Permaculture Design after 2020

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    The Coming Renaissance

    I was listening to a Joe Rogan podcast with a guest who was totally within the mainstream narrative of the corona-virus and the measures that are being taken. Joe Rogan played his usual respectful host and listened though I don’t think very many people believed he was in agreement. Regardless, this particular guest happened to say something that changed everything for me and how I perceive the world in 2020 and where we are going.

    First, this guy was saying some of the usual stuff most of which is uncontested: 

    • People are saving money,

    • They are taking less risks,

    • Rents are going down, at least for commercial real estate, 

    • We’re seeing a mass Exodus from cities, 

    • and a new possibility of being connected while dispersed via virtual communications technology. 

    He explained that within a few years there would be a natural shift, for whatever reasons, be it a vaccine or natural herd immunity. He said that people would begin to take risks again. Accumulated resources would flow into new and creative projects. Low rents and open space will create a Renaissance in the cities. But for me the more exciting piece is on the edge.

    Permaculture design principle Number 12 tells us to creatively use and respond to change. When I hear that, I often think in my head, “duh”. It’s like how can I creatively respond to change like gee thanks for the tip buddy. But I get it. We need to design systems that enable us to be in a position for creative response. This is where I often talk about the corollary that suggests that every element has at least three functions and each important function is supported by at least three elements. For example, if you’re well runs dry you still have rainwater catchment to serve the function of potable water.

    But now I think about it in a whole different way. The changes that were brought about in the year 2020 were in many ways completely unforeseen. Of course there were predictions of pandemics looming in our future and some people say that it was not a matter of if but when. But the reality is that for most people this all came as quite a shock. Absolutely, if you had designed your life, perhaps using the permaculture principles, you may have already been relatively resilient and able to creatively respond to the new world that is emerging. Perhaps you had diversified your income streams and your energy dependencies. Perhaps you have a local and resilient food network and a healthy community that works together. But of course very few people have all of that.

    And hearing about his prediction of a Renaissance or another roaring twenties, perhaps in the year 2024, it really got me excited. I began to look at the “parameters of designing with covid”. As I went deeper, I realized that covid has actually paved the way for the emergence of something that many permaculturalists have dreamed of for decades. Let me explain.


    The Parameters of Designing with Covid

    The world has physically closed and virtually opened. Movement is restricted. There is growing awareness and concern of the public health risks of global movement of population. Culturally, there is a shift towards narrowing down the network of people you interact with in person. Yet the raw human desire of interaction and connection still exists. Furthermore, movement of goods may be restricted due to nationalist and isolationist cultural biases and resulting trade wars.

    Before I decided to look at these realities as parameters of an emergent design, I felt pretty crappy. I couldn’t shake this dystopian vision of the future where even children are forced to wear masks and mega cities are full of quarantined people ordering Uber eats. It felt like a void where creativity and resilience had slowly been stamped out, ground into the forgotten realms of what it is to be human. It’s hard to see a way out. My survivalist self was tempted to say “screw it, we messed up. At least I can take care of myself and my family.”

    This is tempting. The idea that those who were prepared shouldn’t worry too much and if you’re unprepared you need to get cracking. But it goes deeper than that period and most people understand that this is not a good outlook to have in life. The challenges we face require communal efforts and the realities of the world after covid has an equal chance of becoming incredible as it does dystopian.

    I’ve always been inspired by the idea of the part-time farmer. Gene Logsdon talks about this in quite a few of his books. The idea is that you work part-time on your homestead or farm, which by definition is not extremely large or demanding, but generates some income and enables you to pay yourself a fair wage for the time you commit to regenerating the landscape. With the other time in your day, you can engage with other activities that either generate income or other types of cultural or social capital. If you’re talented at fixing cars, you could have a homestead and a part-time mechanic gig. Perhaps you’re good at marketing but don’t want to stay behind a computer all day. Moving to the country and engaging in outdoor activities that bring seasonal income can balance the steady income that can only be earned at a computer.

