We all encounter rough spots in our lives. Fortunately, we get to choose how we handle them. For me, permaculture provided the perfect lens for placing hard times into a healing, long term context.
So often today, we are taught to think of things in the short term: a week, a month, a season. Within this timeframe, rough spots can seem monumental and occur as a total breakdown in our way of life. However, by slipping on a permaculture telephoto lens, we can begin to see the solution in the problem.
In 2005, life dealt me a rough spot of a magnitude I had never encountered. After months of odd symptoms, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, Wegener’s Granulomatosis. While Wegener’s can attack any bodily system, it affected my vision most severely, to the point where I could no longer perform my IT job. Now I live my life seeing the world around me as if it was an impressionist painting – a very blurry impressionist painting.
Rehabilitating degraded land in the Peruvian Amazon requires utilizing many tools in ecological agriculture’s arsenal. We use a mix of sea kelp, calcium solutions, organic fertilizers, and rock phosphate to add nutrients to our sacha inchi and mocambo polycultures.
One fertilizing solution we were without on the farm when I arrived was the mighty worm bin.* Vermiculture, or vermicompost, is a low-tech, organic method of using the digestive capacity of redworms (Eisenia fetida) to recycle animal and kitchen wastes into solid and/or liquid organic fertilizers. The worms may also be used as a high-protein feed for poultry. Some enterprising farmers also get into the business of selling the worms, castings and/or teas.
March 20th is the vernal equinox here in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere. During the equinox, the sun crosses the plane of the equator, making night and day approximately equal in length.
Why is the equinox important for permaculture?
One of the first questions my PDC instructor posed to us was, “where does the sun rise?" Well everyone knows the answer to that; the sun rises in the east. No brainer. Alas, we were wrong. Unless you live at the equator, the sun does not rise directly in the east. In the northern hemisphere, it rises in the southeast (or in the northeast if you’re in the southern hemisphere). Nor is the sun at 90° overhead at noon. Depending on the season, here in Phoenix, Arizona (latitude 33° N), the sun can be at an angle ranging from 32° on the winter solstice, to 78° on the summer solstice. These are critical distinctions when designing your site plan.
The equinox is one of the three times of year when it’s beneficial to observe the location of the sun at sunrise, noon and sunset and note the effect of the sun’s angle and shadows on your property. Summer solstice, when the sun is at its highest in the sky, and the winter solstice, when it is lowest in the sky, are the other two times when sun angles should be noted. Either the vernal or autumnal equinox will give you a good ‘middle ground’ observation as a comparison to these two extremes.
There’s only one way of knowing whether or not governments are serious about climate change: have they decided to leave most of their fossil fuel reserves in the ground? We have already discovered far more carbon than we can afford to burn, if we are not to commit the world to very dangerous levels of heating. Only if most of it – four-fifths according to a detailed estimate – is left where it sits is there a good chance of preventing more than two degrees of global warming.
Forgive me if you’ve heard me say this many times before. But it is the only point that is really worth making. It doesn’t matter how many wind turbines you build, or energy-saving lightbulbs you install, or more economical cars you manufacture: unless most of our fossil fuel reserves are declared off-limits they will, sooner or later, be extracted and burnt. The question of whether it is sooner or whether it is later makes little difference: we have already identified more underground carbon than we can afford to burn between now and the year 3000.
Canberra, Australia’s capital, has been lacking access to permaculture education. Whilst the surrounding areas of Bungendore, Braidwood, Bredbo, Murrumbateman and Yass show some great examples of permaculture applications, and Permablitz ACT exists as a growing and active group, a group of independent permaculture specialists have now set up Permaculture eXchange to address the need for more formal permaculture education in the Canberra Region.
In 1996 the 6th International Permaculture Conference & Convergence (IPC6) was held in Perth, Western Australia. Approximately 300 delegates from around the world attended over a period of approximately 10 days and much information was exchanged and many friendships were made. The event was recorded and edited into a 90-minute documentary and has finally been uploaded to the net so we can all enjoy the stories that came from the conference.
The documentary commences with an excerpt from Professor Ian Lowe’s Walter Murdoch Lecture (@ 1:15) given at Murdoch University a week prior to the conference and continues with interviews and excerpts from the keynote speakers.
