Mollison was, and still is, entirely correct with this statement on so many levels. Lets take the statement apart and look at the key words for some better understanding.
Only – to the exclusion of all others
We have many paths that we can take to the future; some lead to greatness, others less so, and some should be avoided altogether. It may sound simple, perhaps even sensible, but it makes no sense to take paths that lead to outcomes other than positive, and hopefully great. And yet we too often take those paths to our ultimate regret. So we need to keep reminding ourselves, that the ONLY paths to take should be to positive outcomes, and maybe some that are great.
Ethics – to do the right thing
Ethics are a way of filtering our decisions based on the concept of Right and Wrong. Of course, the concept of right and wrong is very much subjective and dependent on circumstances and focus. More often than not in society, ethics are focused inwards and used as a way of protection against unwanted consequences of taking action. Sometimes the focus is outward, still as a form of protection, but this time for others. Whereas in Permaculture, the focus is more outwards and positive in intention. Is this action going to benefit the Earth and its inhabitants whilst proving the desired outcome?
Decision – forks in the road
I remember hearing a motivational speech many, many moons ago, given by a successful businessman, on the decisions we need to make when we arrive at forks in the road. In short, will this action take me to where I want to go, or somewhere else? We make decisions all the time, it is sensible to make good ones. It is said that Good Decisions are the result of Experience, and Experience is the result of Bad Decisions. As a global society methinks we have more than made our quota of bad decisions – it’s time we made some good ones.
Responsibility – the buck stops here
Taking responsibility is sometimes easy, sometimes difficult, but always necessary. It helps to know where you are headed, which makes decisions much easier. Sometimes those decisions can come at a personal cost, but if the future vision is clear, then decisions become easier regardless. Unlike in modern society, particularly politics, responsibility is not about blame, but recognising the outcome of a decision and/or action, and then setting about either celebrating the outcome, or fixing it. Either way, the responsibility is with us all, individually and together.
Existence – to be, and continue to be
Nature is not overly concerned with the individual, rather more so with the continuity and continuation of the species – all of them. So it would seem easy to give up on the individual and only be concerned with preserving the future of the human race. And given the complexity of life on this planet and the multitudinous interactions between species, a constant give and take, it is somewhat daunting to consider other beings, other species, other complexities than ourselves when making decisions. But we are also entirely dependent on our relationships with those other species and complexities, and indeed their relationships and complexities, for our own survival and prosperity.
Our Own – of oneself
What did Mollison mean here when he said “our own?” Did he mean the individual person? Did he mean the family, the community, the human species? Did he mean all life on earth? Sadly I never met Bill, so my only access to his thinking is through his teachings in various formats, and other peoples’ experiences. Even so, with access to all that information one can get an inkling into the thinking of the man. Methinks then that he means all of the above.
Our Children – unto the seventh generation
We all want the best for our children and the coming generations, regardless of whether we have children of our own or not. Nothing demonstrated this more than an example Alan Savory has spoken about; a time when he was asked to help a local community make plans for the future. The problem was that the differing factions in the community couldn’t agree on what actions to take, and were on the verge of abandoning the meeting. So he asked them to do one final thing – to each find a quite space, alone, and write down their vision for the community’s future. When these were compiled it became obvious that although they had minor differences of opinion on how to achieve it, they all wanted the same basic outcome – a better future for their children and the coming generations. By realising they all had a common vision for their families, it became much easier to design and plan how they would achieve that common vision.
The key word here is Responsibility. We have a responsibility here to protect the future of all,the coming generations, not matter the species.