The Last 18 months have been a full emersion into the new economic and biological region I’ve made my home. A whole new awareness and set of skills are being acquired in order to take the Regenerative Developments ‘Concept’ to where it needs to go.
For a while I was quite happy to go down the traditional permaculture consulting route, but soon realised that if I’m to have the greatest possible impact, entering the world if contracting would be essential.
As a result I’ve slowed down the design side of things to a minimum in order to get hands on learning what I’ll need to make informed decisions on how to improve on the current human habitat paradigm.
Here is a collage of projects I’ve been involved in since setting back in Canada. They are pics from Wilderness Resort, Projects with Dave Hume of Handy Dads, My Friend Sandy’s homeowner build in Sandy Hook, Projects during the first quarter of my carpentry apprenticeship with Gimapa Homes Ltd. , and also some fun side projects I did solo. Enjoy!
In Permaculture we say that the problem is the solution, and here is a prime example. Agriculture is the one of the largest contributors to climate change, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Here Fellow Gaia University Associate discusses agriculture’s potential to sequester carbon in top soil bringing it back to pre-insutrial levels while increasing fertility and food production.
Bill Mollison, co-0creator or Permaculture design is famous for saying-
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”
“What got us here, won’t get us there”- Anonymous
In the study of a design science known as ‘Integrative Ecosocial Design’, or ‘Permaculture Design’, there are 3 main ethics that were derived in the 70’s from the remanning successful indigenous cultures. These ethics are utilised within Permaculture to guide the design of a successful regenerative future. These ethics are ‘Care of the Earth’ (Land Is the focal point Regen-Dev has chosen, although it encompasses the ecosystems of the land/Earth), ‘Care of the People’ (We chose ‘Self’ as a foci, although it encompasses, the relationships we have between one and other also) and ‘Redistribution of the Surplus/Fair Share’ (We chose Enterprise, although it encompasses, policy also). In reality, these 3 main areas of foci are inseparable, and thus it’s impossible to get lasting regeneration of one with one without considering all. At Regenerative Developments we believe this holistic perspective offers yet unrealised potential for regenerating all systems, thus decided being somewhat of a generalist could be our specialty. Like the ecosystem that we are apart of, we can not survive alone, regenerative developments does not intend to be a 1 stop solution, but we are equipped for diverse situations, and most importantly have an abundance of other specialist organisations accessible in our guild, for referring to whenever required.
And how does one describe permaculture simply, lets say to a 6 year old?
(if you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it!)
Permaculture is looking at the natural world (and it’s systems) to guide the evolution of humanity ever closer towards harmony.
Strictly speaking, for something to be classified as ‘permaculture’, all 3 ethics must be considered. We ultimately hope that the word ‘Permaculture’ will seize to exist once it simply becomes, the way things are done, and things are certainly moving in that direction.
The Who, What and Why of Integrative Ecosocial Design?
Who- All of us as consumers and stewards of planet earth are living, breathing ecosocial regeneration, how we play this role effects our experience as much as it effects the earth and our fellow living and non living allies. Permaculture Design, perhaps the most holistic and comprehensive action based approach of ecosocial regeneration at present, was primarily created by 2 Australian men; Bill Mollison and David Holmgren to be a system of permanent-agriculture or “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man”- Bill Molison – A Designers Manual.
It soon evolved further, encompassing the work of untold inspired individuals contributing both theory and applied ‘actionism’ to better represent Permanent-Culture. “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them & of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.”- Bill Mollison a Designers Manual
What – Ecosocial Regeneration in it’s simplest, is the regeneration of the self, the community & trade, and the environment, while recognising the inseparability of humanity from ecology. Permaculture conglomerates the ethics of multi-millennially successful aboriginal culture’s ethics and ecological principles into a design system that is applied to anything from personal development, through regenerative land use, to full systemic cultural and econoimic redesign.
The integration of ecosocial design and ‘permaculture thinking’ in to the common worldview might just be the next rational step for humanity, given the looming peaks (oil, soil and water), and the inevitable transition we are currently riding towards a lower energy future.
Sustainability merely implies maintaining the current ecosocially destructive paradigm, where as permaculture designs for regeneration and continued evolution. Daren Dougehrty quite rightly puts it-“sustainability lacks ambition”.
After all, If all we can think to do, in order to benefit the planet, is reduce our impact, we’d surely do more for the planet to simply disappear. To those cynics, via this introductory essay and the work I link to, I’d like to introduce a whole new paradigm, one that makes us the healers and designers of a future with abundance for all life forms.
For some it seems unrealistic or like a lot of hard work, yet the integration of regeneration in to ones life enhances it immediately, by letting nature take some of the weight, as we learn to live with it, in collaboration instead of attempts to eradicate or controll it.
As my personal philosophy, or dare I even say ‘spirituality’ evolves, I’m starting to ponder if regeneration may simply be an inevitable consequence of evolution, and surely if this is the case – resistance would be futile.
The universe appears to have an insatiable desire to get more complex or novel, faster and faster (Terrance Mckenna – Novelty Theory) and the only thing I can think of that is more novel than a human mind, is a human mind that has become conscious of it is capability of carrying out the task of fast tracking evolution it’s self.
I believe it’s important to understand that while evolution in the form of mutation happens more rapidly under pressure, it is drastically inefficient in comparison to evolution that results from conscious design, hence the power of a design system that integrates ethics and ecological principles (a design system that gives more than it takes from all that it takes from).
It’s fair to say that the optimal conflicts that drove biological evolution would have been predation, yet the optimal conflicts that drive evolution today are the objective challenging and redesigning of ideas or concepts (best achieved without cognitive biases related to the ego’s of individuals, or the interest of companies that too often fund scientific testing, and pull the strings in politics (permaculture principle – apply self regulation and accept feedback would be useful here)). Thus the type of complex, yet ordered environments that the universe appears to favour (see patterns in nature) are the sorts we should be consciously co-creating (designing). I feel a subtle leap forward has come in my own ability as an ecosocial designer upon realising 2 things that really mean the same thing: we are not working with nature, we are nature working, (penny livingston) and by consciously designing and holding space for further evolution (doing what we know instinctively is right), we resonate with the universe’s true desire (evolution); inevitably the path of least resistance.
“Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”- Mollison
Firstly It’s important to know, it’s already happening, you are already doing it. Look at the sheer mass of information being thrown around on social media, and the abundance of new non-profits set up with the sole purpose of regenerating people or planet. Many, like myself some years a go, still believe we need a revolution, and as much as I like that someone has already dubbed permaculture to be “A revolution disguised as gardening”, I feel that we have to be careful with this word. If we were to throw the idea of a more traditional form or ‘revolution’ into some kind of rationality calculator (probably an ingenious idea to take egos and corporations interests out of political decisions – Peter Joseph), it would probably suggest that revolution is drastically energy inefficient, and acts more like mutation in comparison to designed evolution; not to mention any kind of global economic crises would cause untold destruction to innocent countries now totally dependent on global infrastructure and aid.
As we regenerate our selves with healthy food choices and voting with our wallet, we can remember that care of the environment is inseparable form care of the self and ‘you buy nice, or you pay twice’. It’s important to consider the net karma inherit with each $ we spend, we must continue supporting companies with ethics and that pay living wages to their employees.
Scarcity through inequality, is the biggest cause of crime, disease and death, and we as consumers cause it by turning a blind eye to our bad choices in food, clothing and products.
We should strive to remember that good decisions come from a clear mind, and a truly clear mind is as rare as an untouched natural ecosystem which unwillingly is constantly receiving airborne toxins, as nothing is truly in isolation in our global ecosystem. We thrive by constantly reinvesting in ourselves and our own personal development as much as directly into the environment, we are inseparable, “what we do to the universe we do to ourselves” [and vice versa]– Alan Watts.
To me, evolution is undoubtedly catalysed with community, collaboration and interdependence, perhaps it’s why even today in an ultra individualistic society we still seek approval and obsess over what others think of us.
Food for thought: Perhaps in order to develop the global community now at our fingertips, we had to, in the short term, sacrifice the strength of our community and the depth of friendships in favour of universities, careers, travels and opportunities, which as a bi-product have left many of us with blood ties all around the world forcing us to finally admit that we truly are all one, and that there is no ‘us and them’. Maybe In this process of ‘globalisation’ this need to ‘be’ something, as if existing it’s self isn’t good enough, expressed in the pursuit of material wealth, caused many to work relentlessly like worker ants, developing this system of roads, cables and wifi that connect us now like mycelium and wifi signals that connect us like the plant emitted pheromones connect the forest and prairies. Now, the first time in history we can rejoice with the environment, yet not only as individual tribes bound to ignite into war with one another upon contact, but as a global tribe with the same ultimate inner desires and a universal willingness to share ideas at the speed of light, so we can collaborate and help one another, because in doing so, we know it also helps ourselves.
To focus on the negatives of our current situation would be to see only the destruction, yet to see the whole view would have to include that undeniably, today we have everything we need to be global collaborative ecosocial regenerators, and we are already doing it.
Through the internet, we are bigger than governments, we simply need to stop waiting for the world to change and act ourselves, knowing fully, It’s for our own immediate satisfaction as much as its for our allies, our future, and our universe.
Doing what we know is right feels phenomenal, we’d be denying ourselves of our birthright to health, happiness and abundance by doing anything else.
My feeling is that we are over the hump in this grand construction of global ecosocial awareness. While devastation is still happening, it doesn’t compare to the rate that ecosocial conciousness is spreading. How we continue is almost unnecessary to write, It’s as simple as working on a good relationship with our conscience and following the gut instinct inside us that took some 3.5billion years to form during a complex synergy with the universe that we’ll never quite fully understand..
1 thing I feel I can promise you is this; You are on the right track.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
As the soil continues to be depleted and as the climate continues to change, more resilient forms of agriculture will become the new normal. Here Mark Shepard of Viola, Wisconsin discusses his methods which he calls ‘Restoration Agriculture’.
His system consists of utilising key line design for capturing, sinking and spreading rainwater (that would otherwise run off) and storing it in simple ponds on the ridges (the highest point where it can be stored without the use of pumps) from where it can be gravity fed to water crops, when it;s needed. He also plants the berms of his drain/swale features with a single file diversity of plants like apples and chestnuts which he treats using the STUN method (shear total utter neglect). With no further inputs beyond, planting, pre harvest prep and harvest, only intelligent design (like outcompeting the grass under his apples with daffodils, comfrey and iris’s that both attract pollinators, house beneficial insects and provide a yield which is sold to herbalists), he is able to produce diverse and abundant yields, With alley cropping and mob stock grazing between his berm tree plantations he is proud to produce more calories per acre than corn, all organic and with minimal labour costs, the nutrient value per acre of course is off the charts compared to GM corn production.
The most ingenious aspect that makes this truly permaculture, is that he has simply mimicked the natural oak savannah that covered the area prior to annual agriculture simply exchanging some flora and fauna with others that yield a greater value to humans and then managing the way they grow. It’s pure genius in my opinion, and the future of agriculture.
Expect to similar systems in BC soon, as the climate continues to get weirder and water intensive annual agriculture fails to keep up.
Zone Zero Coaching Is the centre for my human-centric health strategies. On this site and practicing in Sechelt, BC where I now reside, I’ll be coaching people that want to take a holistic attitude to health and fitness.
I recently undertook my CHEK instate Holistic Lifestyle Coaching Level 1 course which has inspired me to get to work helping others. The CHEK institute approach it totally inline with Permaculture and Biodynamic farming; As always, care of the environment is inseparable from care of the self.
