The 2014 Whatcom Skillshare Faire!

Whatcom Skillshare Faire

Photos below from Day 1 of this year’s Skillshare Faire, held just north of Bellingham, in Ferndale Washington. Come on out for Day 2 tomorrow (Aug. 24, 2014), beginning with the Northwest Permaculture Convergence Annual Meeting from 9:30 to 11:30, and various skillsharings from 11 am to 4pm, including (just to name a few): Dowsing, Homeopathic Survival Skills, Seed Cleaning and Processing, Soapmaking, Winter Food Storage Techniques, How to Make a Rain Barrel, Backyard Chickens, Swashbuckling for Kids, The Alternative Economy, Appropriate Use of Hand Tools (scythes and more), Bike Maintenance, Raising Rabbits, Commercial Uses of Hemp, Making Buckskin, Sun Dials, Aquaponic Gardening, and Spinning and Combing Wool.

See WhatcomSkillshareFaire.org for more info.

And then extend the learning with the Permaculture Living and Learning Seminars at Inspiration Farm!
Monday, Aug. 25th: 12pm until dusk: Extended farm tour, potluck and tele-vision and music around the fire.
Tuesday, Aug. 26: 10am to 5pm: Choose from 8 different workshops (including yours truly on PatternDynamics)!
Get all the info at Inspirationfarm.com

 

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A Transition Whatcom Invitation: Share, Learn, Teach, and Converge

Transition Whatcom, in northwest Washington state (Bellingham and surrounds), has a unique series of events coming up in August, and we welcome participation from all friends in the region (and beyond).

photo by C. Mauricio

Skillshare Faire, 2012

The 3rd Annual Whatcom Skillshare Faire (Aug. 23-24) is a fun, family oriented festival about teaching and learning all kinds of useful & practical resilience skills. Our August-sunny Faire this year will have two days of family-friendly Workshops and Demonstrations, plus a great lineup of local Musical Talent, tasty local Food Offerings and the ever-popular local brewery Beer Garden and Fermentation Station. Watch the promo video here, and see the Peak Moment TV episode filmed at last year’s Faire here.

photo by C. Mauricio

Skillshare Faire, 2012

This year we are pleased that the Northwest Permaculture Convergence is occurring within and alongside our Skillshare Faire!  The Convergence will have its own tent, which will host the permaculture workshops and demos at the Skillshare, and will hold its annual meeting on Sunday the 24th at the Faire.

photo by D. MacLeod

Feet in communion at Inspiration Farm PDC

For those who are ready for the full-meal-deal of permaculture, we invite you to attend the Permaculture Design Certificate course at Inspiration Farm (just north of Bellingham), running August 17 – 29th. This course is being designed around, and will include at no extra charge, participation at the Skillshare Faire and Convergence! [Registration deadline for this PDC is coming up soon on July 15!]  Watch the Peak Moment TV episodes filmed at Inspiration Farm here.

More details below for each of these offerings:


PDCGroup1) Permaculture Design Certification course at Inspiration Farm!
Be part of the solution!
Learn a skill set for uncertain times
Registration for the PDC will close on the 15th of July so don’t delay, sign up today!
Extensive 72 hour Curriculum Includes: Design Methodologies ~ Site Mapping ~ Ethics ~ Design Principles and Goals ~ Pattern Recognition ~ Natural Cycles and Processes ~ Plant Identification ~ Wild crafting ~ Micro climate ~ Tropical and Dry land Farming ~ Indigenous Land Management ~ Natural Building ~ Forest Gardening ~ Mushroom Growing ~ Myco-Remediation ~ Renewable Energy ~ Passive and Active Solar Design ~ Soil Ecology ~ Compost Systems ~ Aquaculture ~ Animals in the Landscape ~ Plant Propagation ~ Slow Food ~ Urban Permaculture Strategies ~ Graywater Harvesting ~ Emergency Preparation ~ Appropriate Technology ~ Seed Saving ~ Nursery Set-up ~ Food Preservation ~ Local Economics ~ Currency and Community Structures ~ Non-Violent Communication ~ Pattern Dynamics…
Featured instructors Include:
Brian Kerkvliet, Co-steward of Inspiration Farm and Permaculture Research Institute Certified permaculture designer
Sarah Sullivan, co-founder of Hawaii SEED and director of the award winning school garden and scratch kitchen program
David MacLeod, from Transition Whatcom, and the first individual outside of Australia certified to lead PatternDynamics workshops, recognizing, integrating, and balancing natural patterns that show up in human systems.
With special guest presenters,
Doug Bullock, Washington’s premier permaculture designer and teacher,
Larry Dobson, Northern Light Research and Development,
Alex Winstead from Cascadia Mushrooms,
and more nationally recognized and local experts to be announced.
Courses held at Inspiration Farm an established 12 ac. Permaculture / Biodynamic farm setting! Enrollment includes free camping space and prepared wholesome beyond organic farm meals.
Paul Wheaton, of Permies.com, has named Inspiration Farm as the premier Permaculture Farm of the Pacific Northwest. You can learn much more in the Cascadia Forum at Permies.com here.

