Slideshow from my Permaculture Diploma Presentation

Here are the slides from my presentation at the National Permaculture Diploma Gathering 2014.

My reflections on completing the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design

IMG_0248This piece of writing serves as a reflection of my experience completing the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design in the Permaculture Association GB model.

To give it a framework I have used the four action learning questions:

What went well?

The Diploma came into my life at a time when I really needed it. I had been out of prison only a month or so and was trying to find my place in the world again after experiencing heavy state repression. I was unable to talk to 99% of my friends or anyone concerned with ‘animal welfare’ for the next 21 months of my life. I had completed my permaculture design course in prison and as such, had never met anyone into permaculture. I had never interacted with the permaculture movement.

Completing the diploma gave me an opportunity to connect with others, find meaning and purpose, re-design my life and heal.

Unlike Gaia University, which is hugely international and where face to face interaction with other associates is limited, the diploma has an established network of apprentices in the UK. There are annual ‘National Diploma Gatherings’, where sometimes over 100 apprentices get together. You can also meet people at other events and online.

The highlight of the diploma for me was cultivating this supportive ecosystem – developing nested networks of friends, comrades, associates who like a web of mycelia, all support each other, share information and help each other to grow.

I have had the privilege of meeting many incredibly inspiring, skilled and compassionate people.

The diploma gave me the impetus to document my work, and therefore create a portfolio of evidence of everything I was doing towards my goals. My website www.wildheartpermaculture.co.uk (transitioning now to www.emptycagesdesign.org) generated new opportunities, contacts and paid work. Being able to document your work in a unique way, has allowed me to create, and increasingly optimise my own niche. At the beginning of the Diploma I was scared of wearing my heart (and my politics) on my sleeve, in case I ‘put off’ potential clients, or triggered my probation officer! However, over time, I grew in confidence which allowed me to increasingly integrate my political worldviews, history and passions with permaculture.

Many people are intimidated by the freedom of the diploma. For me however, it supported me to thrive. I had found traditional educational models repressive and struggled with my kinaesthetic learning style to enjoy academic essays or laborious coursework that only a teacher reads. The diploma allowed me to gain the skills I needed in a way I wanted to.

I could follow my passions and follow the ‘desire lines’ of my personal and professional goals.

In terms of what went well, financially I was able to very skillfully manage my pathway. I was hugely supported by the Vegetarian Charity, who paid for the diploma (and PDC). I also accessed grant funding from the Prince’s Trust to do a RegenAG course and RHS horticulture course, amongst other grants. After volunteering with local charity, Somerset Community Food, for 6 months, a position became available and I got it. So I landed a well paid, part time job aligned with my ethics. Being at Brook End meant I could host design courses and events in exchange for free places. I used my skills as an organiser to organise workshops and events, where I could up-skill myself at the same time. Over the few years, I managed to increasingly develop my agroecological and design skillflexes. My Auntie Edna passed away when I was in prison and left me a couple of grand, which also opened many doors in terms of being able to buy books etc and not just be on the breadline like I had been historically.

Finally, there was Brook End. I came out of prison to a permaculture paradise. My mum had married again when I had left home, together they needed somewhere where they could look after my Step Dad’s elderly mother. She had the finance and they had the will. They found Brook End and built an annex for her. This beautiful land has become my home. After never growing up with access to land and after two years of being in a cage, this place impacted my soul in a way I cannot describe. It allowed me to see the cycles of nature every day, allowed me to gain real-life design experience and navigate the complexity of communal living. I could experiment and build relationships with plants. We could create the teaching tool and demonstration site that makes everything possible to achieve our family’s dreams and visions.

Above all, the diploma really did embody the design process for me. Now it feels completely natural to start from a survey, observation and work through the process before making decisions. Every part of my life is touched, from how my bedroom is laid out, to how I design campaign work. I have fallen in love with learning again and I feel more consciously able to interact with the world.

What was challenging?

For me, the diploma came at a challenging time of my life. My license conditions meant that I was extremely socially isolated for nearly 2 years. I had a constant fear of being re-called to prison. I was unable to talk to my closest friends, including my co-defendants. I was on benefit and didn’t think anyone would employ me. I had just gained a certificate in horticulture and permaculture design, however had no other qualifications except school level ones and I had dropped out of college. All my work experience was in care work and it was unlikely I would work in this area again with my criminal record.

