Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective (documentary film)

Inhabit Film reviewTotal Run Time: 92 minutes (Additional scenes, 60 min., not reviewed)
Optional subtitles: English, Spanish, and French
available from: www.INHABITFILM.com $20.00
reviewer Alan Eddy, NOFA member, Wallingford, CT

This documentary is an introduction to permaculture for the general public, and speaks eloquently to the point of permaculture as a ray of hope in our world.

About eighteen people are interviewed about their work producing perennial crops, caring for livestock, preventing erosion, recycling nutrients, building soil and sequestering carbon, and restoring ecosystems. The film is divided into SUBURBS, CITIES, and FARMS. The film covers primarily the Northeastern and Midwestern U. S., with a glimpse of California. Permaculturist Ben Falk provides an introduction. The plants that are most benefi-cial for the land are also most beneficial for humans. Plants are a reverse carbon conveyor belt — taking carbon out of the air and putting it in the soil. Raising livestock helps regenerate degraded farm land. “Farm the water first, then the soil.”

SUBURBS: The permaculturists interviewed are — Eric Toensmeier, Lisa Fernandes, Lisa DePiano, and Steve Whitman. There is a short sequence about composting toilets and another about using bicycle trailers to collect compost and recycling. Scenes are included of neighbors working together to implement permaculture designs. Multiple edible crops can be grown together in a small yard. The pawpaw, Asimina triloba, is an edible fruit native to North America and frequently mentioned in North American folklore.

CITIES: The people included are — Dwaine Lee, Andrew Faust, Paula Amram, Ari Rosenberg, Luis Sanchez, and Pandora Thomas. Topics include: growing food crops on rooftops, capturing rainwater from sloped roofs, planting neighborhood gardens and rain gardens in conjunction with local residents, and providing job opportunities for urban dwellers and ex-offenders. The potential of the urban landscape will surprise you!

FARMS: In this segment the experts are — Michael Phillips (2017 NOFA Conference keynoter), Keith Morris, Steve Gabriel, Rhamis Kent, Susana Kay Lein, and Mark Shepard. There is a sequence about growing shitake mushrooms on logs in a forest setting (the main pests are slugs, which are controlled by foraging ducks). Susana Kay Lein plants grain crops in succession without any tillage — an idea from Japan (The One Straw Revolution). New Forest Farm in Wis-consin replicates the “oak savanna” of ancient mammoths and bison — a fantastically productive habitat.

I grew up in the 1960s when environmentalists were saying: “humans are bad — we are a planetary disease.” This film says: “wait a minute — it doesn’t have to be that way. Humans CAN be good.” We can not only sustain ecosystems but we can restore and regenerate them as well. Scenes with children are prominent in the film!

In 1979, I received a B. S. degree in Horticulture from Michigan State University and began joining organizations in order to explore new ideas: The Maine Or-ganic Farmers and Gardeners Association, The Bio-Integral Resource Center (an IPM group in CA), The New Alchemy Institute, and the Biodynamic Farming As-sociation. I read about permaculture but did not follow up at that time. Then followed a period of working in the field of green architecture (earning paychecks and paying bills). In April of 2016, I attended a session of the Environmental Film Series put on by two activists at our public library. The film was Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective. As the documentary unfolded, I thought: “this is what I have been searching for.”