*BONUS!  This PDC includes free admission and participation with the Whatcom Skillshare Faire/Northwest Permaculture Convergence happening in nearby Ferndale, WA on Aug. 23 and 24!*
Class meets 9am to 5pm Additional Hands-On Farm Opportunities throughout the course. Evening Permaculture and Eco-Films
Space is limited- first 10 students- $1295; regular tuition- $1395
Registration will close on the 15th of July so don’t delay, sign up today.
Some work-trade positions and payment plans available.
A great way to fund your PDC course fee and support the global work of Permaculture! We The Trees is a crowd funded stacking of functions, a win -win-win!

Attending a PDC is one of the best investments in future abundance you can make.For more info. and registration: Visit inspirationfarm.com or Call 360-398-7061

See also the informative forum discussion at Permies.com here and view the Peak Moment TV episodes filmed at Inspiration Farm here!

Whatcom Skillshare Faire2) Whatcom Skillshare Faire! August 23rd & 24 – Two days with camping!
“Share your skills – Trade your wares”The Whatcom SkillShare Faire – a fun festival about teaching and learning all kinds of useful & practical resilience skills. Years ago, lots of people knew how to repair & sharpen tools, make a braided rug, raise chickens, make soap, build a fence, make simple toys, & much more.
The goal of SkillShare is to help revive those skills, showcase some new ones, and provide a place where all of us can come learn from people more experienced in these crafts and trades.
Our August-sunny Faire this year will have two days of family-friendly Workshops and Demonstrations, plus a great lineup of local Musical Talent, tasty local Food Offerings and the ever-popular local brewery Beer Garden and Fermentation Station.Lots more information at our website! http://whatcomskillsharefaire. org
(Camping scheduled through Hovander Park – see our website for details)

Do you have a skill to share? Register at http://whatcomskillsharefaire. org/share-your-skills/Volunteers have a great time at the Faire. To volunteer at the Skillshare:http:// whatcomskillsharefaire.org/ volunteer/


nwpc3)
The Northwest Permaculture Convergence Board is happy to announce a new partnership (umbrellad-er-ship) for the 2014 season.
We encourage all our members to attend the Whatcom Skillshare Faire happening August 23-24 outside of Bellingham. We will have a ‘Permaculture’ area of the fair and on Sunday morning will hold our annual meeting there.
The Skillshare is a project of Transition Whatcom, and the worldwide Transition movement began with a Permaculture course! (toot toot)
Registration happens through the Faire and we are able to offer a discounted meal plan for members (see northwestpermaculture.org for more detail).
Also, we are looking for several hardy volunteers to help with setup and breakdown of our area on Friday and Sunday evening. If interested in that, please send an email to volunteer@nwpermaculture.org.
For many reasons, we are tickled with this partnership. Not the least of these reasons being that many wonderful permaculture events are happening this summer!
See you at the Skillshare!
Or, if you’re a woman, see you at the West Coast Women’s Permaculture Gathering happening this year in Washington.
Or, if you’d like to converge with the whole western hemisphere, see you at the North American Convergence (link)

Survive and Thrive with Permaculture

david_holmgren_talking_2013-100x100David Holmgren, co-originator of Permaculture, and systems analyst Nicole Foss have begun their summer tour of Australia, which is being billed as “Strategies for a Changing Economy: Survive and Thrive” (click here for dates and here for further details about the tour). Foss will outline the links between the converging crises that include economic contraction, peak energy and geopolitical stress. She will also share her thoughts on the implications for how it will impact everyday lives and will offer practical solutions.  David  Holmgren will outline practical strategies drawn from 30 years of permaculture to help households and communities survive, thrive and contribute to a better world. Holmgren will also present an update of his well-known and popular “Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability” presentation:

Returning to Aussie St, David shows how the permaculture makeover and behaviour change is progressing through the Second Great Depression.  Aussie St is not only surviving but thriving through the “dumpers” that property bubble collapse, climate chaos and geopolitical energy shocks have unleashed on the lucky country.  An endearing, amusing and gutsy story of hope for in-situ adaptation by the majority of Australians living in our towns and suburbs.