    In 2020 this has become an even attractive possibility. Multinational companies along with small businesses are all moving out of the office and into virtual work-spaces. The need to be in a city is dramatically reduced as more and more professional work happens online. For the first time in recent history younger generations can engage in the global economy from the comfort of a 5 acre Paradise out in the country. This flow and subsequent accumulation will see a reverse brain drain as the young educated populace sees the greener grass and ditches the mega City in search of something more. In the past that meant leaving everything behind including your job and Friends. But now that people can work from home and are no longer allowed to even see their friends, making this leap is much less threatening.

    The emerging gig economy, quite established by now, further reduces the demand for full-time employees. More and more people work part-time hours and have more freedom throughout their day.

    All of this paints a beautiful backdrop that is just missing the central focal point. That focal point is permaculture design, intentional communities, and part-time cottage and farming businesses. 

    What if…?

    Close your eyes and imagine a community of about a thousand people who live on a large piece of land and produce a lot of what they need. This idea is not new. We are probably all familiar with the experiments of intentional communities that began in the 50s and 60s. But now things have changed. You can check out, grow your wing beans, make your tofu, and still be connected to the global economy. 

    For the first time on a mass scale, an educated and connected populace can take up the skills of poverty, live within their means, and set about creating a natural and economic abundance. 1,000 people living in a community with quite tight borders could effectively reduce the perceived threats of viruses while allowing the 1,000 people to interact on a daily basis without masks and threats of contamination. If that community is endowed with land, and they take up permaculture strategies, water, food, and energy should not be concerns. Minimal import of necessary supplies only produced outside of the community give creature comforts within reason. 

    The new design of this system would suggest that anything that can satisfactorily be produced within and by the community should be done so prior to considering importation. Strong local governments based on consensus would emerge with each community having their own unique by-laws. Communities would naturally form around interests and worldviews, bringing together constituents that have common values and beliefs. The level of self-sufficiency of each community would reduce the pressure of limited global resources outside of the communities. 

    I also see this as a way to reconcile the growing division within countries. Creating small communities that attract like-minded people and enable and encourage interactions in person creates a cohesion and harmony that aids in peace. That these groups can also interact with and trade on the global economy allows a distributed Network of small communities that can do business together in real time while remaining firm constituents of their unique bio regions.

    In short the changes brought about by the coronavirus have paved the way for the emergence of intentional communities that are distributed across both urban and rural areas, organized by shared beliefs, and sustainably meeting the majority of their needs through their own efforts, but able to engage the global economy when interested or required.

    Thinking ahead to what the Renaissance will look like when the dust of 2020 settles, I find myself excited at the new possibilities. People once again connecting with each other on common ground and connecting with the Earth in a unique place. Encouraged to slow down to earth speed and stay put while also interacting on a global level. The cultural trauma of seeing others as potential disease vectors will not be soon forgotten. I believe there will be a strong demand for controlled interaction where small groups of people are pre-screened or cleared as healthy and then allowed to move freely within the confines of the community. This would likely satisfy the bureaucratic controls while also providing a good element of freedom of movement, speech, and more within the community.

    It’s easy to get down and out about the current state of the world, but remember that this is just a new set of parameters that will define the design that is emerging. Permaculture design has never been more important in a world post-coronavirus. Growing food, producing local energy, creating local community, and embracing the skills of poverty are now more important than ever. 

    In a sense it’s what we have been waiting for as we long for the environmental movement to fully take hold. I want to be clear that these communities do not represent a downgrade in life in any way. Life would look different within these designs but I would wager that they are much more fulfilling and compatible with social and environmental peace.

    I am once again reminded of principal number 12: creatively use in respond to change. Now is our time to creatively respond to the new design parameters in a post-covid world.

     I hope you enjoyed reading my post . Perhaps you have other ideas or thoughts on this one. If so, please share them below.

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    Nicolas Hernandez Chiyal

    Born and raised in the town of Tzununa, which lies right below Atitlan Organics, Nicholas and Shad have worked since Day 1, helping to craft the this amazing landscape. Nichloas is a supreme ninja farmer with skills beyond explanation. Visitors are endlessly impressed with his resourcefulness, ingenuity, and sheer motivation. Nicholas now owns and operates Las Ensaladas de Atitlan Organics, a business that sells organic produce to over 50 restaurants, hotels, and stores around lake Atitlan.

