PermacultureHub Interview with Willi Paul, New Mythologist

The PermacultureHub team recently conducted an interview with Willi Paul, permaculture explorer and Principle of More about Willi Paul and his work can be found here and here.


1. How did you first learn about permaculture design and which of the three ethics most resonates with you?

My guess is that my work in green business and sustainability morphed into the permaculture sector sometime in early 2011. I earned my PDC from Kevin Bayuk and David Cody at the Urban Permaculture Institute in San Francisco. Right afterwards, I created and led the San Mateo County Permaculture Guild for a short time and founded the community jobs portal for permaculture called, a short-lived experiment. In my experience, permaculture remains outside of the mainstream and without critical mass of funding mechanisms, jobs and political clout.

Allow me to start with a quote from David Holmgren’s team:

Central to permaculture are the three ethics: earth care, people care and fair share. They form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies. Ethics are culturally evolved mechanisms that regulate self-interest, giving us a better understanding of good and bad outcomes. The greater the power of humans, the more critical ethics become for long-term cultural and biological survival. Permaculture ethics are distilled from research into community ethics, learning from cultures that have existed in relative balance with their environment for much longer than more recent civilisations. This does not mean that we should ignore the great teachings of modern times, but in the transition to a sustainable future, we need to consider values and concepts outside the current social norm.”

First, I don’t see much ethical behaviour in capitalism. My New Myth series depicts Eras just ahead that will challenge whatever equalitarian ethics we have left. Ethics are founded in the sacred and this source is dwindling, too. As the Chaos Era now explodes in front of us, I will choose Fair Share. This ethic seems to be the best practice or permaculture baseline for our climate challenged Ecos.

2. The fork in the road seems to say “Abundance” this way and “Scarcity” that way but collectively we don’t yet seem to have made up our mind about which way we want to turn. Do you have any suggestions about how to more effectively communicate the opportunity of Abundance and the dangers of the other road?

Huge media corporations and their pro-consumption clients and government lackeys are in firm control of the communication challenges across the globe. More locally, I have yet to gain access to land to farm and feed myself. There are so many fences! My fear is that we will wait until it’s too late to choose between the two and civil strife will erupt followed by martial law.

To me, abundance is a spiritual path or practice and something that we are no longer holding in a shared or sacred space.

[Ed: Willi recorded a workshop earlier this year exploring the new myth Building the story of Cascadia. The video can be viewed here. Image courtesy]

3. The word “myth” conjures up a large range of images from the stories of ancient Greece to a TV show focused on debunking science misconceptions, what does it mean to you?

Myths to me are now “new myths”, formed by peak-oil and climate change, species depletion and green energy dreams. We need new myths to help us come together and forge a new path. The classic myths are just worn-out and less relevant to many now. New Myths are new stories, art, poetry, etc. that serve as road maps in the future. [See Willi’s Journey to Cascadia: Building a New Global Mythology for more on this topic]

My new myths include new symbols and a tool kit of 5 new alchemies:

[1] Sound: Rock Music

[2] Landscape: Permaculture

[3] Spirit: Transition Movement

[4] Community: Localization

[5] Religion: Dark Green Religion

4. Scientists call the current geological era the “anthropocene” as human activity is now a key driver of global ecosystem changes, how do you see this aligning with the “new myths” you have shared on and

Most of my new myths are set in the Post-Transition Era, a time 35–50 years from now when the impacts of climate warming and corporate war making may be an everyday reality so that some lands on Earth will be available for food production – and settlement – while others will not. The anthropocene will threaten the grid and could be accompanied by a dramatic drop in all population levels. There are many maps we need to create to guide us through this maze!

5. A few years back Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term “tipping point”, describing it as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” We appear to now be nearing or passing numerous ecological and social tipping points, how are you preparing for what might come next and what suggestions do you have for folks who are trying to figure out how to navigate the transition?

I am building the New Global Mythology Institute on the web and with friends who own a permaculture ranch south of Half Moon Bay. I am learning and creating new spiritual and metaphysical tools that combine old wisdoms and new technologies.

My work in new mythology is collaborative and future focused. My new myths are calls to my brothers and sisters to prepare for a new world. Join the Transition movement. Buy a farm. It’s time.

We are past tipping points and now find ourselves in the melting pools.