Reading about the announcement of this Foss and Holmgreen tour, I was reminded of an observation I’ve had that when people really get educated about this triple threat of climate chaos, energy depletion, and economic instability; and when they seriously consider the options for how to respond; that permaculture very often comes up as the number 1 recommended approach.

Let’s review just a few.

 Energy BulletinAdam Fenderson and Bart Anderson

Resilience.org‘s predecessor was the venerable Energy Bulletin, co-founded in 2004 by Adam Fenderson as a clearinghouse for information on peak-oil. Adam clearly latched on to Permaculture early on. He did some excellent interviews with David Holmgren that are still very worthwhile to listen to (check out transcript here). He then changed his name to “Adam Grubb” and resigned to pursue Permaculture in more depth. He became co-founder of the Permablitz network and director of Very Edible Gardens. Longtime editor of Energy Bulletin/Resilience, Bart Anderson is also a proponent of permaculture.

HeinbergRichard Heinberg

Richard Heinberg is one of the most longest standing and well respected “peak oil educators.” When you read his work, note how often he recommends permaculture and Transition Towns as a response.  Heinberg also toured with Holmgren in 2006, and practices permaculture at his home (as demonstrated in this Peak Moment TV episode.)

BatesAlbert Bates

Already a well known permaculturist, Bates authored one of the early practical response books to Peak Oil: The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook.

HopkinsRob Hopkins and Transition Towns

Hopkins was also already a permaculture educator when he and his students experienced what he calls their “End of Suburbia moment” in 2004. The Transition movement was born as a permaculture “energy descent” design plan – social permaculture in action. As Hopkins said in an interview, “It [Transition] is my attempt at lifting permaculture principles onto a whole other level of effectiveness and relevance. We try and integrate permaculture principles into the whole process, and they certainly underpin the work that I do. I recommend Holmgren’s book to anyone who is interested in all this.”  In his review of Holmgren’s book, Hopkins wrote, “This book is the clearest elucidation of what this new paradigm might look like since his permaculture co-originator Bill Mollison’s seminal ‘Permaculture, a Designers Manual’ was published in 1988. It is no exaggeration to call this the most important book published in the last 15 years.”
MartensonChris Martenson

Martenson developed his highly regarded “Crash Course” as a response to energy depletion and economic instability. Martenson found his way to “Financial Permaculture” and more recently Permaculture has had a more pronounced presence on his ‘Peak Prosperity” website – for example, see his post on Permaculture and the 8 Forms of Capital with Ethan Roland, and the excellent discussion with Toby Hemenway: Explaining Permaculture .

FossNicole Foss

Posting as “Stoneleigh” on The Oil Drum and then The Automatic Earth, Nicole Foss has a well-earned reputation for deep analysis, penetrating wisdom, and a unique ability to connect the dots using her complexity and systems thinking skills. In the last few years she too seems to be increasingly mentioning permaculture, and participating with permaculture teachers and courses, culminating in the current tour with David Holmgren.

I am increasingly involved with permaculture (teaching it in Belize this February), as it represents one of the most important paths towards building workable life-support systems in our era of limits to growth. We are rapidly running out of options as we deplete our natural capital worldwide. While we badly need to make some informed hard choices, we collectively do not, as our consumptive system has tremendous inertia. As we reach the limits that lie in our not too distant future, permaculture can be of tremendous use, for those who implement it, in mitigating the impacts and facilitating rebuilding from the bottom-up.
Nicole Foss

 

We could mention many others, but the point is made. The next question is – what is it about Permaculture that makes it so attractive as a response to the challenges we’re faced with today?

shop_principles_800s-400x400First, it can be said that Permaculture was designed specifically for declining availability and use of fossil fuels. In the Preface to his 2002 book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren wrote very clearly that permaculture, from the very beginning was founded on fundamental assumptions about the environmental crisis, the ongoing impacts of global industrial society, the limitations due to the energy laws that govern the material universe, the role of fossil fuels in enabling the industrial era, and the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels – likely sooner rather than later.