In an innovative PDC program, following the PRI ‘Master Plan’ template, University students from University of Wisconsin Stevens Point (UWSP) learn permaculture alongside Kenyan students, project managers and small-holder farmers at different community development projects integrating permaculture into their work. The course, which is spread out over three weeks to allow lots of time for practical implementation activities, gives ample opportunity for students to learn about implementing permaculture in a community development context, whilst providing real and long-lasting change for the orphan children and small holder farmers who are beneficiaries of these projects.
Defying conventional wisdom about the limits of wind power, in 2012 both Iowa and South Dakota generated close to one quarter of their electricity from wind farms. Wind power accounted for at least 10 percent of electricity generation in seven other states. Across the United States, wind power continues to strengthen its case as a serious energy source.
This time, in Part 3 of this series discussing my journey towards becoming a professional permaculture designer, I will be talking about marketing, knock-backs and my progress since the last article. Part 2 of this series focused on two large issues facing many of us trying to build our own business, commitment and confidence. Reflecting on these points, the pressure of these emotions is ongoing. I’m glad to report however, the series of strategies I outlined in Part 2 are helping me in both of these areas. Despite this, I am still finding that my momentum seems to ebb and flow. I found that Christmas in particular, the time most people bar all thoughts of work and concentrate of having some time off, had a significant impact. I gave myself a leave pass to freshen up, which was both good and bad. Good because I spent some quality time with my family — time we all enjoyed as they didn’t have to listen to my constant strategizing and questioning of where I’m headed — and because I didn’t feel the need to unload on them. Bad because the momentum I had gained leading up to Christmas was sadly lost, much like my hopes for a particular present I had long been asking for. All I received was several pairs of very nice socks….
Something interesting happens to you once given an opportunity to take a well-taught, well-presented, and properly contextualized Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course. You are provided with new tools with which to view virtually every conceivable topic through very different eyes – in this instance, economics & history.
The American Civil War, for example, could easily be understood as America’s first energy war. It was also explicitly a war over capital – the most important capital the United States held at the time, enabling it to become the world’s greatest, most influential economic power with the eventual emergence of mass industrialization & financialization globally.
Editor’s Note: As many of you know, we (the PRI) seek to spread permaculture take-up to all people everywhere, but a main focus, as we are able to finance it, is to help establish and support self-replicating permaculture demonstration/education sites in some of the world’s neediest regions. Many of you will have followed Alex’s noble and determined/persistent efforts in Ethiopia (see Alex’s author profile), and I trust you’ll see that he, his team, and the valuable work they are undertaking is more than deserving of our support and encouragement. I have personally worked hard to build traffic on this site over the last several year for the very purpose of being able to focus more eyeballs on worthy projects such as this. I sincerely hope you’ll take the time to read this post, and assist if you can. And, if you’re not in a position to help financially right now, then please at least take the time to share this page with your contacts via email, Facebook, etc. Thanks in advance to you all for your continued support!
Greetings to all of you Permaculturists out there. This is coming from Konso, south Ethiopia where we were able to establish our Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge (SFEL) permaculture demonstration site as a PRI Master Plan satellite site in January. As a PRI site we run trainings for international students, whose fees help us fund local students (i.e. students from Konso to get onto the courses we run — we mostly work with school teachers and students to start and mobilise our schools project sites) to take the training alongside the internationals themselves. We are running a PDC-Internship Combo this spring and have been promoting it here and elsewhere with updates on our work in Konso. However, much of the interest in taking these courses at the moment is coming from students elsewhere in Africa (e.g. Sudan, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, etc.) where people are not exactly swimming in spare cash either. Hence we are looking for support to offer scholarships to help these African students attend our program. For each international (African) student that attends, another local Ethiopian student will be able to take the training, working towards the development of our local community outreach program — the Permaculture In Konso Schools Project — so you would be helping two people that need funding to get PDC certified. If anybody out there has the resources and the big heart to help us in this endeavour then their reward is in the good thing that they do. Please see more info on the PDC and internship programs here and here, respectively.
Applicants seeking Support to attend the April/May PDC-Internship are:
In this inspiring TED talk, Ron Finley teaches us all how to be ‘Gangster Gardeners’ and how to let your shovel be the weapon of choice. In his own words, "Growing your own food is like printing your own money". Let that be our new battle cry across the land. Ron and his volunteer gang are showing us how to end the scourge of cities — ‘the food desert.’