Collaboratively Realising Permaculture’s Potential
On honouring Indigenous Tradition, Ancestors, Spirit and Intuition in our Permaculture Design Processes with Laura Adams
In this episode we explore part of what it means, or might mean, to bring indigenous perspectives to permaculture design with Laura Adams from Seven Winds LLC in Maryland, USA. This episode started with an email from Laura sharing some thoughts on the last episode:
Greetings Dan,I have been listening to your podcast with great interest over the last several months whilst taking part in Geoff Lawton’s online PDC. (Although I have been exploring permaculture for many years) I am also a supporter of and very excited about the Reading Landscape Film, congratulations on making the goal. I was prompted to send this note when I heard the most recent podcast you released regarding a conversation with your core group about systems thinking and more. In that podcast you encouraged your listeners to hit pause and answer the question(s) themselves prior to continuing to passively listen which led me to engage with the conversation more actively and I thought there may be a value in sharing a perspective.I agree with you that when you prod systems thinking, it quickly dissolves back to parts, and I believe this is because it evolved from parts thinking (or mechanistic thinking) in the first place. However generative or regenerative thinking is totally different (until the word gets co-opted). I come at permaculture from the perspective of a cultural and spiritual root which is Kongo-Taino out of the Caribbean. When we look at something (be it a person, place, river, mountain, event), the first thing we acknowledge is that it is “Un Misterios” (effectively a spirit) and we know that we cannot possibly understand it fully and if we pull it into its parts, the essence of it (the spirit) will disappear on us. The mode of approach is one of listening and sensing and letting it tell us about itself, knowing that this process could be indefinite. Over time that place (or person, animal, what have you) slowly reveals different aspects or understandings of itself to us, if we continue to pay attention (or “follow the trail”).For sake of illustration, let’s say we are talking about a particular land, it could be a “property” a landowner has purchased. Your typical permaculture designer is going to go in and analyze it for water, access, structures and the various desires the landowner expresses interest in. This is a big improvement on blindly going in a throwing structures and access wherever. However, the land itself has its own spirit, as does everyone who lives on it. I really do not see that permaculture as taught even tries to understand this. The reason is simple, it cannot be measured, easily seen, or “proven”. This is where Indigenous or Re-indigenized culture clashes with Permaculture. I understand that people want to shy away from terms that cannot fully be defined such as “spirit” (or even essence). However geometry is built upon three undefined terms- a point, line and plane. I do understand why permaculture teachers do not want to get into these waters, (there would be a big backlash and accusations of pseudoscience). Yet, permaculture wants to cosy up with Indigenous cultures (and it should do this to reach its potential). However, if you do want to cosy up with Indigenous cultures, then you have to be ready to see life as infinite worlds within worlds, each one essentially Un Misterios.Keep up the good work!Laura Seven Winds LLC
To which I replied:
Laura thank you so much for your beautiful email where everything you share resonates with and inspires me deeply. Isn't it such a muddle how we find ourselves trying to force the deep beautiful mysterious and sacred essence-spirit of a place into our puny little mechanical containers and how in doing so we cut ourselves off from perhaps the most deeply nourishing and soul-warming energies there are to access as a human being (namely relaxing back ...
Inquiring into Systems Thinking
In a world first for this project, this episode shares one of last year's sessions with the Making Permaculture Stronger Developmental Community.
Huge thanks to Han Kortekaas, Ronella Gomez, Nicholas Franz, Zola Rose, Barry Gibson, Jon Buttery, Arthur Buitelaar, Dan Milne, Byron Birss & Joel Mortimer for co-creating this with me and for their gracious permission to share here. Here are some of us during a more recent session.
Learn more about the Making Permaculture Stronger Developmental Community here.
Below is the section on systems thinking in the book Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloom & Dave Boehnlein (p. 18) that is mentioned during this episode. This section is viewable as a free preview at google books. Similarly, you can also check out page 20 of Toby Hemenway's The Permaculture City here if you like.
From Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloom & Dave Boehnlein
Five Principles of Healthy Design Process with John Carruthers
In this episode my friend John Carruthers shares five insights or principles he’s distilled during five years of developing a 70-acre property in Central Victoria, Australia. It was an honour to act for a part of the journey as what John describes as a ‘robust river guide,’ and I am so thrilled to see John and his partner Rosie in full stewardship of their own process and the beautiful forms that are emerging from it.
Here is the video we mention several times in the chat – thanks to John for permission to share it here.
John also sent these further notes:
a) the deep ripping across the southern half of the property begun this year is an “option value” decision because it’s an excellent BNS (Best Next Step) for almost any other activity thereafter, be it cover-crop pre-pasture, shelter belt tree planting, or agroforestry or silvopasture. It’s a valuable precursor step.b) The widely-spaced keylined beds in one paddock is where we’ve begun planting oaks, silky oaks, cedar and native pines as a long-term (inter-generational) agroforestry / silvopasture trial. We have planted several hundred this year and forecast planting three times that over a few years. The oaks are being planted from acorns we collected and germinated. This first planting is our BNS before switching focus to the house site early next year.Also the quote I cited “I count him braver who overcomes his desires, than who conquers his enemies – for the hardest victory is over self” is by Aristotle NOT Socrates – as I may have suggested :-)
If anyone is interested in connecting with John or in the services of drone pilot and film maker Peter Watts send me a message and I can connect you.
