We can be sure about that, as we have an actual rocket scientist on the course we began yesterday. My impression is that people from increasingly diverse backgrounds are finding their way to permaculture. We have had medical doctors and architects before, and indeed we have an architect this time too, joined by a concert violinist, a folk musician and more. The new friend I just mentioned works for British aerospace designing the wings for the Airbus and like all the others is seeking a broader perpsective on the world and to feel more connected to the many pressing issues of the day.
Turning problems into solutions, using observation, is central to what permaculture design is all about, and that has been the focus of our first day. Permaculture begins with observation and that process begins with the realisation that we are part of a bigger living system, the biosphere, where everything is in some way connected to everything else. Humanity’s greatest folly is forgetting that we are merely part of a bigger whole, when we detach ourselves from the environment we are part of we somehow lose a vital perspective, something that allows us to objectify the external world and see it as a pile of resources for exploitation and there in lies the destructive processes that underpin almost all of our current thinking.
Using this way of thinking, many problems are ‘fixed’ merely by addressing the symptoms, rather than understanding the root cause of the issue, which often leads to increasing the severity of the problem. Using permaculture to look at systems as a whole, rather than elements in isolation, solutions can be found for the root cause of the issue that also have beneficial consequences elsewhere in the system.
The Chikukwa Project in Zimbabwe was presented to the group as an example of this. Two decades ago, deforestation and over-grazing meant any rainfall ran straight off the barren land, leading to drought. Following a three year consultation, the community began work to retain water in the landscape through digging swales, and started to propagate hardy leguminous plants and make compost. Animals were tethered to prevent grazing and encourage vegetation growth. Over a period of several years, trees became part of the landscape once more, retaining water, building more fertile soil, and increasing biodiversity in a positive reinforcing process.