Toby Hemenway, one of the most influential permaculture authors and teachers from North America, passed away earlier this week aged 64. Toby discovered permaculture in 1990 after a career in genetics and developed a rural permaculture property in southern Oregon with his wife Kiel. He was editor of Permaculture Activist magazine from 1999 to 2004 and his book Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture is credited as being the most successful book about permaculture in the world, having sold more than 250,000 copies. His 2015 book The Permaculture City: Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience applies permaculture thinking and principles to organising everyday life.
In 2005, Su and I were hosted by Toby in Portland, Oregon during our 6-month teaching and study tour of North America. I remember him as earnest and modest as he maintained a passionate commitment to permaculture ideas as he made the transition from rural self-reliant living to applying permaculture in the city. His move back to urban living was emblematic of the learnings of our generation about the limits to rural self-sufficiency.