I also tracked down this video of my first visit to Limestone road, which we talk about in the chat too.
and I found this one also:
Finally I am excited to announce that today is the first day of our in-house six week crowd funding campaign for the Reading Landscape Documentary Film project. Come get amongst!
Tyson Yunkaporta on permaculture, systems thinking & the pattern of creation (E62)
It was my pleasure to yarn with Sand Talk author Tyson Yunkaporta on permaculture and much else. Tyson's perspective complements and contrasts with that of Leah Penniman in the last episode. Please do tell me what you got from the chat in the comments below!
Permaculture isn't a form of gardening - it's a method of inquiry about relationships - that's all it is. And it's awesome and in that way it's similar to traditional ecological knowledge from all over the planet and it's a constantly shifting evolving body of knowledge too, that's never the same in the same place twice. Love it!Tyson Yunkaporta
The above quote comes from this talk between Tyson and my friends at the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance:
Also a big shout out to my my three friends Woody, Meg and Patrick who make up Artist as Family who Tyson speaks about in the yarn. Coincidentally Woody is to appear in our upcoming documentary film about reading landscape. To learn more about that project visit the website www.ReadingLandscape.org and either subscribe to the newsletter or donate to get invited to a free project zoom call on July 15, 2021, with David Holmgren, filmmaker Dave Meagher, and myself.
Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm on Permaculture, Decolonisation, and Re-Indigenising
It was a deep honour to have Leah Penniman from Soul Fire Farm join me for this conversation. Along with Leah's beautiful sharing, I was grateful for the feelings the conversation evoked (many of which only emerged when I listened to our chat again afterwards). I feel like I gained some powerful waypoints in navigating the journey back home. A journey I'm sure I'm not alone in craving.
I also appreciated hearing the heartache Leah has around certain patterns she perceives permaculture to be perpetuating. My focus in the conversation was about inviting and engaging with Leah's perspective. A perspective which comes from her standing outside permaculture and looking in. I would love to hear your perspective in the comments below. What of Leah's experience of permaculture resonates with your own? What, if anything, doesn't? What impact, if any, does you listening to this episode have on your journey forward?
Learn more about Soul Fire Farm here, and check out a rich trove of Leah sharings on youtube here. This one's a goodie:
And here's one helpful summary vid in which Leah shares the Soul Fire Farm journey:
Also here's a link to the work of Toshi Reagon (see also Toshi's Opera about Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower Opera) that Leah recommends during our chat. Which, by the way, I must mention happened way back on January 8th, 2021.
What did this conversation evoke in you? Would you like to hear more conversations of this nature on the show? Should I share Tyson Yunkaporta's perspectives on the same matters in the next episode? Please let me know in a comment below!
Engaging the Design Web with Looby Macnamara (e60)
In this conversation, which follows on from the previous episode, explores Looby Macnamara's design web. We dive into the topic of emergent design process, and in particular Looby's design web approach to designing anything. I was pleasantly surprised to discover in my preparations for this chat that Looby is a co-traveller in the realm of design process innovation, earnestly striving via the design web to get free of traps such as:
Viewing design process as a linear sequence of stepsThe logical fallacy of having "design" be one of the steps within the whole "design" processHaving observation as a step as if at some point you stop observingGetting too prescriptive about the end state you are heading towardSeparating planning from action in ways that cripple the possibility of the best outcomes and discoveriesGetting paralysed by complexityGetting stuck in one's headMechanical (as opposed to biological and ecological) metaphors
Learn more about Looby's work including books and courses at her Cultural Emergence site here. Also if you're keen to have Looby support you / us in applying the design web to something in our own lives, make a comment below and if there is enough interest and enthusiasm we'll make it so!
Here is the design web:
Looby Macnamara's Design Web
Here is a juicy quote I pulled out from Looby's latest book Cultural Emergence:
The Design Web is a non-linear process with non-linear outcomes and possibilities. Emergent design reflects the flexibility and unexpectedness of Cultural Emergence. It allows for solutions to emerge that take the design in a new direction. It is organic, responsive, adaptive, fluid, flowing and dynamic. As the design emerges we continue to weave our way between the anchor points. An attitude of emergence enables us to flow and move with what is arising. It recognises that things are not always as they seem, there is more to discover and be revealed. The process is alchemical with surprises along the way.Designing regenerative cultures is an ongoing process of emergence, not a permanent destination. We are designing for and with living systems that are organic, dynamic and unpredictable. We are setting direction and intentions. It is an invitation for change, rather than being exact or prescriptive.Looby Macnamara in Cultural Emergence
Deep exploration of ideas
Fantastic podcast focused on deep issues around improving permaculture design. sometimes it feels like this podcast is really teetering on the edge of the known world and that Dan and friends are really out there on the cutting edge in the business of humans designing things in the world; exploring, discovering and explaining the terrain as they go. This show will definitely expand how you think about the world
Certainly making it stronger
Certainly THE podcast if you are interested in the future philosophy and practice of Permaculture planning and practice. Dan’s own articulations on this discussion echo through the common experience of planners on the ground experience. His wisdom and open enquiry approach along with the amazing guests will have your mind buzzing for weeks . Just do it and subscribe. I would be so dramatic to say I can’t live without this now in my life!! Thanks Dan .
Love a passionate rant
Excellent conversations with interesting people. Im enjoy Dan’s ability and desire to really delve deeper, I have just done a PDC and that where to from here and how to build on my very basic knowledge to do some good stuff. Thank you