At first I found interacting with the permaculture movement challenging. No one can disagree that it is an overwhelmingly middle class, white movement. I initially felt quite politically isolated. I found the ethics quite weak in terms of a framework. I found there to be little attention to power relationships, or the systemic root causes of social and ecological problems. I find a lot of lifestyle politics hard to swallow and the positive/everything is great attitude can sometimes really grate me!! My worldviews around animal agriculture have also made the permaculture movement incredibly challenging to interact with.

Over time, however, I have learnt to be less judgemental. I have accepted that the edge is where the action is, and remained open to what can be created where these two lines cross.

I have found some real allies and permacuturalists like Graham Burnett have been a continuing source of inspiration!

As a system, there were also a few challenges with the diploma in and of itself. In hindsight I wish I had received feedback after each design as a stand alone project. I found the feedback too little too late, and was unable to really stretch my edges as a designer because of this. The tutorial support I did have was definitely always valuable however. I found the design support events and peer feedback some of the most useful ways of accessing feedback to improve my design skills.

Finally there were the accreditation challenges! I feel like its taken me about two years to accredit! I would organise an accreditation event for about 6 months time, and then something would happen to either myself or my tutor Aranya. Once I’d lost that window, the diploma was then sent straight to the back of the to-do list.

I guess this was the biggest challenge of all – doing the huge amount of documentation necessary while trying to survive capitalism, be a good friend, grow food, organise and resist. Small and slow solutions kept me going and design by design I made it through!

Long term visions and goals

Nature is my learning pathway. There is so much to learn!! I will strive to keep learning from the land, being an observer and interacting with care and humility.

I want to continue to develop my design skills. Being a diploma tutor, means that I am committed to continuously documenting my design work. I am also still completing my MSc Political Agroecology with Gaia University.

I would like to now focus on tutoring and supporting more people to pro-actively engage with the diploma in the South West, perhaps organising more focused events and peer support.

I am planning to develop my new website so that it is more of a learning resource for apprentices and others interested in permaculture, agroecology etc. In terms of developing skills, you can see my MSc learning pathway design here. I would like to learn how to use computer software to improve the quality of my design work. There are also huge areas of permaculture that remain unchartered territory for me, such as natural building or energy systems. I know that my skill flexes around these will develop when needed (like when building a home for myself in the future at Brook End maybe!).

Overall, my long term vision is to support a thriving community of learners that are building a new world from the bottom up, one rooted in ethics, ecology and equality. Where design is an accessible toolkit to more than the privileged that supports communities to meet their needs in socially and ecologically just ways.

Next Achievable Steps

  • Complete my Tutor Portfolio on the Permaculture Association website.
  • Better advertise my tutoring and advising services.
  • Do my accreditation presentation at the National Diploma Gathering!

MSc Output 2 – Now Live

My second output in my MSc Political Agroecology with Gaia University is now live.

The aim of this output was to explore my own radical edges and optimise how I organise with others for social change. A large thematic area is prison abolition, as well as healing and resilience to repression on a personal and community-movement level.

You can read it all here: http://portfolios.gaiauniversity.org/view/view.php?id=3969

Pictures from my Medicine Garden

Just thought I’d put these up in time for the Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens this weekend. Come & visit & participate in my ‘Grow your own medicine’ workshop if you’re interested!

The skin healing bed

First flower of North American Arnica

St John’s Wort in the Nervous System Bed

Mullein in the Respiratory System Bed

Yarrow – one of my favourite healing herbs

My new drying shed in the back, with mallow & digestive herbs in the foreground

Burdock, a magnificent medicinal ‘weed’!

The immune system enhancer, Echinacea

Milk Thistle, a wonderful liver ally

Houseleek, our native succulent that’s wonderful for burns

Beautiful Calendula, no introduction needed!

Bergamot, a subtle supporter of the nervous system

Common Mallow, a darling demulcent!

Incredible Edible Somerset Conference 2012

On Saturday 14th July, over 100 people came together in Glastonbury to celebrate local food and explore how we create a truly Incredible Edible Somerset. Organised by Somerset Community Food the day took place at St Dunstans School and Paddington Farm.

