More Action on the North Eastern Front


 by Jillian Hovey

Permaculturalists from the North East of North America recently gathering for their 3rd Annual Retreat.  Our host, Omega Institute for Holistic Living, is located a two-hour (150km) train ride up the Hudson River from New York City.  For decades, this renovated summer camp has been a mecca for people seeking knowledge about alternative living.  Their educational programmes have grown to include permaculture, and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living hosts a month-long “Ecoliteracy Immersion Program” which includes at full PDC.

The 30 participants who came from Maine to Philadelphia had the pleasure of meeting in the world’s first “Living Building”, which treats the campus’ grey and black water with an Eco Machine designed by John Todd (a student of Buckminster Fuller).  The relatively informal meeting was organised by Open Space, and there were interesting sessions and a range of subjects from “business of permaculture”, through to colonialism and oppression, to Zone 00 care.
Continue reading “More Action on the North Eastern Front”

Weeds or Wisdom? Latvian Eco-Health Farmers on the Road to Resilience

by Guntra A. Aistara, Central European University

July 4, 2014

Condensed summary of chapter published in Environmental
Anthropology Engaging Ecotopian Imaginaries: Bioregionalism, Permaculture, and Ecovillages for a Sustainable Future,
Berghahn Books, 2013.

On a tour of organic farms in Austria in 2006, one farmer proudly showed off her raised garden beds brimming with a diversity of herbs, medicinal plants and vegetables, explaining that these were permaculture beds, whereby plants reseeded themselves, grew where they “felt best,” and worked in ecological systems with neighboring plants. Some of the Latvian organic farmers on the tour were shocked and amused, however, by their first encounter with permaculture, and what they described as “farming amidst weeds.” “Well, in that case I have permaculture everywhere in my farm…” muttered one farmer. Another commented that it all depends on how you present things to visitors: “When you come visit me, and I explain to you that this is permakultūra…don’t criticize it, because it comes from Eiropa (Europe).” Others insisted that permaculture meant farming as wisely as nature does, and that we might learn from it. Continue reading “Weeds or Wisdom? Latvian Eco-Health Farmers on the Road to Resilience”

Strategies to Widen Participation : Survey Results

For this small survey, responses were given by only eight EPT partner countries (ES, GE, FR, BG, SLO, CZ, NL), whose educational activities are conducted in more than 17 countries in Europe and other parts of the world. Spain is exceptional in this case with reaching people in 4 continents through on-line teaching.

Educational activities are mostly focused on urban and suburban environments with rural context represented rarely. The activities mostly take form as a short workshop (e.g. 0,5-1 day long), public talks and PDC courses. Not so often as longer (e.g. 2 days long) permaculture courses, diploma pathways and other forms as property development, full vocational. Academic permaculture education school establishment, spreading of printed info, environmental awareness activities, FETAC students in Ireland etc.

The questionnaire asked each responder to describe the strategy they use in the specific country and to answer the questions: ‘Which target groups is this strategy designed for?’ and ‘Which groups of society this strategy does not reach?’ The summary of results shows that the most popular target groups are:

Continue reading “Strategies to Widen Participation : Survey Results”

Widening Participation

Permaculture education should be accessible to everyone, if we – Permaculture teachers – are aiming to steer the whole society to a new way of thinking and acting in the near future. Therefore it is a big question and a real challenge: “How to reach out to as many diverse groups of society as possible?”.

Obviously, different strategies should be used to reach such target groups as unemployed people or disabled persons. In order to investigate this issue in-depth and come up with solutions, the focus topic of the 6th EPT-meeting in Denmark was ”Widening Participation”.

We have acknowledged the question of how to reach out with Permaculture education beyond the “usual target groups” from the very beginning of the partnership, as a quote from the Rationale of the EPT-Partnership application form shows: ”The demographic profile of students on permaculture courses in western countries often has good age & gender diversity, but tends to be disproportionately middle class & white. There is a challenge to broaden participation so that courses attract a student body that more accurately reflects the social, ethnic and economic mix of Europe’s population and promote diversity within the permaculture community.” Therefore one of the EPT project’s objectives was: ”To promote cultural exchange, diversity and inclusion within the permaculture network and to exchange about how to widen participation in permaculture training.”

