Seattle Permaculture Guild
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---written for the Cooper Point Journal---
This past September, a group of 115 people came together on the Kitsap Peninsula, north of Olympia. They danced in the fields, taught under the trees, and talked late into the night about the state of the world and the simple solutions they had at their fingertips. Michael Pilarski, a founder of the gathering, notes: “A spirit of excitement and cooperation were in the air.” It was the first Permaculture convergence to happen in the Evergreen State for many years, and it was a much-celebrated success.
From the viewpoint of many environmental and social justice activists, it is sadly apparent that modern-day humans have a tough time living on the planet. Whether you look through the long view of history, through the current destruction of vital ecosystems, or through the eyes of oppressed peoples globally, it is a truly an overwhelming feeling.
One thing that can be agreed upon, though, is that the typical lifestyle in this country could use a big, humbling dose of reality. Consumption rates, resource use, and empire lust affect the entire world. Rather than be overwhelmed by this, many people use this as a starting point for changing lives and attitudes.
One of these movements is Permaculture education. To promote sustainable futures, first many of us must learn how to live responsibly on the planet: how to grow food, build shelters, process wastes, save water. These skills are not new to humans, but may have been lost, ignored, or devalued. Permaculture seeks to re-empower a 'common sense' that includes sustainable human habitats. This common sense acknowledges that the health of the ecosystem is intrinsic to the health of our future generations.
Back in 1982, The Evergreen State College proudly hosted the only International Permaculture Convergence held in the United States. These events today now draw thousands. In 1982, TESC hosted the founder of permaculture, Bill Mollison, and Masanobu Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution, and an amazing array of teachers.
But what is happening in the local Permaculture movement lately? Pilarski also said of the recent Convergence, “Many balls were sent rolling which will yield results for years to come.” One of these is the almost-launched Washington Permaculture website to network all statewide projects. This will compliment the Seattle Permaculture Guild's website, and our-ever useful online forum, Permies.com. (Also of note, Permies.com is offering internships for Evergreen students. Find out more at the Career Development Center).
As for local projects, Thurston County is teeming with them. Terra Commons is transforming area lawns into abundant food forests. Fertile Ground Guesthouse is hosting a series of freeskool classes and continues to be the most sustainable guesthouse in the region. Olympia's very own Queen Bee, aka Marisha Auerbach, continues to teach Permaculture Design Courses throughout the Northwest. There's also an Olympia Permaculture Guild on googlegroups.
As for events, there is some exciting news. Austrian permaculturist Sepp Holzer will be staying in Thurston County for a month this spring. His amazing projects back home have inspired leagues of food foresters, aquaculturists, and plant and animal breeders. To check out his work, look him up on YouTube. Keep an eye out for specific workshops he'll be teaching; they'll be posted in our online listings mentioned above.
Also, the Permaculture movement is keeping a keen eye on Olympia, as a town that has birthed many fun projects. Last summer Olympia hosted the first Village Building Convergence in Washington State. It was a weekend of fun building projects through GRUB and Oly Salvage. Also, for barter enthusiasts, there is now a 'westside' option at Nature's Creation Farm that provides an alternative to the long haul to Tonasket, Let's hope to see Olympia's Barterfaire grow and expand this year.
As always, check out current Permaculture Design Courses and other events in the online resources above. Keep up the great work, and see you at Synergy.
Kelda Miller is an Evergreen grad that co-founded the Seattle Permaculture Guild. She now lives in Puyallup on an 1-acre urban farm. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.