    Neal Hegarty

    Neal is originally from Ireland. He grew up on a dairy farm and has been around animals all his life. He studied agriculture in Ireland and has worked as a permaculturist for the past 10 years. Neal was the Volunteer Manager at Atitlan Organics for 2 years before co-founding his own Permaculture-based enterprise, Abundant Edge Farm, in Tzununa. He brings a wealth of experience, enthusiasm, and energy into each Intro to Permaculture Course and Permaculture Design Certification Course and we’re happy to continue to collaborate with him!

    Rony Lec

    Rony is one of the world’s leading experts in permaculture and Mayan ancestral knowledge. Rony has spent the last 20 years teaching and implementing permaculture throughout Central, South and North America focusing on promoting food sovereignty and preserving biodiversity for the survival of Indigenous communities.

    Through his extensive work with Indigenous communities on traditional ecological knowledge, seed saving, native plants, local/global food movements, livelihood security, and the interaction between communities and the environment, he has made a key contribution to the empowerment of Indigenous people around the world. Rony is a co-founder of IMAP.

    Zach Loeks

    Hailing from Ottawa, Canada where he and his partner run the 50-acre Kula Permaculture Farm, Zach brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the course. He works as an educator, designer, consultant and farmer, with an emphasis on integrating diversity, conserving soil and maximizing farm ecosystem services while maintaining high productivity.

    Last year Zach published The Permaculture Market Garden, which explores ways that permaculture can be scaled up be a profitable whole-systems enterprise. Zach is a leading figure in permaculture, who brings a new and exciting vision of how it can be integrated into the wider community and marketplace.

    Ashley McDonnell

    Ashley’s work focuses on resurrecting our relationship to the natural world through the development of earth based skills that deepen our connection to place while increasing our sense of sovereignty and resilience. Devoted to the arts of permaculture, natural building, herbalism and birth work as her mediums, Ashley explores with humility the diverse modalities that support us in living in right relationship with the world around us. She views permaculture as a practice that not only creates healthy ecological communities but one that helps to reweave the very fabric of who we are as people. Her work is an offering to the future.

    Holly Mech

    Holly fell in love with yoga because of the sense of connection she felt every time she came to her mat. She began teaching yoga in Chicago in 2011. Her desire to deepen her teaching and personal practice led her to continue her yoga education in California, Bali, Australia and Guatemala. Holly now travels around the world teaching yoga and facilitating yoga teacher trainings. She enjoys helping new teachers sequence yoga classes and incorporate philosophy into their teachings. Her classes are creative and dynamic with an emphasis on making yoga accessible to everyone.

    Holly studied English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and frequently draws inspiration for her classes from literature and poetry. When she’s not on the yoga mat she enjoys exploring nature, singing, dancing and working with textiles.

    Laura Palmieri

    Laura ‘Lala’ Palmieri is a clinical herbalist, a biologist, plant and fungi lover and grower. She offers health consultations to balance body, mind and soul working with medicinal herbs and mushrooms. Her approach to health integrates the knowledge of many ancient traditions and teachers, fusing spirituality with nature, and science with alchemy through the transformation of the elements.

    Lala has spent her years in dialogue with Nature, which has fueled her passion to integrate scientific knowledge and the connection with all beings to help humanity. She integrates her practice with cooking, gardening, and exploring ecosystems. She teaches and facilitates herbal clinics and programs in permaculture, herbalism, botany, fermentation, and medicinal mushroom cultivation, with a regenerative earth care approach and techniques that are accessible to most. She and Sarah co-created the Envision and Cosmic Converge Herbal First Aid Clinics, other relief Clinics in Guatemala for the volcano eruption. You will find Lala crafting remedies for her diverse communities in Guatemala and Costa Rica, where she is actively creating a world with integrated healthcare.