Approaching the issue

However, the scale and importance of the participation issue was pretty much unclear until now. The same applies to the range of strategies and already existing solutions within the Permaculture Teachers community. Therefore we conducted an initial survey to get a rough overview of the situation in different countries (EPT partnership countries). From the results of this survey (which can be found here) we developed the session, selecting strategies to be presented at the meeting and then discussed by the participants.

Working on the subject

The results of the survey were presented at the opening of the ”Widening Participation” session in Denmark. Afterwards, we conducted a session which was designed as an “Open Café:

There were seven parallel working groups, five of which started the work with a 10 minute case study that was presented by a representative from the specific country. Skype and Google Hangouts successfully allowed Spanish and Netherlandish representatives to join the working groups and share their expertise. Each of the working groups dived more into the case studies for additional 20 minutes with a group discussion and questions to the representative, which was followed by 50 minute long session during which the groups had to answer questions like: ‘How well does this strategy work?’, ‘What can be improved?’ and ‘Which target groups can you reach with this strategy?’. In this part of the session, the members of the working groups were allowed to switch groups in order to share ideas and contribute to other topics.

There were two groups working on the target groups ‘Refugees’ and ‘Disabled’ without case studies, whose main task was to brainstorm new strategies to reach the mentioned target groups.

At the end of the session each group had to prepare a 5 minute long presentation and to write an article summarizing the group’s work. These articles can be found under the links below.

Results of the exchange
How to move on?

Looking back at the results of ”Widening Participation” session we can say that we have not only reached the impact that was expected as a part of the EPT-Partnership: ”Permaculture teachers, institutions & course conveners will develop new approaches to widening participation in Permaculture education.” but also arrived at the conclusion that widening participation and reaching out to more groups of society is something we will have to focus on in the future.

That means, the discussions will continue, e.g. the “Suit & Tie” group keeps on exchanging and will start a professional Design Platform for an international team of PC-Designers.

We will also continue to upload articles on subjects that address the question of “Widening Participation”, like the following:

Teaching Permaculture Across Age Groups

Photo: Mihail Kossev
Photo: Mihail Kossev

By Mihail Kossev 

Permaculture is a design science that is accessible to all. It does not matter whether you have never in your life stepped in a garden or if you have grown up on a fruit farm. There is always something a student will learn from a permaculture course. It is somewhat important to optimize your lesson plan to the skill level of your students, but it is essential that you tailor your workshop to a specific age group. It is common knowledge that you would teach something differently to a child as you would to an adult.

Many say that age is just a number and in many ways that is true. Everyone matures at a different pace. Just like in a polyculture garden, not all fruits ripen at once. I have been astonished by the intellectual complexity of some toddlers as well as the sheer stupidity of many adults. Nonetheless, there are common patterns of social and physical development in the human species that a permaculture teacher should have in mind when designing a course.

Continue reading “Teaching Permaculture Across Age Groups”

Widening Participation – Refugees

In this session, we reflected on the growing group of refugees coming to Europe as a possible target group for permaculture activities.

 Why are refugees important?
Refugees are a growing group due to ecological, social, political issues and climate change.

  • The western ‘dream’ is causing instability and refugees’ instability in southern countries and as consequence many refugees come to Europe.
  • Many refugees come from rural areas to cities as part of global land flight and urbanisation, which leads to rural de-population.

There are two groups of refugees:

  • Political immigrants from war zones and religious and gender conflicts. They have less opportunities to return, but in hope of getting official status.
  • Economic refugees, often not recognised, so that they are more invisible in in the society. Many of them are illegal and/or homeless.

Continue reading “Widening Participation – Refugees”

Widening Participation – Course Formats

When designing a Permaculture course we have to consider many aspects, one of the most crucial being “Widening Participation”.

The main consideration is our target market. Different target groups will require a differently formatted course. Mentally and physically challenged students may need different approaches and the use of different pedagogies. People also learn in different ways, some prefer self-directed learning, others need a  driven group.

