farmers to building these ponds and swales to irrigate their land with rainwater, would be to do as the Indian Paani Foundation did and offer prize money to the land/farmer that best stores rainwater, maybe something like a million dollar prize. The X prize currently has a $100 million purse for carbon capture technologies. If the X prize or someone else would offer 1/100th of that prize money to water management, it might have a more positive effect on the carbon capture solution because of all the positive ripple effects from irrigating the land naturally.

How to create a repair movement

A sustainable economy is one that reuses a significant amount of material it throws away.

In the 1980’s there was a mass cultural shift to recycling. In the 2020’s it is possible we can create a mass cultural shift to repairing.

Here are steps towards a repair movement.

  1. Have a regular, weekly or monthly, Repair Circle get together where people come and bring broken appliances, tech gadgets, furniture and help each other fix it. It can be advertised in the neighborhood for people to bring their broken goods in. The repair circle can be a community building exercise. Fixing things could be done as a gift, by donation, by subscription, or by cost. There are variations of a repair circle. There is the Repair Cafe , Restarters , and the Remakery. Start something like the Philadelphia Fixers Guild.
  2. People can buy broken things off the local Craigslist and other such lists, then fix the things and sell them again.
  3. Have a standard multiweek workshop that people can take to learn to repair basic things from shoes, to watches, to furniture, to phones. This can be unbranded in a similar way that the 2-3 week Permaculture Design Course (PDC) is unbranded. The PDC course allows people from all over the world to teach under the same banner without having to check in with an overseeing hierarchical organization, meaning that each PDC course is in some way raising the visibility of other PDC courses, its not an individually branded workshop that one person teaches only. Teach teacher training courses for handyman and people who know how to repair, so that they can then put on courses that teach people how to repair.
  4. Integrate repair classes into the school, after school, community college, trade school and college curriculas. Create a Repair major. Just like environmental classes are now beginning to appear in the education curricula, repair classes can also. Check out Culture of Repair, and how they bring it into schools
  5. Airbnb Experiences has a section where you can put on experiences (which are basically classes) , either online or in person. You can teach a repair class as an Airbnb experience.
  6. Combine the MakerSpace movement with repair movement. Makerspaces are collaborative workspaces where people that involve exploring and making things with the multiple tools and materials around. There could be repair subscriptions to the Makerspaces people buy that also enables them to have their stuff fixed. There could also be shops setup where people can buy refurbished stuff.
  7. Collaborative coop shops/community spaces can open in neighborhoods where people can bring the things they need for repair, and other members of the community can fix it for them. There can be money exchanged, or it could be done for barter, or as a gift. Or there could be a monthly subscription got to have things repaired.
  8. Integrate the repair movement more fully with the environmental movement. As people join environmental groups they can be encouraged to get repair subscriptions at their local spot where repairs happen. So eg. Sierra Club and Greenpeace can encourage their members to get local subscriptions to repair centers.
  9. Compile open source repair manuals. Check out IFixit’s manuals. You can start a manual too on their site.
  10. Bring investment money into starting many repair centers in cities.
  11. Have a Repair Circle at local farmers markets. Farmers markets are a natural place for relocalizing the economy. Repairs are a natural part of the relocalization process.
  12. Start a repair club at a university. Setup a table on campus to do repair. Connect with other clubs to form a national alliance of university repair. Work to get a repair class happening in the engineering department. In dorms have maintainance. also be available to repair students broken appliances. Petition to have a repair center on campus. Work with sustainability initiatives on campus
  13. Integrate the repair movement with other networked movements like the Transition Town movement, permaculture movement etc . Work with local groups like Lions Club, Rotary club to have repair day. Tool libraries can have a repair day. Food not Bombs gatherings could also have a repair circle section. The Buy Nothing Project organizes local communities to pass of used stuff to each other for free. Repair circles could be a natural part of that project.
  14. Get senior citizen centers and homes to host repair circles. Seniors grew up in an era where more people repaired things.
