Free Gaia U Webinar on Prison Abolition and Permaculture


FREE Gaia U. Webinar on Prison Abolition and Permaculture

Date: November 8th – Time: 9:30 AM PST/12:30 PM EST/5:30 PM UTC
Host: Nicole Vosper

Description: MSc Associate Nicole Vosper explores the links between working for a world without prisons, by challenging the prison industrial complex and permaculture, that is how we can design and build communities that meet human needs ethically and sustainably. This call looks at the links between these struggles and the necessity of both.

ImageHost Bio: Nicole is a permaculture practitioner & community organizer based in Somerset in the UK. She is an MSc Associate with Gaia U, interested in political agroecology and how new agricultural practices are linked to social change. She is also an ex-prisoner and actively involved in prison abolition organizing.


Registration and Call Process: clicking on the registration links above will take you to Maestro Conference website, where you will type in your name and e-mail to register for the call. Maestro will provide you with a call in number and unique pin. The call is a USA number. You may call in on a land line, cell phone, VOIP or Skype Out. Please arrive on time. If you arrive early you will be placed on hold and if you arrive late you will be placed on mute until we can integrate you into the call. If the call has a screen share or Google presentation, the link will be e-mailed to you before the call.

Please note: Views and belief systems presented in Gaia U Radio calls are those of the presenters and may not represent the views of Gaia University. Listeners are encouraged to use critical thinking and research skills to investigate any informational claims presented in these webinars.

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:

Free Gaia U Webinar on Urban Agriculture

Date: August 29th – Time: 9:30 AM PDT/12:30 PM EDT/4:30 PM UTC

Host: Virginia Menstell

Bio: Virginia came to Gaia University after operating a naturalized landscaping practice for twenty years and is currently working on a Masters in Urban Agriculture.

Topic: Urban Agriculture: Temperate Climate Intensive Growing Techniques for an Urban Setting.

Description: An Introduction to growing methods for Intentional Ecologies in an Urban setting. Topics geared for Food Security or Sustainable Livelihood crops where growing space is limited.



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End of Year Review

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting deeply on the past year, what’s been achieved, what hasn’t and why and how I can re-design for 2012. I’ve used the 4 action learning questions :

What’s been going well?

  • Having a supportive, harmonious family life
  • Having a beautiful permaculture playground – Brook End
  • Lots of opportunities this year – grants for RHS courses, RegenAG course, Diploma in Applied Pathway
  • New relationship with a beautiful, amazing woman
  • New job, which is congruent with my beliefs, well paid & part time
  • Have been supported by my Uncle to start Gaia University learning
  • Have learnt new skills, such as website design, pruning & apple tree grafting
  • Website – wild heart permaculture – is becoming regularly visited & is a useful documentation tool
  • I have created a massive body of work around Brook End
  • Have had a regular column with Positive News and two articles in permaculture magazine published
  • Have made many new contacts & friends locally & nationally
  • The Transition Glastonbury Food Group has been resurrected & we’ve had a good year
  • Feel settled in my area & connected to the community & land
  • I had my first design commission
  • I’ve had back-up savings which has enabled me to invest in learning opportunities
  • Have developed effective learning & personal productivity systems e.g. my notebook set up, how I use ical, my diary software & blogging processes etc

What’s been challenging?

  • Building work at Brook End, which has needed my time & energy when I’d have preferred to be outside & has put occasional  strain on family relationships
  • Finding my niche in the permaculture movement, where I fit in it all, especially in relation to my age, class & background, politics & beliefs about animals
  • Finding balance amongst all of my projects especially in relation to community organising
  • Having days where I am energetically exhausted
  • My license conditions have overshadowed my life, as I find it emotionally difficult & frustrating to be apart from my closest friends that are ‘concerned with animal welfare’. Having to get permission for whenever I’m staying away from home has been a challenge!
  • Living on benefit for the majority of the year!

My long term visions & goals?

For 2012

  • Plan my Msc & animal free agriculture work
  • Get RBB building youth project off the ground
  • Design Brook End to be a fantastic place of learning & connecting to the land, become a LAND project
  • Build a beautiful, useful herb garden
  • Implement design decisions & landscape & plant up Brook End
  • Re-design stream & pond successfully
  • Confirm funding for Incredible Edible Somerset & my continuation in post
  • Gain arboriculture skills
  • Develop CAD design skills
  • Accredit DAPD (2013)
  • Start a liberation permaculture collective


