“What can I do to help save the environment?”
This is a question that many of us are asking these days, and unfortunately, it doesn’t have a simple answer. When we are constantly being bombarded with news about environmental devastation, it can be easy to feel small next to the enormity of today’s most pressing problems.
A few months ago, I was beginning to experience this disenfranchisement. Sure, I could shop local farmer’s markets, avoid single-use plastic packaging, and cut down on my energy consumption – all extremely important and beneficial practices – but I still felt I lacked a real way to create tangible change in my day-to-day life. Then, a friend told me about the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) she took at VerdEnergia, a permaculture farm tucked away in the rural hills of the Costa Rican jungle, and a sense of new hope and excitement took over.
At the time, “permaculture” was still a foreign word to me – and while I knew how to say it, I did not yet speak the language. The desire to develop a deeper understanding made me hungry for more, and my insatiable appetite for knowledge led me to sign up for the PDC myself and make my way to VerdEnergia to immerse myself in the experience of a lifetime.
If you, too, are feeling helpless against the woes of a suffering planet, taking a PDC can provide you with the empowering tools to start your journey in making an actual difference. The course taught me so many things about the world around us, about others and about myself. Since I couldn’t possibly compact everything I learned in the course into one blog (plus, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you), here are six reasons I think everyone should sign up for a PDC:
- You will meet amazing, like-minded people
When you sign up for a permaculture design course, you will be met with a group of people who share similar ideas and visions as yours. While everyone may have a different motivation for taking the course, concern for our planet and the beings that inhabit it are what draws most of us to it in the first place. Taking a PDC gives you a unique opportunity to collaborate with like-minded folks and create real change.
- It helps you reconnect with the natural world
Many of us have lost our connection with the natural world. For hundreds of years, western culture has concentrated on dominating, subduing and commanding nature rather than working harmoniously with it. Instead of recognizing ourselves as animals existing within natural systems, we have focused on separating humanity from its material connection to and reliance on the earth. Permaculture encourages us to see ourselves not as existing alongside nature but as a part of nature. Observing and interacting with the natural world renews our sense of connection with it. Taking a class focused on the earth and its rhythms will soon find you singing along to the sounds of the birds, the bees, and the trees.
- You’ll learn about way more than just farming
When you think about permaculture, maybe you think of farming – but it is so much more than that. You can spend years learning about the best guild combinations for your homestead garden – and that practice is no less revolutionary – but permaculture ethics are not limited to that. “Earth care, people care, fair share” is the unofficial slogan of permaculture, and this inherently goes so much farther than the garden fence. Permaculture philosophy teaches a whole-systems design approach. How do the creatures in your garden interact with each other? How does your garden interact with your family? How does your family interact with your community? How does your community interact with the rest of the world? These are the questions that permaculture philosophy asks us to ask ourselves. During my PDC, we also touched on important economic facets of permaculture such as long-term investment and venture philosophy, which the folks at VerdEnergia are largely focused on.
- You will begin to find the value in everything
One of the permaculture design principles is “use edges and value the marginal.” This principle teaches you to search for the real value in everything around you and to devise new applications for things that we may otherwise render as useless – think compost, recycling, anything we might consider “trash.” Permaculture philosophy urges us to innovate and reimagine the purpose of so many average objects. How can we move upcycling past being a novelty and into something lasting and actually useful? For example, VerdEnergia has used old tires to build staircases, retaining walls, and foundations; and old shipping containers to provide the structure for entire houses.
- It will transform the way you see the world around you
Approaching nature from a point of observation rather than of intervention allows you to see some incredible patterns of organization that others might overlook, changing your perception of the world around you. There are the permaculture principles of “observe and interact” and “design from patterns to details,” which encourage students to slow down, recognize patterns in nature and draw off of those when designing. Humans have a tendency to believe they know best, but the functioning of the earth’s natural systems is not dependent on our intervention. By observing nature and recreating the patterns that have already proven their effectiveness, we set ourselves up for success and harmonious relationships with the natural world.
- You can channel your creativity in a constructive way
Permaculture design is an art, and the land is the canvas. One of my favorite parts of the course was the final project, where we acted as permaculture design consultants and presented a design for the landscape we had spent the past few weeks working and interacting with. This made the project feel much more realistic through “client interviews” and real-life surveying of the land. Verde’s instructors focused on the business aspect of the design process – we had to make sure that our plans for the land were feasible and compatible with a pre-established set of principles. These practical constraints were invaluable for shaping our approach to design – not every course has that.
The permaculture concept took what once seemed like an insurmountable issue and turned it into a challenge I feel ready to take on. Though I am not able to immediately stop the seas from rising, tell our global leaders to see climate change as an international crisis, or end deforestation and habitat loss on my own, I now feel empowered to take steps in my everyday life, and have the connections with other people and organizations that I need to continue my work and be a part of the permaculture revolution. If any of what I’ve mentioned above speaks to you, I urge you to consider becoming a student of permaculture yourself. Check out the upcoming courses that will be offered by VerdEnergia this year, and become part of a revolutionary movement to support the health of our planet and of each other!