In the early decades of Permaculture the focus was on how to care for our planet – how we can keep the planet habitable by man and the species we co-exist with. Slowly, there was a growing realisation about the importance of social aspects of Permaculture.
No matter how much care we put into our environment, we cannot allow the social structures to be degraded. War, hunger, the ravages of climate change and industrial excess can destroy the efforts of those who care and live gently on the earth.
When I was a little girl I watched our neighbour plant a bountiful forest of rare native trees. When the forest matured her marriage broke down and she had to sell. The next owner told us how he had been given a chain saw for Christmas and within a week he had ran out of trees to cut down. I was a powerless witness to the impact of social disconnect and disharmony with nature.
These 5 Basic Social Skills in Permaculture can help build resilience in our community, enhance the reduction of waste, build peaceful solutions and support each others efforts.
- See the abundant connections. Everyday everyone has an impact. Bill Mollison believes that every thing gardens. Now we see that every person garden because every one of us has a say in how our food is produced. (Some people choose to let machines garden the fields and manufacture their food, other people forage in a burgeoning community garden). A great way to enrich these connections is to enable people to use the land well around them. We can design legal systems that allow use of common land, maintain solar access for natural energy systems , support efficient transport routes through better town planning, and share surplus food to eliminate the shocking waste worldwide.
- Build trust and foster kindness. It costs nothing to be kind. We need only a small amount of time to listen to others and connect them to resources they need. Let kindness be our instinct. Do not let our fear of barbarians imprison us, break our real-life social connections and destroy our society. Ignore the old rules of competition and build a find new strength through collaboration. Many strong models have enjoyed collaboration. One of the most successful collaborators in the environmental movement is the Eden project in Cornwall.
- Open Doors by offering support. The permaculture movement is a confident, mature and growing movement. There is a rich display of productive food forests worldwide. Find ways to help the creators of these food forests to open their doors by offering support for open days like International Permaculture Day in May. Most permaculture pioneers have built their permaculture systems on their own, they have had very few workers, very little money (which is great because we know that if they can do it alone, we can all replicate the model) and have a lot of passion. Make the effort to get to know these elders and perhaps they will mentor you.
- Multiple Functions for each element of your social design – in the same way a hat can be quickly used as a basket to hold fruit, we can create social tools that perform many functions. An informal meeting can enable exchange of ideas, goods, recycling waste, sharing library books, a smile and encouragement.
- Multiple elements for each function. If the function is to simply collect fruit, we can then find more than just the hat, we can use a coat or a rug or an apron. Another example of this concept can be applied to the typical ‘meeting’ space. Not everyone who is a valuable team member can meet in the same way, not everyone has time or patience to sit in a meeting. When we make an effort to write down the minutes/ideas and wishes we suddenly enrich the experience – we allow our aspirations to travel the world, through time and through history. Others can contribute when they are able.
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
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