I was back to the Future. “Zukunft” (future) is the nick name of the community “Wir bauen Zukunft” where I recently completed my 100 hours Permaculture Design Course. I was here last August for the first summer work camp and couldn’t wait to come back. It’s a lovely place of wild nature, rare plants and animals (I saw a deer and a kingfisher) as well as future-oriented projects. Makers, visionaries and change-makers from all over Europe and the world come and go, exchange ideas and contacts, make plans and friends. The young community is like a bee hive, a hub or incubator for evolutionary projects. In short: an ideal place to hold a Permaculture Design Course.
Permaculture Design – a Wholistic World View
Permaculture is a wholistic world view and lifestyle with the three main ethical principles: earth care, people care and fair share. It goes far beyond gardening or food production techniques. Permaculture includes the planning of a given plot of land according to the needs of humans and the rest of nature. It aims at using as little intervention and as much regenerative impact as possible.
Our facilitators and experienced Permaculturists Mauricio Umann and Claudian Dobos had a clearly structured curriculum for 14 intensive days. We learned a lot of theory since Permaculture Design involves a lot of observation and planning. In some of the hands-on sessions we planted an instant garden and worked on a cob wall. Every day we had to paint at least one picture inspired by nature. This supported the task to discover patterns – both in structure and behaviour of living beings.
System Thinking and Closed Loops
We learned systemic thinking that involves all elements, their multiple functions and resources in a given system. Permaculture Design includes energy sectors like the sun path and wind patterns. Looking at key-lines, contour lines and swales we discovered methods of reducing the speed of water and restoring aquifers. Zoning a plot of land, tasting the soil of the forest, thinking in closed loops, raised beds, earth ships were some of the topics that kept our minds and senses busy. Other issues included the treatment of human manure collected in compost toilets, building soil with worms and nitrogen fixing leguminosa plants and many others.
During two field trips we visited projects in the vicinity. One was a young small community that creates a food garden on the premise of an old mill. The other one was an organic milk farm with cheese production. This offered the opportunity to engage in exchange and discussion with practicioners and to apply our newly acquired permaculturist views to existing projects.
In our final group projects we put the theory into practice: With different focuses each group designed a permaculture plan for “Wir bauen Zukunft”. On our last day – which was also an open house day of the community – we had the opportunity to present our ideas and results. In the audience were about 60 visitors and community members.
Community Culture for a Transformative Journey
The facilitators created a group culture among us 14 participants. During the course we reflected on our lives and future visions as permaculture apprentices. With formats like Forum, Deep Ecology and sharing we worked on our personal development in the planetary context. Through morning check-ins, common evening sessions and field trips for all a larger joint group culture evolved. It embraced permaculture stundents, the community as well as visiting friends of the community.
Meditation sessions before breakfast, regular reflection times without speaking, preparing meals together contributed joyfully to a transformative group journey. Of course we took time for celebrations at camp fires and with theatrical performances . I found this integration of community culture and permaculture students group culture very special and beautiful. Permaculture Design doesn’t only focus on the growth of plants or eco-systems. It encompasses also personal growth – both as an individual and as a group.
The World is Continuously Becoming a Better Place!
At least 14 change-makers evolved out of the Permaculture Design Course in “Wir bauen Zukunft”. After having completed both the PDC and the Ecovillage Design Education course in Auroville I can’t wait to get my hands and mind into evolutionary projects and to pass my knowledge on to others. Everything is getting better and better!
Pictures from the Permaculture Design Course