G'day Geoff, I really loved your fantastic "Use of Permaculture Under Salinity and drought Conditions" article.
I must admit, when I first read that article my first reaction was 'wow, that's fantastic'...followed by 'why aren't we (Permaculture exponents as a whole) doing that in Australia?' Many parts of Australia are as hostile or similar to the land you encountered in this and other projects, and traditional Western farming practices have failed badly in these areas if they've even been attempted...yet I'm not aware of Australian Permaculturalists doing anything similar in our own deserts and arid areas, which I must admit I find a bit sad considering the vast (and increasing) areas of Australia which receive low rainfall and struggle with poor soils and salinity issues...and more so given Permaculture is an Australian born system.
So much Permaculture energy is focused on the coastal fringes of our continent, yet if global warming keeps sending us expanding tropical areas and major cyclones spreading further south, rapidly rising sea levels and possibly tsunami's etc, IMO we will struggle in future decades if we can't widely disperse knowledge which allows us to sustainably farm our more arid regions and maintain/grow strong, sustainable communities away from the coastal fringes. I see you are doing some forums with Richard Heinberg (of whose work I'm a big fan), so I'm sure you can appreciate how badly Australia's rural interior will be affected by Peak Oil if local sustainable agriculture can't become the norm in these areas...they will cease to exist if the majority of their food has to be transported in as it currently is.
Your fantastic work in Jordan and other arid areas is IMO exactly the sort of knowledge needed to rehabilitate our own continent's interior...the pursuit of which would provide enormous benefits.
I don't think the sound practices and philosophies behind Permaculture quite make the impact they should in Australia for two main reasons (though there are several more):
a) There are few commercial Permaculture operations competing with traditional agriculture (unlike biodynamic farming)...there is far more focus on the individual (which is good and what is needed IMO, but doesn't speak to all those traditional agricultralists concerned about jobs, yields etc).
b) So many exponents of Permaculture choose to set up their properties and focus their energy along the coastal fringe where (for the time being at least) it's still possible to be successful using traditional Western agricultural practices.
I strongly feel that if you or someone with your knowledge could begin making an impact like you have in Jordan here in Australia's more arid areas, then it would enormously enhance the reputation of Permaculture here in Australia as a system which provides the solutions no other system can. While you're working in the Middle East and elsewhere, there is seemingly no interest here in Australia toward spreading the message of your achievements on a wide scale (T.V., commercial radio, newspapers, magazines etc), yet if you could achieve similar results in the Queensland or NSW outback, I think it would make a huge impact.
The solutions for the problems facing so many Australian inland areas - drought, land degradation, retention of people and services, providing employment, depression and suicide - IMO are all there in your work in arid areas overseas.
So I guess my question to you is how can the knowledge you've used in arid areas overseas be put to widespread use in similar areas of Australia? Would it be possible to set up similar projects here in Australia? I strongly suspect that rural councils and bodies all over Australia would leap at the chance to support projects which offered solutions to the problems they all face which I've mentioned above if they were able to see the miracles you've achieved overseas.
But of course, you can only be in one place at one time and are obviously a very busy man, so I wonder if people could be trained onsite in specific arid locations under you or someone with your knowledge so your achievements in Jordan can begin to make a similar impact in Australia's arid, rural areas? Or perhaps whether this forum could provide a similar function?
I myself am in the process of moving to a small town in an arid, rural area (the southern gulf savannah country in far north Queensland) with the intention of setting up local food and community sustainability. While my PDC, your articles on arid land farming and the short Greening the Desert video have given me a fair idea of how I can achieve this, I can't help but feel there is so much more I could learn if there were more detailed examples of your work which included instructional photographs or video, or onsite examples in Australia which could be used to further demonstrate the methods you have used.
I also can't help but feel that your work should be used right across Australia and that even starting tomorrow is almost too late unless a major effort is made. My fear is that a decade or two from now, our rural interior will no longer be viable under its current template and that our entire population will be crammed into even higher density, gradually shrinking areas along the coastline, in a time of probable economic crisis.
Sorry for the length of my ramble and my sincere thanks to you for setting up this forum, I hope you have time to offer some thoughts on the above.
The real path to natural farming requires that a person know what unaltered nature is, so that he or she can instinctively understand what needs to be done—and what must not be done—to work in harmony with its processes. - Masanobu Fukuoka