Empowering people

35 people from Europe and the Americas gathered in the outskirts of Athens in September to attend a Permaculture Design Course with the Australian Darren J. Doherty.

For sixteen days a brilliant permaculture teacher and designer took us step by step in a journey of understanding nature and its workings, of learning how we can design and manage our habitat in order to help regenerate nature, attain resilience, food and energy sufficiency and a true quality of life, working in harmony with nature’s cycles and not against them.

In a world bombarded with fragmented information and disorienting theories, Darren put order in the clutter by focusing systematically on the way of thinking that is permaculture. He showed us how the permaculture way of thinking is driven by its ethics: care of the earth, care of the people and return of surplus time, money and energy to achieve the first two ethics. And throughout the course he explained how this thinking shapes the principles and design methods of permaculture, to create a whole different way to see and interact with the world, ultimately a different way of life.

For all of us, who have taken some form or another of conventional education, I am sure that this course was like a breath of fresh air, not only thanks to the diverse teaching methods, the radiating positivism and wit of a laid-back teacher and experienced designer who walks the talk,not only thanks to the beautiful natural surrounding and the chance to taste communal life and have fun with like-minded people, but most importantly because we studied real and feasible grassroots solutions to the most severe problems we face.

Solutions is what we need, and informed action. We have wasted too much time in just pointing the finger at the bad guys, measuring the damage we have inflicted upon the planet and criticising our failing systems. In a country stricken by a deep environmental, financial and social crisis reflecting the global crisis (but à la qrecque…), 25 Greeks came in the course, many with maps of their big or small plots of land in their hands, aspiring to a more natural, sane and meaningful way of life. They came out with a permaculture design for their land worked out by themselves and with the collaboration of their fellow students and with Darren’s guidance. And, together with the international students of the course who also worked on their own designs, we all came out with a sense of empowerment and with the confidence that there are tools and methods within our reach, that can help us re-create our own future, and that of our children, living within our means in an abundant nature, working towards self-reliance and fostering resilient local economies.

Needless to say that the transformational experience of this course is just the beginning (or the continuation for some) of the journey. An exciting journey that passes through experiential learning, sharing, doing, and enjoying every step of the way.

Last but not least, my heartfelt thanks and my best wishes to all the fellow-travellers.

Photos taken by the Course participants

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