Art by Ada Smith
Parts of the Dominican Republic at first glance look as pristine as one could imagine, yet on closer inspection it’s easy to see there is lot more going on than the rose tinted shades of a tourist let through. Firstly, the island naturally would be covered in thick barely penetrable jungle like the Amazon or Borneo, where as now it’s mainly unsustainable grazed for milk and beef. Also, as common with much of the developing world, there isn’t yet proper infrastructure and education as regards to waste management, and so litter is endemic. Whats amazing however is when you look a little bit deeper and learn a bit about the flora, you’ll notice the natural abundance trying to break through every which way you look.
In any given field you’ll see trees breaking through, trying to heal the degraded land and creating the beginnings of a food forest. You’ll see the field boarded with nitrogen fixing, high protein cow (and bee) fodder know locally as “pinion” or internationally as Gliricidia, you’ll see the bitter leaves of Guava, Beach Almond and Sea-grape mostly left alone by the grazers, providing fruit for and people with the will to harvest. You’ll also be sure to find, Soursop, Mango and Avocado trees that have just grown from the pip flung from the afternoon snack of a local cowboy some 5 years or so years beforehand. This country was made to be abundant, and it will be again. The main problem is soil erosion and compaction resulting from decades of unsustainable grazing practice in places where there is no need for it (exceptionally inefficient on steep slopes). Eco forestry of diverse hardwood with an understory of Bananas, Coffee, Cacao and inter-spread with native flowering legumes to keep the bee and bird populations happy would flourish unattended, if only given permission. Oh and Rainwater collection. Rain from the sky, freshly distilled by Atlantic storms? Who would have imagined the abundance?
All this country needs is a few more open minded and inspired individuals like those I’ve been lucky to have been conversing with recently, to follow suit and the neighbors will begin to copy in response to their increased production, and higher quality of life. At the same time we can lock all the carbon and other greenhouse gases produced from an economy enriched by tourism and lock it where it belongs, in the soil and the life found within it, improving fertility for generations to come.
Regenerative agriculture – Dominican Republic, you’d be mad not to.
CELL GRAZING, RAINWATER COLLECTION, MULCH, COMPOST, BIO CHAR and NATIVE ECOFORESTRY on all slopes over 18*. Just like that..
Whether teaching someone to surf or kite like I did for years, or helping them incorporate regenerative design strategies in to their life, home, farm or organisation via permaculture (aka Integrative Ecosocial Design), essentially I’m trying to help improve peoples physical circumstances (their environment), and more often than not, the way they the perceive it too. Teaching health and fitness focused around strength training is just getting straight to the root cause, starting at zone o, the self, and in a straightforward way that anyone can relate to, I consider it about as integrative as regenerative education gets. I’m also excited to make fitness a big part of some youth workshops, e.g (S.E.L.F – Surf, Environment, Leadership, Fitness) 🙂 .
Anyways, I decided making a blog post to share some insight that I feel may be of use to the curious.
I recognise that people get in the gym for a diversity of reasons, but it always comes down to self improvement/development, whether it’s to satisfy the ego, or to simply take control of ones health. Whatever the reason may be, I see training to be a perfect way to aid ones physical well being. Even if the reason for starting out may be shallow, jumping on the conscious path to self development is always a productive journey. I’ve said many times that care of the environment is inseparable from care of the self, so even if you do it only for you, you’ll positively impact those around you.
Before I get in to details, I’d like to race over the long obsolete debate about whether strength training will make you too “bulky”. For as long as you remain a natural athlete, the chances of you ever getting too strong looking while staying functionally strong, mobile and at a healthy level of conditioning, is slim to none. In fact I challenge you to prove me wrong. Women too, all of the information on this blog and most fitness advice directed at natural athletes is equally relevant to both sexes, the female body is not an exception to thermodynamics, or does it have some abstract physiological differences. In fact Women’s hormonal differences prevent the musclebound look so the pink dumbbells can go back on the rack, and you too can benefit from the feeling and looking good. Train like a warrior, look like a goddess. Women have approximately 5-10% of the testosterone, preventing even the most hardcore devoted truly natural athlete, from losing femininity. Please don’t take my word for it, do your own research. (If you have any hyper strong women in your mind that are ultra masculine, I would bet are likely at unhealthy low, or unhealthily high body fat %’s for women, or potentially even using performance enhancing drugs; nattyornot.com is a good resource if you are questioning a particular athlete. Unfortunately doping has become common practice in the mainstream sporting world, and in the fitness industry, making some people seeking whats unobtainable naturally, and others put off training all together. Keep it natural, and you can only become an optimal version of yourself.)
The way I see it, humans evolved for an active lifestyle, and now that our lives have become so intertwined with technology, we are inevitably less active. However, with only minor tweaks to our lifestyles we can get the benefit of both worlds, instead of the opposite. Of course there are many ways to get active and fit; The reason I choose strength as a secondary focus (after my main activities of board-sports), is because it’s arguably the most efficient use of time (which is often in high demand in our busy lives), It generally improves everything you do (providing you are doing adequate conditioning and mobility) and it holds the individual 100% accountable; There is no need for; wind, waves, fair weather, daylight, or a team, in fact its an anytime activity, and you can can have immediately measurable success which helps to stay motivated. By strength training independently of team sports (if you do them), even if you have to miss a few practices or even season, you’ll stay fit enough to rejoin the team at a good level of fitness, if that’s where your passion lies. It allows an individual to stay resilient to change. I really do feel that strength training offers a lot for anyone, but especially for people in times of transition, and those living in sometimes complex and chaotic situations. It teaches independence and self discipline. I know most of this from personal experience.
Everybody must experiment, and over time adapt training to suit their individual needs and goals, yet emphasis on this diversity, tweaking programs too early on, generally prolongs progress.
