Thoughts on Vocational Training Centers for Ecological Restoration
John D. Liu
I’m often asked “What can I do to help?” to restore the Earth. Over the years I’ve struggled with the answer.
Sometimes I feel like it is unfair to ask me what someone else should do because even if I told them what I thought they probably wouldn’t do it. I think that each person should look inside their heart and decide what they will do.
However, gradually I’ve come to see ecological restoration as the “great work” of our time — the one most important thing that all the people who are alive today need to understand and do together. I’ve come to realize that to do restoration at scale requires some very specific skills and also requires a type of lifestyle change. It also requires a change in the way we perceive work and the economy.
One of the highlights of my year was meeting and beginning to work with Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Research Institute. We met in Jordan and then again recently in California and it has been eye opening to see the work that Geoff and other permaculturalists have been doing. Merging their work with large-scale ecosystem restoration can serve both local communities and the wider global goals of mitigating and adapting to climate change and achieving sustainable development.
Gradually I’ve come to consider what we need, to ensure that we have the skills necessary to restore the degraded parts of the Earth and have the type of collaboration and dedication needed to do this effectively together. The conclusion I have come to is that we need to build Vocational Training Centers for Ecological Restoration in every continent to serve as the vanguard for the Earth’s restoration.
In looking at what is the correct structure for such centers I have considered “Community Land Trusts” which essentially means that the members of the community own the center. This means that communities that voluntarily choose to dedicate themselves to long term, large scale ecological restoration would replace the type of 3- to 5-year projects that the development ‘industry’ has been promoting. These have shown some excellent methodologies but have often been too small and too short to bring about the type transformational change that is needed. Making vocational training centers for ecological restoration the purpose of community land trusts would mean that these centers would be permanent. While projects might come and go the overall center would absorb each project and grow stronger rather than end at the close of the funded period.
The types of facilities needed are seed saving and propagation, soil creation, water retention technologies, nursery systems and of course all the other requirements of successful communities such as culture, recreation, education, health care and permanent agriculture.
Geoff Lawton’s research farm in Australia shows many of the things that must be done and can be seen here:
The ideal situation would be communities that provide full employment for everyone in all the various aspects of restoration — the study of restoration, the training needed for restoration and that they “Live Well” in the sense that they have clean air, water, healthy food and strong families and communities and that they have substituted a more profound purposeful life for the materialism of the current global economic model.
This type of structure could be supported by management, technical support, human resources and capital arranged by the new Natural Resilience Initiative (2.3mb PDF) being led by Willem Ferwerda.
This could help merge the needs and aspirations of communities with global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate changes, to restore ecological function to broad areas of the planet where they have been degraded by human beings over historical time.
Can we learn to live and work together for a common goal? Can we trade selfishness for collective security and sustainability? Can we work to ensure that the air, water, soils are clean and pollution free?
This is the way that I would like to live the rest of my life in helping to restore degraded landscapes and I believe that there must be millions more who would also like to do this.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.