Why Take a Permaculture Design Course?

It has been our observation that  one becomes more aware of climate change, species extinction, financial instability, global poverty, hunger, water shortage, GMO food uncertainty, health care crisis and the possibility of  continuous increases in fuel costs for the rest of one’s life and more people react in a few different ways as follows:

  1. Some move towards ignore-ance of a sort, saying to themselves that ‘yes, these circumstances may be happening, but I am going to just focus on my life, meeting my needs, connecting with my friends and trying to get by with as much joy as I can muster through life.’   Those topics tend not to come up in polite conversation and television, sports and facebook will occupy enough time that I will in general forget about these things, or reasonably rationalize that someone else is taking care of these things and I will adapt when/if I need to change.
  2. Others seem to move towards aggressive outright denial, developing an almost overtly aggressive posture when confronted with such possibilities searching for and finding any shred of argument that would refute the reality or possibility of such problems or circumstances.
  3. Others still seem to be paralyzed by confronting the hurt of the world and the possibility of a future of greater suffering for all life.  These individuals tend to draw into themselves and seek connection with others and or escape if possible.  The oppressive nature of the information can sometimes translate into anger or even hatred of the corporations, politicians, people and industries that appear to driving and directing the forces that create these terrible circumstances.
  4. And some people move with the desire to understand, to learn and to respond.  They see their own activities habits and behaviors as complicit in the systems that perpetuate these terrible symptoms.  They want to know solutions that they can apply in their daily lives to make a difference for themselves and others.

It has also been our observation that, depending on how people respond to information about the circumstances cited above, reflects in what about permaculture is interesting to them and what value it has for them.  If someone generally reacts as described in #1 above, permaculture design and the associated techniques and strategies appear kind of “folksy”, maybe interesting, maybe even fun, but in a marginal way.  They might be drawn to techniques or artifacts of particular strategies of permaculture design like rare fruit, city-repair style community building or appropriate technology, but only really as a novelty – not as anything that fundamentally affects their day-to-day habits and behaviors.

When permaculture is shared with people that generally react as described in #2 above, they tend to discount any importance of permaculture and challenge the premises from which it arises.  Ironically, they often show a sincere interest in the actual techniques and strategies of and sometimes will alter (some of) their day to day habits and behaviors to ones that are more life serving.  They tend to continue to aggressively defend the dominant cultural artifacts and systems.

For someone that tends to react as described in #3, permaculture training tends to provide a roller coaster of  an experience where hope is kindled and then dashed repeatedly in the context of deeper understanding of the context and consciousness that drives the dominant systems of the world.  Feedback shows that, despite the ups and downs, permaculture training results in an overall benefit and value and often results in change in habits and behaviors and approaches to activism (even if the change manifests itself years after training).

Permaculture training is often a welcomed fit and service to those that respond as described in #4 above.  These people have generally been educating themselves and looking for community with others that want to transform their own habits and behaviors while working to transform the systems that perpetuate the terrible symptoms AND while transcending the consciousness that enables these systems to exist in the ways they do in the first place.  For these people permaculture often brings a language or a perspective or a reaffirmation to a generally sensibility that had already been resident with that person.  These are the people that are passionate about knowing the details of specific techniques and strategies that they can implement in their life and their community and their region.  These are the people that we mostly find self-selecting to take a permaculture design certificate training – at the behest of a friend or as a result of a search in the internet for solutions.

Who enrolls in permaculture training and why?

People  seem to take permaculture training for different reasons, some want to learn more about urban agriculture solutions, natural building, rainwater harvesting, etc;  some want a framework to organize their thoughts and ideas about how they sense the world could work for everyone; some want inspiration for a new career path or hope for a better world; and, most would like to intimately connect with other people who are on the same journey of discovery to match their behaviors and habits to their values and live in abundance while enhancing conditions for all life.

Of the nearly 300 participants we’ve had the pleasure of learning with individuals from age 13 to retirement age.  We’ve had teachers, lawyers, architects, students, PHDs, urban planners, retirees, green business leaders, primitive skills enthusiasts, wildlife and biodiversity enthusiasts, landscape designers, landscapers, engineers, trades workers — almost all of whom had an interest in more sustainable, abundant living.

Some specific recurring patterns we’ve encountered include the following (read participant testimonials here):
– childhood educators that want to enhance what I have to offer with a greater understanding ecosystems, how they function and how we interact with it
– activists and progressive thinkers who know there is more that they don’t yet know about food, forestry and renewable energy and sense permaculture could bring a more whole understanding / or  activists that perceive that the world seems to be going in a dark direction and they want to be prepared for what to do in case the systems our culture rely on fall apart at the seams
– people that want to start or join an intentional community or ecovillage, now or in the future, and think having the ecoliteracy that comes with permaculture design principles and methods will be helpful
– professional and progressive designers or planners that know that new strategies and design methods can be helpful for their offering/service to the world and could enhance their career with new skills and understanding
– courageous people interested in international aid who would like a foundation in techniques and strategies that are of service to all life in the way they meet human needs
– people interested in good food and urban agriculture  that want to learn more about how that fits into a vision for a society and culture that works for all life – as well as what is the best fig tree to plant in the sunset district….

There are dozens of other reasons people take a PDC.  From course feedback, participants of a PDC training often reflect that the value of the experience include the following:

– inspiration – solutions that they had no idea existed.  Now that they know about them they can support them and share that knowledge with others
– empowerment – there are techniques and strategies that they learned about that they can apply to their life and/or their vocation and for their plans for where  they want to live and what they want to do (everything from starting a worm bin, to starting a landscaping company; from traveling around the world doing aid work, to  hosting a block party with a  neighborhood resilience theme)
– sense of belonging and connection – finding that tribe of people that share your values and aspirations
– sense of completeness – they “knew most of that stuff”, and the PDC gave them a complete language for it that they can use to communicate to themselves and others about it all
It is not at all uncommon for someone to say that the experience of a PDC fundamentally changed their life and how they see the world in a way that truly benefits them and their family

We continuously use feedback from participants to adjust the content and approach of the training to enhance the learning experiences.  We’ve recently added more hands-on training on specific applications of permaculture principles in the techniques and strategies for urban gardening and composting and working with water conservation.  We are excited to add new tours and new teachers and experiences this year.