Regenerative agriculture and community building

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by johncitizen.org, Nov 7, 2015.

  1. johncitizen.org

    johncitizen.org New Member

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    Hi!

    So basically I'm just a compassionate human being who recognises that the world is systemically sick and that instead of just banging my head against it like many of my peers (and hoping that it'll miraculously change), I've finally decided to trade in comfortable complacency (and casual activism) for full-time activism in the form of pursuing positive alternatives for potential big picture implementation.

    The thing is, with the way our world currently functions it is easy for an individual to feel overwhelmed and powerless to make a difference. While we still need to have fellow citizens applying bandage solutions (in order to treat the very real wounds in the present), it saddens me that there are not enough of us devoting more energy towards developing the systems that not only minimise the likelihood of the wounds from developing in the first place, but also look to stop us and our environment from being under threat at all in the future.

    Ha sounds great in theory, right? But how do we go about getting there in practice with all the very real obstacles that we face? For me, like many others here, it must start with protecting our environment by designing and implementing systems that are not only sustainable but regenerative. I feel like there are already good examples of this being done here and there, and for decades now too, but are isolated alternatives doing enough to get us where we'd like to be?

    The project I'm working on is about trying to bridge that gap. Thankfully, I have some capital (and the will) to attempt doing so, however one of the biggest aspects of this project will be looking to empower others to be in a position to do the same. So if I may, with all respect, ask you permaculture fans out there who are not currently being an active example, what is stopping you? Is it just a lack of access to capital? Is there just not enough personal economic reward? Is it a lack of time? Is practicing permaculture not a valuable enough way to spend your time compared to what predominantly preoccupies it now? Or is it something else?

    I mean, in other words, what kind of things should people like me be striving to achieve to potentially facilitate a transition for you into permaculture, and preferably in particular, regenerative agriculture and community building.

    Would really appreciate the feedback x

    Steve (johncitizen.org)
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Steve,
    You offer some good questions.
    These are a couple of my own personal observations:
    1) An existence within a cocoon-of-comfort equals stagnation; it takes a certain amount of discomfort (whether it's emotional, physical, or intellectual) to stimulate personal growth.
    2) If humans distract themselves with "consumerism" and "entertainment", they will never address or resolve their own personal relationship to the reality within which we find ourselves. Turn off the tv and stop defining ourselves in terms of the "things" we have/want. "An unexamined life is not worth living"
    3) Both items above prevent us from the most basic realization that our current structure of human existence is based on "conflict with nature" and then arriving at the conclusion that we must collectively begin designing and implementing new systems that operate "in concert" with nature.
    Once we arrive at 3), we can begin to consciously choose our path forward (i.e., "what are you going to do with the rest of your life") that will begin to attract the attention of others nearby and perhaps stimulate their own awareness.

    So, what is this project of which you speak??
    ; )
     
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  3. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i am about as full time as i can be here and i like the results i'm seeing. finances certainly impact how much can be done or how wide of an area i can affect.

    our little bit of land in isolation may not seem like much but it is an island of diverisity in this area and so it is important even if the scale is small.

    to have a larger impact, yes, it would take a significant investment or donation of land and i don't see either of those two things happening. so it's important to do what i can with what is here instead of holding off or making excuses.
     
  4. johncitizen.org

    johncitizen.org New Member

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    Thanks for caring to offer your thoughts guys. I think the sharing of perspective is one of the best tools for questioning everything in order to examine our lives and be the best that we can be. I think it is important that we do try to make the best of our current scenarios, however I also think that more of us who are capable of doing better must explore the means with which to support others to reach far loftier goals that can potentially benefit us all.

    For me, I have been tentative to invest in a system or project that is already out there. I want to be involved in an operation that transitions within the current system towards developing the kinds of communities I imagine: ones that are healthy, sustainable, just, and democratic. There are already a number of people who are working on concepts that address these kinds of traits in our society, however they tend to be isolated examples that, by such a structure alone (plus potential other shortcomings too), cannot translate into systemic change. For that is our (big picture) need, alternatives that allow us to evolve the system we all function in that is currently fundamentally flawed. I have written about that in more detail here: https://johncitizen.org/2015/10/27/...within-a-blueprint-for-nonviolent-revolution/

    So if we were to ask a bunch of educated, compassionate individuals their thoughts on permaculture, most would be very supportive yet few would feel compelled to get involved personally. This simple point is really important to dwell on for a moment. We have a set of principles which we can use to design and manage land and animals that can potentially provide sustainable food, rehabilitate land and water sources, and sequester carbon in the soil, while also reducing our dependence on unsustainable, harmful energy. Yet, say, out of all the passionate environmental activists who dedicate a lot of their time and energy towards protesting climate change, what percentage pursue permaculture in some form as an organised alternative to the current sick system? I think it's a realisation that those of us who are passionate about permaculture need to acknowledge, and more of us with the means to do more towards addressing it, need to start empowering others in providing the active, organised support that can actually build functioning alternatives.

