I’ve been witnessing an incredible surge of permaculture interest, classes, demonstration gardens and research at colleges and universities over the past few years. It is very exciting to see this happening, all across the world!
A team of us from UMass Permaculture are creating a venue for all of the campus permaculture groups and individuals to come together, in one place. We’re calling it the Permaculture Your Campus Conference (2nd annual!) and it is happening this June 23-26 at UMass Amherst.
- Watch the 2-minute conference informational video here!
- Register today (by April 22) and save $100!
- Need a scholarship? We have money! More info. here:
Keynote speakers include urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter and award-winning author, Eric Toensmeier, plus many other presentations from campus permaculture designers, students and faculty.
We hope that you’ll consider coming and/or passing this e-mail along to students, faculty, staff and permaculture designers who are working to make their local institutions or campuses more sustainable, using permaculture strategies, tools and techniques. Or anyone you think who might benefit from this conference!
More info. below, and see attachments. Thanks, everyone and onwards!
- Sample Facebook/Twitter (to copy/paste!): Check out Campus Permaculture Conference @UMassAmherst June 23-26! http://youtu.be/jZ4mqB0udK0 Keynote speakers Majora Carter and Eric Toensmeier
About the Permaculture Your Campus Conference
The Permaculture Your Campus Conference is not your typical sustainability conference. We began two years ago because we saw an opportunity for campuses to play a unique and integral role in transitioning our culture into one that is truly sustainable. Globally we face some significant challenges, including climate change, peak oil, and social and economic instability, to name a few. It’s critical that we find solutions fast.
But we believe that we already have many of the solutions, and campuses can pioneer the global sustainability movement by using permaculture as their guiding framework. Over two million freshman students enter colleges every single year in the United States alone. What if those students learned the “basics of sustainability” during their college experience, and brought that new paradigm out into the world with them, into hundreds of different fields?
The mission of the 2013 Permaculture Your Campus Conference is to bring together students, faculty and staff from international colleges, universities, and businesses to learn why and how permaculture design is being used as the guiding framework for some of the most cutting-edge sustainability programs around the world.
At this conference, attendees will examine diverse models of institutional sustainability that were designed using the campus permaculture toolset. Participants are also able to gain hands-on permaculture experience and explore transformative strategies for creating a culture of sustainability at college campuses and other organizations.
Whether you’re a student or faculty or staff participating in campus sustainability, a dining services manager or in the physical plant, this conference will provide you with a new set of tools that will help you in your job, and will help your institution become a leader in the international sustainability and permaculture movements.
Last week I came back from a 5-day trip to Sunny California… which was very refreshing on many fronts – the first being that I left the two feet of Massachusetts behind! #Nemo buried my car for nearly two weeks (I didn’t shovel it off), but since I don’t use it much these days, it wasn’t much of an inconvenience. It’s nice not having to depend on a car!
I arrived at LAX on February 15 at 5:00pm. I was picked up by my hosts Wesley Roe and Margie Bushman, who are two of the most effective and brilliant permaculture organizers that I’ve met. I was exhausted and also speaking the very next day in San Luis Obispo, so we called it quits early but made sure to stop for some excellent Mexican food along the Malibu coast.
Saturday afternoon I found myself on the Cal Poly campus, offering my own personal story as well as the story of UMass Permaculture (from only my perspective!) About 40 people were in attendance, mostly students, and we had some great discussions. A lot of it was centered around using permaculture as the “How” to create a true culture of sustainability on any college campus. The UMass Auxiliary Enterprises Sustainability Team is one such group that’s doing this. The team consists of 4 full time staff, 2 part-time, and 4 student interns. They use permaculture design as their guiding framework for achieving departmental sustainability goals, and they have been quite effective at that (winning 8 national sustainability awards in less than two years – see White House Campus Champions of Change!)
Recently I’ve been defining both sustainability and permaculture in my talks (each a difficult concept to define.) Here’s how I describe them, and I’m looking for feedback!
