Pre-program July 5-7

Permaculture Workshop
on Regenerative Development

With Albert Bates and Bernd Neugebauer

The main focus of this workshop is regenerative development – building a new human relationship with Earth as healers and stewards. The course will provide an overview of the 100 Drawdown techniques of Paul Hawken merged with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. As Albert tells us: “This is not a certificate course, just an overview, but it will likely alter most people’s worldview. We will make biochar and compost; we will make biocomposites and charcrete; we will practice team design for cold-climate agroforestry.”

About this Workshop

Sustainability is an overused and misused word in most languages. In the physical world absolutely nothing is sustainable. Nothing. We need to accept that. What sustains us is change, and our ability to adapt and innovate.

Sustainability is a bit like treading water. What is it you are trying to sustain? The endless economic growth industrial paradigm? Creature comforts that require long supply chains and toxic pollution that hopefully you never have to see? A consumerist ethos backed by military might, sewing discord and terror around the planet? These are the things that must change, quickly, or the change we shall experience will be a very unpleasant human extinction.

“Permaculture is a revolution disguised as organic gardening.”

Permaculture is one lens through which we can view this. It is a useful lens especially because it is so unspecialized. It includes everything. As a design science, nothing is external to its process, from the needs of migratory birds to the triggers for nuclear war. One of its founders, Bill Mollison, said: “Permaculture is a revolution disguised as organic gardening.”

We will begin our Regenerative Development workshop with a sketch of that design process and describe the elements that go into it. This is not a comprehensive course in permaculture, merely an introduction. Specifically, we will look at:

  • The three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share.
  • Holmgren’s 12 principles:
  1. Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder”
  2. Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines”
  3. Obtain a Yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach”
  4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation”
  5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course”
  6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine”
  7. Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees”
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work”
  9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”
  10. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”
  • Holistic Management
  • Keyline Design
  • The Iterative, Inclusive, Transparent Design Process

Sacred Knowledge

We will examine why learning from ancient and contemporary indigenous wisdom is so important to design for the future. Climate change is nothing new for our species. Living within the confines of a solar energy economy is something we had done until just two centuries ago, in all climates and topographies, in areas of good soil and water and in regions of almost none. Being aware of limits is essential to design, and to a good life.

What Makes a Good Life?

  • Leaving the Age of Limits, and entering the Age of Consequences, many new challenges confront us. What is our most strategic response? We see three interconnected parts:
    Regeneration of the natural world
    Ahimsa (harmlessness)
    Satyagraha (truth force)

As ecovillagers, regeneration requires us to repair the Earth where we are, and then to reach out to heal her at ever greater distances. We work first at the square centimeter field, but recognize that the square centimeter is part of the square meter, and the cubic meter, and the whole Earth.

To begin to heal the Earth, we must first do no harm. This requires us to adopt practices that may seem to others in the modern consumer culture as heresy, but they need not be hair shirts — we can live both simply and elegantly. Our businesses can provide both right livelihood and be profitable. Simple ethical choices govern our daily activities. Ecovillage magic (advanced technology) enables these to be successful in the unfair competitive context of the dying, fossil culture.

The power that living with purity of intention gives to us is stronger than most imagine. It threw the British Raj out of India. It brought civil rights to African Americans. It elevated a humble prisoner to the presidency of South Africa. This power must always be guarded with care and used with utmost caution. It must be continuously, ritualistically re-purified to remain strong. This is the keystone of ecovillage design. It holds the entire arch.

But speaking of arches, we will also speak together of buildings and infrastructures, looking at natural materials, ancient techniques, passive heating and cooling in all climates, and practical ways to draw carbon from the atmosphere and oceans by how we construct human habitats at all scales.

Ecovillages are viral memes. They travel, like the scent of new flowers, on sweet fragrances. They pass from person to person as good advice, friend to friend. They come from the ground, from the grass roots, and they fit into the context of their surroundings, while at the same time enchanting neighbors with their exceptional beauty and grace.

These are elements that can be designed. Please join us for an examination of the best practices and a deep dive into the greatest hope for our shared future.

Albert Bates

Albert BatesAlbert is one of the founders of the intentional community and ecovillage movements. A lawyer, author and teacher, he has taught appropriate technology, natural building and permaculture to students from more than 60 nations.

He is also a civil sector representative at the COP climate conferences, trying to point the world back towards a stable atmosphere using soils and trees, and he is presently GEN’s representative to the UN climate talks.

Albert has been director of the Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology since 1984 and of the Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm since 1994. His books include Climate in Crisis and The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook. Since 1972 he has been a resident of The Farm, a pioneering intentional community in Tennessee, USA.

Bernd Neugebauer

Bernd NeugebauerBernd has a Ph.D. degree in Forestry, is an expert in environmental sustainability and has experience in international projects in many countries. Since 1992 Bernd has radicated at Chan Ká Vergel in Yucatán. He is the initiator of Yucatek and a passionate and capable student of old Mayan ways and teacher for younger generations. Together with him, the Mayan people have learned to rediscover old and time tested technologies, which are very suitable and adapted to the environment in Yucatán.


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