    Ha so as for the project, I've just returned from abroad and in the process of restructuring my access to capital, so I guess the extent of it that can be implemented will depend significantly on that. Therefore I'll be looking to make the most of the next couple of months, while that is being sorted out, to come up with fully fleshed-out operational plans for different levels of capital investment, plus according to different potential local council approvals (which will also be decisive factors in eventual scale and success). I look forward to sharing these in more detail so that others may be inspired to also explore implementing them for their own communities, or get involved with what we're doing here.

    I guess what I can share now, is that it will be based in the Illawarra region. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, it is just below Sydney in the state of New South Wales, Australia. I'll be exploring an education and research based (but also practical) farm model that also incorporates community building through cooperative enterprises (in particular food and banking systems), affordable housing, environmental rehabilitation, sustainable outreach programs, and the development of healthy democratic processes. Ha all while reconnecting with nature and each other in more enjoyable ways!

    To me, it's nothing revolutionary, just having the vision and will to tie in a bunch of concepts that already exist and deliver them in a sustainable model that can be clearly documented, analysed, and touted as a functioning example of an alternative system. My belief is that other similar attempts have lacked in a few fundamental areas, with perhaps the most key being how to address transition. If we are to agree that the system we all function in is systemically sick in the manner with which it distributes power and wealth, and how current democratic processes clearly do not adequately represent the citizenry, then our end game (at some point in our design) must be to transition towards a healthier overall system through the very implementation and growth of the community building projects that we'd be directly working on.

    Unfortunately most other projects already out there have little chance of addressing our end game hopes because they too are systemically flawed in design. nowhere in their design do they adequately empower a wide collective of individual citizens while also systemically stripping power and wealth from corporations and those who do not have the best interests of our society at heart.

    Obviously most projects out there were also never designed with the intent to meet such lofty goals, so this is certainly of no criticism towards those who are no doubt achieving amazing success with outcomes that were actually intended. But when are more of us going to seriously discuss and explore these lofty goals more through design and management? We seem capable of implementing these sound permaculture principles to isolated aspects of our society, but what is truly stopping us from achieving so much more?

    Sure, it's lovely to be able to construct mud ovens and banana-circle showers, or even to become personally self-reliant on ones property through the implementation of permaculture principles, however even if more and more of us started doing such things successfully, we're still metaphorically applying synthetic fertilisers and pesticides to the systemic problem rather than solving it through design and management. We may still be yielding something from life, but we're, including the environment are, still vulnerable to corrupt democratic and monetary systems. For me, that's what I want to devote my time and energy towards, and encourage more discussion on.

    Anyway, the aforementioned link goes into such stuff a lot more, and I look forward to sharing the more detailed implementation strategies with you all in the near future. In the meantime, I'm always happy to hear stories and ideas about such from others, so please feel welcome to share, as I'll also be asking some more questions here about related topics.
     
  5. LeeWilde

    LeeWilde Junior Member

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    Great thread... I will be back when I have a bit more time. I've been pondering this exact thing lately, on a personal and a wider level.
     
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  6. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Great treatise on your blog Steve, looking forward to hearing more about your plans and designs.
     
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  7. Carol

    Carol New Member

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  8. howdymr

    howdymr Junior Member

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    Good post!

    Like you, I've decided to get involved. Unlike you, my capital is not substantial enough to stretch very far. And I have a wife to provide for who is not healthy enough to contribute as much as she'd like.

    So, what to do? We get by on very little as I study, network, reach out, get doors shut in my face, take courses and jump on opportunities to be a part of efforts that I am convinced will make a difference (such as my recent trip to Haiti).

    We're all in our own contexts, trying to do what we can. Challenges can be anywhere from too much responsibility and/or debt to reluctant spouses to lack of funds to simply not having enough vision to really know what to do. Hopefully efforts like yours will make a difference in the lives of many who have the heart but need help with the vision.
     
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  9. LeeWilde

    LeeWilde Junior Member

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    I've been working 'full-time' in permaculture for the past few years - developing this property, studying, thinking out ways to create community, and trying to improve biodiversity, soil health and production on this 12 acres. I haven't been as successful as I'd like (as I hoped), for a few reasons.