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Howard T. Odum

Holmgren also acknowledges “a clear and special debt to the published work of American ecologist Howard Odum.” Odum was the first listed reference in the first permaculture book (Permaculture One), and is referenced over and over in the 2002 book, which is dedicated to the memory of Odum, who passed Sept. 11, 2002. This is significant, because Howard T. Odum spent much of his life work on the topic of energy and the inevitable decline of fossil fuel availability.  In 1994, Holmgren wrote:

Odum was one of the leading ecologists who developed a systems approach to the study of human/environment interactions. He uses energy as a currency to compare and quantify the whole spectrum of natural and man-made elements and processes.

In Holmgren’s 2002 Permaculture book, he states that “Permaculture is a creative design response to a world of declining energy and resource availability.”

Other features Holmgren names offer additional reasons permaculture is being recognized frequently as appropriate response to the current state of affairs. Permaculture:

  • gives priority to using existing wealth to rebuilding natural capital…
  • emphasizes bottom-up “redesign” processes…
  • more fundamentally was predicated on the likelihood of some degree of collapse and breakdown…
  • sees pre-industrial sustainable societies as providing models that reflect the more general system design principles observable in nature and relevant to post-industrial systems.

Here’s an interview with Holmgren on Permaculture and Peak Oil, recorded circa 2007, I think. He covers many of the most important features of his thinking in relation to energy descent.

Hopefully it is becoming obvious that permaculture is much more than a quirky form of organic gardening.  It is when people come to this realization that they start to see the real possibilities and potentialities.

Now we come to that pesky problem of trying to define “permaculture.”  Holmgren, again:

“…I see permaculture as the use of systems thinking and design principles that provide  the organizing framework for implementing [the vision outlined in Permaculture One of] …’Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for provision of local needs.’ People, their buildings and the ways they organize themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent (sustainable) agriculture has evolved to one of permanent (sustainable) culture…It draws together the diverse ideas, skills and ways of living which need to be rediscovered and developed in order to empower us to move from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible and productive citizens.”
Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, p. xix [to get a concise definition, I’ve rearranged the order of sentences, but it all comes from page xix of the Introduction]

In this more recent video, David Holmgren talks about permaculture as a way to change the world:

I envy those in Australia who are able to attend one of the presentations of the Foss and Holmgren ‘Survive and Thrive’ tour. If you live elsewhere in the world, the best way to learn permaculture is to attend a ‘hands-on’ full immersion Permaculture Design Certification course taught by qualified and experienced teachers using the full 72 hour course material from the Permaculture Design manual by the other co-originator, Bill Mollison.

You can check out permacourses.com to find a course being taught this summer near you.

Brian Kerkvliet

Brian Kerkvliet, steward of Inspiration Farm

I’m hoping to see some of you at the Inspiration Farm PDC course I’ll be a co-instructor at in Northwest Washington state, Aug. 17-29th.  Lead instructor Brian Kerkvliet is PRI certified, and Paul Wheaton, of Permies.com, has named Inspiration Farm as the premier Permaculture Farm of the Pacific Northwest. You can learn much more in the Cascadia Forum at Permies.com here.

Dawn at Inspiration Farm

Dawn at Inspiration Farm

 

 

Shaping Water & Soil at Inspiration Farm

Janaia Donaldson interviews Brian Kerkvliet at Inspiration Farm

Janaia Donaldson interviews Brian Kerkvliet at Inspiration Farm

Reblogged from Peak Moment TV, by Janaia Donaldson and Robin Mallgren

“If you grow good soil, everything else falls into place. You grow good plants, you grow good animals, you grow good people.”

Permaculturist Brian Kerkvliet shows how he gently shapes soil to form ponds which overflow into connected swales (ditches on contour). They slow and retain water while distributing nutrients through the whole landscape. On the mound of soft earth dug out from one swale, he planted mostly edible cover crops, berry bushes and 25 fruit tree species in only three days.

“We don’t till [the soil],” he says. “The worms till. The moles till. We find the niche where each element works the best.” Episode 267. [inspirationfarm.com]

– See more at: http://peakmoment.tv/videos/shaping-water-and-soil-at-inspiration-farm-267/

Be sure to consider attending the Permaculture Design Certificate Course at Inspiration Farm in August 2014!

