Wikipedia describes David Blume as a permaculture teacher. I knew next to nothing about David Blume and nothing at all about permaculture when I attended his daylong seminar at the Sautee Nacoochee Community Center a couple of weeks ago.
Without going into details, let's just say permaculture is a philosophy as well as a practical system for living harmoniously with the natural world. It talks about sustainable agriculture, but its lessons apply to human beings as well as plants and animals.
Here's an example: Blume had a blackboard to draw on. Readers will have to use their power of visualization. Imagine a four lines in the form of a square: a box. The box defines the boundaries of the experiment. Everything within it is carefully controlled.
The box contains soil that is uniform in nutrients and other characteristics, and in the box we plant two identical seeds, X and Y. So far everything is exactly the same, the ground, the air, the amount of moisture.
The seeds - let's say they're from an oak tree - sprout and begin to grow. The seedlings are identical, but as they grow into trees, X becomes bigger, healthier, and stronger than Y. It produces more leaves and develops a larger root system. Since everything else is the same, why is one tree thriving while the other is stunted?
There is a difference. The sun is coming from the south and falls directly on tree X. As tree X grows, it begins to shade tree Y thereby denying Y an equal amount of energy from the sun. Pretty soon there is a visible difference between the two.
When this lesson is applied to human beings, it becomes philosophical. Practical solutions depend on religious outlook and political persuasion. Because the seeds were the same, the soil the same, temperature and moisture the same, the difference is a matter of random fate. One seed fell (in this cases was planted) in a more favorable location than the other. The same is true of people. Some are fortunate and flourish; some are not and languish.
There is a pervasive myth of huge consequences: It says the poor are lazy, while the rich have prospered because they worked hard. The poor simply don't have a work ethic, or they're just naturally ignorant and unproductive. Whatever the reason, it's their fault they are poor.
Maybe it's God's will that one individual is in the right place at the right time, and another isn't. Or maybe it's luck or fate or coincidence.
This is where religion comes in. Muslims are required to give a certain percentage of personal wealth to care for the poor. Judaism says the poor are entitled to charity as a matter of right rather than benevolence. Jesus said, "Feed my sheep," and told Christians to minister to the poor.
Americans do this individually by helping their neighbors. As a nation we do it through government and corporate policy. We founded our Constitution on justice, common defense and the general welfare of our people, and as citizens we tax ourselves to pay for it.
To do this fairly and efficiently we have to understand the interconnectedness of our society. To grow healthy food we have to understand soil, sun, and the cycles of nature. To have a healthy nation, we have to understand the impact of one strata of society on another.
I am a CASA, a Court-Appointed Special Advocate for children, and I know what happens when children are abused or neglected. They are like the tree that grew up in the shadows, and all too often these children grow up to produce the next generation of damaged children.
Meeting the needs of the unfortunate is just as much a national security issue as defending the nation from outside attack. When education and social programs are cut, it isn't just the poor who suffer. We all do.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com.