History of “Sustainability”:
Sustainability is a commonly misunderstood concept by the mainstream culture, as it developed a reputation of being solely about ecological issues from the start. Yet environmental sustainability is just one of “three legs of the sustainability stool,” as it’s often referred to.
However, many individuals working in the sustainability field now have a different definition (and visual representation) of sustainability, with many referring to 4 pillars of sustainability (economic, social, environmental and cultural.) The last being the hardest to define.
I personally see it a little bit differently. For me, I believe that a culture of sustainability is what we’re striving for. A sustainable culture means we are practicing sustainability in all of our environmental, social and economic systems – it encompasses the entirety (though, once we get here we can strive for a regenerative culture, but that’s a bit too much for most people to think about!) For now, we need to figure out how to solve the environmental, social and economic issues to get to a place of having a truly sustainable culture.
This all sounds great… right? Most of us believe in our hearts and our minds why we need to make our culture more sustainable… so that we can continue living here, and create a better world for our future generations. But we’re all still searching for that how!
I have a theory (borrowed from others.) It’s a bold one, I must warn you. The theory is that all of the issues we currently face can be attributed back to a shift in human awareness, and it happened not too long ago. What I’m referring to is the disconnect of humans with nature. We see ourselves as separate from nature – humans being right here and nature is somewhere “out there.”
We often say things like:
- “I’m going to go for a walk in nature, today.” OR
- “Going out to sit in nature.”
And thus we believe the rest of our time, when we’re not walking through a forest, or a field… such as when we’re in our house, walking down the street or driving in our cars, or walking in a city.. that we’re not in nature.
Now, I’m not trying to criticize anyone, nor do I have it figured out how to say it differently. But I’m simply sharing this with you all so that we begin to think critically about the language we use, and ask ourselves “is our language perpetuating the disconnect between humans and nature?”
It’s only been a recent shift that we’ve see ourselves as separate from nature, and some of us think of our species as above nature… and that we can disregard it and just do our own thing altogether. We often try to “one-up” nature, and think we can do it better, because we’re so smart…us humans! That’s when we run into problems, at least from my point of view.
I realize this may sound like a bold claim – that all of the world’s issues can be attributed back to human-nature disconnect. Many of you might disagree. That’s ok! My goal is for this to serve as a conversation starter.
But I want to transition of out this thought and offer another way of looking at this:
Here’s another way of looking at it:
- “We are nature, working!” – Penny Livingston-Stark
If we start thinking about it this way, and talking about our relationship to nature as being one and the same, then it could be a huge game changer. Why is that? Well, why would we do anything to hurt nature, or disrupt the balance, or conduct any activities that are unsustainable? If we hurt nature, we’re inevitably hurting ourselves. If everyone thought in this way, things could really change. Now, this is not anything new. This is ancient wisdom that we’ve just simply gotten away from. I believe it’s our job, all of us who are living today, to try and re-member this, to re-learn some of it, and to re-shape our culture for the better.
The Earth has been here for what… billions of years, right? Much longer than we humans have! And a lot of us now are recognizing that humans have made some mistakes – that there are a lot of problems we’ve caused… so how do we find the answers? How do we create a sustainable culture?
I believe the answers are already here. They are right in front of us, but we can’t see them…yet! I believe if we look to nature, we’ll find the answers.
Nature provides the how! This is the best way I can describe the concept permaculture.
- Permaculture has commonly been misunderstood as solely focusing on permanent agriculture, or designing only sustainable agriculture systems.
- Permaculture actually focuses on much more than agriculture – food systems are just one piece of the permanent or sustainable culture that we’re trying to create. But food and health is a very important one, and a great point of entry!
Permaculture is defined as…
- An ecological design science rooted in observation of nature.
- A whole systems design science used to create sustainable communities, campuses, businesses, and societies based on principles and patters found in nature.
The focus of permaculture is…
- To design and establish societal systems that provide for humanity’s material and non-material needs such as food, water, shelter, energy, health, and happiness in a way that is symbiotic and synergistic with the Earth’s natural ecosystems.
