Two Quick Links and a Plug (or two)

The first plug is for the Linked In Permaculture Group. If you are already part of Linked In, you might enjoy participating in this group.

In their group digest, I ran across links to two organizations that I want to share, Tree Yo Permaculture and Earthmetrics

First Tree Yo Permaculture  (from their home page):

Tree Yo - Swale building in Singapore

Tree Yo – Swale building in Singapore

Tree Yo is a co-creative collective of people engaged and connected in the Permaculture Community. They  design for resiliency, they teach environmental literacy, they build with the earth beneath or feet, they use technology that is appropriate, and they travel the world to spread the word!

I’m not sure where the authors are based, but they sure do travel the world.  Their upcoming permaculture design classes  will take place in Portugal, the Dominican Republic and Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s some real diversity!   Take a look at these shared resources. These are links to several PowerPoint presentations they’ve compiled as part of the PDC they offer.  These are accessible through Slideshare and include such topics as patterns, aquaculture, tropical permaculture and mapping. Also bookmark their EDU webpage that is an open source communal education resource.

Speaking of mapping, the second link I wanted to share was to Ecometrics, specifically to their online course in Digital Mapping and GIS for Small Landowners and Permaculture Design. (From the Course Summary): marina view drive parcels

This self-paced course introduces digital mapping tools and techniques (Geographic Information Systems or GIS), and how small landowners and permaculture designers can use these tools with freely available data for site planning.

This seems like a valuable course, particularly if one intends to be engaged in permaculture design.  I first used public GIS maps available to residents of my county in my first permaculture design project. I fumbled through the GIS software but was able to manage the basics of locating the parcel, printing out the map and obtaining basic dimensions and areas. Having a resource that can walk you through the basics seems useful.

The second plug is for WordPress.  Both of these websites are driven by WordPress.WCBadge2013-Attending

And finally, if you live in the Atlanta area, be sure to get your ticket for the WordCamp Atlanta that is coming up on March 15th and 16th.  The event sold out last year and organizers expect the event to do so again this year. Come expecting to be inspired by all that you can do with WordPress from blogging to  developing websites in general.  See you there!


Permaculture: Leadership for Sustainable Futures

Photo of Cornucopia Community Garden Calgary Canada courtesy of ItzaFineDay

In entitling this blog, Explorations into Permaculture: Concepts beyond the Garden I’ve wanted to explore how permaculture could inform system design, changing the way that we interact with each other and our environment. I somehow got sidetracked from this mission while I completed the PDC. It seems that much of permaculture as presented in the web (and perhaps even in the PDC) is a recitation of techniques; an endless stream of techniques. Many permaculture websites seem to focus on these techniques and show how they have actually created them “at home.” Much less time is spent on the thinking that underlies permaculture design and allows its concepts to spread beyond the garden.

I haven’t been creating much new content for this website.   I am discovering that I’m not really interested in the techniques of permaculture but searching for a step forward in my attempt to take permaculture beyond the garden. I’m very interested in this recent You-Tube video I learned about through the Permaculture Linked In Group.  A link to the video appears below.

It’s long but worthwhile video. The speaker, Stuart Hill from the University of Western Sydney makes some great points that I thought were very interesting and that I want to follow-up on in a few subsequent posts. Specifically:

  • This culture has an emphasis on socializing, problem solving and an exclusionary institutional focus.  We want to shift to an enabling (I don’t like this term), redesign and a participatory institutional focus. (Watch the video for clarification.) [06:51]
  • Under the subject of resilience: Permaculture builds capital which enhances the capability of systems to survive disruptions. [34:50] In my grant writing life I’ve been engaged in a wealth creation project since last year. I’ve started two posts about this and its relationship to permaculture.  You will be seeing them soon.
  • Practices of rehabilitation and maintenance build natural capital and ecological integrity.  This is the basis for sustainable productivity.  Sustainability is the maintenance of healthy systems and the rehabilitation of existing systems so they become healthy. [37.45]
  • When you ask people to envision a new future, they are often unable to do so because their wounded selves censor their authentic self. A way that Professor Hill has overcome this is by giving people permission to lie instead of asking them to vision. For example, what is the most amazing change that you have seen in your garden?  He says that when he does this, the wounded self stop censoring the authentic self, allowing it to express itself, because the wounded self sees no risk in “lying”. Lying is not a reality. [1:15:42]. I would guess that children have less difficult creating a vision that wounded adults.

