Surrounded by abundant love from places far and near, from family, friends and people he inspired in his lifelong journey of teaching, Maestro of Permaculture, the Old Coot Scott Pittman passed into the light in the quietest hour of night on July 31, 2022. His wife of 25 years, Arina, was holding him during the passage, and fourteen family members rested nearby, guiding him with warmth and love.
Scott was born in 1940 in West Texas under the scorching sun and bare soil of the dust bowl-scrapped landscape. He learned to meet his needs early in life through raising food and livestock, and doing his own building, plumbing, and electric—skills he would carry with him the rest of his life.
Scott attended the University of Texas at Austin for many years. He described his studies as an immersion in cultural anthropology and social activism. It was the early 1960’s as Scott got very involved with Students for a Democratic Society and the Civil Rights Movement. He also served overseas in the United States Air Force as a radar specialist. After a military stint and a career in political activism and protest movements, Scott left the cities like many activists of the time, going back to the land in the Ozark Mountains on the border of Missouri and Arkansas to form a “hippie commune.” He married and had children there, ultimately being “driven out by ticks and chiggers” as he described it.
“Scott taught permaculture to countless people worldwide, and for six of the early years alongside Bill Mollison himself. He taught methods and techniques, and awakened in his students the soul gesture of connecting to the wisdom of nature…”
He moved to Santa Fe, NM and became a builder and farmer with his brother Robert for some years, and they dreamed of eventually starting a handmade toy company. Scott was giving in to the urge to find a steady form of employment. Permaculture had other ideas for him. At the insistence of his late friend Ali Sharif, Scott learned permaculture in the mid-1980’s in several courses and workshops with Bill Mollison in New Mexico and then Nepal. Out the window went the idea of a conventional career.
Honoring his bliss, Scott taught permaculture to countless people worldwide, and for six of those years alongside Bill Mollison himself. He taught methods and techniques, and awakened in his students the soul gesture of connecting to the wisdom of nature and great creation that surrounds us all. For Scott, “permaculture provided a non-confrontational method of addressing many of the things that concerned me: environmental destruction, social injustice, inequitable distribution of wealth, corporatism, corrupt political systems, and a bankrupt educational system.” As we reflect on Scott’s concerns, permaculture remains as relevant as ever.
A tireless initiator of the permaculture practice to heal the collective broken connection with nature, Scott brought awareness and solutions aimed at restoring healthfulness of the earth, of human communities and our relationship to the environment. Scott traveled to all continents except Antarctica, worked with the traditional tribes of Shipibo and Guarani of the Amazon, co-founded/supported Madre de Selva Permaculture Project in Ecuador, Permacultura America Latina in Guatemala, Permaculture Kiiv in Ukraine, Ecohome Projects in Belarus and Russia, Ecocentre IPEC in Brazil, projects in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, Thailand, Nepal, Haiti and Kazakhstan, and taught extensively in Costa Rica. His work was directed at restoring self-sufficiency in the most fragile communities and ecosystems, which protected health and strengthened the cultural integrity of people.
Scott was equally at ease in his conversations with shamans, contractors, professors of agriculture, and single mothers of the disempowered villages in South America. He ate fried grubs, jackfruit straight from the forest floor, mushrooms from the Altai mountains, fish from the Amazon river, and fresh coffee beans from farms in Panama. He assisted in the construction of Dar Al Islam in Abiqui, NM with renowned Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy, brought strawbale construction to Siberia, and built rainwater harvesting projects worldwide.
Scott and Bill Mollison co-founded the Permaculture Institute, Inc., in 1997 when Bill could no longer keep up with demand for permaculture worldwide. They agreed there needed to be an institute for both hemispheres, a concept that seems equally inadequate to keeping up with demand for what we know of permaculture’s wide scope today.
Scott was given the Permaculture Community Service Award in 1990, and also founded the groundbreaking Permaculture Credit Union in 2000, patterning lending practices on the three ethics of permaculture, headquartered in Santa Fe, NM, which grew for a decade before being absorbed by another credit union.
For Scott, “permaculture provided a non-confrontational method of addressing many of the things that concerned me: environmental destruction, social injustice, inequitable distribution of wealth, corporatism, corrupt political systems, and a bankrupt educational system.”
Steadfast in this work to heal the land and our relationship to All Life there are many brilliant practitioners of permaculture around the world, in no small part due to Scott’s inspiration and leadership. He has grounded in us the means to build a positive future for the human spirit to thrive in. In his later years Scott was inspired by the rise of the spiritual element in all work pertaining to healing of the earth, and of restoring health in human communities. He struggled to find the right words, always wary of misunderstandings, yet he started laying foundational stones in the transformation of permaculture into an even deeper practice, one of personal transformation as well as worldly transformation.
Scott is smiling from the heavenly realms at his beloved children, Aimee Toni Thaya (52), Gabriel Willard (44), Eya Sofia Van Tassle (42), and Alexander (Sasha) Rumi (14). He was blessed with the support of son-in-law Aaron Van Tassle of Tiejeras, NM. Scott’s sister Angela Threadwell of Lubbock TX, and brother Wayne Robert Pittman and sister-in-law Kathleen Wigley of Silver City, NM, will dearly miss him. He was lucky to have his grandchildren Sebastian Especet, Gabriela Montes, and Quentin and Wesley Van Tassle. Meeting him in the spiritual world is his beloved little sister Glenda.
His friends, family, and students are grateful for this gift of a man and his life of integrity, practice, and wisdom. His work here was plenty and he has fulfilled his duties. May he find rest and inspiration in the realms of starlight and the great beyond! With love, hugs, and tears.
Special thanks to Arina Pittman and Brook LeVan for co-authoring this piece.