1. What's important to me?
- Buddhist practice which has infused the Diploma increasingly over the years!... and influenced designs such as Mystery of Time, Mindfulness and Working in the Gift. Early designs were more land-based: Plot 60a, The Earth Element, St Saviour's, then morphed into land plus people, Lamas backyard and J's bird gdn. I think the Buddhist practice is more focused on the internal stuff, changing attitudes becoming more caring, interconnected and mindful and I find Permaculture is great way to externalise and express those changes. Though to be honest I have found it frustrating sometimes how physically /geographically separate they seem to be (ie, Spiritual community in Croydon, gardening friends in Lewisham and Permaculture community scattered about all over London! - Though to be fair I am within easy reach of a Land learner site in Peckham which is very handy. http://burgessparkfoodproject.org.uk
- Connection with nature and growing cycle (Urban food growing specifically). I got interested in gardening properly in my late 20's early 30's, not sure why then. I'd lived in Spain for 3 years and been lucky to visit many areas of natural beauty (beaches and mountains) with an outdoorsy boyfriend. Got into photography and sketching a bit at that stage. Coming back to London in '97 I was lucky enough to share a garden for a while and surprised to see previous tenant had planted potatoes which I happily harvested. My daughter came along in 1999 and the flat became a bit small. Moved to Lewisham in 2002 and put my name on waiting list for allotments in 2003. Given a grassy brambly half plot in September 2004, which was great as no garden where we 'd moved to. At some point, Merlyn, a colourful fellow plotholder spoke about his Permaculture plot at an allotment open day and it felt intuitively right what he was saying about growing in that way. I wanted to find out more. (see Review of Relevant activities para WHat have I been doing for the last 7 years?) For info on how I have attempted to increase connection with nature for others see Design 7 Permaculture for Kids.
- Healing - The kind that Joanna Macy talks about. Our mainly western civilisation has developed into a 'runaway system' that is on course to create a lot of unnecessary suffering unless we come up with something. In June 2008 I went to France for a Work that Reconnects weekend at the Dharma House. I wanted to find a way to respond to climate change that was more positive and helpful. I learnt about Deep Time and how we fit into a much larger time scale than our own lives. I also discovered that it is appropriate to feel loss and despair when we see the destruction of our home for profit and that we can use that energy to motivate ourselves act, as well as feeling gratitude for what we do still have. I've attempted to address this in the Mystery of Time design and I've concluded there are many things we can do, but it's about staying in balance (inner and outer work) and keeping in touch with like-minded others. For example, I don't go to every Permaculture event that is held though I always feel inspired and energised by them and a sense of being in the right place with the right people if that makes sense!
(See accreditation criteria 2 and 4, about applying Permaculture and putting theory into action) I'm finding now that reading Naomi Kline 'This changes is everything' and Charles Eisenstein 'Sacred Economics' I am more hopeful that there is a window of opportunity now to make some really healthy changes to our lives.
- Harmony - I find petty squabbles boring and obstructive displays of ego (including my own) saddening and frustrating. Humans have a great capacity to work together and create wonderful things. But we don't do it! We need to re-learn how to 'do' community - to relearn how to Observe and Interact with each other and nature, especially in the city. The designs Permaculture for Kids Working in the gift and St Saviour's edible garden attempt to address this.
2. Why I am doing the Diploma
After being introduced to a new world and completing the PDC I was hooked and I didn't want to leave it there! I realised how much I didn't know about the natural world but how fascinating and relevant it is.
I'm also doing it so that I can combine all the things above that I value and do something creative with it. I read an article called 'Mindfully Green' by Stephanie Kaza in Permaculture Magazine a while back and it described stages that we can experience when we become more awake to the environment. The first stage is forging connections and finding out what is meaningful and satisfying for us personally. The second involves Professional Development in order to be an 'advocate for the environment'. The Diploma is Stage 2 for me. (Stage 3 is 'ecopractice as a lifeway' where we become unconsciously competent at systems thinking and living in a low impact way.)
My Buddhist practice has been a source of inspiration and learning to me since 1997 though I gradually felt there was an aspect missing... although a lot of Buddhists are vegetarians and vegans, I didn't meet many that seemed concerned about climate change, reducing pollution and protecting our environment. There was very little discussion of this - I suspect for the same reasons that it is fairly taboo to mention climate change in polite society, akin to mentioning death. Joanna Macy explains this phenomenon very well in her book 'Coming Back to Life'. So the Diploma in Applied Permaculture provided an ethical way for me to look at this area that so needed addressing and work it into my life. I think looking back I wanted to devote more energy to Earthcare as I felt that Peoplecare and Fairshares were already relatively prominent in my life.
I see Permaculture as a very healing and peaceful discipline and by enrolling on Diploma I hope to promote Permaculture more often after joining the ranks of Diploma holders! Having a Diploma would give me confidence to run introductions, workshops and help out on PDCs at some point.
I have been registered on the Diploma for at least 7 years but over the last 2 years I've had more opportunity to talk to people about it and it feels important to finish it: tie up loose ends, end the cycle, consoldiate what I've learnt, get on with my life!