    Sarah Wu

    Sarah is a clinical herbalist of 20 years, studying and practicing planetary eclectic, regenerative herbalism with a foundation in Wise Woman Reclaiming philosophies. Influenced by global traditions, Sarah focuses on local food-based healing and ethnobotanical traditions. She leads trainings and workshops in herbal medicine, Permaculture Design Courses, Therapeutic Deep Ecology, Social Permaculture, field-to-the-plate holistic nutrition, herbal first aid and Tarot. She is a passionate mentor and educator, who believes in the teacher’s role in unlocking the innate wisdom of the student. Sarah is the co-founder of the Village Witches project, and is a Co-Founder and Co-producer of Envision Festival.

    Don Fransisco Simon

    Don Fransisco knows the lands and waters of Tzununa deeper than most anyone alive. His intuitive handling of plants makes the whole system glow, and he is an avid duck enthusiast, maintaining the breeding flocks at Duck Willow, along with his own homestead flock. Aside from that, he oversees the establishment of the perennial agroforestry and aquaculture systems on Duck Willow Farms.

    David 'Brock' Barker

    Brock Barker was raised as an outdoorsman in the marshes and forests of south Louisiana, where he developed a passion for all things plants. After studying horticulture at university, Brock has worked in nurseries, landscaping outfits, and in the facilitation of a horticultural therapy program, and more. His primary ‘work’ for the last 12 years has been developing a 10 acre homestead which serves as personal garden of Eden and educational space for volunteers and workshops. Brock’s proficiency in areas such as mushroom cultivation/ foraging, fermentation, and botany, combined with his infectious enthusiasm make him an integral part of our team.

    Jeremy Dexter Fellows

    Jeremy has focused ten years of study, mentorship and implementation of permaculture design systems back home in Massachusetts. With many years of experience in botany and horticulture, he is fascinated by the world of plants. After working many years in Guatemala, Jeremy has dedicated his focus to land and water management systems that lend to ecological acceleration and social integration through food production. Jeremy now runs granja tzikin, works as a designer and consultant with Regenera and teaches in the Atitlan Organics teachers guild.

    Julia Forest

    Julia is an international yoga teacher, birth doula, women’s health advocate, and closet artist who is passionate about health, environmentalism and empowered birth. She is co-creator of the Sacred Birth Yoga & Doula Training, is founding director of Awakened Spirit Yoga and co-founder of the Wellkind Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on community empowerment and wellbeing through the lens of permaculture. She also created the Sacred Earth Yoga Training, the first yoga teacher training program that combines yoga, mindfulness, permaculture and leadership to transform lives and communities.

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    Your Curriculum

    Your curriculum for the Permaculture Design Certificate includes 20 short courses consumed over a period of 7 weeks, with a final design project to be finalised in the 8th week.

    Week 1: The Spirit of Permaculture

    Week 2: Design Methodologies

    Week 3: Water and Earthworks

    Week 4: Soil and Compost

    Week 5: Plant Power

    Week 6: Animals

    Week 7: Permaculture Niches

    Week 8: Final Design Project

    The Final Design Project Course Module becomes available after completing all of the Content for Week 1 and Week 2. The module serves as a guide for your final design project. We suggest that you work on this throughout the course. The 8th call is reserved for students to present their final design projects. Upon completion of the Final Design Project and all of the Course Content, a Permaculture Design Certificate is awarded.

    Shad Qudsi

    Shad Qudsi has over 13 years experience in organic and commercial gardening and farming. He is certified in Permaculture Design and has over 3 years experience in permaculture design consulting. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a double major in Applied Math and Psychology, Shad and his wife, Colleen, moved to Central America with only vague goals of farming at some point in the near future. In January of 2010, Shad and his wife bought and moved onto a very small farm located in the traditional Mayan village of Tzununa, which on the north shore of Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala. The farm developed into Atitlan Organics and now mainly focuses on greens and chickens, a large edible and useful plant nursery, a food forest, and training and education.  Shad is an enthusiastic teacher who truly believes in the work he is doing. Human resiliency cannot be erased from the landscape and now, it is coming back with a loving grace.