Come to the Farm and Be Inspired! Primary Practical Permaculture

sky_2If you’re in the region of northwest Washington, or southwest B.C., consider stopping by Inspiration Farm on June 1st for a day of “Primary Practical Permaculture” at Inspiration Farm, located just north of Bellingham, WA.

June 1st $40 10am to 4pm
A hands on approach to applying Permaculture principals. Ethics, Zones, Sectors, mapping, compost and guilds. This fun information packed day will provide practical ways to design your environment into an integrated system of abundance and productivity. Using design strategies we will explore ways of stacking elements within a system to be more productive and self regulating. The morning will be presentations and discussion, the afternoon will be a site tour and hands on session working with guilds, sheet mulch, keyhole beds and integrated composting.

Class includes: Presentation-discussion, A tour of Inspiration Farm explaining the systems employed, and hands on activities.

Register at http://www.inspirationfarm.com/newif/Classes.html

If you attend this class and then decide you want to take the whole Permacultue Design Certificate course we are offering in August we will credit this class fee towards the PDC.

You will likely come away Inspired, as PeakMoment.tv host Janaia Donaldson is when she visits. In her latest Journal post, Janaia writes:

Brian Kerkvliet gave the grand tour to us and gardener Ruth Nail, a recent transplant to the area. A large new pond in the middle, channeling water to a new swales (ditches carved on contour). Just outside the pasture fence were just-planted alder and apple trees which will eventually provide munchables for the two dairy cows inside.

I was most intrigued by his putting multiple levels of plants in one bed. “Stacking function,” said Brian the permaculture educator. Just like in a forest, there’s ground cover, an herbaceous layer, shrub layer, and tree layer. In the berm — a big mound of soil dug out of and piled up beside the swale  Brian had strewn a cover crop mix of broccoli, kale, peas, turnips, sunflowers, parsnips, daikon, buckwheat, oats, fava and other beans, bees’ friend, crimson clover, lettuce, carrots, and collards! Their little leaves were just poking up, colorful and varied like a ground cover of mosses and tiny plants in the forest. What a gorgeously diverse spread for future munching!

Beside the cover crop, a thicket of tall rye grass provided protection for the small apple tree starts planted here and there. The rye grains will be harvested in a few months, their cut stalks falling left in place to become mulch. Amongst the apple trees were also alder trees starts, whose roots will go much deeper than the apple trees, and will bring up deep water and nutrients for plants with shallower roots. 

All of these layers were in one swale mound, just like in a forest: Autumn olive, sea buckthorn, buffalo berry, Gumi berry, siberian pea shrub. Brian rattled off which plants were nitrogen fixers as well as food plants, like black locust and alders.

I love this changing food forest landscape  always evolving, becoming more complex and even more like wild nature.

See Janaia’s Journal: A New Season at Inspiration Farm for a great photo montage that accompanies this post.

A new Peak Moment episode featuring Inspiration Farm is coming soon…in the meantime, check out this recent episode about last year’s Whatcom Skillshare Faire – which partly features Inspiration Farm steward Brian Kerkvliet as he and Celt Schira demonstrate the 100 year old seed thresher they restored.

And don’t forget the Permaculture Design Course in August at Inspiration Farm, mentioned above! Make plans now to learn a skill set for uncertain times, and to be part of the solution!

Feet in communion at Inspiration Farm

Feet in communion at Inspiration Farm


Brian Kerkvliet gave the grand tour to us and gardener Ruth Nail, a recent transplant to the area. A large new pond in the middle, channeling water to a new swales (ditches carved on contour). Just outside the pasture fence were just-planted alder and apple trees which will eventually provide munchables for the two dairy cows inside.

I was most intrigued by his putting multiple levels of plants in one bed. “Stacking function,” said Brian the permaculture educator. Just like in a forest, there’s ground cover, an herbaceous layer, shrub layer, and tree layer. In the berm — a big mound of soil dug out of and piled up beside the swale  Brian had strewn a cover crop mix of broccoli, kale, peas, turnips, sunflowers, parsnips, daikon, buckwheat, oats, fava and other beans, bees’ friend, crimson clover, lettuce, carrots, and collards! Their little leaves were just poking up, colorful and varied like a ground cover of mosses and tiny plants in the forest. What a gorgeously diverse spread for future munching!