The day began as Nicole Vosper from the Somerset Land & Food Project introduced the aims of the day, which were to share the learning from the Somerset Land & Food Project, a 3 year big lottery funded project designed to bring more land into community production, as well as to launch Incredible Edible Somerset, a new network of community growers across Somerset. The final aim was to harvest the ideas & collective intelligence from everyone involved in the day to help decide the next steps for Somerset to build a sustainable local food system.

Stephen Vince from the Race into Time Art Exhibition introduced the art on display, gently linking the beautiful paintings and sculptures with our relationship to food, particularly around the Olympic Games. For more information about the work & its meaning, see here.

The room were then introduced to Mary Clear, who had travelled all the way from Yorkshire to share the story of Incredible Edible Todmorden. People heard of the grassroots action that had been taking place in Todmorden, including planters in public places, cooking lessons on the street as well as work with schools & a new food hub in the town. The room were lifted & inspired as people watched in amazement as Mary casually introduced the Incredible Edible projects springing up all over the globe and the achievement of this small town’s efforts.

Philip Turvil from the Garden Organic Master Gardener’s Program then took to the floor and introduced his project’s work across the UK that has supported over 3,401 people to be regularly mentored to grow food in over 1,500 households and groups.

Full of inspiration & ideas, attendees then got the chance to sample some apple juice from Porlock Community Orchard in West Somerset. After the break it was time to get thinking caps on & join different workshops.

The first workshop was Access to Land 101, where individuals got the chance to ask all the questions they had about access to land in different areas – community gardens, allotments, land trusts & CSAs. Mary Clear, Allan Cavill from the National Society of Leisure Gardeners, Rebecca Marshall from the Community Land Advisory Service and Carol Stone from HogCo in Devon, were all available to answer questions.

The room then split into small groups to discuss the barriers and challenges that had been faced by people looking for land as well as the potential solutions. To read notes from this session, please see here.

Taking place at the same time was the Skilling Up Somerset Workshop. Participants got to hear presentations from different people working in food & growing-orientated education. Rebecca Sandover a local allotmenteer & PhD candidate talked about how allotments support the cascading of practical knowledge and Lisa Herbert gave an introduction to the Magdalen Project and their model of supporting people to learn land based skills. Sarah Milner Simmonds also talked about Cannington College and asked the audience about their memories of learning how to grow to demonstrate how skills are commonly gained without intellectual study but through practical learning and osmosis. Jane Sweetman, the longstanding trainer with Somerset Community Food talked about the Get Set Grow & Get Set Cook Models and her teaching experiences around Somerset.

The room then divided to explore what had been going well for food related learning in Somerset as well as what had been challenging, the long term goals and next achievable steps. To read notes from this session, please see here.

Filling up with ideas and opportunities there were still more workshops to go, as people then chose to either join the discussion about how to build an effective local food network in Somerset or to participate in Growing Change, a workshop about therapeutic horticulture, food poverty & how food relates to inequalities.

In the movement discussion, Adam Payne from Organic Lea talked about his experience with the Community Food Growers Network in London, that has come together to share skills, tools and offer solidarity for each other’s work and projects. Feeling inspired, everyone then formed small groups and took on the big task of exploring what next for Somerset. Interesting conversations were happening everywhere as people discussed and debated what had been challenging, what had been going well and finally what some shared long term goals could be as well as the steps for making them happen. To read notes from this session, please see here.

Growing change also created the space for discussion – talks about funding challenges, community engagement and re-distributing surpluses all filled the room. David Maggs, Social Justice & Environment Advisor at the Bath & Wells Diocese informed participants about the reality of food poverty in Somerset and Alison Hayward from the Vanessa Project in Yeovil, that has long supported individuals with mental health challenges on a community allotment, talked about the results of her work at South Somerset Mind.

Finally it was lunchtime, with a delicious buffet of offerings prepared with lots of local ingredients by Amanda Bond of Glastonbury Good Food. The hall felt alive with energy as people ate together, shared stories about their work and projects, swapped tips about their favourite plants and recommended seed varieties and more. Around the edges of the hall were the displays as part of the Somerset Community Food showcase, including those from Henley Hill Farm, Milford Community Garden, Reclaim the FieldsAxbridge Community Allotment, Porlock Community Orchard, Transition Glastonbury and more.

After lunch people moved up to Paddington Farm for the practical activities. One group took to a tour around the farm, seeing some of its regular activities in action such as its forest school. Meanwhile Jane Sweetman supported a group to learn more about how we can care for the soil, introducing a wide range of topics & techniques, including composting, green manures and mulching methods.

