Wolves and Interesting “Permaculture” Scriptures: Working Less to Feed More People

Wolves_RiversSome of the key reasons I joined the Permaculture movement are found in Psalm 127:2, Matthew 11:28-29, John 10:10 and II Chronicles 7:14. Stick with me for a moment and I will explain what I’m talking about. Before I give you the Scripture verses, I want to share with you a nugget of wisdom from an influential Permaculture leader, Masanobu Fukuoka, author of One Straw Revolution

“I do not particularly like the word ‘work.’ Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.”

Now for the Scripture verses which have new meaning for me thanks to Permaculture leaders like Mr. Fukuoka …

First, Psalm 127:2 (NIV) – “In vain you rise early and stay up late toiling for food to eat, for He grants sleep to those He loves.” All my life it has struck me how hard we “civilized” folks work. Work, work, work. Very little time to think. Always working. Always tired. Always stressed out. Never much time to reflect. Never much time to pray. Never much time to think. Never much time to discuss ideas with others. Never accomplishing much really when you think about it. The Native Americans, in contrast, (I am now finding out no thanks to my schooling as a child) worked a lot less to feed themselves. And they had a sustainable lifestyle. And they had more freedom. In fact, they taught the founders of the USA more about freedom than anyone else did. Then we thanked them by exterminating them. No wonder we had to rewrite the history books. This is broken, folks. Something is desperately wrong with our society. God says “IN VAIN you rise early and stay up late toiling for food to eat.” Isn’t that interesting?

But hold on, there’s more … Matthew 11:28-29 – you know the verse, right? “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me for I am meek and lowly of heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Heard that verse all my life, but never applied it so practically as when Paul Gautschi of BackToEdenFilm.com explained it while standing in his amazingly productive wood chip garden which requires almost no work, yet produces the most abundant, lush, sweet, succulent produce you can imagine – almost automatically! I’ve been there. I’ve pulled carrots directly out of his garden with no digging, brushed them off with my had and put them directly in my mouth without the need to even wash them. I’ve experienced the explosion of natural goodness that happens when you bite into one of Paul’s peaches. Work, work, work. That’s all we Europeans know. Working, pounding, beating, killing. It’s crazy. But Jesus says, “I will give you rest” … “in vain you toil for food to eat.” Wow.

But keep reading. John 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Who does the first part of that verse sound like? It sound to me like us Europeans coming to the “New World” (at least it was new to them) and stealing, killing and destroying – so much so that soon, everything will be killed and our “fruited plain” will look like the Sahara Desert – lifeless – and there will be no USA at all.  But Jesus says “I am come that they might have LIFE, and have it more abundantly.”

One more verse – II Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” HEAL THEIR LAND? Yes, that’s right. Joel Salatin’s theme: Land Healing.

So all these verses have been rolling around in my head for several years now – so much so that I have been motivated to change careers and pursue “Permaculture” – precisely because of these verses and the themes of “working less while producing more” and “working with Nature, not against it” and “healing land and ecosystems” and so on.

Well, one of the things that fascinated me about Mob Grazing – and part of the reason I interned with Greg Judy is that Greg (and his mentors such as Allan Savory and Ian-Mitchell Innes) attempt to “mimic Nature” by simulating large predators like wolves with electric fence. Which works pretty well. These guys – Greg and Allan and Ian – are all restoring eco-systems effectively with this technique.  Far too slowly, but it’s working.

BUT … I have always thought that what they are doing – while it is much less work and far more productive and profitable than conventional ranching – is still a fair amount of work. Greg moves his cattle TWICE DAILY during the warmer months (once daily during the cold) and he is constantly fighting brush and fixing permanent fencing. I have thought long and hard about this problem and have brainstormed with other “permies” about how to “automate” electric fencing. I even had a conversation with a university professor out west (can’t recall his name right now) about controlling cattle and sheep herds with GPS and even went so far as to discuss a technical solution online with some electronics geeks. But even this is too much work, too much complexity, too much trouble. How do you solve the “fencing problem”???

WELL … guess what. GOD has already solved the “fencing problem.” He solved it long ago by using *large predators* – wolves, lions and such to manage entire ecosystems. I have often thought that if I really want to have a low maintenance sheep herd, I should just get a bunch of dogs and train them to move the sheep herd. Well … in the following amazing video entitled “How Wolves Change Rivers” (not just rivers – entire ecosystems) that’s precisely what is going on. Except the wolves are not managing a sheep herd. They are “managing” elk and bison and deer and bears and beavers and coyotes and rabbits and trees and bushes and grass – they are “managing” the entire ecosystem!!

Wolves!! Think of it!  Just the simple reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone Park transformed the entire ecosystem and made it more productive.

I don’t know about you, but to me that represents Mr. Fukuoka’s “less work” dream better than anything I’ve seen yet. Wow, this is going to get fun!

How Wolves Change Rivers – VIDEO
A Wolf’s Role in the Ecosystem – The Trophic Cascade
Aldo Leopold – Thinking Like a Mountain
Leopold / Mitman / Hippocrates / Germ Theory

Leopold: Two Organisms – Land and Man

Trophic cascades in Yellowstone: The first 15 years after wolf reintroduction, William J. Ripple⇑, Robert L. Beschta, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331

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