“When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before.” Henry David Thoreau

Targeting best in class and possibly build ROI. Funneling user stories so that as an end result, we create a better customer experience.

Communities change by recognizing and adopting new norms. What was once unorthodox and strange, becomes common and accepted. Language changes rapidly—just look at the evolution of the Urban Dictionary. Styles in modern clothing can change very rapidly—new colors or design lines shift every season. Similarly, colors and styles of flooring, cabinetry, furniture, paint colors, and throw pillows are designed to shift in order to drive markets and spending. We’ve been told that doing these things brings us approval from our knowing peers. We know that game is up. 

As permaculture people, we know that the old games are shifting. We can’t keep on keepin’ on. But can we really envision that gradual shift from where we are to where we want to go? Can we recognize the progress we are making and still push for the next step? When we are faced with opportunity in the guise of crisis, can we look at the systems that are disrupted and use that as feedback to create something more stable? 

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One of the remarkable things about mainstream, modern society (MaMo Society) is how much it seems to adopt innovation and new norms. I am sometimes surprised, but also pleased to find that solar panels and passive solar construction are more common than they were 15 years ago when I began teaching permaculture. Recently, while supporting a community-led process, I was talking to a community leader and complaining about how radical I felt advocating for something five years ago. She pointed out that many of the things I mentioned were now codified in the city’s development ordinance. My internal response was to find out where the new edge is and begin advocating for the next evolution in order to keep us moving toward sustainable.  

What allows us to do this is vision and our commitment to the life and people affirming ethics we’ve embraced. Taking the time to discern our vision of how life can be for us, and what we have to offer our communities by way of that vision is essential to our health and the well-being of those around us. 

 

What is your vision?

I was on the website for a group today which promotes resilience using permaculture and Transition Town concepts among other things. I respect them a lot, and appreciate their capacity to foster amazing connections and projects. One of their declarations stated that they use ecological solutions, honoring indigenous practice roots, and supporting more resilient communities because of this. 

This argument that we can use ecological solutions to become more resilient has long bothered me—despite the fact that I promote the approach in permaculture design courses. Yes, using ecological solutions to work with nature instead of the extract and burn approach of modern society is an improvement. Yes, it is living more lightly on the Earth—maybe even regeneratively. 

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But here’s the problem: using nature to meet your ends does not go far enough. It doesn’t admit the real locus of power. It is still an ego-centric approach. 

Humans are out of right relationship with the earth, and we have been for a long time. Hence the imbalances of power and impact between humans and Nature and among humans within mainstream societies. Permaculture design is a bridge to a closer connection to our homes, our energy and water sources, to our food. It is not the end of the road for our development as human beings. 

I believe our aim is to bring ourselves into right relationship with the Earth and the mystery of life by serving it—by listening. This is a spiritual revolution in our own being. 

Among the waves of viral infection moving across our communities, among people sick and dying, among those who are weary and fighting to keep on—whether they are homeless people or nurses or those scared where their next paycheck will come from—I have hope that we will wake up to our own spirit. That we will rediscover what is really important in our relationships with other people AND with the Earth. 

It’s not right to “use ecological solutions to meet our ends.” It’s time, and past time, as Bill Plotkin says to move beyond the ego-centric societies to the soul-centric/eco-centric self which is both our selves and larger than our selves. We aren’t working with nature: we are truly nature. 

This novel virus is a wake up call and an initiation. Our mainstream civilization has lost the art and understanding of rites of passage. So, the Earth has brought us one—however unwelcome that dance with the unknown is. 

In rites of passage, we are separated from our normal communities. There is loss of the normal, grief, and new capacities granted and fostered. At some point, there is an emergence into a new self which has grown from the struggle we faced. We are then welcomed back into our communities and can share our story. Our story is our opportunity to reframe ourselves. We articulate and incorporate the new self in a way that our community can recognize and honor.  

In this moment, we have the opportunity to go with the flow of this civilizational rite of passage. We can creatively honor our journeys. Bill Plotkin’s Soul Craft book is a wonderful resource for this. 

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Why “Touch the Earth”? 

 

This place we are beginning to create together is a means of gathering in people with whom we’ve (Corbin and I) have had connection with through permaculture, nature connection, and similar pathways. There are so many people in so many communities over so many years to connect. We all have questions, quests, visions, knowledge-turned-to-wisdom, and more to share. Given the contexts we find ourselves in today, we hope to inspire each other into practical action and joyful living. 

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Touch the Earth, as a project of ours, started out as a dream of hosting workshop weekends which bridge between many of these skills and seek to strengthen each of us in our vision of healing the Earth and tending to our families and communities. But why wait until we can get together? Why not tend to each other now? So, that’s what we’re doing. 

Look for this community to grow slowly and steadily over the coming weeks and months. Anyone can participate in the General Discussion, and some people are involved in specific groups, like the Current PDC group or the Former PDC group. Ask questions, share successes, and let us know what you need.

Occassionally, we will share online and in-person events and projects we’re involved in. If they are right for you, great–if they could help someone else, please share.

This is a place of creativity, hope, vision, and purpose. We look forward to knowing you better.  

It is late January. While walking around a consulting client’s property yesterday, I saw the early bulbs just beginning to peek up above the soil. In my own garden, spring herbs are already beginning to conservatively creep across the ground in the warmer, protected spots. Spring seeding is beginning to happen, and I know that the buds on the trees are beginning to change in the warmer periods. 

Nature doesn’t have an on/off switch like our mechanical systems. There is resilience built in to the constant use of energy. Just so, I believe that most people have in the back of their minds and the depths of their heart a desire and a commitment to a beautiful, healthy, just world. The rush and stress are there—but beneath them is the courage and imagination to see a better world. 

At the Global Earth Repair Conference in Port Townsend, Washington last May, Precious Phiri gave a powerful keynote. Behind her, on a large screen was a hand-drawn image of an adult sharing with a child—and noting that in 2019, the world woke up and it all changed for the better. Until that moment, I was sensitive to the collective grief and worry and persistence of the 500 people gathered. That simple drawing raised the question: how did the world get better? How did we come together and heal the Earth? Each other? 

Seven months later, with Rob Hopkins’ book From What Is…to What If? in front of me, I recognize the same question and the same feeling of possibility. What if? 

I am exploring this question for myself…and I am very curious to hear what you are imagining, too. Write me and let me know. Or come to a workshop or course with me—we can imagine together. I look forward to the changes.