Here I propose a general backbone of an early – intermediate strength training program, one that I would generally set for any beginner to intermediate lifter (providing they don’t have moderate-major imbalances to address first) . I’ve been taking myself back through the the same process recently too, as I was not gifted with such a resource when I began, yet I wanted to take myself through the motions I’m recommending to others.
Where To start
First things first mobility, active stretching and warm up
I like the Agile 8 for warm up before even touching a barbell for the warm up weight. After each workout I recommend some slow and moderately painful foam rolling (this is one of the few times when “no pain, no gain” is good advice. This helps recovery, prevents overcompensation injuries and speeds up progress. See the youtube playlist bellow for advice on foam rolling.
Then you need a program. I’m listing them in order that I recommend.
(Beginners are defined as those that haven’t yet exhausted their linear, work out to workout progression.)
This is the plan on which I recommend you develop your form and learn the movements, not to mention experience all of your “newbie gains”. Follow the link for more info. During this period and all following I highly recommend making the most of technology at hand and filming your last set to view your technique and offer it for critique to more than one person (over the internet, if you are training alone). Having good form/technique not only is to reduce potential of injury and stress on joints, it also puts your in the position to move the most weight, once your become accustomed to it. I also recommend using an app such as Strong lifts 2 to record your strength gains. I have no affiliation, I’m just delighted to have technology legitimately save me time.
Another great article on the starting strength program and author, here. See also the Advanced Novice Program that leads on nicely to intermediate programming.
The Texas Method
The Texas Method is arguably the best intermediate program. You’ll still be squatting 3x per week, but there is a light day on Wednseday allowing for recovery before trying to beat personal records on the Friday. It allows for moderate progression, but on a weekly basis, not workout to workout like with Starting strength.
This has to be one of the most popular strength gaining programs for an advanced lifter, a lifter happy to make monthly gains instead of weekly. You have a day for each of the 4 main lifts. You can vary the types of extra lifts you do for your assistance work. There is no substitute for reading the book. If you choose to add in olympic lifts with this program it’s recommended you do them before your squat and or deadlifts, instead of your assistance work. It has also been critiqued for having low overall volume especially with squats, which works for some people but not for others. Adding Squats as Deadlift Assistance fixes this, but there are many ways to do this. 5/3/1 is for advanced lifters, and the advanced lifter will know by feeling it out what works for them.
Olympic Lifts Variations
These types of explosive movements are definitely useful for athletes when performed correctly. You really need a trainer to help you with these. If you aren’t sure what type of program to do this is a great place to start. http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/Weightlifting_Programs
Diet is a massive part of health and fitness and training, and my recommendation is that you stick as much as possible to whole foods (ethically sourced). It’s no lie that strength training burns a lot of energy and you’ll need a surplus of calories of you are intending to build muscle and grow stronger. If you are trying to loose weight you can follow the same training program just don’t try to cut calories too quickly, and don’t be surprised if you stall on your lifts soon. Slow and steady wind the race with this change in lifestyle. You are in it for life, not for a quick fix and then reverting back to your old ways!
It was long believed that you would have to eat 6 meals a day to progress, and ludicrous amounts of protein would be prescribed. Supplement companies saw a niche here and sell dairy by-products/pig food (whey protein) by the kg. Don’t get me wrong protein is very important, but you can obtain it from whole foods, and if you want to treat yourself with a protein shake, there are healthier alternatives than whey. Martin Berkhan turned up on the scene (among many others) and really started to rip apart the health and fitness industry for what it was becoming. He especially took on the eating 6 meals a day hype. Martin Birkhan became famous for his research in to intermittent fasting (eating in only in an 8 hour window, e.g mid day-8pm). This eating habit is not for everyone, yet definitely shows result for getting/maintaining a lean body, and destroys the whole idea of needing a protein bar every 3 hours, and forcing breakfast down the pie hole if it doesn’t suit you. I definitely recommend having a read of his website, especially his page on training/‘fuckarounditus’ . There are also some interesting statistics on maximum genetic potential of natural athletes there, all together a good read IMO.
I hope this article opens some doors for you to start exploring yourself, and start/continue on a path that guarantees some results. If I could just say one more thing to guide you in the right direction it’s this:
Consider the context from where advice is coming from. The fitness industry is about as corrupt as it gets. The use of drugs by “fitness” athletes is endemic, they’ll swear it’s the latest routine, the new fad diet, the supplements (which you don’t need), but if you search far enough you’ll find the truth out there. An infamous bodybuilder, Bostin Loyd recently opened up about the industry exposing it for what it is, one thing he said was, “I didn’t change my diet or training at all [prior to competition], just the drugs”. If the advice is coming from those people, think twice before excepting it.
For the truly natural person or athlete, the only shortcut is consistency. Whether you choose to get a personal trainer, or go it alone, ultimately one day you’ll find for yourself what works best for you. Until then, I recommend you stick very close to the tried and tested plans that have been written by the experts. As already stated, eat whole foods. Stray away from fitness magazines or their websites.
If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch. I hope you’ve found this useful.
See also my strength and conditioning page where there are some other useful links to good reading and other blog posts.
I can’t do it (yet).
It’s nice to take a step back and reflect on whats good. Gaia University has been helping me learn and unlearn lots about myself and also society. I learn’t about a recurring theme of mine relating to overcommitments and overambitious expectations of others. Revelations like this for me are priceless, I haven’t felt this much clarity since finishing Edkhart toll’s – “A New Earth”.
I’m no longer working with Taino Farm as the aim at the farm has been restructured to ‘eco-hotel’, and the focus is now on finding a Manager, a job that doesn’t reflect my vision and passion. There may be opportunities to work together again for permaculture eduction, but either way, I have inherited a large chunk of my time and mental space back to focus on my own path.
Ada and I have been putting a lot of love in to our home forest garden “Dharma Farm” at Cabarete Football/Camping and waking up to that each day feels great.