  15. Note on organizing: If you target getting a couple of repair circles/cafes/shops in any network, then the word begins to spread through that network on its own. So if you say work with 5 Lions Clubs to get repair circles going on in their organization, then the idea might go viral through the Lions Club network, and people self-organize more repair circles. You do not necessarily have to be the person organizing the repair circle/cafe, you can for instance visit 10 libraries (100 is you are more ambitious) and talk to them about why they should organize a repair circle/cafe, and then give them a template for how to do it. You can reach out to the college students you know and suggest the idea to them to find people on their campus who might organize a repair club. You can email a lot of senior citizen community centers about putting on repair circles. If a lot of people reading this list do this too, then the centers will be getting emails from multiple people about hosting repair events, and then will be more likely to do.
  16. Petition national government for Right to Repair laws (see the work of Ifixit and ), anti-obsolescence laws. Give tax breaks for repair shops and repair centers, in a similar way solar energy has gotten tax breaks to help increase its popularity. Ask for fair trade policies, which will lead to increase wages for factories in poorer countries producing goods. This will lead to higher price (and more in alignment with how much they actually cost) for goods. This will then make it more monetarily smarter to repair rather than buy new goods. State governments can charge a small percentage point tax on each product. This tax money can then be used to help subsidize repair shops and repair circles, to make the repairs cheaper, so people choose to repair rather than buy new.
  17. A town saves money when there is more repair happening, because money leaks out of the local economy when globalized goods are bought. So local governments have an incentive to promote repair. Local government can give grants to, and help promote repair shops, repair centers, Makerspaces. Fund local repair marketing campaigns. Track metrics of how much stuff a town uses, how much of their stuff gets repaired, and how much goes to the dump. Make these metrics an important part of measuring how well a town is doing.
  18. In a similar way to how there is a Peace Corps and a Conservation Corps, there can be a Repair Corps. The Repair Corps can go into towns and help facilitate repairs happening there.
  19. Job training centers can teach repair classes and help funnel people into repair jobs. The idea is to create millions of repair jobs. This would work in conjunction with increasing demand for repair through marketing campaigns to get people to repair their stuff.
  20. There is a subgroup of homeless people are often finding thrown away and fixing them for use. Homeless food service places, and missions could also have a repair center where the homeless learn and help with repairs, and where people bring in their things to be fixed. It could be a way for the homeless to earn some money
  21. Instead of buying the next iteration of the newest technology, like the newest iPhone, or the newest laptop, people can look to use existing recycled materials to upgrade their smartphones, laptops, and other tech devices. This will create a paradigm shift in how tech evolves. Instead of a big corporation pumping out millions of the same devices, devices will instead be upgraded in local DIY ways. Makerspaces will play a much bigger role in how tech evolves. So there is a greater biodiversity of devices. Software will evolve in a way that it can work in this biodiversity of devices ( perhaps in a similar way how the Internet of Things is finding ways to connect the microwave to the fridge). Software will evolve in ways more like how nature evolves. Tech will evolve in local centric ways rather than mass produced ways. Venture capital money will no longer find as much success in investing in things like the next Apple, but will rather shift to locally reuse production.
  22. Make fixing your clothes, and buying second hand repaired clothes hip. Have model campaigns, and runway shows with second hand repaired clothes. Second hand clothes can be branded with a sewn on symbol, eg a green dot, that symbolizes eco-awareness for clothing. Clothing manufacturers like North-Face, Patagonia, would shift to a business model of clothing repair and clothing upcycling.
  23. Have more reality tv shows like the Repair Shop which focus on repair. Petition shows like “Bachelor” to have repair challenges for the contestants.
  24. Have repair competitions. Schools have spelling bees, and science fairs, they could also have repair competitions.
  25. Market a movement about how the sign of a business is environmental is that their employees dress in clothes that are mended or second hand, and how their office furniture is refurbished furniture.
  26. Businesses can offer perks to their employees of having their personal stuff repaired by the business maintainance department.
  27. Make a youtube video about your attempt to repair something, whether successful or not. If not you can ask for comments on how to properly do it. Suggest to popular youtubers to make repair challenge videos
  28. Write a blog about your adventures in learning how to repair, or some other aspect of repair. Follow other blogs about repair like this one about antique repair, this one about appliance repair , or this blog about how to fix things in general
  29. As more repair places appear in your city, then there also becomes a need for collecting old and broken stuff for parts to use for repair. There can be spaces rented out to collect this stuff and to organize it. These are the Resupply chains , as contrasted with supply chains for making new stuff.

