Saturday, November 21, 2009

Permaculture: Important Positive Change

I am excited to be stretching into some relatively unknown areas of my ability, by taking on the role of a bi-weekly columnist for a new free paper in Vancouver known as "The Agora." Look for it the next time you are out and about. Below is my submission for this weeks issue. As each article is produced I will continue to post here on Pursuing Permaculture. Since Tanya and I started this blogspot two years ago neither of us have been able to give it the attention it deserves, now that we are moving off of the orchard, we will be able to engage our permaculture activities full time and that includes this space. Please stay in touch and let us know how we are doing, share with you friends.

Regards Jesse

Permaculture: Important Positive Change

By Jesse Lemieux

Like most important activities on the planet, permaculture has very little recognition in the main stream media. Consequently, only a few people know what permaculture is and the role it is playing in the dramatically changing physical, political, cultural and social climates. Even fewer people understand or are aware of what impact permaculture is having locally. In actual fact, permaculture practitioners are active, and determined to be a positive and functioning part of the design overhaul that global society is presently undergoing.

I have been involved with the global permaculture community for a little longer than three years now. In late 2006 I went on a three month trip to Australia seeking an education in permaculture design. I really didn’t know what I was getting into. After my design class, for the first time in my life I felt empowered to make a difference on what ever scale I could. Rather than a world of scarcity I began seeing endless opportunities and abundance amongst all the chaos. I arrived home and immediately started to share with any one who would listen. In late 2007, my wife Tanya and I left Canada to build our practical permaculture experience Down-Under. Our journey lead all over eastern Australia to the Middle East and finally landed us on Denman Island, BC in September of 2008. We have settled here, managing an apple orchard and running our young permaculture education and consultancy, Pacific Permaculture. In this time we have encountered all edges of the permaculture movement, from the global to the local.

In the Beginning there was Bill Mollison, a disgruntled and brilliant academic. In the early 80‘s and the twilight of his life and career, he composed the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) curriculum and travelled the world teaching to all who wanted change. He knew that the only way to catalyze truly positive change was to teach more teachers. The message he taught was “earth care, people care and return of surplus.” During its first two decades permaculture was taken up by little more than a fringe few in the developed world and a handful of aid projects in less fortunate places. More recently, as the design system produces more and more credible results, permaculture has seen an explosion in popularity and growth. In Australia, Mollison’s country of origin, permaculture has entered the curriculum at all levels of institutional education and still maintains its strongest presence in the grassroots. Permaculture can not be brought under copy write and controlled by a central authority, as the term “permaculture” was gifted to all graduates of the (PDC), a clever strategic play by Mollison. This open source character has kept permaculture widely accessible and truly democratic. In this merit-based teaching system, good teachers have students and poor teachers don’t. Credibility can only be built upon ones results in the field, not locked up behind the walls of a large organization. Mollison’s efforts produced the first generation of permaculture educators and designers. That generation has done its job well, as it is not uncommon to come across a fifth or sixth generation PDC student. In 2006 I was lucky enough to have been trained by Mollison himself.

The average permaculturalist is just that: average. Permaculture is such a straightforward and practical approach to designing human habitat and settlement that anybody who is interested in positive action can easily understand the basic principles. The inherent simplicity and elegance of permaculture design, the common sense solutions and the lack of glamour makes permaculture the effective agent of change it has become. Boil down the movement and most permaculturalists, if any, have little interest in making a name for themselves. They measure success less by fame and reputation and more by the results they get in the field.

Permaculture designers relish a challenge, pitting their design skills against the most difficult of climates and landscapes. As a result, permaculture is most well known for its application in aid projects and grassroots development activities in the world’s most impoverished regions. The most well known example to date is Geoff Lawton’s hyper-arid design installation in the Dead Sea Valley of Jordan. A student of Mollison’s, Lawton used elegant earth shaping design to fully utilize all available rain water. With the help of hardy pioneering tree species Lawton transformed the dead and salted desert land into a permanent, self-watering and self-sustaining forestry and crop agricultural system. This seminal work has been well documented in video. Check out the following two websites: and, for a full synopsis.

This important work by Lawton has inspired thousands globally, myself included, to take up training in permaculture design and get active in their communities. An excellent local example is Permaculture Vancouver. Permaculture Vancouver is a local group that meets once per month to share experience and inspiration in permaculture design. Only 7 months old and 165 members strong, many have taken a permaculture design certificate but most haven’t. This group is fully open to all levels of understanding and interest. They are moving fast and have already been seen with a booth at the PNE and doing urban permaculture makeovers in yards throughout Vancouver. If you want to get hands on experience and learn more about permaculture I encourage you to head out to one of the monthly meetings. You can contact this group at:

Monolithic governments and universities, and those entrenched in such institutions, will still be talking about how to manipulate “sustainable consumer” behavior, long after permaculture teachers have empowered and educated society in the art and design of a local production culture. I do not understate the complexity and scale of the problems we face, some days it can feel daunting. The potential solutions can seem just as overwhelming. I do concede that the change required on a global scale is truly staggering. However that change is massive only for the the shear number of small scale and local initiatives required. I do not faithfully and blindly believe that “everything little thing is gona be alright.” I do, however, know that if we choose to, each and every one of us can initiate and sustain significant and positive change. The first step is to stop complaining about what we don’t want, and ask the question: What do we want? From that all important question we can take steps towards a different world. This is exactly what permaculture designers and educators are doing. They both empower with information and implement appropriate small scale solutions wherever they go.


quintadosmelros said...

Hi there!
Great work.....would like to see some more photos of what you guys are doing! I am doing permaculture too in Portugal, building a strawbale house and creating a forest garden as well as lots of networking!


Anonymous said...

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