Robert Macbeth, a grower at Torganics Market Garden that is situated on the farm, led a polytunnel workshop, looking at the systems used in the Torganic Polytunnels as well as how anyone can make the most of their indoor ecosystem.

Overall it was a fantastic day, planting the seeds of hope that we can do this – feed ourselves in socially just & ecologically sound ways in a way that empowers our communities.

Click here to see more pictures from the day.

Designing for the long haul

When I’ve been doing design work for other people recently I’ve thought, how come I can manage to set aside the time to design their gardens or smallholdings but struggle to do everything I desire in terms of designing my own? This has been a pattern for that last year and a half. The first year I put it down to the need to observe for a year before interacting. But then a year came and I got a massive body of work done, mainly relating to zone 1 systems such as the veg patch and herb garden but the orchard and woodland remain undesigned when I’d expected myself to dive straight in to creating a forest garden paradise and medicinal woodland – its everything I’d ever dreamed of.

But then it occurred to me. It feels like I’ve almost left the best until last – these are some of the most perennial systems in our smallholding, trees that will outlive me and be there for my grandkids (or my sisters, ha!). The systems least designed in detail are also those with a relationship to my livelihood – something that is hanging in the balance of a grant application that I will know the results of next month. If we’re unsuccessful it means growing becomes a core part of my polylivelihood and how I relate to the land will rapidly change to the present where I currently mainly grow for family self-reliance.

I feel like this observation of my learning cycle has turned a problem into a solution. I’ve gone from feeling disempowered (still haven’t done that, my portfolio isn’t complete, why am I prioritizing other systems etc) to feeling empowered – I am honouring the time it takes to design deeply – to interact with the land with a lifetime in mind. I am still so much at the beginning of my learning journey, still meeting & befriending trees that will grow old with me, still learning of the medicine of plants and their roles in our ecosystems. Still figuring out what I really want, what my family really wants underneath the formal design questionnaire. Still trying to see the connections in my head and my heart.

So, you haven’t got pen to paper either? Honour it, flow with it but keep recording everything that is surfacing and when the time is right it will come. I’ve started to trust the design process now on my diploma journey. When I’ve been worrying into the night about a paid client and that I can’t vision a solution for their system, I’ll wake up and its there, and I roll with it and through all that design analysis, left and right brain, a design is born of the process. So all I’m saying to any other designers, or diploma apprentices, is trust the process! Give design work time to breath, honour it and value just how much time it takes to design a system that will hopefully regenerate for a lifetime beyond your own.

Zone 00 Design Review – Analysis & Re-design

Wow that is a hell of a lot of projects! I have even surprised myself!!!

But what has been the inputs to achieve all of these outputs? What has made the difference between making the above happen and not? What hasn’t been achieved that I would have liked to achieve? Which elements have I enjoyed the most?

I have decided to use the PNI tool:

Positive
– Being more strict about garden time (anchoring 2 days per week min) has meant more work being done on the Brook End design implementation = better mental health, more rest & sleep from being at home, improved family harmony from making progress at Brook End
– Reclaim the Fields work – is really taking off!
– Having 4 days off in Cornwall with my partner = really nourished my soul & our relationships, recharged my batteries

Negative
– Other than No Dig gardening workshop, transition food group work has felt like its gone out the window recently = too many projects, lack of attention to some that involve leadership & then suffer
– Exam revision = felt like I could not do what I wanted to do as I had to revise, stress led to bit of a bad temper, other projects went by the wayside
– Diary on 24th Feb shows I was nervously exhausted, why? = exam stress, grant application (working way more than set hours at work), hardcore show & late night, bus travel, no time for rest  or switch off.
– Stress associated with fruit trees for all = orders not picked up, lots of work created

Interesting
– I actually really enjoyed organising the fracking meeting, I felt ‘in my element’ doing resistance type work & actually the whole night didn’t feel like it work because it was also generating social yields (hanging out with lovely new people)

Zone 00 Re-design or ‘Tweak’

– Don’t do exams or courses that I am not fully engaged with!
– Batch process certain tasks as suggested in the 4 hour work week e.g. website updating
– If I know I am going to have a full-on week, honour it & keep the weekend free for a lie in!
– Keep to my work hours & log time accurately
– Be very clear about voluntary energy for projects
– Stack in social functions to make projects & group work more enjoyable (e.g. why do I enjoy doing RTF work – because I click with the age groups, histories, passions of the people etc)
– I need to allocate more time or be more realistic about how long journeys take & cost financially & energetically & try to reduce the number of them I take e.g. Oxford, Brighton, Bristol
– See my girl more because it chills me out & keeps me focused!

