Permaculture and Me

I am pleased to announce that I have just returned from the spectacular Vancouver Island to the also spectacular, if colder, Cape Breton Island, bearing a new Certificate in Permaculture Design:


I can’t tell you how excited I am to show you this. Also, isn’t it pretty?

A couple of weeks ago, I undertook the journey to OUR Ecovillage in Shawnigan Lake, B.C. to study permaculture (and Earth Activism) with Charles Williams and Starhawk. (I stopped in Vancouver for a tour of the Quest Food Exchange, a visit with new friends, and a brief foray into a city with Actual Public Transit.) The two weeks were spectacular, and riveting, and magical. We learned and learned and learned and learned, and somehow I gave up coffee and started spontaneously waking up with the sun.* We learned to find contour lines with three sticks, some string, and a rock. We built walls out of mud. We practiced communicating and working in teams and standing up in the face of a threat. We made biochar and aerated compost and a Really Big Compost pile that was cooking away beautifully when I came home. We ate outside and stayed around the fire until all hours. There was at least one instance of ecstatic dancing.

I also started going out of the building with the bathroom in it to find the composting toilet. Even when it was raining. So you know that there’s something going on there.

But what, you may ask, is permaculture? (Or perhaps, “isn’t that something to do with farming?” To which the answer is, “Yes. Sort of. Maybe. It depends.”) Permaculture includes an approach to growing food, but it is a more comprehensive relationship with entire processes. I described it, by the end of the course, as “the engineering I’ve been looking for all these years.” That is to say, it is a way of working in the world that acknowledges our roles as creators, modifiers and agents, but also works with rather than against the processes we are embedded in. I woke up yesterday morning thinking about a science and technology in which we are acknowledged as part of the system, rather than maintaining the pretence of objectivity. In which our bodies are acknowledged and our need for food and shelter is honoured, but the need for everything around us to have bodies and food and shelter is equally esteemed. We build systems that provide habitat while they are also providing nuts, fruits, shade, water retention in arid landscapes, space and food for chickens and honey bees, firewood and and and and… We work to reconnect loops that have been lines for far too long. Instead of consuming at one end, producing waste at the other, externalising costs step by step all along the way, this is an approach that might (finally) get us to Beauty All the Way Down.

I’m in love.

* Results not typical.

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