There is much more in this video. I’d urge you to watch it and tell me what you think.

Justice Begins with Seeds

I really enjoyed this post of  an interview with Katherine Zavala at  IDEX who will be a presenter at the upcoming Justice Begins with Seeds Conference in San Francisco on May 18th and 19th 2012. IDEX seems to be a non-profit worth supporting. Please read the entire post from Justice Begins with Seeds at Planetshifter (or attend the conference if you can easily access the San Francisco bay area.  I wish I could go.)

“The purpose of the upcoming Justice Begins with Seeds conference is to grow the food sovereignty movement by advancing learning and building coalitions between the GMO counter-movement in the US, and other movements thriving to develop sustainable food systems, alleviate climate change through soil practices, defend the rights of indigenous communities, reduce social inequalities and encourage citizen democracy against corporatocracy.

Does IDEX promote permaculture as a localization strategy? If so, how?

International Development Exchange (IDEX) identifies, evaluates, and grows the best ideas from local leaders and organizations to alleviate poverty and injustice around the world. IDEX supports community-led solutions that are making a huge difference for people living in extreme poverty. The initiatives come from people who want to create change for themselves. We provide the financial support.

Local leaders and community members do the rest. The work or our grantees typically integrate two or more of our core themes:

• Women’s Empowerment
• Building local economies
• Caring for the environment

For many of the communities IDEX supports, land, water, and seeds are central to their survival, livelihoods and health. Permaculture is part of the agroecological practices our partner organizations value and promote to secure sustainability of their community livelihoods.

Together with these themes, our partners and grantees work in ways that honor the rights of women, indigenous communities and other minorities, reflect economic, social, cultural, and political realities, and create solutions that have commitment from the grassroots.

Please tell us what the key principles are in sustainable agriculture?

Thanks to the learnings of our South African partners: Biowatch and Surplus People’s Project based in Durban and Cape Town respectively, they’ve shared with us the core principles of agroecology, which is the model for sustainable agriculture. All the following text comes from a three-day agroecology conference workshop organized by Surplus People’s Project, African Center for Biosafety and the Right to Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign.

Agroecology (AE) came about with the convergence of two scientific disciplines: agronomy (the study of soil management and crop production) and ecology (the study of the relationships between organisms and the environment). As a science, AE is the application of ecological science to the study, design and management of sustainable agro-ecosystems.

As a set of agricultural practices, AE seeks ways to enhance agricultural systems by mimicking natural processes, thus creating beneficial biological interactions and synergies between the components of the agro-ecosystem. It provides the most favorable soil conditions for plant growth, particularly by managing organic matter and by raising soil biotic activity.

Agroecology has the following core principles – it:

• Recycles nutrients and energy on the farm, rather than introducing external inputs;
• Integrates crops and livestock, because the one supports the other;
• Diversifies species and genetic resources in agro-ecosystems over time and space;
• Does not depend on a single crop;
• Does not use pesticides and fertilizers;
• Focuses on interactions and productivity across the agricultural system (every element, including soil, forest and livestock), rather than focusing on individual species; and
• Is highly knowledge-intensive, based on techniques that are developed from farmers’ knowledge and experimentation rather than delivered from the top down.

Agroecology as a basis for change – It is a counter movement to enable small-scale farmers and farm workers/ farm dwellers to take control of their natural resources and manage their environment in a sustainable way. It is viewed as an emancipatory political project based on social and economic justice, and rooted in ecologically sound practice.

