We Dedicate This Issue to Toby Hemenway

toby hemenway


Editorial From PMNA Issue 04:


We dedicate this issue to Toby Hemenway, a friend, a mentor, and a hero of ours. On December 20, 2016, he passed away during the night. Toby was an influential permaculture teacher, a kind-hearted person, and a modern-day renaissance man. The way he could blend science, cosmology, ecology, and philosophy in an eloquent manner was enlightening and approachable.


His best-selling book, Gaia’s Garden, opened the permaculture door to millions of people around the world, providing lessons in eco-literacy and regenerative thinking. More recently, The Permaculture City, taught us how to bring these game-changing lessons to the urban and suburban settings. Both books are instrumental for those looking for ways to infuse society with practical solutions.


We had the honor of attending Toby’s memorial service and there were many repeated sentiments. One was how loving and kind such an influential person could be. To us, this seems more valuable than all of the science and literature Toby left behind. His pure heart accepted and welcomed everyone in this movement. So many people had stories about meeting him and experiencing his genuine engagement. A lot of folks mentioned his chameleon nature of being able to relate to people on every level of the permaculture spectrum or any group he was associating with.


Another theme spoken about was that while he was embracing the mystery of death, he was sad at the end because he felt he still had much work left to do, and he did. We all do. As we sat there listening to those close to him reiterate this, we felt inspired more than ever to follow in Toby’s footsteps, to emulate his precious energy, and to dedicate ourselves to continuing his regenerative legacy through whatever means possible.


In the last few years, Toby’s talks on social change and anarchy opened new doors that even seasoned permaculturists didn’t know existed. He helped reframe how we think of interconnected working parts, and then taught us how to apply this to our social connections. Our tribute to Toby offers words from some of his closest friends and admiring students and our website hosts links to some of his more recent presentations. We encourage you to explore his work further. Whether you had the pleasure of meeting him in person or not, Toby’s lessons are imperative to the thriving future that so many of us are working to create.


Speaking of the future, so many of us feel that it is more uncertain now than ever. With the political unrest that so many places in the world are experiencing, it seems like now it is imperative to learn all we can about resiliency, to find ways to work together for common good, and to build social guilds and gardens that will feed our souls and our bodies in the years to come. The days ahead are uncertain, and our resiliency is going to be tested. It is no longer just about self-sufficiency, but rather whole community resilience.


This was something that Toby talked about frequently. He stated, “Claiming self sufficiency in almost anything insults and ignores the mountain of shoulders we all stand on.” We need each other during these times, no matter how independent we think we can be.


So, let’s do it! Let us work together to design a world that works for everyone. Let us honor the shoulders we stand on, including our permaculture forefathers, Bill Mollison and Toby Hemenway. The best way to honor them is to continue their work and their research, and to practice practical applications of how to live together while caring for the planet, caring for all its inhabitants, and caring for the future! Thank you for all you shared with the world. We will miss you, Toby.