Zone 00 Design Review – Survey

As we’ve move into March I’ve taken the opportunity to undertake some design reviews. My aim is to evaluate the implementation of my designs so far as to best harness my learning. With so much going on I need to be more focused & effective then ever so I’ve broken down all of my projects to help identify the work that is remaining & help me capture and store this learning for the future.

My Zone 00 Design has been the most prominent design this year, climaxing at Imbolc when I submitted it as an output packet for my Gaia Uni pathway. Zone 00 is the self – so basically the design looked at all of my different areas of interests, passions, fears, patterns and so forth (it will all get uploaded online soon) & I aimed to re-design my life to be:

  • more focused
  • more effective in my productivity (so not just busy but effective)
  • more balanced (designing for self care, rest & rejuvenation)
  • more congruent with who I am & to express all sides of my self (including the radical politics, earth based spirituality, sexuality and so forth).

3 months in and its time to review. So how can I best design a review?

Survey: A review of outcomes & projects from January 2012:

Community Organising
– Spoke about Reclaim the Fields at the Oxford Real Farming conference
– Attended Transition Glastonbury 2011 review & strategic planning day
– Distributed 60+ trees in Glastonbury for Fruit Trees for All project
– Organised public meeting about fracking in Glastonbury, formed local group & gained TV coverage
– Organised no dig gardening workshop in Glastonbury attended by 15 people
– Helped plan & promote the Reclaim the Fields spring gathering which I unfortunately could not then attend due to legal reasons (super frustration!)
– Initial meeting about Somerset Earth Skills Group, local DIY skill sharing group

Self Care & Spirituality
– Did ceremony for Imbolc at Brook End, bought new Brigid pendant
– Visited stone circle at Avebury & had ceremony with oak dragoners
– Ink sessions – new sleeve, half finished!
– Spent 4 nights in St Ives, Cornwall with my partner for rest & rejuvenation

Learning Pathway
– Undertook first half of permaculture teacher training course
– Submitted 4th Gaia Uni output about Zone 00 design
– Undertook 2 whole days (& 2 weeks of revision!) of RHS advanced certificate horticulture exams
– Attended Gary Finch’s permaculture diploma accreditation event in Dorset & was on the peer review group
– Main recent self ed has been around: popular education, community organising vs activism, new agroforestry book

Brook End
– Had site visit & interview from Permaculture Association about Brook End becoming a LAND centre
– Finished installing paths around veg bed
– Weeded fruit bed & sowed red clover, built strawberry beds
– Divided veg bed & laid internal paths
– Pruned all fruit trees in Orchard & elsewhere
– Cleared fruit cage area
– Ordered root stocks & took scion cuttings
– Planned rotation & seed order with Mum

Wild Heart Permaculture Work
– Did site visit to land for community project in Bristol
– Undertook site visit, survey & design questionnaire for new client on levels near Glastonbury, very exciting & enjoyable!
– Commissioned new logo
– Have been working on website re-design
– Opened new bank account, ready to register self employed
– Have become part of the Research group with the permaculture association

Work – Incredible Edible Somerset Design
– Launched Incredible Edible Somerset ning website
– Attended action on poverty meeting
– Planned Get Up & Grow – therapeutic horticulture day & other mental health training with South Somerset Mind
– Held 2 public meetings in 2 Somerset districts for people looking for land
– Helped fund community forest garden in Axbridge, gaining local media coverage as well as other projects
– Undertook epic grant application!

Dissemation/Radicle Writes
– Wrote diploma article for Permaculture Magazine
– Wrote book review for Permaculture Magazine
– Wrote documentation article for Permaculture Works
– Wrote articles for Positive News: one on Oxford farming conference, 3 other permaculture articles (column, interview with Looby on people care, DVD review of the growing edge DVD)

Shows
Peter & the test tube babies, Fleece
Antisect, Fleece
Sheer Terror/Knuckledust, Croft
Deafheaven, Croft

Applying Permaculture Principles to Livelihood Design

I am currently designing my livelihood & how I can meet my needs in the future. Below I have used Holmgren’s 12 principles of permaculture to explore what a permaculture livelihood could involve:

1. Observe & interact

Using this principles means we, as designers, have to be fully aware and observant of ourselves, our communities and our wider political economy to see where we are needed, find our niche and design in alignment with our designs in a way that meets our needs.

