Sunday, 15 April 2012

Permaculture...My Mind is Blown

April 15, 2012

After a week at the permaculture conference, I have found something that has been missing from my life.  I have connected with others, and found an avenue for a career and a way of life that is deeply meaningful and helps the planet….and that is Permaculture.  

Permaculture sounded strange at first, when you first hear about things like "sustainable systems", "eco-villages" and "earthships", the image of hippies tripping out on the desert comes to mind.

However, everything about permaculture makes an insane amount of sense, which is why governments and corporations are probably afraid of adapting it en masse.

Now, the underlying reason why I decided to jump down the rabbit hole...careful, because this might get pretty deep.

There are 7 billion humans on earth, and our supply of oil, fresh water, arable land, and forest is shrinking as our demand is ever increasing.  Climate change is staring us in the face, and we are racing towards complete collapse in very short order unless we do not change our global food and economic systems.  When you read about things like positive methane feedback loops from the Artic, which will plunge our world into 10degrees of warming once tipping points are reached, it is inevitable to come to grips with a deep, existential crisis.  The state I grew up in (Colorado) will become a permanent dust bowl very soon, and that is only a taste of what is to come.

So many times, when I read climate science, I end up with a cold feeling in my stomach, because we are faced with the certain possibility of extinction of life on this planet unless we disrupt climate change.  Right now, we are RACING towards extinction, and the only option is to drastically change the system which we obtain our food, earn our money, and find purpose in life.  Ask yourself...what use is planning for retirement, or following a decade long path towards a lucrative career, when your children will suffer in a world plagued by permanent drought and dead crops.  It's hard to look through to despair, but there are answers, and solutions.

What I have found in Permaculture, is a glimmer of hope, because within it are hundreds of solutions to EVERY problem we face.  Permaculture is about growing food in the midst of drought, about building houses which do not need to be heated or cooled, and are affordable for all.  It is about capturing and holding water and carbon in the soil, and turning deserts and eroded cow pasture into ultra productive food ecosystems.  It is about small scale renewable energy, and community planning in the face of oil shortages.  Most of all, it is about restoring purpose to human life, so that we can restore the earth as we support ourselves, instead of just destroying everything.

One example which bring tears to my eyes is John Lius, who was able to convert a Chinese desert basin into a thriving woodland ecosystem in two years...this basin supports 2 million people.
John Lius turns desert into thriving ecosystem

Through permaculture, I can find a career that deeply fulfills me, and supports my future.  It is EXACTLY what I have been searching for.

I was utterly inspired by Nicole Foss, who showed me the urgency and necessity for changing our economic system (which will shortly collapse through shared global crisis)  I sat enthralled as Albert Bates told me a story about how Eco-villages using biochar enriched soils could build forests across the continents, and remove the carbon we have put into the atmosphere WHILE deeply enriching the soil for our food.  Imagine humanity rebuilding the forests in every continent, from Africa to USA.  That is the vision the world needs to become a better place.

The multi-faceted solutions I saw at the permaculture conference have convinced me that IS the field I must go down….but enough about that, let's talk about the people…

Awhi farm in Turangi is a quaint, beautiful farm, and an education center.  It stretches for several hectares, winding through corridors with spiral designs and giant compost heaps.  Every inch was productive, organic and beautiful.  Nothing was wasted, from drops of water, to trash, to poop (humanure).   It was amazingly eye opening to volunteer there for 2 weeks, and to get a taste of the knowledge gathered from people across the world.

I was taken in by the Maori in a deeply meaningful community, I saw, I felt the connection they had with their land, each other, and with us.  700 People came to the convergence, and they were all cared for at the Maori Longhouse.

I learned the value of listening, and by listening, I was able to hear the stories of older men, young men, and women who I would never have thought I could connect with.

And the other volunteers….I got to know them greatly, I put aside my barriers, I talked with them, I LISTENED to them, and by doing so I made a deep emotional connection…to people like Sofie, who was the daughter of ancient Maori family who kept their traditions alive, like Tesla, who was able to build anything through the force of his own interest, and keeping his mind open.  like Jo and Brian, who through their love of permaculture, have manifested a farm, and a way of life that heals the land.  So many others, Andy…Kristoff, Sam, Lizzy, Steve, VJ Chris.

And the Maori who guided me, hugged me, and shared with me.  Matua, Georgie, Leon, Stripey.  Never did I think I would make a soulful connection to them but I did.  I teared up from joy at the last day of the conference, as we said our words of thanks, and they gave us back tears and gratitude (along with a haka) deep from the center of their heart.  I saw love, I saw meaning, I saw a life I wanted.  I'm going to do permaculture, because I it has captivated my mind, and made me fall in love with it.   That being said, don't expect me to grow a massive beard and dreads while raving about 9/11 conspiracies, because that's not my style.

However, permaculture is a REAL solution, a real science to looking at every problem we face, and putting in the effort to solve it.  Our problems can become solutions, and we can make our world better.

There was a reason I came to New Zealand, and this is it.

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