WeekOne of the Cornell Permaculture Course: Finding my voice, I shudder: Refuge!!

What is permaculture?….seriously….this is where I will find the courage to find my voice…not the self-definition of the “life-long student”, but the gal who wore sidearms for twelve years, and found her heart in a trout stream….My answer to this first weeks Participant Forum:

There is so much richness in this first week. My notes have notes. I have often wondered who was speaking when my clients ask a question and I hear a voice carefully describing an answer. It just won’t be a list, or a linear equation. The description is a fractal an algorithm. And I am always so surprised that it is my voice. And they are smiling and nodding their heads. Tonight as I re-read the What Makes a Permaculture Site? article again my past opened up. Here it is: The multifunctional principle is not an element inside a middle circle with lines or lists of all the functions. I see a Venn Diagram. In the 1990s I was blessed to be the program manager for a watershed restoration site on the Northern California Coast. My CRMP (coordinated resource management program) included 36 “stakeholders” (a word I have come to loathe) from individual ranchers, farmers, loggers to EarthFirst and Greenpeace. It was the greatest time of my life…and this is difficult to describe in lines like this now, now that a window has opened: In restoring fisheries habitat we saved valuable farmland adjacent to riparian corridors which had regularly been eroded away by unnatural high flows, filling spawning and rearing habitat for silver salmon and reducing the valuable farm land and the commercial fisheries and so in selling the idea of saving rich, alluvial farmland by implementing best management practices in riparian management and farm field treatments we motivated staunchly conservative uncomfortable farmers to adopt those practices. (thank you, James Joyce). We restored fisheries, save farmland, offered the experience of success and reaffirmed self-determination to those who feared loss of self-determination, improved riparian habitat for Gawd knows how many species, improved water quality, reduced flood damage….This is the complexity of permaculture: that the asparagus in my meditation garden provides food for me, food for the ducks, protected nesting habitat for the ducks, eggs for me, shells for the compost, duck poop for the garden, shade to retain moisture, beautiful fronds of texture in the breeze, loft for the compost when cut in the fall, habitat for friendly day-glow tiny predator wasps, organic matter for the adobe clay when the tiny leaves fall to the ground, on the ducks who make nests of them….a Mandelbrot set, a Julia. And to momentarily address the quantification/metric issue that conventional science has with “permaculture”, please spare me the word counts and how many bushels difference from year to year. The variables we have the courage to flow with can be dissected and treated statistically, but in the words of my favorite scientist of all time “Normal science, the activity in which most scientists inevitably spend most all their time, is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like. Normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments. As a puzzle-solving activity, normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none. ” (Kuhn,T.; The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962)


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