Agroecology is not a one-size-fits-all approach – geographical and cultural diversity is important. Agroecology should be linked to broader social, political, cultural and economic transformation.”

Also see earlier post ……and the Echo Follows, Permaculture North and South

WordCamp and Permaculture

WordCamp ATL 2012 - photo by Judi Knight

Next month I’ll wrap up my PDC and am thinking, how can I act as a facilitator for permaculture development here in the metro-Atlanta area?  How do we build our permaculture assets across the metro-Atlanta region?

I just came back from the Atlanta WordCamp.  What a great experience! This is the second one I have attended.  At one of the sessions I attended, the speaker, John Saddington who led a session entitled “Blog Posts that Build Audiences”, challenged us to blog that night based on what we had learned during his session.  One take away I got from his session was about being aware.  He said there are 100 blog posts available to you to write on at any one time. That increased my awareness of WordCamp as a community and how insights on building a WordPress community can relate to building a stronger permaculture community.

For those who don’t know, WordPress is a free and open space blogging tool and website content management system. Since the website development is an open space (developed and maintained on a voluntary by many, free to copy), the conferences that it sponsors are also modified open spaces. WordPress central provides guidelines and a template for the conference (called a WordCamp). Volunteers in an any geographic region organize it using volunteer speakers and donated materials.  Many materials are recycled from conference to conference through WordPress central. Often the volunteers organizers come from a local meetup. The local meetups offer a forum for several hundred new and existing users. In metro-Atlanta’s case there are probably a few hundred people on the meetup rolls and probably 50 active volunteers for the WordCamp,

While the sessions are great, what’s even better is the open space experiences, meeting with other attendees between sessions, finding “experts” (often attendees with just a little more knowledge than you) who can answer your specific questions or even deciding to ditch the planned sessions entirely and create your own special topic mini-session.

What does this have to do with permaculture? Open space technology is one of the examples of what I would consider part of Community Governance asset category of the permaculture flower.  The WordCamp models community development based on permaculture principles in that:

  • the conference is a locus of network development and integration.
  • the WordCamp plan is a seed for conference development. Its genetic material has spread across the world.
  • Materials are recycled from conference to conference.
  • The open space edge is the area where the most growth occurs.
  • The yield of conference materials is shared beyond the limited reach of attendees through and posted slideshows.

I see it as a pattern that can be used individuals interested in developing permaculture communities or by local Transition Initiatives. It is community wealth creation in action. Could you see a few people interested in permaculture coalescing into a meetup then growing into an open space permaculture conference?

I can.

Permaculture for the People

Photo: Angela Angel, Permaculture for the People

While looking for photos for this blog which had  black, brown or yellow people in them, I stumbled across this PDC,   Permaculture for People  presented by the Movement Generation

The permaculture principles that they use are:

  • Start by Listening: Observe my environment and people before beginning anything
  • Make the Most of it: The way I do anything is the way I’ll do everything
  • What’s the Problem? How can I turn problems into solutions
  • Use What I Have: Play to my strengths
  • Return It: What ever I get – give something back
  • Maximize it: One element can have many functions
  • Diversify: The most efficient systems are the most diverse ones
  • Plan It: Planning for the long-term maximizes results
  • Brains not Brawn: Work smarter not harder (with nature not against it).

This is a group I want to keep on my radar screen. I particularly like Movement Generation’s curriculum tools which link to lesson plans for several workshops they have presented.  All of them seem consistent with Permaculture Principles and are great teaching resources  particularly for those working with youth and coming from a social justice standpoint.

Have you seen any other versions of the principles of permaculture geared toward an urban context?

Reach Out to Neighbors – A Project

Averill Woods Neighborhood Yard Sale, Wes Thorp, photographer

My inventory shows my score for building local community is abysmally low. I live in a suburb.  After reading in Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth , about Micheal Wood-Lewis’ efforts to connect residents in his neighborhood through a community forum that he created online, I realized I could do the same thing without a lot of effort.