We can use feedback from our observations to discertain ‘what do people really need/desire? What will be really useful?’. We do not have to take market research or mainstream promoted trends for granted or for gospel, instead utilising our own intelligence and analysis to inform our decision making. Observing effectively is vital, as is market research in business planning, and will best inform the design decisions we make.

2. Catch & Store Energy

As explored in my design work around my personal finances, as economic growth has mostly been fuelled by overharvesting of fossil fuels, we now have to experience an energy descent, and maximise opportunities to capture local flows of both renewable and non-renewable flows of energy. The most important future storages include fertile soils, perennial vegetation, water, wind & sun flows. These understandings can influence our investments but this energy descent will also inform which livelihoods we feel are appropriate in our current climate.

I have also described that inequalities are an energy loss as well as an injustice and so part of our role as permaculture designers is working to reduce inequalities. How this principle could inform the design of our livelihoods includes exploring:

– Where do I most want to invest my energy – emotionally, financially & socially?

– How will ensure my livelihood is not only sustainable (ie will meet my needs for the long haul) but regenerative e.g. will continue to provide sustenance for me to grow & develop?

– Will my work be helping to reduce inequalities?

– Will my work be viable in a post-oil economy?

– Will my livelihood use my energy e.g will I get out more than I put in?

– How can I design for my work to be as energy efficient and constructive as possible for the yields I need and desire?

3. Obtain a Yield

Our businesses & livelihoods need to be productive and generate a profit, which in the holistic management model the ‘triple bottom line’ , are all encapsulated in achieving a profit. If projects are to be effective they need to obtaining yields and if a livelihood is to be effective then it does need to be financially realistic and meet my needs and achieve my holistic goals. How and whether we obtain a yield is  also going to be a defining factor of the success of permaculture, can we obtain yields & create livelihoods as permaculture practitioners?

4. Applying self regulation and feedback

By having a system that maximises self regulation, we can reduce energy inputs. In terms of livelihoods trends may include ‘passive incomes’ and so forth where profits are generated, or goals achieved, with little intervention in the system. How I can apply this to designing Wild Heart Permaculture will be an interesting process as I design for an energy saving low-input model.

In terms of feedback we can also look for negative and positive feedback from those we are working with, whether clients or co-workers. A regular self-auditing system will also ensure that we can respond to feedback to maintain effectiveness.

5. Use & Value Renewable Resources & Services

David Holmgren describes that in the language of business, renewable resources should be seen as our sources of income, while non-renewable resources can be thought of as capital assets. Spending our capital assets (e.g. dipping into our savings account to pay for food, rent, bills) is fundamentally unsustainable in the long term.

By valuing renewable services, or passive functions, we can reduce energy losses and make systems more resilient. We need to invest in local reusable and uncontrolled resources that promote self reliance. We need to integrate all of these elements into our livelihood designs.

6. Produce No Waste

The traditional business model of ‘inputs and outputs’ would more ecologically be described as ‘consume/excrete’ as all wastes in ecosystems are cycled. ‘Produce no waste’ in relation to livelihood designing could include:

– waste of money e.g. where are we bleeding financially in terms of self employment?

– waste of human potential including yourself

– waste of energy in growing or producing goods that will become entropic wastes in our system

Jennifer Daukasha-English promotes that no waste means that there are NO social or environmental wastes generated during the production, packaging, distribution, usage or disposal – at every level energy is recycled back into the system to produce more products or services that benefit life. I am to design a livelihood with no polluting waste streams, energetically or ecologically.

7. Design from patterns to details

This principle could mean that we need to keep looking at our work from a range of perspectives and keep exploring where our work integrates into  the wider context including as part of the regional economy. It means working at the strategic level employing strategic thinking and scenario planning.

We also need to read our own livelihood patterns, what have we fallen into doing just because we can or its expected of us? Do we end up working 80 hour weeks as self employed people? How is this effecting our lives? We need to recognise our own working patterns to re-design for joy and abundance.