  • Illustrate to the world that there are plant based systems that can provide for all human needs & set an active strategy to achieve these. Be part of significant social change to transition from an industrial civilisation to a regenerative horticultural society. Build a dwelling at Brook End that is designed for permanence so I do not have to visit the house for showers etc.
  • Start a family?!
  • Build Gaia University network up in the UK
  • Become a diploma tutor
  • Be successfully self employed via Wild Heart Permaculture & Ethical Land Use Associates

Next Achievable Steps – will be in my Zone 00 Implementation Plan

Decisions I’ve made following this year of learning:

Related to livelihood
– I don’t want to do consultancy work until Brook End is well developed
– I want to maximise opportunities & yields from Brook End before working in the community or for others
– I want to focus on projects that are truly regenerative (no domesticated animals)
– Rather than designing for individuals or families I want to empower people to become designers themselves e.g. PDC training, growing training rather than any ‘expert’ or consultant mentality
– I want to work on community projects that support my community to uses resources regeneratively & reduce inequalities, that are aligned with social justice aims
– I don’t want to do designs for farmers or smallholders with animals, don’t even want to be part of this world indirectly, these are oppressive systems
– I don’t want to design just for rich people e.g. landowners, I’d rather spend my time working for wealth re-distribution & access to land
– I’m not attracted to working at an agricultural level, after several months of reflection I  still hold the belief that horticultural systems are those that are truly regenerative, agriculture is not my design niche or focus

What I’ve learnt about myself:

– I need to focus on regenerative animal-free systems, I feel its my calling. Animals don’t have a voice in farming circles and their oppression is still a central theme of permaculture
– No matter what job I get, what income it brings, or however many events I attend that are full of well educated, influential people, I am recalled over and over to my radical roots. I cannot loose hold of this vision.
– I am pagan, I feel a spiritual connection with the land that will always permeate my work & perspective. No matter how much of a reductionist scientific angle I use through my design work, I still fall back on my intimate relationships with the land and my self.
– I need to be working all day outside at least 2 days a week to recharge myself & support my mental health
– I’m a natural organiser & communicator, I feel like I’m alive when I’m busy & working with others for social change
– My role in permaculture is better suited to its implementation & scaling up rather than working as a land based designer
– I need to re-learn my relationship to wealth & prosperity
– I want to do more spiritual development work in 2012, i feel trapped in the left side of my brain sometimes
– That my learning pathway is never ending, re-learning all of these land based skills is going to take a long time! But that’s great!
– I need my work to be tangible and effective otherwise I feel disillusioned & disempowered
– My biggest fears are growing old with these radical politics & looking back wondering if I’d achieved anything at all
– I’ve learnt what I really love: organising for change, writing, designing, connecting with people, being on the land & what I’m good at: organising, writing, documentation, ‘getting things done’, maintaining focus & vision
– In answer to Derrick Jensen’s question ‘ Whats the biggest and most important problem I can solve with my unique gifts and skills?’ – ending animal agriculture & promoting plant based systems across the planet. Reclaiming food production & creating a horticultural society
– It doesn’t have to be one or the other, working for animal liberation can and does mean working for more regenerative, libertarian systems that benefit all life
– My role as a herbalist is that of a grower, kind cultivator and sharer of DIY herbal living

What I’ve learnt about permaculture:

– Its not just about producing attractive finished designs, its the process, the pathway
– There is a gap between the ideas and their implementation – what are these energy leaks? How can I support them?
– We need political organising to get ideas like permaculture implemented
– We still need resistance to industrial agriculture
– Every movement, set of ideas have their blindspots
– My role in permaculture is probaly best organising to spread it and build networks rather than any consultancy focused work

Therefore I want to re-orientated my pathway to focus my learning on:

– Skills & experiences that support me to develop Brook End successfully including practical land-based skills such as arboriculture & mushroom cultivation as well as how to design curriculums & livelihoods & lead Brook End as a successful place of learning
– Skills & experiences that will enable me to complete a productive, strategically effective masters on liberatory systems
– Liberation permaculture, liberation ecology and any ideas that embrace my radical edges
– Skills & experiences that will develop my work as a community organiser (paid & unpaid)
– Skills & experiences that will develop my teaching pathway

– Skills & experiences that will support my permaculture niches such as social design work, herbal medicine, animal free systems & community development

Courses & Learning
Maintaining an Orchard, LILI
Living Willow Sculpture
Social Media training with Cosmic
Fruit Tree Grafting, Karuna
Living Landscape talk with Patrick Whitefield
Ecological sewage treatment, CAT
Eco rainwater supplies, CAT
OU Env Science Field trip
Food Coop workshop
Aranya Diploma Support Intensive
RHS Certs
Community Consultation, CSE
DST with Steve
Start with GALA/GAia uni
Regenerative Agriculture with Darren Doherty
National DAPD Gathering

