Down to Earth

Erik Ohlsen has been working in permaculture and land restoration for 25 years. Founder and owner of Permaculture Artisans, he’s author of the new book, The Regenerative Landscaper: Design and Build Landscapes That Repair the Environment, which deeply explores the theory and hands-on practice of repairing damaged land and finding ecological balance––no matter how small or large the project. Integral to the process of restoration are not only soil, water, and plants, but also insects, wildlife, and above all people. Ohlsen reframes the role of human beings from a destructive force to a millennia-long partnership in the health and thriving of land all over the world. He also talks about the shifting aesthetic, from “neat and clean” to more wild and interconnected as we steer land toward a more natural state.
With 40 million acres of land in the US along covered by lawns––that use more pesticides and herbicides even than agriculture––Ohlsen shows a way toward ecological wholeness, in which people can cultivate good food, wildlife and pollinator habitat, healthy soil, water cycle restoration, and ecological connectivity. And in the process they can begin to restore own their mental and physical health and their connection to the earth itself.

2’10 Erik’s story
3’18 the problem of 40 million acres of lawns–more herbicides and pesticides used on lawns than in agriculture
5’02 the problem of how we do development that contributes to climate disruption
6’02 Sonoma County, California, is doing permaculture and food forests around public buildings like city halls and schools
6’21 Daily Acts organization
8’36 Cultural History Garden in Sebastopol
11’00 shifting the cultural aesthetic of the community from clean and tidy to more wild and polyculture
14’12 landscaping is a multi billion dollar industry–great opportunities for careers in regenerative landscaping
15’04 Erik is working on regenerative agriculture designs as well as straight landscaping
16’50 even a small regenerative landscape is an ecosystem
17’22 using multiple varieties of each fruit for a succession of harvest times and resilience
18’57 mental health effects of working on the landscape
20’53 biodiversity at his home has increased vastly in the nine years since he’s lived there.
21’21 gophers kept in check by foxes, hawks, weasels, and owls; reframing pests as issues of imbalance
25’11 the importance of wildlife corridors
26’30 working on an “agro-hood”–a neighborhood built around a farm
28’16 “above ground well” = roof
30’45 going from concept to actually doing it
35’20 managing human energy as well as the landscape
37’41 reframing the role of people as positive
40’15 the approach of giving back more than we take from the land
43’28 so many people around the world are doing the right thing that eventually it can become dominant