How to help spread the word about these ideas

i) send a link to this post to people who are involved in any of the groups listed above that might be interested in hosting a repair circle/cafe/center

ii) Get a poster with a lot of these ideas on it and place it somewhere

iii) feel free to copy this post, edit it, add your own ideas, and repost to your social media, with an attribution to this list as the original source post

iv) get together a council with people you know, or bring this list to your local sustainability initiative, and strategize how to make things on this list happen.

v) Start a repair organization in your town or city, whose role is to get repair circles/cafes/shops going in colleges, senior citizen homes, homeless missions, eco-businesses, Lions clubs, etc . You can name it Repair ……… with name of town after it. So you can have Repair San Diego, Repair Chicago, Repair Berlin. Then all these repair organizations can network with each other and share ideas. You can grow your Repair Town project out of a smaller project say a Repair Cafe event. At the Repair Cafe event you can recruit people to start repair circles/cafes/services/shops all over the city.


Related to the above article is the podcast “How to create a culture of repair”

How to align economy and ecology


1. PROVIDE JOB TRANSITION SPACE for people to leave jobs in companies which are based on producing more unnecessarily. Provide space for companies to reorient more ecologically

2. TRANSITION TO NEIGHBORHOOD COMMONS. Shifting childchare, eldercare, sickcare, food cooking back into the commons, shifts money from runaway capitalism system into the commons, it recenters life in our neighborhoods so theres less travel and less gas use, and it leads to more sharing of goods which lowers consumption. This also helps with inequality.  See Transition Towns network and Shareable for more info

Producing things locally uses much less oil. It helps build resilient local communities. Lessens inequality. Local supply chains dont crash as much as global supply chains in crisis situations (there are a lot of companies that are dependent on chinese parts and ingredients, and are faltering during the Coronavirus episode)

The Cosmo part of the above term means that we can open source and share knowledge freely. Designs for tech and products are shared without patents so people in each locale can make and repair the products locally. Maker spaces grown in number. This cuts down on our dependence on multinational corporations and the way their marketing influences what we buy. We then evolve to making products more eco oriented. There is less building products for quick obsolescence. See Michel Bauwens work on cosmo-localism

5.LOCAL ORGANIC FOOD. Transitioning farms to organic regenerative agriculture techniques makes the soil healthier and able to bring down more greenhouse gases. It also helps the water cycles. Local food through farm food delivery programs like community supported agriculture, means less oil use for global transport, less refridgerants (one of the worst greenhouse gases), less packaging and less overly processed food. It means healthier people, and less money on healthcare. It strengthens our immune system , which is helpful in times of epidemics.. Community Supported Agriculture practiced en masse with community investment and marketed by the environmental movement (rather than through paid advertising), can become cheaper than supermarket food because of economies of scale, because it is community financed (not leaking debt interest to the bank),  and because it cuts out the middleman costs. Also costs will be lowered if government decides to subsidize Community Supported Agriculture rather than Big Ag because of ecoservices rendered by organic soil . See my article

6. COMMUNITY OWNED LAND . Rent increases faster than inflation rate because its turned into a cash cow for corporations and serial landlords. Local governments helping the poor with section 8 funding, helps them find housing, but keeps rents high still. Funneling the money instead into community land trusts can keep rents down. Ecovillages and intentional communities provide communal places to transition people to a more eco-oriented lifestyle. Lower rents allow people to transition out of eco-unfriendly corporate jobs. Communities can be in charge of how land is used in their locales. See George Monbiot’s work on land rights reformation and ownership  Also this article

7. CREATE ECO AUTOCATALYTIC LOOPS . These are self-sustaining loops in the eco-economic system. For instance if you have a local food forest in your town, and community gatherings where food is cooked for community, this is an autocatalytic loop that is self sustaining.

8. USE THE DRIVING FORCE AND RHYTHMS OF NATURE TO POWER OUR ECONOMY : Eg.houses can be designed to be passively heated from sun. Shade from trees can lessen our airconditioning use. Wetlands, plants and soil can be used to clean our water instead of sewage treatment plants. See the fields of permaculture and eco-building.

9. TRANSITION TO A DECONSTRUCTION & REWILDING ECONOMY: This is about depaving our roads and concrete and putting back soil. Its about taking down buildings and allowing nature to grow. Depaving roads and putting nature in, would protect cities (like New Orleans and Houston) from flooding as water seeps into soil. Bringing back urban soil and trees would help with the water cycles that come in from the ocean and replenish the ecology further inland with water. This can make less likely fires (like happened in California and Australia). We can depave roads and put in food forests that create local food commons. There can be depaving businesses, to depave driveways, backyard concrete, schoolyard concrete, parking lot concrete to make way for permaculture gardens.

10.  MULTIMODAL ECONOMY : Utilize time banks, gifting, barter, local currency, and money as forms of economy. We have more than enough stuff in the world for noone to be lacking. Its often a problem of redistrubition, rather than of producing more.  Multiple modalities allows goods and services to flow to those who need it. Eg. a healthfood store could have a worktrade option for food. And work trade could be done at another business that has agreement with the healthfood store of how it helps healthfood store in return  for the voluneer work.

11. TRANSITION TO A CIRCULAR ECONOMY : create an economy that takes of products from production to biodegrading and going back into earth.  A circular economy is about not having waste. Products are kept in use. Parts are designed for reuse, after initial product ends.  See this circular economy website, and the work of  Cradle To Cradle

12. CREATE SELF-ORGANIZING ECO-BUSINESS NETWORK: Eco businesses can have incentives and contracts with other businesses that incentivises being more ecological. They can also create a participative commons that links different eco-businesses with a volunteer force that work trades for services and products.

Instead of investing so much in stocks invest money where the return on investment is community and eco. For instance many people can invest money to support Community Supported Agriculture, turning monoculture farms into permaculture farms, and their roi can be several years of food deliveries. See Slow Money  as one example of a community network facilitating such investments.


