Expanding Permaculture (What is Permaculture For)

“More than an agricultural technology, permaculture is a vision of the societies of tomorrow, ours, which will be confronted with the evolution of energy and climate systems. Permaculture is not only another way to garden: it is another way of thinking about and acting on the world, a global philosophical and concrete change. At the same time permaculture draws together strategies of resilience in the face of imminent radical transformations, if not collapses”

~ Yves Cochet (from the preface to the French edition of David Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability -) Correction: English translation of Cochet’s forward (in French). Translated by Eugene Moreau and edited by David Holmgren.

My first PDC group at UBC Farm
My first PDC group at UBC Farm

Being a blogger has many benefits: for me, it has changed the way I read and share “news” and makes me feel less isolated: for a long time, it was considered awkward or rude to speak about things such as climate change, peak oil, peak resources, social justice, poverty or politics so I have reduced my already inexistent social life to almost nothing, except when I “have to” or when it promises to be “profound” (which lately means: permaculture-related)…thanks to my work and studies, I have enough friends and contact with awesome people and don’t really miss “parties” where the artificial and insubstantial rules.

Through the blogs I follow (and many of those who follow me and whose blog I have visited) I got to meet incredible people writing about, feeling and doing incredible stuff. I have also connected at a deeper level with people who live faraway; one of them is Carol from “Voices from the Margins” who recently asked me a big question: how do we engage children and teenagers in Permaculture? Are there programs or resources out there? What can we do?

Before answering Carol, I would like to bring up another conversation I had just yesterday with another great lady I know: D. D and I speak almost every morning before I start work: I come very early and like to have a “me” moment at a local coffee shop: there is where I read, answer emails, sometimes draft my blog-posts, play with designs and ideas or chat with the locals.

And D was sharing something I have also noticed: many “seniors” don’t feel represented by the local “seniors’ centre” and don’t even go there…however; our societies are increasingly discriminating seniors and opening special services for them as if they were another species. The question was: How do we engage them?

Suddenly it hit me!

We don’t need to teach Permaculture to children, teenagers or bring it to seniors, Native Americans, immigrants, refugees, blacks or people with disabilities!

What we need is to remember who we are: you don’t suddenly become a different person when you cross 55 or 65. You were not a completely blank page before 19 either…and for sure I can tell that none of my wonderful “clients”, colleagues and friends who are from places like Iraq, India, Russia, Mexico, Nepal, China, Jamaica and so on…not a single one has anything different from you and me and all of them have deep feelings and worries and dreams and goals…

Side note: All of this reminded me how much I hate when universities and institutions of all kind ask me to identify with a “group” and how I “belong” to a “visible minority” that is supposed to respond to certain “needs” and “wants”…and how people expect from me that because I am “Latino” I should be good at dancing and socializing, be noisy, irresponsible and unpunctual…all of which is, as you may know, pure BS!

We also share an uncertain future and concerns about the current state of affairs such as food, water, health, justice and so on…

The response it is, maybe, to allow everybody to come together and meet at those common places: that is why we permaculturists (and transitioners) usually start with community gardens, community kitchens and potlucks: because everybody eats and almost everybody would agree that growing food locally (and inter-generationally!) is a good idea even if it is only for fun and to learn a new skill.

The Permaculture flower also has many “petals”: Lands and nature stewardship; building; tools and technology; education and culture; health, spiritual and well-being,; finance and economics and land tenure and community governance: http://permaculturenews.org/2010/08/23/the-holistic-flower/

This means that we can “teach” Permaculture in many ways: each one of us has gifts in one or more of those petals (we don’t have to know it all) so we can recruit the wisdom of others (children, teenagers, women, men, elders: humans!) to build an inter-generational and diverse ‘flower” in our communities…

I told Carol hers was a touching and difficult question: I have been struggling with the same! Living in a suburban townhouse and having to work full-time, my children already in their teenager years…how do I “convert” them to Permaculture?

Maybe the answer is: I don’t. I do not “convert” anybody into anything, as I am against oppression and one-side thinking…the world is a complex place and we have 7 billion and growing…we have all types of thinking, wishing and feeling, many convinced theirs is “the” right way. We already have enough of those trying to convert or convince others that theirs is “the” way or “the” answer…

Our “responsibility” as parents is tinted by how we were raised and the circumstances we were exposed to. Some of us were smarter than others (I was certainly not one of the smarter ones!), and “luck” is also an integral piece: how many times have we seen children being so different from siblings and parents? And what about when the two parents are not on the same page, when one of them gives up or worse, when they teach and expect different things and in different ways?

The most we can do (this is my humble guess) is to live our values and walk the talk so that our children may follow…

There are no formulas: we have to learn to cook…by cooking!

Having said that, I want to thank you both Carol (and D) for your great questions…as I may take this to the next level: http://www.motherearthschool.com/permaculture.shtml

Am I contradicting myself? That’s who I am…:)

References and more resources:

A Holiday Smorgasbord, Part 2: Permaculture, A Vision of a Post Oil World


Courses and resources for teaching Permaculture to Children: http://www.motherearthschool.com/permaculture.shtml

Earth Education: permaculture for Kids (article): http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/earth-education-permaculture-kids

Outdoor Classrooms: A Handbook for School Gardens by Carolyn Nuttall and Janet Millington (Book): http://permanentpublications.co.uk/port/outdoor-classrooms-a-handbook-for-school-gardens-by-carolyn-nuttal-and-janet-millington/

Permaculture, A Beginner’s Guide (extract, PDF free download: http://www.permaculturenews.org/files/permaculture_beginners_guide_extract.pdf ) Full book can be bought here: http://spiralseed.co.uk/flyer/

Permaculture for kids (blog-post full of resources): http://www.earthactionmentor.org/articles/20100622

Permaculture for Kids (article): http://permaculturenews.org/2010/08/30/permaculture-for-kids/

Teaching Children Permaculture with Kelly Hogan: http://www.thepermaculturepodcast.com/2012/kelly-hogan/

The Permaculture Podcast with Scott Mann: http://www.thepermaculturepodcast.com/

Wilderness Awareness School: http://wildernessawareness.org/

Wilderness Youth Project: http://wyp.org/

2 Comments on “Expanding Permaculture (What is Permaculture For)

  1. Such a great reference to Walt Whitman Silvia 🙂 I love the way you tie your day to day life into your writing and your conserver ethic. By the way – my wife Francis and I, as fellow Canadians, are not so far away from you in the lower mainland … I grew up in Courtenay and have lived off-grid in far North Vancouver Island for 37 years now. I do look forward to a more serious transition to permaculture – we’ve been working at it slowly but surely over these years. Sharing your resources is much appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for a list of resources I can share with my grandson, Sylvia – I will share one thing at a time so he won’t feel forced to please me or overwhelmed 🙂


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