- We can design all of our human systems in a way that mimics the structure and function of a natural and healthy ecosystem. That includes our people systems, and how we organize ourselves, and make decisions… those are the social ecosystems that can also be designed to mimic plant ecosystems.
- “If sustainable culture” is where we want to be,
- Then permaculture will help get us there.”
Some food for thought – I’d love to hear your comments!
We had some great discussions at Cal Poly and Santa Barbara… I was honored to meet some incredible individuals who are doing similar work as I / the UMass Sustainability Team & UMass Permaculture Committee, but on a different coast! The Cal Poly Permaculture Club has a wonderful ¼ acre permaculture garden that was started just last year. At Santa Barbara City College, they already have a beautiful 3-acre botanic garden… and now a group of students, faculty and staff (with support from the campus president, whom I got to meet!) is proposing to create a campus permaculture garden near the dining commons, similar to what we started at UMass Amherst.
How I think of it, a campus permaculture garden is simply a conversation starter for a much larger vision of a sustainable campus culture. A permaculture-designed garden demonstrates a physical representation of what permaculture is: human design using principles and patterns found in nature, to create sustainable systems. A garden is a great point of entry, because it is extremely accessible, affordable, empowering, energizing, collaborative, community building and fun! But it is by no means the only place to start, nor the only place to focus on.
We frame our permaculture gardens at UMass Amherst as an example of how to design a sustainable culture: a garden that mimics the structure and function of healthy and natural (non-human designed) ecosystem. Our team is now using the same permaculture design process and tools to help create a culture of sustainability on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, which is a very big and complicated task!
I like to conclude my talks with this. The only tool that’s not in a permaculturalist’s toolbox is the cookie cutter.
Every campus is different. There are different people, departments, cultural norms, and different ways of doing things at each place. It will therefore look a little bit different everywhere… yet the same process of observing and designing by nature can be used no matter where you are, who you are, what the existing conditions are, etc. My work is currently focused on college campuses and transitioning them to become hubs for sustainability education, demonstration and research. But there are many other leverage points that we need to be focusing on, simultaneously! That’s where we need a movement…
If we begin thinking of ourselves as part of nature, understanding and experiencing that we are nature, I believe that the big answers we’re seeking to some of the world’s most challenging issues will come a lot sooner and easier than we think.
Award-winning permaculture expert discusses sustainability at City College
Ryan Harb, a certified permaculture designer, created eco-friendly gardens on his college’s campus as part of his senior thesis. His efforts brought him to Washington, D.C. last year where he accepted The White House Campus Champions of Change award and shook President Barack Obama’s hand.
“This hand shook [Obama’s] hand,” said Harb, as he held up his right hand. “A lot of people like to shake my hand now… but I did wash it!”
Earlier this week, Harb came to City College to discuss methods of integrating permaculture into community and daily life. His lecture took place Sunday, Feb. 17 in the BC Forum on West Campus.
Permaculture is a term used to describe a self-sufficient ecosystem without interference from pesticides and fertilizers.
Harb began his career as a student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he created a sustainable garden on his personal front lawn for his Green Building degree thesis.
“I got to defend my thesis in my garden and I was barefoot,” said Harb. “It was pretty cool.”
After a year of work, he was ready to share his garden with the local media and his school.
Upon noticing a vast interest in permaculture among students, Harb began planting gardens around his campus. He has since been hired by his alma mater as the Permaculture Academic Program Coordinator. He has completed a project every year and created jobs for students post-graduation.
Adam Green, assistant professor for the biological sciences department and director for the Center for Sustainability, commented that fully integrated campuses are necessary to start a change. Teaching students in classrooms and leading by example outside the classroom motivates students more.
Harb insisted that no precise formula leads to creating a self-sustaining college campus and every project is different because of varying circumstances.
“The only tool that’s not in a permaculturist’s toolbox is a cookie cutter,” he said.
Creating community through gardening is the heart of a permaculture project. He said he wants to “create a buzz,” grow healthy and local food, and make an easily replicable and affordable model that others can mimic.