Herbs are a natural way humans can heal. Growing community herb gardens (or herbs within food forests) in every neghborhood is the natural pharmacy. …….Research has shown being around soil improves ones immune system, being around more biodiversity improves ones immune system. Kids growing up in rural areas have less allergies and better immune health than city kids. Part of a universal healthcare system is to depave concrete and roads and put in biodiversity and food forests. The more nature around us the less likelihood of epidemics and sickness in general. Some of the trillions that go into healthcare can be rechanneled into rewilding our cities.

16. CREATE A NATURE CONNECTION ECONOMY which brings people back into listening to nature and being in nature. Being more in nature allows us to deprogram from a lot of marketing and consumption culture induced needs. Nature can also guide us out of the climate crisis if we listen to it.

17. GROW THE ECO-COMMUNITY INFORMATION ECONOMY by switching our focus from GDP to metrics that measure community wealth and eco wealth.

The connective commons : helping our economy align with nature


Figuring out how ecology and economics integrate is an important issue for our society to address ; we currently have a capitalistic system on steroids that is extracting from and polluting the earth at increasing rates.

Economic systems come in different forms. Coachella for instance is more capitalistic than Burning Man which runs on a more peer production commons economy. Economic systems are defined by the rule sets people use to exchange services and products to meet needs. Capitalism is one rule set. Peer production commons (where people work without money) is another rule set. These rule sets lead to emergent collective behaviour. Peer production commons has other types of emergent behavior. When the collective behavior is coherent and harmonious humanity begins to look like a superorganism.

What we seek is for the natural ecosystem and the human collective to work in synergy together. There are certain businesses and community activities that embody a lifestyle more resonant with nature – local organic farms, farmers markets, home food growing, community food forests and gardens, community meals, communal living, organic restaurants and cafes, health food stores, solar companies, ecobuilders , eco-friendly cleaners, eco product companies, second hand stores, clothing swaps, holistic health centers, nature education, yoga, tool sharing, neighborhood generated entertainment, outdoor dance events, biking, local production, biodegradable products, eco restoration activities, depaving, permaculture etc…. These things are competing with big box stores, and extraction based multinational corporations.

How do we enable the healthier businesses and activities to grow and emerge more coherent behavior with the ecosystem? And to be resilient against other types of capitalistic forces

One of the keys is to look at the economy at the bioregional scale. In addition we can look at how to synergize the capitalistic systems with the commons to create a super organism. Capitalism runs more on people motivated to help others. Its primary unit is the business. Peer production commons, is partly run on altruism, but even more so, research has shown, by social norms, and by the social rewards it brings. People work for the commons because they like the community it brings them, and the friendships it creates. The primary unit of the commons is the community, the collective.

I’d like to introduce the idea of a connective commons. Different business can be linked by a connective commons. So for instance a yoga center and organic restaurant could be linked with this commons connective tissue. Lets say, in addition to their normal monetized activities, the yoga center and organic restaurant also have volunteers that teach yoga classes and volunteers that wait or cook at the restaurant. The volunteers can then have access to both free yoga classes, and a certain number of free meals. This builds synergy between the two businesses.

This connective commons could act as connective tissue for a bioregional collective of businesses that includes small farms, organic restaurants, yoga centers, nature school, holistic health centers and also non business activities, like food growing and home cooked community meals, home for-working, organizing clothing swaps and tool libraries. People can volunteer for any of the businesses or community projects. In return they can get a certain amount of free meals, CSA boxes, yoga classes, massages, free or more affordable rooms in other community members houses to live in etc. A community council can oversee that the volunteer- service balance is in harmony. (There’s a movement to get a small town to run on this connective commons by having everyone volunteer for 3 hours a week. It’s called the Ubuntu small town project. They call this kind of economy contributionism. The money businesses save can be used to purchase self sufficient clean energy supply for the town)

This collection of business and community can act as a super organism. This hybrid is a new type of complex adaptive system. It has behaviors that neither a purely capitalistic system nor a purely commons would have. Volunteers can shift to where they are most needed that week. So if a small farm had some crisis and needed a lot of help, the volunteers can shift from other businesses to work there during the crisis. the volunteer force is an organic marketing force for the more monetized activities. There is more sharing or resources. The businesses become more resilient. Incentives increase to start community projects (putting on a clothing swap might get you free restaurant food). There is a lot more community and friendships in this system. People work as a support system for each other. Consumption of extractive products is less.

Because this super organism is so vibrant over time, it will grow. People will flow to become part of, and spend more time in this super organism. Engagement less with big box stores and environmentally-unfriendly multinational corporations would become less. People would be more enriched by being part of a community, that would not have to depend on a consumerist lifestyle for fulfillment so much.