8. Integrate Rather than segregate

We can use the principle that each element should perform many functions, and each important function should be supported by many elements to design our livelihoods. If we are employing a polyincome approach then how can this different areas of work not only compliment but support each other? How can we design livelihoods that capture our unique and varied interests, how can they integrate together?

This principle also implies the need to explore holistic solutions versus increased specialisation & compartmentalisation. Permaculturalists have called themselves ‘specialised generalists’ and I think this describes the average skill set of a permacultue designer well. Integration is not only within our own lives however, as regenerative enterprises we work as part of geographical community, rooted in place. For me integrate rather than segregate as encourage me to no longer compartmentalise my interests or define work as work and leisure as leisure, activism as activism – how can I creatively design a way of life that enables liberatory integration of who I am as a whole person?

9. Slow & Small Solutions

This principle may remind us that we need to work at an appropriate scale and build up our businesses slowly. I want to be humble with my evolution as a designer and permaculture practitioner, recognising where I am on my pathway in relation to building skills & experiences. This process is not always visible in our culture, young people come out of university disillusion thinking they will be so highly in demand and that they are capable of doing whatever job their career advisor advised of them, when in fact the long term process of apprenticeship is undervalued in our culture, which gave us the time to fully develop our skills& selves.

David Holmgren emphasises that systems should be designed to perform functions at the smallest scale that is practical and energy efficient for that function. Keeping our business human scale is a radical alternative to our globalised society. We also need to be aware of scale when designing our business models, at which level of growth would energy start being lost or not used optimally e.g. having an increased workload leading to larger business premises that cannot be maintained.

10. Use & Value Diversity

Diversity in ecosystems increases resilience. Polycultural incomes reduce reliance on market systems, bolsters household and community self-reliance by providing a wider range of goods and services. This is a classic, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. Jennifer describes how diversity can create a competitive edge, with more potential for specialisation and variety of produce. She continues. ‘We should try to get our energy from multiple sources. We should invest our energy in multiple places.”

11. Using Edges & Value the Marginal

David Holmgren communicates that this principle works from the premise that the value and contribution of edges, and the marginal and invisible aspects of any system should not only be recognised and conserved, but that the expansion of these aspects can increase system productivity and stability. In teems of livelihood design this may include loosing the fear of being ‘out there’ as fringe thinkers, or working on radical projects. It could also mean working with the edges of society for example prisoners, at risk young people, marginalised adults and so forth. Valuing the marginal may also mean that we still value the edges of work, perhaps not our primary earners but other elements that push us, test our boundaries and utilise our creativity.

12. Creatively use & respond to change

As with successful plants, we need to be adaptable and opportunistic. We can take advantage of change, used creatively to produce yields. We can also be investment orientated, being prepared to invest in learning, observing and interacting with the system where we value diversity and marginal opportunities.

In terms of livelihood design we also need to be flexible, lean and adaptable and remain observant of local and societal changes and the niches they create through change. This principle also reminds me that I change as an individual and I expect to look at this design in 5 years time with changed eyes and changed approaches. We cannot be fixed on one idea, particularly of ourselves and we can also not accept that anything is permanent.

Applying Permaculture Principles to my Personal Finances

Overview

To better help me explore how permaculture relates to finance, I have looked through the lense of the permaculture principles developed by David Holmgren. Below is a summary of my thinking, with resources from Jennifer Daukasha-English. The pictures are courtesy of permacultureprinciples.com.

1. Observe & Interact

We can benefit from intimate observations of we interact with our financial systems and through effective self-observation we can identify our own energy leaks.

2. Catch & Store Energy

As economic growth has mostly been fuelled by overharvesting of fossil fuels, we now have to experience an energy descent, and maximise opportunities to capture local flows of both renewable and non-renewable flows of energy. The most important future storages include fertile soils, perennial vegetation, water, wind & sun flows. These understandings can influence our investments.

Related to financial systems, catch & store energy also has to do with storage, such as savings & investments.  Within wider economic policies, inequalities are an energy loss as well as an injustice and so part of our role as permaculture designers is working to reduce inequalities.

3. Obtain a Yield

Obtain a yield means that we are gaining more out of a system then we are putting in, whether thats productivity from the garden or our savings accounts. I feel this is also going to be a defining factor of the success of permaculture, can we obtain yields & create livelihoods as permaculture practitioners?

