A Personal Evolution: Tales of Permaculture via Greennovate Clips
Like many, my introduction to permaculture came in the form of food production. It changed the way I viewed farming, shifting my practice from being one of waging war with nature—constantly tilling, weeding and wasting—to one that teamed up with the plants, soil and even buildings around me. I was already an advocate for organic practices, but this was something altogether different.
Excited by the difference, and upon further investigation, I was happy to discover how much more depth there is to the theory. Permaculture is so far beyond a technique for gardening, or for that matter, it is so much more than eco-construction or sustainable energy. For me, the principles of permaculture were a way of living I’d long been striving for but unable to pinpoint.
Discontent with the state of the world, I wanted to be one in the movement of millions who are bucking the modern systems. For me, it didn’t take much convincing to see that the current wasteful methods of feeding and sheltering people will inevitably collapse. It has happened in the past, with places like Easter Island, but in much the same vein, financial motivations have trumped common sense.
Even before discovering permaculture, I’d spent several years striving for something different, supporting myself via work-trade agreements, volunteering, and the occasional low-wage jobs. Money became more a life burden than the answer to all my woes. I wanted healthy food, a clean environment and community, but working a nine-to-five, the normal route, seemed diametrically opposed to this.
A “real job”—as in “What’s your real job?”—seemed a horrible detour en route to the things I was after in life, not the sustainable way of getting them. I became more and more aware of how inefficient money as a primary means is, how for most of us—especially those with real jobs—it creates the need for more rather than any liberation from labor.
I had long noticed all the trappings of the “real life” of my past created impediments to what I really wanted. Food was quick and often unhealthy, either from packages or restaurants, because there were other things to do. The environment was toxic, devoid of sunlight and exercise or wrought with chemicals and product safety precautions. The community I spent most of my time with—co-workers—were usually watching the clock to go home and do something to try to forget about work.
The second video can be found here.
The culturally constructed reality was largely uninspiring, but it wasn’t because I’m a lazy person. I like to think the opposite is true. The desire to not have that real job more came from the fact that I wanted to do other things, spend my time in ways that were inspiring: helping and sharing with others, learning, producing tangibly rather than earning a wage, and enjoying the work I was doing.
The underlying goal of all of this was a desire to have a positive impact rather than accepting what had come to feel inevitable. Funnily enough, most of my “real job” experience was being a teacher, which seemingly oozed positive impact and bulged with inspiring stories. The problem, however, was that education, in my eyes, had become more for business than for the good of society. The system was constantly being engineered to be less effective but turn a larger profit.
I didn’t want to be part of that system, even if that part was to be wrench in the wheel rather than a cog. Even more so, I didn’t want money, the very thing that had created this discontent, to be the only reason I was working. Life was too valuable, and at thirty-something, I still had for too much of it ahead of me to continue living in a way that wasn’t making me happy. Like the systems I was rejecting, I personally needed some big changes, a new active step rather just disapproving observation.
Of course, this is all well and fine in theory, but when left with the bare bones of where to go next, what exactly that new step is, there is a yearning for some pathway to follow, an idealism close to your own that will at least get the ball rolling in the right direction. For me, I knew I needed to eat. I get really grouchy when I’m hungry, and I didn’t want to subject the world to that.
From a limited amount of knowledge, mostly Google search acquired, organic gardening seemed a good route to start on. I knew the way food was being produced and sold was against all those life principles I was after: It was unhealthy, laced with chemicals, placed profit over function and convenience over community. Most importantly, I felt passionate about it. I felt that growing organic food was a solution rather than a shrug.
Organic farms seemed the likely place to do this, so I started volunteering on them, trading a few hours of labor for not just food and shelter but also a wealth of knowledge and exposure that I was largely lacking. The experience made me part of a community of people who cared, a group who was doing something positive, and ultimately it introduced me to permaculture.
What I discovered through further investigating permaculture was people had a hard time defining it and, by virtue, I was already a practicing its principles. I just didn’t know it. I might not have been creating a garden as I would later come to. I might not have been harvesting water just yet or living in a cob house or installing solar panels, but it wasn’t only about these things. I looked at a lot of the recent changes in my life and realized with aplomb: That’s permaculture!
I hadn’t yet started designing a healthy eco-system, but I’d long ago begun changing the design of how I was living. I’d stopped using chemical soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and deodorants. I had been buying whole foods from local farmers and growing food rather than processed goods from factories. I had continually sought ways to downsize my energy usage, from using public transportation (and, more so, just walking) to giving up air conditioning.
In short, as any practitioner does, I was looking for and adopting better ways to take care of myself and the planet. I wouldn’t be guiding courses any time soon, but the principles, the motivation, were already there. And from there, I discovered loads of books, videos, websites and people to further push me along this journey, to corroborate with, and to both learn from and teach. It’s a journey that is far from over, but one rooted in a reality that suits me just right. That’s permaculture.