The workshop, which preceded the lecture, was taught with the help of Cal Poly graduate Alex Vincent and City College student Daniel Parra Hensel. With activities targeted at helping participants realize their skills and time spent brainstorming, solutions for conserving the environment began to take shape.
“I would be able to help envision a new world order,” said Vincent in an exercise demonstrating the groups’ talents.
The lecture was co-sponsored by the City College Center for Sustainability and the Santa Barbara Permaculture Network.
Are you interested in learning more about permaculture? Do you like working with elementary school students? Do you want to engage in a cool project helping design and implement small-scale pemaculture gardens RIGHT HERE in Amherst?
THIS SPRING SEMESTER is your chance! Permaculture in the Pioneer Valley (STOCKSCH290) is a 3 credit hands-on course offered through the Stockbridge School of Agriculture! In this course we will be designing, planning, and implementing small-scale permaculture gardens at local elementary schools.
A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO:
-Receive credits engaging in meaningful work in your community!
-Work with elementary school students and faculty, volunteers, and community members
-Learn the basics of permaculture design
-Make productive food-producing spaces at local elementary schools!
-Work in small groups and meet new (fun) people!
-Learn more about your local food system
-And so much more!
CONTACT US ASAP!
We are looking for 4-6 more students to be a part of a highly motivated dynamite permaculture team! Informal interviews will be conducted over the next two weeks as we must finalize the class roster at the start of this spring semester.
Sarah Berquist: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Don’t miss out on this engaging, hands-on, fun opportunity to make a difference in your community!
Even more info by downloading the following word document here
Very cool example of appropriate technology being demonstrated at the Whole Systems Research farm in Vermont. Very cool video – worth the watch! This gets me wanting a warm outdoor winter shower of my own!
Janine Benyus gives an inspiring TED Talk about biomimicry. “The answers to all of design challenges are already out there… we just needed to change the lenses through which we see the world.”
By observing nature and mimicking natural systems, then applying the ecological principles to our own human designed systems, we are first acknowledging that we are part of nature and not separate from it. That’s a big shift in mindset from where our species is at currently. Rather than placing us on a higher level than other species, we acknowledge that we are all part of the same system and each one of us plays an integral role to keeping the entire ecosystem in check.
By mimicking the structure and function of natural systems and designing by nature in everything we do, we are much more likely to create systems that are sustainable and even regenerative – that actually improve the health of everything that surrounds us.
Permaculture author Peter Bane speaks in Amherst this Thursday, December 13 – 6pm @Food For Thought books. His talk is entitled “Designing Resilient Communities: How our Towns and Suburbs can Incubate the new Eco-Agriculture and Launch a Food Security Revolution”
Book signing to follow! Hope to see many of you there and more info below.
Designing Resilient Communities: How our Towns and Suburbs can Incubate the new Eco-Agriculture and Launch a Food Security Revolution
with Peter BanePlease join us Thursday, December 13th at 6 pm at Food For Thought Books, 106 N Pleasant St. Amherst for a talk and book signing with Peter Bane.Peter Bane is the author of The Permaculture Handbook: Garden Farming for Town and Country (2012), an authoritative guide to the world’s leading popular design science for North American readers. Long the publisher and editor of Permaculture Activist, and a teacher and landscape designer who has worked in both temperate and tropical regions of the Americas, he is now pioneering a microfarm on the edge of Bloomington, Indiana.
“For readers with a quarter-acre lot or a small farm, in the city, suburbs, or beyond, The Permaculture Handbook offers a clear and comprehensive picture of what low-impact, high-satisfaction living can look like in the post-petroleum age. Starting now, readers can locate themselves easily within the narrative of growing land care, regenerative community, and a robust and capable household economy. Learn how to reduce dependence on money, on fossil fuels, and on distant supplies of critical resources. The book answers such vital questions as: How much food will the family need; what kinds of crops are most important and valuable to grow; where can we invest our scarce financial resources for the biggest return; how can the farm enhance local ecosystems and communities; what tools and machines are really needed to take care of the land; and a thousand others. More importantly, it teaches the reader how to make complex decisions about land and livelihood consistent with new and emerging economic and ecological realities.”