4. Apply Self-regulation & accept feedback

This principle applies to limiting or discouraging inappropriate growth or behaviour. This could involve applying our permaculture ethics to our consumption and investment choices, its all very well having a productive garden if your finances still fund deforestation on another content. We can also use these purchasing choices as a feedback mechanism for our systems. As a vegan, my choices to avoid products of animal exploitation, we have also created a vegan market. This also relates to local markets. I don’t believe ‘ethical consumerism’ is the knight in shining armour that many promote, but used intelligently it is one tool in the tool box for regulating unethical systems.

Also, by having a system that maximises self regulation, we can reduce energy inputs. By having self-regulated self ‘discipline’ we can reduce wasted money or energy working for money that is wasted!

5. Use & Value Renewable Resources & Services

David Holmgren describes that in the language of business, renewable resources should be seen as our sources of income, while non-renewable resources can be thought of as capital assets. Spending our capital assets (e.g. dipping into our savings account to pay for food, rent bills) is fundamentally unsustainable in the long term.

By valuing renewable services, or passive functions, we can reduce energy losses and make systems more resilient. We need to invest in local reusable and uncontrolled resources that promote self reliance.

6. Produce No Waste

The traditional business model of ‘inputs and outputs’ would more ecologically be described as ‘consume/excrete’ as all wastes in ecosystems are cycled. ‘Produce no waste’ in relation to personal finances could include:

– waste of money e.g. by buying unnecessary items that don’t benefit life

– waste of human potential including yourself

– waste of energy in growing or producing goods that will become entropic wastes in our system

Jennifer promotes that no waste means that there are NO social or environmental wastes generated during the production, packaging, distribution, usage or disposal – at every level energy is recycled back into the system to produce more products or services that benefit life.

7. Design from Patterns to details

One of the main reasons that our own economic systems have been such a social & ecological disaster is because we are divorced from its patterns, its effect on the landscape and populations. We feel too small in the mega machine. By learning about economic patterns we can start to design our way out of them, and direct our capital to investing in regenerative, life-benefiting systems.

Pattern analysis also greatly helps us as individuals trying to improve our own finances. We can look at our expenditures and income and re-design our lives to manifest our desired financial outcomes. However personal and ‘detailed’ our design work becomes, we never forget our role within our broader systems.

8. Integrate rather than segregate

The connections between elements can be as important as the elements themselves, with this principle we can look at the relationships between our income and outgoings and re-design so that these elements are beneficial. We can also use the principle that each element should perform many functions, and each important function should be supported by many elements.In addition this principle highlights that in nature co-operative and symbiotic relationships are dominant. Using these principles we can become more adaptive and abundant by increasing cooperation or as Jennifer describes, ‘we should invest in things that unite us, not in those things that fragment us or that foster inequality’.

9. Use small & slow solutions

David Holmgren emphasises that systems should be designed to perform functions at the smallest scale that is practical and energy efficient for that function. Keeping our business human scale is a radical alternative to our globalised society. We also need to be aware of scale when designing our business models, at which level of growth would energy start being lost or not used optimally e.g. having an increased workload leading to larger business premises that cannot be maintained. Small and slow may also relate to savings accounts or changes to how we implement financial design decisions into our lives.

10. Use & Value Diversity

Diversity in ecosystems increases resilience. Polycultural incomes reduce reliance on market systems, bolsters household and community self-reliance by providing a wider range of goods and services. This is a classic, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. Jennifer describes how diversity can create a competitive edge, with more potential for specialisation and variety of produce. She continues. ‘We should try to get our energy from multiple sources. We should invest our energy in multiple places.”

11. Use Edges & Value the Marginal

David Holmgren communicates that this principle works from the premise that the value and contribution of edges, and the marginal and invisible aspects of any system should not only be recognised and conserved, but that the expansion of these aspects can increase system productivity and stability. Jennifer emphasises that we should invest in cutting edge portfolios and projects that have a proven record of thriving on the edge.

12. Creatively Use & Respond to Change

As with successful plants, we need to be adaptable and opportunistic. We can take advantage of change, used creatively to produce yields. We can also be investment orientated, being prepared to invest in learning, observing and interacting with the system where we value diversity and marginal opportunities. On a personal level Jennifer highlights that with this principles, ‘we become more active, alert, conscious and less attached to our unproductive habits’.