Beside the cover crop, a thicket of tall rye grass provided protection for the small apple tree starts planted here and there. The rye grains will be harvested in a few months, their cut stalks falling left in place to become mulch. Amongst the apple trees were also alder trees starts, whose roots will go much deeper than the apple trees, and will bring up deep water and nutrients for plants with shallower roots. 

All of these layers were in one swale mound, just like in a forest: Autumn olive, sea buckthorn, buffalo berry, Gumi berry, siberian pea shrub. Brian rattled off which plants were nitrogen fixers as well as food plants, like black locust and alders.

I love this changing food forest landscape always evolving, becoming more complex and even more like wild nature. 

– See more at: http://peakmoment.tv/journal/a-new-season-at-inspiration-farm/#sthash.HJBlMTQO.dpuf

Swales Update: A Pulse of Snow and Rain Offer Good Chance to Observe and Interact

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Good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship to nature and people, in which careful observation and thoughtful interaction provide the design inspiration, repertoire and patterns. It is not something that is generated in isolation, but through continuous and reciprocal interaction with the subject.

– David Holmgren, Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability

 

Getting about a foot of snow a week ago, then a few more inches this last weekend, followed by rain today offered a good opportunity to employ Permaculture Principle #1 with our swales: Observe and Interact.  Above, see the sun glistening on the snow that has blanketed our raised beds and berms between the swales.  Below, see one of our swales iced over.

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Timeout for building a snowman (Permaculture Principle #12: Creatively Use and Respond to Change):

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From PatternDynamics (TM) by Tim Winton

From PatternDynamics (TM) by Tim Winton

 

In PatternDynamics, we call this big influx of snow and rain a Pulse event. “The Pulse Pattern signifies  the repeated rhythmic surges of activity related to resource flows and exchanges.” – See more at: http://www.patterndynamics.com.au/patterns/rhythm/pulse/#sthash.wVQZx4Sf.dpuf

Since installing our swales last summer, we have been mostly Observing how they’re behaving through the seasons.  Brian Kerkvliet advised that we might need to tweak them at some point for fine tuning.  In our last Swale post, Angela ended with this comment: “I’m excited to see how the swales work and to know that we can change them in subtle ways as the needs arise.”

Over time we have so far observed that the spillways at the end of each swale have not yet come into use.  The swales had not yet filled to the point of overflowing into the spillways.  We’ve been concerned that perhaps we need to dig the spillways down a little lower so that the swales could drain a bit, but we’ve been taking the Small and Slow Solutions approach (Principle #9), to just keep observing over time (for now).

Time to check in with the snowman again, and Observe how he’s reacting to a little bit of warmth. Our friend Sus observes: “This guy has so much class in all phases of life. I see him ecstatically surrendering to the sun.”

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After the big pulse of snow started to melt…followed by more snow, and then more rain…we were eager to see again today how the swales are responding. For the first time, I noticed that the spillway of the 2nd swale has been operationalized! It is now spilling out into the yard below – with puddles beginning to form in the yard (where without the swales we would have a huge pond right now).  The first swale, however (pictured below), is still not emptying into it’s spillway.  Instead it seems to be overflowing at the other end (on the west side closest to the fence).  That area has the most clay soil, and water is pooling on the ground near our peach tree between the two swales (peach tree to the right in the photo below).

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This next photo below shows the spillway from the first swale where water is not flowing. It has finally become clear to me that it is time to follow our Observations with some Interactions.

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But first lets go back in time a few days and check back in on our snowman…ah, devolution. I think this is the Order/Chaos Pattern at play.

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And now its finally time to go to work.  Going just a shovel length deep, I carved a deeper winding path in the spillway, and bingo! The water started to flow!

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I used some of the soil dug from here to build up a little more berm on the west end of the swale where it was overflowing.  It will be interesting to continue the Observation tomorrow and in the days ahead to see the effect of my actions today.

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It was very satisfying to see the water now flowing between the swales.

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*All photos in this post by Angela (except the first snowman by David).  Snowman constructed by David

What is David Holmgren Really Telling Us?

David Holmgren’s latest essay, Crash on Demand, appeared on his website initially with little fanfare in December.  My post (Crash on Demand: David Holmgren Updates His Future Scenarios) was perhaps the first online response (posted December 17th).

