Edge Dwellers Cafe Podcast: The politics of permaculture in pandemic times with Terry Leahy

In this episode, Ben Habib is joined by Dr Terry LeahyConjoint Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Newcastle. Terry’s research explores food security and rural development, environmental politics and global environmental crisis, and the philosophy of the humanist realist perspective in sociological analysis. Terry’s research and consultancy work has taken him from the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, to Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. Terry is the author of the recently-released book The Politics of Permaculture, published by Pluto Press.

00:00:00  Introduction

00:03:36  The flower of permaculture practice can’t take root in the barren soil of the market system.

00:07:49  Ambiguous definitions of permaculture and what distinguishes it from the broader environment movement.

00:13:20  Permaculture’s contribution to the quest for sustainable urban environments.

00:16:57  Sustainability transition: Post-capitalism or re-feudalisation?

00:19:05  The different political visions within the permaculture movement.

00:25:37  Different political visions are distributed globally across members of the permaculture movement.

00:27:22  Grappling constructively with class stratifications within the permaculture movement.

00:35:03  Patriarchy inside the permaculture movement.

00:38:26  Generational transition in the permaculture movement and new directions in permaculture thinking.

00:41:19  Permaculture as an embodiment of Paolo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the oppressed‘.

00:44:45  Permaculture as a case study in Gramscian counter-hegemony.

00:47:52  Terry’s work on food systems in Africa and Indonesia.

00:50:31  Permaculture as a methodology for international aid and development in the Global South.

00:53:08  COVID and vax vs anti-vax debates in the permaculture movement: Will this become a non-issue in twelve months time?

00:58:42  COVID policy responses complicated by systemic inequaltiy, insecurity, precarity and frustration with bureaucratic hierarchy.

01:01:23  Do some permies misunderstand the role of the state during the COVID pandemic?

01:04:58  What’s the lesser of two evils: The late-capitalist state or its collapse?

01:08:47  Problematising the faith in exclusively low-tech responses to COVID and sustainability transitions.

01:14:09  Yearning for low-tech utopias and disdain for elites.

01:15:10  Resentment, fear, masculinity and the rhetoric of absolute freedom.

01:19:06  Energy descent and collapse narratives and the danger of co-optation by the far right.

01:21:36  Conclusion.

Show links

About Terry Leahy

Dr Terry Leahy has undertaken research and consultancy work on environmental attitudes, landcare and sustainability in the Hunter Valley, Australia, as well as in Indonesia and Southern Africa. At present his research covers three broad topics. The first is food security in the context of rural development. The second is the global environmental crisis and the response of the public to environmental politics. The third is social theory, the philosophy of the social sciences and the place of a humanist realist perspective in sociological analysis. 

University of Newcastle academic profile  |  Website: The Gift Economy: Anarchism and Strategies for Change  |  YouTube: What’s Wrong with the World and How to Fix it.

About Ben Habib, host of Edge Dwellers Cafe

Ben@Earth  |  LTU staff profile  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |   YouTube  |  ORCiD 

Support Edge Dwellers Cafe

Ko-fi LogoSend a one-off monetary contribution to help cover the costs of producing Edge Dwellers Cafe via Ko-Fi. Contributions of any amount are welcome and much appreciated.


This podcast is broadcast from Naarm/Melbourne on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri people. Edge Dwellers Cafe pays respect to their elders past, present and emerging.