I realise apart from a few projects, designs and workshops, the next part of my journey is very much related to focussing on my degree, networking and being the change I want to see.
I’ve learnt so much in the last year, it’s almost overwhelming to think about. I don’t want that to stop, but staying true to myself, my intuitions and getting back to basics is definitely going to help the lessons be enjoyable and sustainable.
For any system, organisation or business to be sustainable, a yield of some sort must be obtained, and this is very relevant on a personal level. It’s also something I’ve observed has been lacking in my life for the last few weeks.
I love Cabarete for the steady influx and meeting of great minds that come from all around the world. They ebb and flow with the changing seasons the same way the tide and winds dictate a day in the life in Cabarete. I chose this place to be my home for the ability to be somewhere I can be healthy, surf, kite, train, eat well, and be continuously learning whilst scraping an honest living, it’s a lot to ask, but why settle for less.
It’s always had it’s struggles, and I’m already coming to the realisation that for me It’s not 100% sustainable. Breaking a laptop for example, or an injury that prevents me from working in the ocean or the food forest would mean an abrupt end to this current paradise.
The lack of true sustainability has the potential push for me to move on, or at least dip out and work for wages that better reflect my skills, allow me to have some financial buffer or perhaps afford half decent travel-insurance. Mostly though, it’s the lack of yield I obtained in the last few weeks that left me temporarily in a state of diss-ease, which I’m pleased to have overcome.
With people moving on form the Taino Farm project the pressure was on to find the next manager or director and all eyes were on me. The idea of this inspired me, and I was lead to believe I could help sway it in a way that would have world-changing qualities at it’s core, but as it’s to follow a model of a successful eco-toursim hotel, It would be run like a business, and this is the very reason I’m not the one for the job. I’m stoked to work with this organisation offering my design and teaching, but there’s not a business on the planet that I trust to be my life-line. Another Permaculture principle, value diversity/don’t put all your eggs in one basket, is very relevant here.
Whilst at the IPC in Cuba a wise Haitian man stood up and in broken English said, ‘if you don’t build your own dream, someone else will pay you to build theirs’. I agree with these words. We are all capable holistic thinkers and I believe we should choose to work with one and other(co-operate/collaborate) in symbiosis, with mutual benefit. Any relationship containing a need, or be dependancy is not sustainable. Every good permaculture designer knows, that to make sustainable systems, every element must be connected to 3 other elements.
I believe many good things will continue to happen at Taino, but If I’m to evolve, to be a really good permaculture designer/teacher or ‘world changer’ as Gaia university likes to call their students, I must stay first and foremost free and independent, but also humble, focused and definitely not caught up in the complexities of another individuals business management. I must focus on being mindful, observant and the best designer and teacher I can be. I must do this whilst being content, fulfilled and whole. After all, who would enjoy learning from a stressed out guy with chronic overcommitment issues.
Life is simply too good to be lost in the haze of busyness. (or business)
Hope you like the bellow image, not clearly related, but it’s all about keeping things simple and staying mindful and observant.
I think this guy has it figured out
Permaculture and the techniques grouped under the umbrella of Permaculture, are essential components to a future in which people are happy, healthy and fulfilled. The time to begin the transition is now.
Never before has the planet needed an alternative approach as it does right now! To me it makes no sense to ignore the inevitable destruction of the planet, nor does it make sense to learn about it, let it depress us, take no action, and continue to work our sorrows away, waiting for the work day to finish, the weekend to come, or the summer to start in a bid to avoid facing the discontent knowing that we are contributing to the inevitable destruction happening before our eyes. This isn’t me suggesting that everyone drops what they are doing and runs for the hills, but we can all make some changes right now.
One way of looking at life is that everyone is performing their role perfectly, it goes with saying ‘you create your own reality’. To me this means we can’t blame others, we must except peoples actions as lessons, go on to trust our own instincts.
As a permaculturist, I’m all about small and slow solutions. Perhaps for some people, doing something like donating some earnings to an environmental project, or experimenting with gorilla gardening would be a great step.
I sometimes toy with the Idea that by simply existing and being passive to the consumer led eco-genocide , puts us in a direct karma debt, and until we begin to do something to better the environment, we simply won’t let ourselves be truly content. Perhaps deep down we know we don’t deserve it. Now, I only toy with this Idea, I don’t intend to give it too much meaning, and of course when life is hard we must look after numero uno prior to worrying about the bigger picture, but there is probably some cross over.
Now after getting deep, I want to make some points about why the time is now:
1. Never before has the world needed it so much. (If you don’t agree, please watch ‘Home’)
2. Never has it or will it be so easy- We (most of us) have (mostly) free information share. The internet is amazing! Many of us owe much of our current realities to it. We don’t have to travel, or expend resources to learn, and if we do need to travel, it will never be cheaper than it is right now. We also have the most intense infrastructure out there, which can be utilised to get appropriate resources around to where they can be best utilised.
3. They say the best time to plant the trees was 5 years a go. Well the second best time is right now, the third best time being when you’ve finished reading this article. If you still need encouraging planting trees or you want some tips motivating others, describe it as putting karma in a piggybank with 5,000% interest. You have to kneel down and push a seed in the ground, and the interest provides food for generations as well as a step in the right direction for sequestering carbon.
4. Right now Permaculture is a hype word, there is a shortage of experienced permaculture designers and teachers, the world needs more. This means one can earn a living whilst making the world a better place, it doesn’t just have to be a hobby.
5.Resoucres and societies wastes are freely available right now. As the permaculture community grows, there will be an increase in seed and information share, but right now, if you want mulch and other resources, you only have to make a call and someone drops off a truckload (not everywhere of course. Where i live it involves a machete and later blisters on your hands, that and a lot of raking up leaves..), but in the future, It’ll be a race to get at the goodness, and wood chips will be worth their weight in gold (well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but there’ll be sought after.)