Pagan Federation Wessex conference
Feminism in Action seminar
Food & Planning workshop, London
London Permaculture Festival
Geovation day, Southampton
Oak Dragon camp

Built WHP site, business cards etc
Suz’s design
Talked at Parish Council
Positive News – 4 editions
Permaculture Mag – 2 x articles
Article in Herbfest
Morgan’s website
Re-edited oak dragon website
Brook End website
New job!
Glastonbury FM

Food Group re-ignited
Designed Transition Glasto website
SCF Spring conference
Harvest show
Fruit trees for all
LAND visit to MWC
Filim showing
Reclaim the Fields Gathering
Allotments week press coverage
Torganics visit
Fruit preservation workshop
TLIO gathering
SCF west somerset conference
Food Sovereignty Event in Somerset
Food Sovereignty Event in London
Transition Glastonbury health group world cafe

Carparthian, Defeater @ Croft
TRC @ Fleece
Rucktion Show @ Croft
Chains of Hate
Trial & Anchor
Rise Against

Trips to Cornwall x 2
Stayed with Greg in London & saw shady
Joelle staying
Dad & Tarini visiting
Uncle Barry staying
Visiting Sam in HMP
Mates staying while Mum & Ian on holiday
Visiting Bridgend x 2
Visiting Clun

Leg piece
Chest piece

Occupy Your Education

Having gone for the ‘unconventional’ approach to learning through my life – dropping out of mainstream education and dedicating my time to organising & learning skills that I need to achieve the social change I seek – this article came into my inbox which is great. Its called ‘Occupy your education’ and is a reflection on the Occupy Movement and their relationships to mainstream universities, calling for people to challenge accreditation, status & privilege and focus on learning what we need & desire to learn, for ourselves, our communities  & our landbases.

” Education should not be a privilege, or even a right. It should be a way of life, and that life should be a political force for the common good. Occupy your education.”

Read it here. If you’re interested in radical education alternatives, why not check out Gaia University or the European leg, Gaia Action Learning Academy, for a liberatory approach to designing ways to meet your learning needs & social change passions. Together we can challenge the sprials of erosion in capitalist education and use our energy, intellect and experiences to craft a socially & ecologically sane world. Find out about AERO, the Alternative Education Resource Organisation here.

Life Designing Course with Gaia Action Learning Academy

Life Design Intensive

Summary: This Spring the two long-term Mentors of Gaia University International and now directors of Gaia Action Learning Academy Germany Katharina Weber and Valerie Seitz will be travelling to the UK to run two unique courses including a weekend intensive on Life Designing. The aim of all Gaia University courses is to make our work as designers, project organisers and simply as human beings more efficient and effective.

About the Life Designing Course

Do you feel a bit lost? Not sure which path to take? But you never get the chance to explore these feelings?  The Life Designing workshop is an opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and tools to implement your visions and goals.

You will be supported to honour your life and learning to date and use effective tools to consciously reflect on your experiences. By creating a space to observe where we have come from we can consciously create where we would like to go: to effectively design your life for abundance, learning and creativity. The workshop will help you define where you are going and what you need to achieve your vision.

Students on their Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design pathway can use the weekend to create their Action Learning Pathway or Zone 00 design for their portfolios. For other interested individuals the weekend is one off opportunity to give time to the most important question of all – how shall I live my life?

What will I do on the course?
*Look carefully at your learning and life experiences to date
*Build your own skills profile
*Define any personal and project goals
*Define your learning goals for your life design
*Gain skills in documenting your learning
*Explore how your ecological & social surroundings have influenced your life
*Explore the cultural context of your story
*Get to grips with the Action Learning process
*Receive personal support from Gaia Mentors through the process
*Create a Life Design

Dates: Friday 8th June pm – Sunday 10th June 2012

The Facilitators:
Katharina Weber is a qualified social worker, psychotherapist, dedicated and enthusiastic mentor with professional skills in organisational development and permaculture design. She is co-founder of the Gaia Action Learning Academy in Germany.

Valerie Seitz is a qualified architect, ecovillage enthusiast, researcher & planner, experienced organiser, facilitator and mentor. For the past 5 years her professional focus has been on holistic alternative education for sustainability.

Venue information: The course will be held at Brook End, a permaculture-run smallholding in Compton Dundon, Somerset, just outside Glastonbury. Accommodation includes camping but there are a small number of B&Bs locally, which would incur an additional cost.

Investment: £200. Please note some subsidised places are available, please email Nicole for details.