Now the peak-oil blogosphere is roiling with commentary, with lots of different positions being staked out.  Jason Heppenstal characterizes Holmgren’s position as advocating “any means necessary” to protect life on earth.

Nicole Foss at The Automatic Earth mostly supports Holmgren’s position, but offers her own lengthy essay to stake out her nuanced position.

Rob Hopkins at Transition Culture, taking on one of his heroes, calls Holmgren “naive and irresponsible” and then quotes Nicole Foss out of context to boot. Guy McPherson was (apparently) even less kind to Foss. Kevin O’Conner at C-Realm calls him out on it and sets the record straight.

Joanne Poyourow at Transition U.S. in turn seems to imply that Hopkins is beginning to paint himself into the Green Tech Stability scenario, rather than that of Energy Descent (Steady State folk then claim they are misrepresented).  She is careful to make her position clear: “I am not advocating for intentionally creating an economic crash.”

Then legendary permaculture activist Albert Bates offered up convenient charts so that we can see where all of our favorite Collapseniks fall into his 4 quadrant map. Do they lean toward Ecotopia or Collapse, toward Peaceful Transformation or Violent Revolution? He shows Holmgren moving from Techno-optimist into the “Violent Revolution” quadrant, which I would strongly challenge.  Bates later clarified that the “Violent Revolution” tag is not meant to mean physical violence necessarily, but those “willing to push the agenda with acts of defiance of state authority.” Nevertheless, that nuance is easily lost when just looking at the chart.

Finally (so far), Dimitry Orlov has joined the fray, claiming that Holmgren has “proposed a new approach” because previous mainstream environmentalist strategies (including the Transition Towns movement) have had such a negligible effect.

For me, all of the commentators named above have valid points and important perspectives that are good to hear. However, it is very easy to misrepresent the views of the people being responded to…as I’ve likely unintentionally done above.  I will be attempting to sort some of this out in a series of posts.

Today I want to discuss my contention that  most of the writers named above, whom I have a great deal of respect for, seem to me to be missing the nuance of David Holmgren’s thinking.  These deficient interpretations then are stretched and amplified as they bounce off one another in the blogosphere.  No one seems to be noticing that the actual actions Holmgren recommends haven’t changed much since he wrote Permaculture One in 1978.

I hope I’m forgiven for using extended quotes in an attempt to make things more clear.

For example, here is David Holmgren in 1994, concluding an essay titled “Energy and Permaculture“:

To summarize…

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (in that order).
  • Grow a garden and eat what it produces.
  • Avoid imported resources where possible.
  • Use labor and skill in preference to materials and technology.
  • Design, build, and purchase for durability and repairability.
  • Use resources for their greatest potential use (e.g. electricity for tools and lighting,
    food scraps for animal feed).
  • Use renewable resources wherever possible even if local environmental costs appear higher (e.g. wood rather than electricity for fuel and timber rather than steel for construction).
  • Use non-renewable and embodied energies primarily to establish sustainable systems
    (e.g. passive solar housing, food gardens, water storage, forests).
  • When using high technology (e.g. computers) avoid using state of the art equipment.
  • Avoid debt and long-distance commuting.
  • Reduce taxation by earning less.
  • Develop a home-based lifestyle, be domestically responsible.

And here is part of his introduction in last month’s Crash On Demand:

My argument is essentially that radical, but achievable, behaviour change from dependent consumers to responsible self-reliant producers (by some relatively small minority of the global middle class) has a chance of stopping the juggernaut of consumer capitalism from driving the world over the climate change cliff.  It maybe a slim chance, but a better bet than current herculean efforts to get the elites to pull the right policy levers; whether by sweet promises of green tech profits or alternatively threats from mass movements shouting for less consumption.

It’s the same strategy advocated in both papers: Move from being “dependent consumers to responsible self-reliant producers.”  The only thing that has changed is that he’s now also saying, (I’m paraphrasing), “by the way, engaging in this behavior just might help crash the system a little bit sooner.”   It seems to me that this invitation is designed to bring into the permaculture fold the environmental activists that are already attempting to avert climate catastrophe by ever more defiant or desperate means – from McKibben campaigning against private oil companies (see my post here) to Klein calling for revolt (see my post here) to Jensen who claims that “the task of an activist is to confront and take down systems of oppressive power.” (see my post here).

Holmgren writes, “disillusioned social and political activists are just starting to recognize Permaculture as a potentially effective pathway for social change as 20th century style mass movements seem to have lost their potency.”

