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Villa Libertà

Letter to the local paper

Some of you may remember a video I made about the nearby Aeolian Island of Panarea. link: this video I featured a Permaculture demonstration site named Villa Libertà, which was created by my friends Derek and Jehnny. Recently their site has come under scrutiny. This prompted them to ask me to write a letter on their behalf. They were happy with the content, and suggested that it might be useful to diffuse the message on a broader platform than the local paper, which is why I’ve chosen to share the letter here – in order to use it as a tool for education and demonstration.As Permaculturists, we have an important role to play in our communities. We are all familiar with Permaculture as a means for healing the environment, but it is equally powerful as an agent for social change. So here’s the letter… Dear _________Water is Life.Recently it was brought to my attention that the property known as Villa Libertà on the Aeolian Island of Panarea has come under scrutiny. On the surface, this scrutiny may seem justified. However, as a Permaculture designer and teacher, as well as a resident of Sicily, I would make a few points that may help to justify Derek and Jehnny’s intervention.There is no new water. Though one could argue that the melting of the polar ice caps is releasing otherwise solidified quantities of water into our oceans, we are basically operating with the same supply of water that existed on the planet at the time of the dinosaurs. The only difficulty is, the Earth is now host to 7.6 billion residents. Our relationship with this precious resource must be adapted to ever more rapidly changing circumstances.The planet is drying out. At a time when the concept of Global Warming has finally been accepted by nearly every major government on this planet, a more apt and accurate approach to our current condition would be to call it “Global Desertification”.Panarea is located less than 500 kilometers from North Africa, and the subsequent Sahara Desert, which is the driest region on the planet. Desertification is literally at Panarea’s back door.Deserts are growing. They’re called the silent killer. They are at the heart of the European immigration crisis, as they are the leading cause of African land grabs, population displacement, and war. At this writing, 15,908 hectares of once arable land have been transformed into desert this year ( In addition, great populations across the planet, once considered safe within the confines of cities are now finding themselves with severe shortages of this precious resource. Here is a link to the article entitled “The 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water – like Cape Town” ( Therefore all solutions which may help end this surreptitious killer should be welcomed with open arms by any country who considers itself an advocate of reversing climate change.At present the population of Panarea, and thus its booming tourism business, is wholly dependent on the weekly shipments of potable water from Naples, 300 km away. Docked at the local port the ships deposit millions of liters of water into the community cistern. The water is then pumped uphill into the cisterns of the residents, restaurants, businesses, and government offices. If this supply of water were to be interrupted for any reason, the island would quickly be rendered completely uninhabitable. But they are not alone. Most popular destination islands across the globe operate in exactly the same manner, which is why these islands, which function as valuable microcosms, hold the design key to our planet’s future.Enter Villa Libertà.Villa Libertà is not reliant on this water. It is located on an uninhabited zone of the island, where the water pipes do not reach. Yet the owners, Derek and Jehnny are able to successfully grown fruit trees, raise bees and donkeys, and cultivate gardens (hydroponic and terrestral) in an otherwise desolate location. How are they able to do these things with no access to the imported water shipments each week? The answer is Permaculture.Villa Libertà is a Permaculture demonstration site, which means it holds the answer to how we are to live on a planet which is being overtaken by desert. Created in Australia in the 1980’s, Permaculture (which derives its name from Permanent Agriculture) is a sustainable design methodology whose aim is to teach us how to fix the environmental problems we’ve created.Derek and Jehnny harvest all the water they use from rainfall. The water is stored in a collection of cisterns, then fed via gravity or solar-powered pumps as needed. The result is water sustainability. This makes Villa Libertà an indispensable learning site for generations to come.So to return to the issue at hand… It’s easy to misinterpret the things we see each day. What might appear to one person an eyesore or an encroachment on the landscape, might actually prove to be the solution to an ever more serious global crisis. I believe this is the case with Villa Libertà. Rather than attempting to eliminate it, the local government of Panarea should nurture its development, see it for the demonstration site that it is, and integrate found solutions into the island’s existing infrastructure.Water is life.Please see this for the invitation that it is. An invitation for change and for life. Sincerely, John Kaisner Cartesiano, Sicily

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