    I have no capital. Low income. 25 kms from nearest town. Very very few neighbours, so quite isolated. I'm autistic and socially anxious. I'm only renting this property so am limited to what I can do and the people I can have here. And a bit over 2 years ago I had a baby, and adding a baby (now a toddler) to the mix makes this 'trying to develop a demonstration/education site on my own with very limited finances' thing even harder. I've been getting a bit discouraged about it, to be honest. (although looking back on my list of 'limitations', really I've done quite well to achieve what I have so far. 50 points for me. )

    This year I have had the immense good fortune to be introduced to a semi-local (mostly based 1-1.5 hours from me, but with an active online presence) permie group. I've met some new people, and seem to now be part of a wider group of people working for community building and organic growing. Also very recently developing from that wider group is a smaller, more close-knit group working specifically on creating intentional community and working together on land to create regenerative abundance, organic produce and a demonstration/education hub for outreach to the local community (local towns, that is) and also linking back into the first wider-community of the permie group. I feel much more hopeful now. The frustration and overwhelm that has been looming over the past 6-12 months is dissipating into a new stage of planning - a stage of planning that feels as thought it will lead to actual accomplishment and productivity. I feel a bit sad to be leaving this property after 5 years and many, many trees planted... but the idea of living on land with a group of people dedicated to common goals and committed to working together to make a positive difference - that's pretty thrilling stuff.

    Definitely having connections to like-minded people (who also share vision and motivation to actually get things done) is a huge factor in how active people can or want to be. I've been to 3 permablitzes here in the past 4 months and it's such a great energy. I have to travel 1.5 hours each way to get to them usually, and take my toddler along, and I'm usually a bit anxious about the social factor - but for all that I look forward to them so much. They're some of my favourite days. Collective energy and purpose makes a big difference to personal motivation levels, I think. It certainly does to mine.

    I've always thought of it as creating bubbles. Changing the whole world sounds a bit arduous, but anyone can create a bubble of awesomeness. If you can get a few people together inside that bubble to create it, even better. Then it's just a matter of making the space inside that bubble so super awesome that other people want to come into it, and also expanding the space that the bubble takes up. You can inspire other tiny little offshoot bubbles too, who then go on to do the same collection/expansion thing. Eventually you maybe bump into another bubble and join up. And all these bubbles all over the place are expanding to the point of connecting to another, and eventually the whole world gets taken into the bubbles of awesomeness - but all you have to worry about is your own little bubble (and helping other people with theirs). I've been working on my own tiny little bubble here and not getting very far (but I think possibly helping other people with their bubbles too) but now I have the opportunity to move into a space and create a bigger bubble that can possibly affect a whole local community (or several) and be the starting point for many more. Plus it'll be easier to maintain the level of positive motivation and general awesomeness inside the bubble with more people working on it. All right, I'll shut up about bubbles now.

    So access to community. Access to education. Exposure to concepts and skills and information. This would help some people. As for people who HAVE access to all of that and still aren't actively participating in larger scale stuff... I don't know. Except if they have little kids. Then it's probably just too exhausting. I haven't slept more than 4 hours in a row in 2.5 years. I'm still rocking on with this permie stuff with all my heart, but I sometimes think I'd get a bit more accomplished if I just got more sleep....
     
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  10. johncitizen.org

    johncitizen.org New Member

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    Thanks so much for sharing. We can never have too much of an understanding of the unique personal factors that govern each other's decision making. Some of our best tools for shaping healthier, more inclusive communities are shaped by sharing with and listening to each other.

    Just a (relatively brief) update on where I'm at. It's funny how continuously applying permaculture principles and holistic management and design to a project can make it evolve dramatically. What initially began as a personal desire to sustainably and positively reconnect with nature, evolved into a plan to invest in my own regenerative agriculture research and education facility, and with more more time and exploration, I'm excited to say that it is evolving further.

    For me, the more I research, the more I find myself lingering on obstacles to a healthy society that I once considered insurmountable, and reviewing them with fresh, determined eyes. In doing so, I've actually been genuinely surprised that there are avenues within the current system to even bypass some of those more challenging obstacles that prevent us from making more comprehensive progress towards actually shaping the kind of society we'd like to see.

    The biggest obstacle always tends to be capital. We can't build more ethical solutions, we can't do so many things because of our apparent lack of capital, especially in the wider permaculture community, with many enthusiasts not usually the type that dedicate their lives to the pursuit of monetary wealth. However it is not just corporations and governments that are sitting on a lot of capital with which to dictate our environmental, social, and economical landscape. In Australia, the equivalent of 9.5% of most of our personal income finds its way into some of the biggest capital reserves to be found - our superannuation funds!

