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Washington State Permaculture Convergence held September 11-13, 2008

Report by Michael Pilarski

The Washington State Permaculture Convergence (WSPC) was a wonderful event! Many old friends and new. Many balls were sent rolling which will yield results for years to come. A spirit of excitement and cooperation were in the air. This was the first Washington pc gathering in many years and it was well received.

A big “Thank You” to every one of the 115 people who participated. Special thanks are due to many individuals including the twenty-three who gave workshops, presentations or focalized discussions.

The participants brought an abundance of good food and Colette Hoff led the kitchen teams in preparing great meals throughout the convergence. Colette is a member of the GoodEnough Community and one of the people who run the Shale Learning Center. Thus Colette not only had to run the kitchen, she also had to act as one of the Sahale infrastructure team. She did an amazing job and reports that she always had wonderful teams of people volunteer to put out the meals. Even though there were always lots of exciting workshops to attend, people took the time to get the community jobs done. The spirit of community and cooperation was everywhere evident.

Christy Nieto did a capable job of convergence registrar, which included fielding most questions before the event; keeping track of payments and arrangements beforehand; registering people during the convergence (she talked to everyone), and now doing follow-up. We are thrilled Christy has agreed to be registrar for 2009.

Thanks to the steering committee members for their work in planning and carrying out the event. The 2008 steering committee included: Marisha Auerbach, Chuck Estin, Brian Hindman, Colette Hoff, Kelda Miller, Michael Pilarski, Laura Sweany, and Bruce Weiskotten. At the end of this year’s WSPC, they all volunteered to be on the steering committee for 2009 plus new members: Tom Allen, Rosemary Buchmeier, Mike L., Christy Nieto, Albert Postema, Steve Tracy, Michelle Van Zandt and David Zhang.

Thanks to Toby Hemenway for his great keynote talk on Friday. His presentation and the many images he presented to us tied together the theme of the “horticultural” societies that existed between hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies. The period of time when humans invented so many useful strategies for humans to co-create bountiful ecosystems with nature. Toby is well known as the author of the great permaculture book, “Gaia’s Garden”. Over half the convergence participants have read his book and the high regard that we hold Toby was reflected in the substantial applause he received.

Dave Boehnlein gave a noteworthy presentation on “Large-Scale Permaculture Projects. Dave is one of the team members of Exos Design, which does permaculture consulting. Doug Bullock is also one of the team members and Dave lives and works at the Bullock Brothers Homestead on Orcas Island. Dave brought final reports from several of their jobs. The reports were finely bound, the size of substantial books, and included colorful charts, photos, drawings, species lists, etc, etc. The quality of their design presentation has to rank among the best in the world.

Regional meetings were held on Sunday morning and we expect to see increased regional collaboration and organization as a result.

A website is in the works which will enable Washington’s permaculture community to communicate with each other and the greater world. The website team currently consists of Paul Wheaton, Steve Tracy, Jason, John Cruickshank and ? (more volunteers welcome). The website names of and were secured by John Cruickshank during the convergence.

We had a period where people could announce upcoming permaculture design courses being offered over the next year and it looks like Washington will have its largest number of courses ever offered in one year. They will be announced on the website once it is set up. The website will offer a way for people to list permaculture courses and workshops in Washington State.

Marisha Auerbach led a discussion on permaculture internships, Chris Chisholm led one on finding partners for permaculture ventures and Sam Benowitz led a discussion on how to pass on one’s life work and permaculture living situations for old age. Participants of the latter discussion will write up some of the ideas for the website.

Participants included many of the most active permaculturists in the state both old and new. Participants included some of the earliest people to promote permaculture in the state such as Mike Maki, founder of the Maritime Permaculture Institute circa 1981; Sam Benowitz of Raintree Nursery had the largest turnout of any workshop for his talk on fruits for the Northwest; Forest Shomer of Inside Passage Seeds and founder of Abundant Life Seed Foundation gave a seed collecting walk; and Michael Pilarski kept up his reputation as a song and dance leader.

As befitting even a regional permaculture event there was an international presence as well. People representing India, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, China, England and Native American tribes were in attendance. Participants from other states included Oregon, California, Montana, Alaska, Kansas, Minnesota and Louisiana.

We were pleased to have Native American emissaries Lisa Powers and her daughter Bibiana join us and make a presentation on Native American prophecies for this time. They bring word from various international indigenous gatherings and left us a song. Lisa and Bibiana live and work on the Tulalip Reservation. Creating more interchanges and information sharing between permaculturists and Native Americans in Washington state was discussed and we it hope will lead to more interaction.

The evening entertainment was great and totally spontaneous. A wonderful music and song circle on Friday night with great instrumentation on guitars, cello, violin, drums, etc. Saturday night included a story and song circle that went hilariously into the wee hours of the morning. The hot tub saw much conversation and soaking.

Albert Postema’s power-point presentation on large-scale earthworks had to have the most images per hour of any show ever. The large machinery of his business, Earthworks Excavation allows Albert to implement huge hugelkultures, spirals and other earthworks. It was hard to tell at first if Albert’s initial photo of his acres-wide, bermed spiral was permaculture or the aftermath of strip-mining. It will be something to see once the plantings take hold.

The outside world was changing even as we were doing the convergence. The big $700 billion bail-out for Wall Street was just becoming big news. Whether the bail-out happens or not, it shows that the world’s financial systems are in the stages of unraveling with concomitant great changes. The end of USA hegemony is upon us (whether planned or not). Permaculturists can be on the forefront with solutions for the local crises, which will arise.

Chuck Estin and Mike Maki’s workshops were both focused on how permaculture can help create an Alternative Scenario B, during the coming great changes. Would anyone like to write a report on what these two workshops covered? It is interesting to note that a topic on the permaculture email listserve, started shortly after the convergence on the topic of “Pre-Design for Collapse”.

Everyone should check out David Holmgren’s new website Holmgren is the co-originator of Permaculture with Bill Mollison. His new website goes into detail on various scenarios we are likely to face in the next decades.

Since the global economy is big on the news right now, here are several websites which I would recommend reading on the topic.!-Global-systemic-crisis-September-2008-Phase-of-collapse-of-US-real-economy_a1298.html

There was an enthusiastic response to hold a 2nd WSPC and the date of September 11-13, 2009 has been set. The Sahale Learning Center was a great spot for this year’s WSPC and so we are meeting there again next year. We expect to increase in size next year. Registration details will be forthcoming at a later date. We hope to see everyone back again next year and more.

Best wishes to all from the Washington State Permaculture Community.

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Page last modified on November 03, 2008, at 06:17 PM