There are many reasons why the time is now, and analysing it like this is fun to do, but sometimes I think we should just go with intuition and simply trust are elders.
My Nan said to me ‘There’s no time like the present’
I decided to make a playlist of what I consider Essential Permaculture Info.
When I first began learning about permaculture, It was hard to find things online, but things have changed, a lot. I was able to find a bunch of great Videos and put them all on one Playlist named ‘Essential Permaculture Info’ You can search for it on youtube via my name ‘Charlie Durrant’ or Via clicking the link bellow.
The first Video Is from Bill Mollison’s global gardener series. The first is the tropics and it’s a great film. There are even whole PDC’s (Permaculture design certificate courses) on there in the powerpoint/chalk and talk format. They are fantastic and full of Info. I highly recommend some hands on and dynamic ways to learn and complete a PDC, but if it’s not an option, these online versions will definitely get you going and even make up for anything that might have been missed in a 72 hour course. Enjoy!
Here’s a video I put together recently as part of Permaculture promotion in the Dominican Republic, It summarises my work with Taino Farm and the work I’m doing with Ada Smith and her school garden curriculum. It also shows a bit of footage of my own home, ‘Dharma Farm’. I want to give a massive thank you to Volkmar Geiblinger for filming and sharing the stoke on permaculture and kitesurfing in Cuba at the IPC and here in Cabarete.
This screen shot is of my friend Stuart quoting none other than Public Enemy’s lyrics at the International Permaculture Conference In Havana, definitely a highlight. ‘The real revolution is the evolution of the mind, If you shall seek, you shall find, we all come from the divine”. Click the pic to load the full Video. You’ll see Daniel Cherniske, Stuart and I, Parts of Stuarts talks and Interviews with Marcus form ‘Permaculture Miami’ who will be taking me through my Advanced PDC and teacher training next month. Permaculture really is a great movement, with decent people behind it, and this IPC in Cuba was a game changer.
The garden has been evolving nicely. The sand is slowly turning brown and we are seeing more life in the garden each week. We’ve already had a big harvest of Beans, Cranberry Hibiscus, Okra, Rosela, Moringa, Pigeon Pea and now we are seeing our first tomatoes and pumpkins ripening up. The girls are loving it, and we’ve even finally won over the groundskeeper, who built his own extra garden bed over the christmas break. Slowly but surely, I think we are showing that growing your own food isn’t a sign of poverty, It’s actually a lot of fun, really healthy, and finally some people are begging to think it’s ‘cool’. Success.
“Ada Smith has been working on creating a school garden at the Mariposa DR Foundation accompanied with curriculum involving Ecology and Permaculture. She’s Been working closely with ‘Charlie Durrant Permaculture Design’ as well as ‘Taino Farm’ and the ‘Extreme Hotel’. This was all shot in a morning lesson and thrown together same day (my excuse for lack of edit). Music Credit to ‘Smaller than you’ GT, Norwich, UK”
In an ideal world, most of your staple foods will be coming from tree systems. This means ‘minimum effort, maximum effect’, nutrient density and by far the most sustainable system. In fact, you can walk away from a tree system for years and only comeback to a better situation. If you like, you can consider planting trees like putting karmer in the bank. One day somebody is going to be grateful for the fact you planted those trees, even if you aren’t there to enjoy the benefits yourself. It also offsets some of the carbon which we use in our daily lives. The jet setters that often make Cabarete their home should especially be conscious of the effects that sea level rise might have.
Some trees actually fruit within as little as 3 years in the tropics, and young trees do not get in the way of you obtaining a yield in the mean time.
A common way of growing in tropics, results in a harvest as follows: The 1st year is a harvest predominantly of ‘the 3 sisters,( corn beans and squash) as well as your standard annual and perennial veggies, herbs and super foods,. A 2nd year harvest includes all of the above, as well as papayas and your bananas. 3rd year you may see your first citrus, custard apples, jackfruits, breadfruit and even a few star fruit and avocado if you are really looking after your soil, also full production of bananas and papayas. The next few years or so, you will begin to see a decreased production in corn beans and squash, although you’ll still get plenty at the edge of your system, but all of your trees will be doing great, and the maintenance becomes less and less.
Here’s a list of my favourite tree crops.
Coconut -Ultimate health food, just be careful they don’t fall on you, seriously.
Bread fruit – Bread/potatoes that grow on trees. They also ripen up and make great pancake mix
Bread nut – Same family, but it’s the nuts/seeds inside that you eat like chestnuts
Jack fruit – produces crazy amounts (sources say up to 500kg+ of fruit per year) and seeds that you can eat like chestnuts. Also it’s great hardwood for building
Other tropical fruits, nuts and berries, way too many to go into here.
The rest of you staples fit in to the following categories:
-Roots. – sweet potatos (personal favourite), yuccas, tarrows, yams, onions.
-Bananas – so many varieties, so many uses.
-Pumpkins/squashes- hundreds and they take almost 0 maintenance
-Beans- Especially pigeon pea/gunadules, these will add back nitrogen that your other veggies take out whilst giving you a great source of protein. They are also considered a pioneers species, as they will grow In almost any soil. When they wilt and die after 3 years or so they provide a perfect nutrient transport path for mycelium in their decaying trunks.
– All your standard veggies will do well in the tropics. I highly recommend cabbages, tomatoes, peppers and lots of super foods e.g Moringa, turmeric, stevia and chia.