Their methods are not showing to be effective, whereas the Permaculture/Transition approach will not only put them and their community in a more secure position, it just might also “have a chance of stopping the juggernaut of consumer capitalism from driving the world over the climate change cliff.”

And yet, the way Holmgren’s position is being presented in the blogs, you might think he was saying the opposite. Such was the impression of Lou, who left this comment on Hopkins’ blog:

If you agree with David [Holmgren] come and join us at [Deep Green Resistance link]…

Holmgren states up front in the introduction that “this provocative idea is intended to increase understanding.” This indicates to me that he’s using the suggestion at least partially as a rhetorical device.

On page 14, Holmgren writes:

An argument can be mounted for putting effort into precipitating that crash, the crash of the financial system. Any such plan would of course invite being blamed for causing it when it happens.

Note that he doesn’t mount the argument, he instead, choosing his words carefully, says “an argument can be mounted.”  Then, a few paragraphs later:

Before considering whether this is a good idea or not, I want to consider whether concerted action by limited number of activists could bring it about?

He has still not decided whether this thought experiment is a good idea or not. Now notice the nuance in Holmgren’s words as he concludes Crash on Demand:

Conclusion

Mass movements to get governments to institute change have been losing efficacy for decades, while a mass movement calling for less seems like a hopeless case. Similarly boycotts of particular governments, companies and products simply change the consumption problems into new forms.

I believe that actively building parallel and largely non-monetary household and local community economies with as little as 10% of the population has the potential to function as a deep systemic boycott of the centralized systems as a whole, that could lead to more than 5% contraction in the centralized economies. Whether this became the straw that broke the back of the global financial system or a tipping point, no one could ever say, even after the event.

Discussing such possibilities may be counterproductive and may brand us as crazy people, a doomsday cult or even terrorists. Maybe it is better to keep focusing on the positive aspects of these bottom up changes that are acceptable to the average citizen, better physical and mental health, more fun and empowered children who can survive and thrive in a world of dramatic transformation, while minimizing our contribution to harm to nature and others.

On the other hand, bringing these issues out in the open might inspire desperate climate and political activists to put their substantial energy into permaculture, Transition Towns, voluntary frugality, and other aspects of positive environmentalism. It just might stop the monster of global growth after all other options have been exhausted. Rather than spurning financial system terrorists, we would welcome the impacted and vulnerable to the growing ranks of terra-ists with their hands in the soil.

Did you notice that Holmgren begins by pointing out the ineffectiveness of traditional activism (much as Hopkins does here). He then acknowledges that his provocative suggestion that “reducing consumption and capital enough to crash the fragile  global financial system” might actually be counterproductive. “Maybe it is better to keep focusing on the positive aspects of these bottom up changes…”  Here he seems to back away a little from the idea of intentionally crashing the economy, coming back around to his common Permaculture message of the past 30 years.

And then he tells us why he offered the suggestion in the first place: to inspire activists “to put their energy into permaculture, Transition Towns…and other aspects of positive environmentalism.”

He’s not a terrorist after all – he’s the same “terra-ist” he’s been all along. He’s not inviting us to take to the streets, but rather to put our “hands in the soil.”

Like Joanne Poyourow, I want to make it clear that I do not support the idea of intentionally creating an economic crash.  We’ll go into this in the next post as we look at Nicole Foss’s own thoughtful essay.

shop_principles_800s-400x400My deepest hope is that after all this discussion ABOUT Holmgren’s ideas, that people will actually read his work, especially Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. The theme of the book is energy descent, the same theme as the latest paper. The book rises above any particular strategies associated with Permaculture and offers broad principles that can be applied at any scale to the problems of a society that has reached the limits of growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[*Update 8/06/14*: After you’ve read Crash On Demand, you might want to also consult the single page Crash On Demand: Concise Version which clarifies and attempts to answer questions, such as “Is David saying that the system will crash anyway and by scaling up permaculture activities will fasten the inevitable, or is he really calling for non-violent efforts to crash the economic system,  to save the planet, or is he not calling for that?” Hopefully this post, as well as my blog posts “Crash on Demand and “David Holmgren: I Haven’t Really Changed My Message” will also answer these questions.]

Related, on Integral Permaculture:

David Holmgren 2011 Interview: Strategies for the Transition
Nicole Foss on Deliberate Attempts to Cause System Failure