I was surprised to find this article on permaculture on MSN.com's homepage today. The title is "Ever eat a pine tree?"
Furthermore, I was shocked to read in the article that Euell Gibbons had done a Post Grape Nuts cereal commercial in 1974! I see this reference as a kind of example-within-an-example (a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma? a taco-burrito-chimichanga?) of cultural assimilation by a commercial entity. First, with the article's placement on MSN, secondly, with it's reference to a commercial contract between Post cereal and the author of a classic foraging book.
Quote: " 'Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible." That's what the great salesman and naturalist Euell Gibbons said in a 1974 Post Grape Nuts television commercial."
I'm forwarding this link as a recognition of, and hopefully a conversation-starter about, how mainstream entities practice the co-opting/co-option(?) of fringe content, and what that may mean in the long run.
From a permaculture perspective, I recognize that edges are very important. We know that this is where a lot of the magic happens, and where new solutions are often born.
But what happens when the edges are threatened with extinction?
The current models of unchecked exponential growth that are being followed by our economic, commercial and production systems REQUIRE that they gobble up anything of value in order to continue growing.
Think about it this way: when an industry slows down, one of the ways to continue to grow as a company is to filch your competitor's customers or to acquire smaller companies in order to acquire their customers, since it is no longer possible to sell MORE to the same customers you had in the beginning for whatever reason.
It works the same way with ideas and content(which is really just a stimulatory device for ideas in my opinion). When new ideas cannot be generated for whatever reason, others' ideas are used. Since new-ness is a mandatory part of the equation, the search begins to revolve around UNIQUE ideas. This is Marketing 101.
But where do new and unique ideas come from? The edges! But once an edge is assimilated (tattoos, body piercing anyone?), something else "unique" or "new" must arbitrarily take its place, right?
With that said, are the "edges" a renewable resource, if they are constantly being assimilated by the "larger body"?
With physical land, we will eventually run into the ocean, or circle back around the globe to the beginning of the territory if we keep pushing the edges further out. There is a physical limit.
But what about ideas? Is the new-ness dependant only upon time/memory? Are time/memory the factors that create and allow renewal (everything old is new again)?
The idea of Permaculture has witnessed multiple re-births, and that is only since it's inception as a practice by Mollison and Holmgren. It doesn't include practices before then, like those followed by indigenous peoples and our ancient ancestors. So, to most of us, it's "new", or at least "recycled and updated", which makes it kind of new to US, since we weren't around for the earlier incarnations (time/age), and because many of us have been living in a society that has not largely adopted these practices (exposure).
My concern is about what happens when ideas are input into the exponential growth model, coupled with the information age. Ideas get older faster as trends die faster and technology allows for faster, more saturated exposure. Will this eventually threaten the "natural" lifespan of the newness of ideas, making it harder to find new solutions?
Will new solutions start to become available only to large entities who have the resources to exploit them within a shrinking timeframe of absorption by/exposure to the public?
How do trends, elitism and planned obsolescence factor into all of this?
I'd LOVE to hear others' thoughts on this topic. Let's think up some edges!