I did a little online research on the subject. Here are some of the links I found interesting:

Front Porch Forum The network created by Micheal Woods-Lewis.  After building this network to connect his neighbors, he expanded the site to connect towns throughout Vermont.  This network is still limited to towns in Vermont now.  They have some good information on how to spearhead a local forum. Look at their  sample newsletter to see a  format that has worked for others.

  • availability ♥
  • privacy ♥♥♥
  • support in building connection  ♥♥
  • easy access and readability of site    ♥♥

E Democracy allows you to host an online forum on their site. This site seems to be focused on creating citizen engagement around a neighborhood issue rather than enhancing general neighborhood connection.  The site does have resources for general connection which they call a Neighbors Forum.  See the Twin Cities Site here for a sample of what their site will look like to your community members.  A non-profit hosts the site, so no ads will appear in your forum. This site emphasizes that a single person will need to take the lead in getting the community built, and provides resources to do this.  Their blog and wiki seem to be great resources for building a neighborhood forum though the sites they create are not the flashiest.

  • availability ♥♥♥
  • privacy ♥♥♥
  • support in building connection  ♥♥♥
  • easy access and readability of site    ♥

Neighbortree is an online site that allows your neighborhood to build at website for community connection. I’m not sure how active this option is or how available it is to the southeast. This site does not emphasize the need for a leader to build the forum (and so the forum participation will probably be very low without this leadership.) It seems like ads will support your site. I’m not sure about your privacy, since this is an online for profit site supported by ads (though the ads are from local small and medium-sized businesses).  Here is what a site will look like.

  • availability ♥♥♥
  • privacy ♥
  • support in building connection  ♥
  • easy access and readability of site    ♥♥

Localblox is another online site with very flashy interface.  This site is supported by ads.  It seems to be geared toward giving local businesses a place to advertise at low-cost and not toward building community.  Check availability in your local area.

  • availability ♥♥♥
  • privacy ♥
  • support  in building connection ♥
  • easy access and readability of site    ♥♥♥

Hey Neighbor is a  new site I read about on It also emphasizes the need for a person to take the lead in getting folks engaged on the site. It provides an opportunity to exchange microfavors, small favors that you can do for your neighbors to help build community and posts announcements for people in your community. Hey Neighbor marks my as a 1 square mile area around where I live. I couldn’t find an easy link to a sample newsletter (they don’t create a “newsletter”, but if you watch the video(on the home page and others), they show you what a active site looks like.

  • availability ♥♥♥
  • privacy ♥♥
  • support in building connection  ♥♥
  • easy access and readability of site    ♥♥

Of course, I can build probably build a site of my own using Google sites, Online Groups or even WordPress using these ideas.

For now, I just joined Hey  I’m going to look into instigates the growth of my community network using these tools particularly the e-democracy resources. I think I’ll kick it off by inviting my neighbors to a joint yard sale in September (no waste).

Reach Out to Neighbors – Project Information:

  • Leverage Point Priority: E (Evolve system structure, increasing local and renewable.)
  • Importance: A
  • Difficulty: 1 (signing up is not very difficult, nor is reaching out a little more)
  • Cost: $0 There may be some minimal cost (printing flyers) in money and time if I take on more of a leadership role.
  • Comments on functions: This activity will Increase diversity of community member resources.  It will also Increase reciprocity and help build local community.

Pairing for Urban Garden Sharing

garden sharing

Photo of Cornucopia Community Garden Calgary Canada courtesy of ItzaFineDay

Urban Garden Share pairs together eager gardeners with eager gardens. When neighbors come together and cooperatively grow food, dirt flies and good things happen.

This seems to be a new website, which is pretty sparsely populated right now.  If lots of people use the site, it will be very helpful if in time.

I’ve linked to the Atlanta listing; this is the area I’m most interested to build up.

Be sure to look at the Seattle listing to see  what is possible.  Urban Garden share lists both gardeners looking for soil and soil looking for gardeners.   Perhaps we can add permaculture as an area of interest in the comment section of the sign up.