The difference with gardening in the tropics, is that the soil is thin, but there’s a year round abundance of warmth, sunlight and moisture. Most of the nutrient in the tropics is locked up in the bodies of the plants being grown. There Is some nutrient in the quickly decaying leaf litter and mulch, and it’s precious and if you leave it exposed it’s gone pretty quick (think deforestation in Haiti). The reason the soil is thin, is due to the Intense over head sunlight and heavy rainfall. In permaculture though, the problem is the solution. We plant in layers. Even in our man veggie patches, we’ll plant palms, bananas, pigeon pea, papaya all to decrease the intensity of the overhead sun, offering dappled shade and also protection from heavy downpours, every element is providing multiple functions. We also use mulches, we plant mainly perennial or self seeding varieties. We plant a lot of diversity, avoid tilling or ever leaving soil bare, which gives the soil organisms a genuine chance. This also means there isn’t so much work to do, some ‘chopping and dropping’, some planting, harvesting and plenty of time to help your neighbour.
By feeding the soil organisms with mulches, compost, and other things, we get a build up of 1,000’s of different micronutrients, many of which modern diets are known to be deficient in. Some experts even argue that a deficiency in these micronutrients is the main cause of Cancer and other deceases (search correlations between Iodine deficiencies and Illnesses and consider that b4 industrial agriculture, there was more in the soil than NPK, even river water contained essential vitamins such as B12). Permaculture grown food can have up to 7 times the nutrient density of standard agricultural produce, and this is due to the complexity of the soil life. This is why I believe it’s important to grow your own, and If you going to consider that, you might want to consider the incredible tool box that is ‘permaculture’.
Permaculture goes beyond growing food, and sustainability. It’s a design science in essence, a grouping together of many traditional and scientific, yet organic techniques. Other reasons I’m drawn to it, is the relevant earth science within the curriculum. It actually covers a lot about how the world works, including Biology, Geograpy and other chapters such as patterns within nature, and even basics on surveying, earthworks and sustainable building techniques. It provides the tools needed for complete self reliance in food water and shelter with the added bonus of much more.
I want to leave this with a few other things to consider:
Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share/Return of the Surplus – The ethics from which permaculture principles are based.
Food forests- Minimum effort, maximum effect.
Aquaculture and Aquaponics – Apart from a non polluted natural mangrove, or other climax communities in a natural systems, little is more productive per area.
There’s a lot more too, other options, grains, animals, sustainable building, water collection, plant medicines, etc etc. But there’ll be more on that later, this should get you started.
For more info, feel fee to stop by the Extreme hotel, Taino farm, or get involved in one of the permaculture introductions & lazy river floats. Pick ups at the extreme hotel Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 am and back on time to kite. See also Tainofarm.com. I also have a tone of useful links, and a USB drive full of useful info that, I’d be happy to share.
Many changes at the farm. I received great advice by incredible and intuitive people and this promoted the evolution of my role at Taino farm. From the feedback received from farm tours, workers and volunteers, as well as the people behind the scenes, they agreed they’d like to see me keep my focus on the designing and education side of things rather than becoming overly involved in the hosting duties and general admin. I couldn’t agree more. There are so many great people involved on the project and It’s easy to want to hang out and try to help out wherever possible, in other aspects of Cabarete life. Unfortunately, this meant spreading myself a bit too thin, and before I knew it, I’d began to neglect many things I love about Cabarete. I’d hardly found time to surf, kite, train and my other permaculture projects in and around town weren’t getting the love they deserve.
Things quickly turned around. Now I’m dedicated to doing 2 farm tours each week. The volunteers and workers also receive a full day of practical, and permaculture theory lessons on Tuesdays as well as sessions on the Wednesday and Saturdays after the farm tours. I’m going to remain living in Cabarete so I can continue to inspire a larger number of people. It means I get to keep my focus on urban and suburban permaculture practises such as the extreme hotel and my own home/’Dharma Farm’ and I’ll be surfing and kitesurfing, which Is what brought me here some 5 years a go.
This week at the farm I taught a morning lesson on the importance of diversity in developing resilient systems, and an introduction to companion planting. The theory lesson in the afternoon was an Introduction to permaculture which included the following topics.
-Human past, present and future, permaculture design philosophy, holistic thinking
-Environmental problems and how permaculture can help (soil erosion deforestation, pollution)
-Basic ethics and principles of permaculture
-Introduction to Bill mollision, David holmgren and Geoff lawton’s work.
There was so many great things to talk about and reference. It felt good, and the response form everybody was positive.
This was a post I made on Facebook with some striking statistics about the last 104 years.
“Permaculture lesson at Taino Organic farms today to Victor (Farm manager) and Lynsey Wyatt, Karin Gartnerova and Honza, our volunteers. I just about managed to teach in 2 languages and even had parts translated to Czech. It actually went surprisingly well. On our tour, collecting native legumes and flowers to build stability with diversity, we met with Victor’s grandmother. At 104 years old, she was born in to a population of 1.7 billion. Today we have 7.1 billion people. Imagine what she has seen! Those of us who avoid Cancer and other Illness’s are likely to live to above 100 years old too. Expect to see some changes people. Come and see what permaculture is all about, so we can make sure those changes are good changes.”
Here’s write up form the perspective of one of our volunteers, Lynsey Wyatt, photo credits to her too.
Getting deep as the Sun is lowest on the horizon. (Still way overhead in the tropics actually.. but happy solstice)
Perhaps every living thing is connected through an invisible web and we are all simply different temporary expressions of ‘pachamama’ or mother universe, much like a fruiting mushroom is to a mycelium web. We each have our opportunity to express ourselves, before returning and breaking back down again, in to the molecules from which we were formed.
As Alan Watts says, ‘we are born out of this universe not into it, we are not separate from it, what we do to it, we do to ourselves’.
Whether we believe those statements or not, if we listen to our conscience and follow what we know is right, we act as if those statements are true. If we don’t, it only causes suffering to ourselves and those we interact with.
Perhaps much of todays problems stem from the personification of that inner voice, and the suffering expected, became referred to as ‘hell’, because noble people were deemed not intelligent enough to hear their own conscience, or because they were already enslaved to work for others profit, and deny that voice from birth . Of course, when we do listen to our inner voice, we are hearing what we evolved to hear. Anybody who has tried it, knows that this connection tends to help out in the most perfect of ways.
