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The vision of The Fifth Sacred Thing is highly informed by the insights and tools of permaculture, a system of ecological design that teaches us how to work with nature to meet our needs while regenerating the environment around us. I just wanted to share a few of my inspirations from the Northern California Permaculture Convergence, which took place October 12-14 at Greenfriends Farm in Castro Valley, California.
Friday night, I was one of the keynote speakers along with Penny Livingston-Stark, who was my first permaculture teacher and a great friend and inspiration. She showed slides of the wonderful work they are doing at the Regenerative Design Institute out in Bolinas, where they offer many courses, including long-term and advanced permaculture design, leadership courses and collaboration with Jon Young and some of the Nature Awareness teachers to combine tracking, bird language and primitive skills with the thoughtful and protracted observation permaculture encourages.
I’m going to assume, of course, that I was inspiring. My talk focused on what we’ve come to call ‘social permaculture’—the need to focus on how we interact, how we nurture the people involved in a project as well as we care for the vegetables. And vegetables are so much simpler–and quieter–than people! They don’t argue, they stay where you put them…I drew on material from my book, The Empowerment Manual, and suggested some principles of people care: valuing relationships, valuing diversity, feeding what we want to grow in ourselves and in others.
Saturday night, the keynote speaker was Geoff Lawton, who is taking over the mantle of leadership from Bill Mollison, one of permaculture’s founders. Geoff has done large-scale projects all over the world, from greening the desert in Jordan to major refugee camps in the Balkans to a site in China the size of Belgium where eroded, desiccated loess hills were brought back to fertility and productivity using permaculture techniques. Geoff is the director of the Permaculture Research Institute, and their website has a wealth of inspiring stories, videos and information.
And on Sunday, there was another great presentation by Mark Lakeman of the Planet Repair Institute in Portland, Oregon. Mark cofounded City Repair, which transforms intersections into gathering places, sponsors a Village Building Convergence in Portland each year and creates some of the most beautiful, imaginative, totally out-of-the-box projects you can imagine, from a bus with wings to a chicken palace shaped like an egg. Mark is one of our co-conspirators on The Fifth Sacred Thing movie project—many of his drawings are featured in our video, and you can see more of his work at the City Repair website.
Want to learn more about permaculture? Starhawk will be teaching an Earth Activist Training together with Charles Williams and with special guest teacher Erik Ohlsen in northern California January 6-21. You’ll get the full permaculture design certificate course, with a focus on organizing and social permaculture and a grounding in spirit. She’d love to see you there!
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