    However at the moment, most of it used by major fund managers whose priority is gaining the best current economical return for their shareholders within a limited perspective of prosperity and long-term growth. And so, most super funds, our money, is being used to fund so many of the projects that corporations profit considerably from, and leaving us with an economical trickle of just 3-4% growth above inflation, plus a flood of waste in the form of social, environmental, AND other economical burdens from not investing ethically.

    Currently, there are certain laws in place that are designed so individuals do not personally profit from self-managed super funds, partially to protect the wealth and power of corporations, however also to understandably limit the impact less regulation would have on already excessively inflated residential property values.

    There are legal avenues to navigate this, obviously, because they are the systemic ones the excessively wealthy are using to increase their already considerable fortunes. For me, it's about leveraging such a system to instead redistribute wealth from the corporate sphere to the community one. The challenge is getting the right balance to meet the current expectations of superannuation auditors and delivering the ultimate, and deserved benefits, for communities. Understandably, I want to take such an opportunity as far as it can go, because with the models I am working on through this, the community benefits start becoming systemic not just superficial, which is really exciting when in the pursuit of providing hope for future generations.

    And so the specific project I was working on has certainly evolved into one that is looking to enable considerably more people, in a more sustainable manner, to provide the kind of systemic change we'd like to see in our communities. I'm still looking to do an initial site in the Illawarra region, as I feel there is a critical need for a successful example to be demonstrated close to a major city, however that is likely to also evolve into the planning and development of a "Permaculture Precinct" - one of a substantial number of households consisting of people dedicated to regenerative agriculture, clean energy, eco-housing, water harvesting, waste treatment, community finance, ethical food distribution, enviromental conservation, education etc.

    At some point, once I've completed the modelling to satisfy my own high standards and those of various regulators, it is likely I'll then be moving pretty fast to network with people in the necessary fields to collaborate with in order to grow what I feel would be something really special and revolutionary - ha at least for this part of the world!

    As appealing as the broad concept may sound without me having shared much detail yet, and as inclusive a concept I'd ideally wish for this to be, this initial project will potentially involve a lot of responsibility and hard work for those participating, which may only satisfy the kind of people who emotionally buy-in to the principles that form the foundation for such a project (society), and feel rewarded from the fruits that such endeavours exclusively provides. Principles that most of us here would nod our heads to in theory, but in practice many of us will resort to traditional, contrary methods here and there out of convenience and complacency, and the collective of such can destroy a movement before it has even truly had a chance to form roots, as history has proven to us countless times before. So it is my intention to at least try to learn from history haha.

    But in all seriousness, this is a concept I'm putting a lot of time, effort, heart, and other resources into, one that I'm researching at length in order to come up with and design sustainable real-world solutions for many without a voice, including our environment. As awfully dictatorial as that can sound, it has been done, and will continue to be done, with a predominantly selfless nature, and with such goals in mind. There are so many projects out there that look to satisfy the individual needs of an eclectic collective of permaculture enthusiasts, and as such, they are only models of, in reality, limited shared aspirations with a limited contribution to wider society. Respectfully, I have no desire to simply provide another, larger example of such. And so, I can only request, ha not demand, that even if you may not agree with the principles that I'll share here (and you're welcome to analyse and debate them, of course), that you respect that they've developed from years of interaction, research, and belief, and that if such a model does not appeal to you personally (and you feel left out), to recognise that you'll be able to eventually open-source the tools to finance a community you and like-minded people envision yourself.

    Haha, sorry, as usual I didn't succeed in being brief - oh well! But I look forward to potentially hearing from more of you, sharing what boxes would be required for you to have ticked to make a transition to a regional permaculture precinct, and especially, hearing from individuals with a more entrepreneurial spirit in backgrounds of agriculture, construction, solar energy etc that are interested in playing a proactive role in shaping a more ethical society.
     
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  11. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    sounds great and very exciting i wish for it to bear much fruit and trees. :)

    *hugs*
     
  12. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    "As awfully dictatorial as that can sound, it has been done, and will continue to be done, with a predominantly selfless nature, and with such goals in mind."

    Hardly dictatorial ... more visionary!
     
  13. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Hi there,
    I can empathise with all your troubles, and I guess most readers would agree. What it shows me is that everyone has their work cut out for them, we all have to make hard choices once we commit to this work. And that's what we're doing - committing ourselves to a work.
    Nothing worthwhile is easy. It's frustrating to think 'if only I had the money'. So just do what you can; and think in terms of what can I do this month, or this season, or even this year. Before you know it you'll look back and congratulate yourselves on what you DID DO, rather than feel discouraged about what you couldn't do. Your tiny part of the world is yours to command.
    Didn't Bill say it all starts at the kitchen door?
     
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