Develpoing Community Resilience in the Land of Resilient Communities

One small family. One little patch of land. Four hearts and minds.

A few years ago we were total newbies to the application and dissemination of the concepts of ecological and social restoration. Now we feel like we’re flying.

We’re fresh off the back of teaching our second Permaculture design certificate. We’ve both taught sections of PDCs before and have co taught with many others, though this was just us; Fionn and Laura, Iyla and Oak.

The two weeks of the PDC that we had this small group of beuatiful people together, we all felt the power of collective dreaming; the possibilities of achieving our ideal culture, and the understanding that our individual actions can and do make the world of difference.

Our small dedicated group of students excitedly receiving their PDCs

We came away with an overwhelming sense empowerment, as facilitators, friends, earth stewards and keystone species.

“We got this!”

Almost as if waking from a glorious dream, the shock and reality of our current predicament came home to roost. The ancient gondwana rainforests are on fire. We’ve heard time and time again people say the rainforest can’t burn. And here we were reading and hearing that Mt. Nardi – with the highest average rainfall in all of New South Wales – was, and still is, burning.

We don’t wish to go into details of the fires themselves or our neighbourhoods response to them as you can find detailed accounts of that elsewhere. These fires were and are not isolated. There was a a state of emergency declared a few days after we returned home. There was a buzz in the air. One we could only liken to one instilled in a fear of the unknown. We’re forest people, we’re flood people, we’re not fire people… Or at least that’s what we thought.

we’ve heard it likened to applying a gas mask to yourself before you apply it to others. It would appear that when the fires here started on the Saturday, with a exception of few locals working alongside the RFS, many were doing just that. Getting their houses in order. Applying oxygen to themselves prior to allocating it to others.

Police went from door to door advising people to leave their homes, as Tuesday was set to have temperatures into the 40s with high winds. The fire front was over 10km away from the village but with high winds the chance of an ember attack were high. So we cleaned up as best we could, left out buckets all around our yurt, and we left with our two wee ones.

Fionn returned the next day, and posted this after more clean up around the house. In true permaculture fashion he had to ask, and kept on asking;

“What are the potential positive outcomes from this? In what way is this problem a solution?”

Then by Wednesday it had come to our attention that one of the communities near and dear to us was being threatened by fire. So Fionn gave a lift to one of the share holders there while Laura did the essential work of loving and caring for children and our home site. When Fionn arrived there was whole fleet of people carrying buckets to a fro, from the fire to a tanker dolling out water.

And so began the work of the next couple of weeks. Laura and Fionn joined in with an impressive number of people from our local community who had come together to address the immediate danger of the fires. Throughout this process (which is ongoing – and is likely to be for the rest of summer), there was and is a palpable connectivity being created and redeveloped between all those involved in the fires. It was brough to our attention that there was a need and/or desire for people to let off steam now that our fire had been downgraded – we were in the blue.

“there was and is a palpable connectivity being created and redeveloped between all those involved in the fires.”

All this time Fionn had been trying to complete the last section of his second semester of is permaculture Diploma. It related to facilitating participatory planning and governance. His initial hopes of beginning talks in the hope of establishing a weekly farmers market in The Channon common came to an abrupt halt when the fires started. So he asked the question, “Can a party for the firies be more than just a party?”

Talking with some of our local friends, there seemed a need for a fundraiser itself. With the desire stated by myself and Laura, with some contact with our awesome team of local go getters, and two weeks to plan it, we decided on the above.

And what a night! Circus troupes, Flamenco dancers, Gypsy jazz, 10 piece dance band, storytelling, shadow puppets, heartfelt standing ovations of appreciation, a feast for all and so much more. All by the way provided out of love from our community for our community. No one got paid a cent, and yet we managed to raise over $3000. Not bad for a little jar by the door, and some networking.

A full house in the hot The Channon Hall

It must be said that it is more likely, that an event similar to this would have happened in such an amazingly connected community. However, in no small part did the impetus given to Fionn and Laura through their study of permaculture ignite this event, the lead up meetings, and the idea for the fundraiser itself to be larger than just a fundraiser. It was a party with the specific intent of first and foremost acknowledging our awesome firies and defenders, but secondly in using this as a starting point to a new way of creating community resilience in the face of a changing climate: Intergenerational community resilience.

Upon applying self regulation and accepting feedback, it has come upon us – a small group known as The Channon Stewards – to host a small gathering of concerned local citizens wishing to contribute to the discussion around our future, and how we respond as a community to a changing climate.

Here’s to future community cohesion, networking and resilience. Together we are strong.

IPCUK, Social Permaculture & Moroccan Dreams

The weather was changing, we could feel the cool night air seeping in under our duvet while the three of us slept in our van, Arvan. It was time to make another change. We were becoming more open to our surroundings and  opportunities. We decided to take our friends from Keveral up on their offer of a place to stay with them in Morocco. We thought a trip through Southern Europe would be a kinder place climatically to spend some time. We had friends along the way that were practicing permaculture so we could also continue our quest for sound ecological knowledge. This felt like the right thing to do. The longer we were away from such niceties as water on tap, power, central heating, the easier it was to be without it. We were slowly but surely rewilding. Though before we could get going there were two opportunities in England that were too good to pass up.

Moroccan sunsets were calling us
Moroccan sunsets were calling us

The first being that the International Permaculture Convergence (IPC), which appears in seemingly random countries bi-annually, was going to be held just outside London. It was listed as being, “a unique global gathering of some of the most inspired permaculture designers and practitioners from around the world, hosting over 500 participants from over 60 countries.” In short we couldn’t miss it.

David Holmgren's permaculture flower
David Holmgren’s permaculture flower

The second being an event which was one of the first ever Social Permaculture Courses, with a line up of educators that would make anyone interested in permaculture excited to say the least. The course was taught by five facilitators considered to be pioneers in social permaculture; Looby Macnamara, Peter Cow, Starhawk, Robin Clayfield and Robina McCurdy. We very nearly had to flip a coin for this one but as Fionn had returned to Australia to do his PDC with Geoff Lawton earlier in the year, it was now his turn to be with our little one and prepare the van for our future adventure.

This course opened up Laura’s eyes into a world of permaculture that was far deeper than she was expecting, something she is still digesting to this day! Some of the broader aspects covered were how to make our culture, our interaction with each other, and our groups sustainable, self perpetuating; How we can and will live together in an uncertain future; How to have better conversations; How to ask better questions of each other. Stories were told, songs were sung and emotions were felt. Something was happening, a shift, a movement, an optimism.

Robyn Francis - permaculture pionneer, and one of both Laura and Fionn's future teachers. just one of the amazing people we were lucky enough to meet at IPC
Robyn Francis – permaculture pionneer, and one of both Laura and Fionn’s future teachers. just one of the amazing people we were lucky enough to meet at IPC

Straight after this course was the IPC. The three of us drove up to Epping forest and spent 5 days immersing ourselves in PERMACULTURE! (yes in capitals and with an exclamation mark). It was incredibly inspiring to say the least. The people we would chat to, and the projects that were happening were all so up lifting and full of thought provoking actions it was hard not to be moved. Fionn felt in his element networking his way around the world in Epping forest, as Laura just felt a little daunted by the speed and quantity of the knowledge that they both were accumulating! Isn’t there some saying about once you allow the doors to be open you allow endless possibilities to enter into your life?! That was definitely happening to us. And we were becoming less afraid of taking those opportunities.
And with that, we headed South to Portsmouth where a ferry was waiting for us.

 

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