The constraints of money, time and availability are other points for consideration. There is a need to tailor courses for the needs of the potential participants. For example weekend courses are ideal for time constrained situations, or courses offered for local teachers to keep the cost down.

Continue reading “Widening Participation – Course Formats”

Widening Participation – Permaculture for Disabled

People Care is one of the ground pillars for Permaculture and we aim to reach out to everybody in society. A survery among Permaculture teachers in Europe revealed that disabled people are currently not involved or participating in courses. So how do we reach out to them?

One way is to approach them personally, but to do so we have to find people. A good way for finding disabled people is establishing cooperation with the social office at local councils. This would include explaining Permaculture even to social workers so they understand how the target group will benefit. Knowing peoples’ names and addresses enables us to send a personal invitation to an event, a course or a workshop.

Another way for waking interest could be organising events (with food, music and PC info/ workshop) that are advertised in media. In the ad it should to be pointed out that the event is wheelchair friendly, for example.

Continue reading “Widening Participation – Permaculture for Disabled”

Widening Participation – “Suit and Tie”

The session started with some words from Leo Bakx about his strategy on how to get wealthy people inspired by Permaculture. The conversation continued with Steve Hart, Mihaela (Mischa) Tsarchinska, Martin Giannini, Tanja Korvenmaa, Antonio Scotti, Sarah Daum and Pontus Dowchan.

Why is it important to bring Permaculture awareness to wealthy people?
The access to world’s natural resources is in the hands of a small number of wealthy people and organisations. At the moment the trend amongst permaculturalists seems to be to disregard this “upper class”, though the solutions and the philosophy of Permaculture could have a huge impact when connected with the potential to change large scale structures.

Continue reading “Widening Participation – “Suit and Tie””

EUPC in Bulgaria

Permaculture Ball Rolls Rapidly down to the shores of Lake Batak

 IMG_9748In Bulgaria this month, the team of volunteers who are participating in the first-of-its-kind, FREE, year-round PDC have completed a detailed site analysis of this year’s location of the European Permaculture Convergence.

The first phase of design, already on its way, has been to bring together enthusiastic people from all over the country who are interested in permaculture, and provide them with a pleasant atmosphere of learning, sharing and designing. Once we made sure our group had bonded and worked together well, we took them onto the second phase: a week-long session at the actual site to dive them straight into the design process. Continue reading “EUPC in Bulgaria”

PLANT – Follow-Up to EPT

Alan Thornton in Berlin during the first meeting about PLANT

PLANT stands for Permaculture Learning Action Networking & Training. It wants to be the extension of the UK LAND project to the European Continent.
In April 2014, an application was submitted to the ERASMUS+ EU funding scheme in order to pursue this objective. Here you can find a summary of the PLANT application:

Permaculture is a globally used design approach that creates sustainable human habitats by following nature’s patterns. Vocational training is being delivered by several hundred permaculture training centres in the 5 partner countries: Britain, Denmark, Germany, France and the Czech Republic.

Objectives of this project:

  1. Develop a distributed campus network of accessible and high quality permaculture education centres across Britain, Denmark, France, Germany and the Czech Republic. Continue reading “PLANT – Follow-Up to EPT”

Permaculture for Millionaires

(PDC given by Bill Mollison in 1981, Transcript) (Comments in first transcript by Dan Hemenway (D.H.), in second transcript by Thomas Fischbacher (T.F.))

Permaculture for Millionaires[1]

6a0133f4eef09a970b0167665d51aa970bI am going to give you an anecdote. When I was in Toronto at the Futures Conference, one thing I discovered was that the people critically interested in futures are those people who are making large investments. It wasn’t a meeting of hippies. Hippies were in the two percent minority. This was the heart of Harbor Castle Hilton Hotel. I was in a pair of thongs, the only barefoot slopping in there. Here were investment bankers mobilizing their capital, some of their principals – not often many of their principals. These are people who deal in futures. Every businessman has a little clique around him. He has long term friends. If you meet one businessman, you have contacted somewhere between ten and twenty, intimates who are commonly ringing up and are doing deals, and who have had long associations. They are old friends. Continue reading “Permaculture for Millionaires”