Occupy Permaculture!

Confrontation of the criminal class responsible for the corporate coup of the US, is vital and long overdue. But there is also a need to take responsibility and design intelligent, local strategies, to prevent the same problems of scale from repeating themselves. The notion of self sufficiency is key. We can only properly protest something, when we have reduced our dependancy on it. Permaculture offers a vast resource of practical solutions for sustainable, self sufficient living. Permies were sure not to miss the exciting opportunity to share their knowledge with those who can use it most.

Mobile Design Lab (mobiledesignlab.org) is on the ground at Occupy Wall Street, where they have built working systems, offer Permaculture workshops and share their knowledge… all for free! They are doing great service, simply by being on the ground at the Occupy Movement, but especially for making it more self sufficient and for sharing their knowledge!

The plan to evict the 99% from Zuccotti Park, which was heroically resisted on the 14th of October, was proposed by Bloomberg under the premise of ‘cleanup.’ The 99% correctly recognized the hidden tactic, and thousands poured into the park in the early hours of last Friday morning, to make a stand. The ‘cleanup’ in question was meant, in part, to allow Bloomberg to destroy the Greywater systems that have been installed by Mobile Design Lab.


Greywater is water that has been used, then discarded by human households and businesses. Instead of letting it run down the drain, it can easily be filtered onsite. It can then be used immediately, for example for irrigation. If Greywater is not separated and filtered, it is combined with other sewage (blackwater), where it becomes exposed to contaminants which can no longer easily be filtered onsite (Greywater is created by doing the dishes, taking a bath or doing laundry. Water used to flush the toilet is not greywater!)

The benefits of ‘recycling’ greywater onsite are far reaching. Every household can take advantage, by collecting greywater seperately. It is a huge waste, that 70 – 90 % of water used by households is effectively contaminated after it is disposed of, by combining it with sewage. Thanks to Mobile Design Lab, the OWS kitchens at Zuccotti feauture a greywater system.

In the image to the left, a drum is being prepared for a biofilter, using wood chips to separate food and oil from the greywater produced by the OWS kitchen. The biofilter can be seen at work in the image above.


Seed Bombs! Looking for a way to combine Taking a Walk / Beautifying your area / Promoting biodiversity? Seed Bombs away! Below are a few images of the totally free seed bomb workshops Mobile Design Lab are offering. For a guide to Seed Bombs, visit: guerrillagardening.org

Below is a map of Zuccotti, with a design for the park encampment. Mobile Design Lab have been in contact with a lawyer, concerning the legality of collecting human fecal matter at the park, for composting purposes (humanure)! They report the lawyer has confirmed the legality of the proposal. This great initiative will be another concrete way to reduce the encampment’s foot print, and produce some rich soil!


Time’s Up (times-up.org), a NYC based group for promoting sustainability and reducing toxicity in the City, has provided OWS with a peddle powered battery recharging station. Many more to come! Thank you Time’s Up!













The OWS Sustainability Group Table, hand built with materials supplied by the NYC trash network.






Updated for October 29 2011, in response to the great article published by CampusProgress.org

I can’t express how happy it makes me to learn that the implementation of sustainability and permaculture principles is spreading to many Occupy encampments –and spreading with the same momentum as the Occupy Movement itself.

Many of the Occupy encampments have set up committees to analyze their own environmental impact, and conceive of practical solutions. Since Mobile Design Lab first installed a grey water system (more below), sustainability committees in different parts of the country have introduced peddle powered generators, solar panels, bike sharing programs and permaculture workshops. There are also pottery classes, as part of an effort to reduce waste in the form of discarded Styrofoam. There are even long term projects, such as composting and gardening.

What is happening is bigger than Permaculture, even bigger than Sustainability: it is real Democracy. OWS is proving that we, the 99%, are perfectly capable of creating our own, truly democratic systems. We are very efficient when it comes to getting things done, when we decide to take care of business ourselves. We are proving that horizontal organization works great. Change doesn’t need to be squeezed through a hierarchical bottleneck; nor does it need to trickle down to us, we can do it together.

The way in which OWS is organizing itself renders the notion of helplessly depending on elected officials, to take care of matters on our behalf, simply laughable. A month and a half ago, the impediments to democracy – the lobbying and beaurocracy – were a maddening quagmire. Just 6 weeks later, the wind in our sails, we are putting that impasse behind us. We have discovered how to inspire each other internationally, while creating pockets of local democracy.

Many see OWS as nothing more than a platform from which to negotiate. As if we have taken the streets and squares hostage, to be released as soon as our demands are met. This is why so many people keep suggesting that OWS should define it’s demands. I think this mentality lacks vision. Worse yet, it somewhat legitimizes the SWAT team style raids we just witnessed in Oakland. OWS is not about negotiating the terms of partial inclusion, in exchange for our silence and invisibility. It’s about refusing to be complicit in a corrupt system, and proving that we can organize ourselves, to create viable alternatives. It is about creating our own democracy, not about cutting a deal with criminals – no matter what they offer.

The goal of OWS should be to grow, while reducing dependency on destructive institutions. The goal should be to create a sustainable, permanent, parallel economy, for us by us. To create an alternative, in which it’s possible to exist without automatically being complicit – because the truth is, most of the 99% has been overwhelmingly complicit. We have fed our money to the Zombie Banks, to the Pharma Drug Lords, to the GMO Mafia, to the Insurance Cartels, to the Walmarts, the McDonalds – we allow the corporate media to cast it’s spell on us. Even before we realized we were in crisis, the 99% had a long standing negative savings rate.

There is no need to limit ourselves to making demands, and there never should be. Of course we should put all the pressure we can on those who are stealing and destroying our Commons. But we should also continue to build on the alternative that is emerging, by establishing our own local, democratic organizations. We can certainly put pressure on unsustainable industries – by protesting and sanctioning them – but we don’t need to focus exclusively on negotiating with them. After all it is not us, it is the criminal class of corporatists who have gradually occupied our society. The stronger, and more independent our networks are, the stronger our negotiating position, the greater our leverage.

The permaculture movement has been developing the strategies needed to become self-sufficient since the 70’s, and is of immeasurable value to those who are ready to stop waiting for politicians to solve the problems they have either created or allowed, and take back control.


Bill Mollison Permaculture Design Course 1983

“Hunger is rising, absolute hunger is rising, food’s badly distributed, not distributed at all often. The waste of food, the whole deal of it….its eh, a shocking situation, it’s just inhuman. It’s what nobody would intend, and somehow what we’ve arrived at, and we arrived at it by the erection of financial structures, totally divorced from resources. So that the fiscal economy has been a runaway system. We’ve gotta tackle that head on. That is, what I’m trying to tell you, it’s no good any longer just being an organic gardener or farmer, we have to be effective financial and political units. And we’re gonna have to face that. Just as it was very hard for us to learn to garden, then hard for us to learn to collect seeds, once the multinationals took over the open-pollinated seed market; we had to become seed growers. Now its very difficult, we have to become bankers.There’s no good trying to pretend we don’t have to. We can run away to the bush, build a mud hut and grow ducks in the garden, it’s not gonna do it. The coals will still be burnt, the land will still be eroded, and the forests will still be cleared for newsprint if we run away to the bush. So, there’s no escape, we’ve just gotta stop running away, stay where we are and start to face up and fight.”

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