A column by Robyn Wilson
Care for People
Care for People is one of the three ethics in permaculture along with Care for the Earth, and Care
for the Future in this three-part series. But, why care for people?
The interconnection between how we care for the earth and how we care for people is so tightly
bound that one indicates the well-being of the other. In current events today, it is impossible not
to think of how stressed our society has become. The daily news of mass shootings, hate speech,
personal greed, and fear of others are overwhelming. Why have we become so sick and angry?
Many point to a disconnection within our communities of people, with our own bodies, as well as
with the earth and our environment. The Earth’s health is also sufering and being stressed
beyond its limits. It is all related.
One example of people’s lack of connection with their environment or community is through food.
For millions of years, humans’ lives were based around food by hunting, gathering, and traveling
seasonally to where the food and water were abundant. About 12,000 years ago, largely due to
drought and over-harvesting, humans started to settle around water sources and agriculture was
born. Silos were built and civilizations began frst in the Middle East and Northern Africa, and
throughout the world. Animals proved benefcial, especially the domesticated animals we still rely
on today (Harris and Gosden, 1996). Disease quickly followed the growing stationary communities
and so did constantly changing technology. Diverse cultures, languages, and religions formed
largely based on their environment (Diamond, 1997). This is one reason indigenous knowledge of
local ecosystems can never be replaced and must be respected.
In 1850, 80% of Americans were directly involved with agriculture. Today, it is less than 2% of the
U.S. population. The supply chain is so long that most meat and dairy comes from massive feed
lots and consumers are unclear about the treatment of those animals. Our fresh vegetables are
mostly grown on huge plots of land that are handled by machines, sprayed with chemical
fertilizers and pesticides, picked under-ripe, and shipped across the country or the world (Pollen,
2008). The land and water is polluted and the soil is losing its vitality. Shoppers go to the store, fll
their carts and sometimes complain that they have to wait in line. We are so disconnected to what
was central to our ancestors for millions of years that it is seriously efecting our health.
“You are what you eat,” and we are eating chemicals and processed foods. The western diseases
of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease indicates that food is making us physically sick. As cultures
across the world adopt our technologically “advanced” lifestyle, they too sufer from the western
diseases (Ruiz-Nunez and Pruimboom, 2013). Doctors recommend healthy diets and activities,
those with less meat, clean vegetables, less processed foods, more outdoor exercise, friends, and
vitamin D. Just as we have evolved, living outside, whole-food eating, and walking. This list
doesn’t even include the amount socializing that would occur throughout the days of our
ancestors. People depended on each other to help with common tasks and shared equipment.
Humans are social creatures. We were historically communal, and dependent on each other,
which builds confdence, self-worth, and a network of support (Codding and Kramer, 2016).
According to the U.S. Census, current world population is at 7.5 billion, and is expected to reach 9
billion in 12 years, meaning more stress on resources. Societal problems are great, but they can be
mitigated through reconnection to what is real. Help a neighbor, volunteer, or participate in
random acts of kindness to spread the word that we are stronger together. Support local farmers
and feed your mind and body nutritious, whole food. Technology has many benefts in health,
education, science, etc. but we must also look to where we came from for a healthy and happy
future. We need a connection to earth, our bodies, and each other.
Robyn Wilson has master degrees in International Business, Sustainable Communities, and Bilingual
and Multicultural Education. She teaches permaculture design at Colorado Mesa University. Robyn
returned to Grand County after 17 years to manage the cabins community of Grandma Miller’s New