Contact details: Please email Places are limited so please email as soon as possible to express your interest.

Further information: For more background on Gaia University and their approach to learning please see: To learn about the European network Gaia Action Learning Academy, please see

How to Book: Please email Nicole to register your interest & receive a booking form.

Output 3 now up

My third output with Gaia Uni, ‘Designing for Family Resilience’ is now online. Its a permaculture design report for my family’s smallholding and explores the design process I have undertaken over the past year. Check it out here.

Top Tips for Effective Observation

Following a year of observing the land at Brook End I thought I’d share some of my learnt top tips for effective observation:

  • Get into the habit of writing your observations down e.g. a dedicated journal by your bed or a separate digital one on your computer desktop
  • Even if you are totally exhausted at the end of the day even a few ‘trigger’ words can remind you of what you gained that day e.g. ‘big storm’, ‘mushrooms’
  • Record in a format so you think about all elements e.g. the kamana inventory (link) shows different catergories of reflection e.g. plants, animals, sun, weather (similar to a biotime diary)
  • Take photographs! At Brook End I ensured every solstice I recorded over 90 pictures of the land
  • Take photos from similar angles to really see the changes
  • Look at all heights e.g. not just the herb layer if you’re a botanist
  • Read my notes on holistic surveying for alternative ways of reading the land
  • Observations can be effective from the same place (a sit spot – link) that you become intimate with and can really notice the changes
  • Try going away for a few days and you will really notice any changes
  • Ensure you go and observe in all weathers
  • Observe not just the land but your self and the family’s energy e.g. When are you stressed? How long is long enough for visitors? Which jobs get ignored because the tools are too far away? How do you walk through the site, why?
  • It is these observations and social patterns that have influenced my design decisions more than any other.

Output 3 Process Reflection

This is a review of my experience creating my third Gaia University Output centred on a permaculture design for my family’s smallholding.

At the start of this output I imagined creating lovely looking CAD designs of our land for people to swoon over. The lightbulb switched on however when I realised the design isn’t about the drawing at all. Its about the work, sweat, caring intent and passion to create a lifestyle that is truly sustainable in a landscape that is regenerating.

The design isn’t the finished A3 print out, its the process. Its the principles. Each of the A3 summaries I have created about various systems at Brook End have been a major learning journey within themselves. Hours spent pouring over books, looking through course notes, searching online and then walking the land in the pouring rain.

Its been a whole year of absorbing information about these beautiful 4 acres and storing them in the back of my mind somewhere only to be pulled out when decided how we can beneficially intervene in this ecosystem. The pdfs paint a picture but behind the summarised paragraphs are hours of work, years of learning and finally the birthing of a succinct summary that can lead to something in the real world.

Looking through my learning journal which also detail my emotional reflections its clear through this output process I have experienced everything internally from emotional divorce from the project, feeling ‘guilty’ investing so much energy in the project and the garden when I ‘should’ be do the radical organising I was before, to feeling deeply connected to the land and ecstatically alive. This output process has also made me realise that as much as I am emotionally engaged with Brook End, my heart lies in ending animal oppression and I know a lot of work lies beyond these hedgerows.

However I can evaluate the role of Brook End in my life and design my future in a way that the problem is the solution – can Brook End offer a way to support my ‘external’ goals e.g. working to end animal agriculture? Through this output I now see that it can and that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, Brook End is integrated into my pathway and heart for good. Reflecting on this has made me value what role Brook End does play in my life:

– Its an emotional sanctuary, a centre for recharging.
– Is the way to reduce my costs of living
– Is the absolute centre of my earth based life & pathway
– Is the source of nourishment on multiple levels
– Is the centre for my livelihood creation – abundance awaits!
– Is a way that I can actually achieve my social change goals, meaning I can work less allowing more time for social organising. Hence the problem is the solution.

“If one focuses on one’s life passion & purpose, money and all goods will come as a result” – Michael Tierra

The main goal I didn’t achieve was being able to use CAD to produce designs. On reflection the main reasons where:

* The output was already quite computer dense and I couldn’t re-design more computer based work anywhere else into life as my evenings were taken up producing the design report and my days were spent at work or in the garden.
*I’d underestimated how challenging I would find the software, it needs a massive amount more energy and attention than I could give.
*I wanted to embrace the depth and content of the design process instead of concentrating on producing an attractive design
* There’s only so many hours in the day!

These lessons will all be acknowledged in my Output 4 Re-design which will be uploaded shortly. I also intend to complete a 6 month Gaia Uni review which will go into greater depth of what and how I am learning and any elements I’d like to re-design into my pathway for the remaining 6 months.