We live in incredible times of intense realisation, and I find it hard not to believe that as the world encroaches an all time low in conciousness, and detachment form the planet, the internet is handed to us, and free information share like this becomes almost standard, so another wave of consideration can spread.
If you struggle with all of that, perhaps it’s easier just to accept that the clarity obtained from trusting our conscience, leaves us more aware of ‘good’ things happening in front of our eyes, and less phased by the ‘bad’, Correct me if in wrong. – This was the type of thinking that really set me free in my transition between discovering the corruption in even the most humble appearing religions or philosophies, and realising the whole time, inside ourselves and each living or non living thing we intreat with, we can find all the direction we need.
^^This one is probably most relevant to those influenced by the free party movement. NFN.
The truth is, everybody ends up working on a permaculture farm for a variety of reasons. I wanted to learn about permaculture because I believe it’s a skill set that future generations will be happy people learnt and shared. As I’ve become more involved, I’ve realised that its not just future generations, the majority of humanity already can’t afford an abundance of healthy, healing, organic produce, or live a life revolving around nature, and work consciously and in systems guided by ethics.
The people that I’m most inspired to teach, are those most willing to learn and generally it’s those people that are in the biggest struggle. I always seem to revert back to thinking about my fiends with stories growing up in Haiti, which is why I’m drawn that way. I know I don’t even have to look that far to see opportunities where permaculture can help. Sometimes It’s the tourists that have a really big voice in this technologically advanced, and internet connected world, and this is why I also really love doing farm tours, inviting in relative strangers to work along side us, and to be fair, will gladly speak to anybody that will listen.
One of the nicest things anybody has said to me was said yesterday, on a farm tour. It was something along the lines of.
“Most of those people where i’m from in Brooklyn, act like permaculture is being part of some cult, but this is different man, Charlie, you are the truth, I’m serious man, when I get home I’m going to get in to it man”
This is why I do what I do, this is why I’m passionate.
I assumed everyone who comes to work on a permaculture farm would already see the opportunity we have to influence a more harmonious and more conscious world. The truth is, people come for a variety reasons, but hopefully it’s among the first things found out. I’m trying now to ‘creatively use and respond to change’ (permaculture principle no. 12). I’m refining my teaching stye and going back to basics. My hope is to bridge the gap for those that want to do good in this ever-changing world, and present permaculture as an outlet. What is great, is we have a true diversity of people at Taino Farm, and I’m realising it’s time to use and value those qualities they already have not only talk about permaculture. I’ve definitely learnt my energy is best spent leading by example, and adding momentum to paths and projects that people are already embarking on . I hope to help give each volunteer an opportunity to give their gift. I have a lot of love for everyone involved, so it’s only a matter of channelling that energy in the right way.
It might sounds straightforward throwing a bunch of permies at an ever evolving project, but anybody that thinks it is, probably has’t done it. I suppose its just a great thing that we’re all human, and naturally are drawn to learn, evolve and prosper. I’d like to at this point throw a shout out to Ahnah our full-time volunteer coordinator, she does many of the really hard tasks, and gives up 90% of her waking minutes (and probably some dream time) to keeping everyone stoked. Luckily, mother universe feels and see’s everything, and gives as good as it gets. Cheers, Ahnah and cheers universe for giving us all this opportunity.
Without getting in to politics, Cuba is living proof that money has no correlation with happiness.
On the first day I was lucky to meet an incredibly friendly cycle tuk-tuk driver that took me all around Havana and to his local hang outs, all of which were a intensely photogenic.
The 400 person conference started off with a lot of bureaucratic talks on running organisations (mostly in the UK), which was extremely valuable, but not what I had signed up for. The repetitive theme for the first morning was very much around telling some of the best educated individuals in the environmental field how messed up the world is, and then a little bit on their Ideas to make it right. It started slow, with lots of numbers, if, buts and maybe’s, but none the less , it got the conference rolling . Luckily during this phase, I met 2 people that will likely be my friends for life; Daniel Cherniske form Washington state and Stuart Muir Wilson form Australia. As humble as they both seemed, Daniel turned out to be one of the most talented and grounded musicians I’ve come across and Stauart turned out to be one of the biggest driving forces in Permcaulture in Mexico. He’s also Bill Mollison’s grandson, equally as charismatic and has a 2pac ‘thug 4 life’ tattoo but instead saying “Permaculture 4 life”. They made my day, and as the conference evolved in to mind-blowing positive movements, and legitimate examples of what can be accomplished, I was assured that I’m on the right path.
The permaculture tours around Havana were interesting, but also pointed out the responsibility Taino has for setting the benchmark in the region. We are lucky in that we have little limitations (we have no embargo or socialism to contend with), we also have free use of internet (which they don’t have in cuba) and access to tourism. Tourism especially is a huge asset to our organisation, not only because it helps generate funds, pushing progression in all kinds of projects. Tourism also allows us to inspire permaculture in people from all around the world, even in those who had no prior interest, they just liked the idea of floating down the river in a recycled tractor Inner-tube.
The Convergence… There’s no need to beat around the bush, the convergence was the worst organised event I’ve ever attended. It of course lead to the most beautiful collaborations of creativity I’ve ever seen. Get 450 of some of the most openminded individuals on the planet form 47 different nations, put us in up to 6 person dorms, make us line up for 2 hours to be fed meat and slop (which even ran out at times), throw at us a serious tropical storm and watch how we transform it in to the most positive event of our lives. It brought the open, more open, it forced innovation, food foraging, mountain climbing, bodysurfing, singing, created a trance party until the early hours every night. It evolved in to a festival of international unity, with so many great people sharing the wealth of permaculture and world wisdom.
Prior to this trip, I thought I new what I was doing with my life, now I know, it’s as simple as that.