Look at this, a bunch of young generalists sharing knowledge and reflections online. What a beautiful extension of the type of learning we have been engaging in all week long. Throughout our field course we learned from a variety of growers/philosophizers who had their own unique take-on and practice-of “permaculture”. Many of the “permaculturalists” we were learning from had dropped out of post-secondary, and yet here we were, in a university accredited course, absorbing valuable information and inspiration from these folks. In academia we are encouraged to specialize in order to succeed, we are told to follow a certain safe path to success. Let us question safety, authority, expertise!
So what makes an expert anyways? Why are we told to gather information from certain knowledge holders and not others? Is it the amount of degrees one has racked up? The number of peer reviewed publications their name is attached to? Is it how long you have spent honing a skill? The humble folks we met considered themselves non-experts yet had immense knowledge to share. There is something really admirable about that.
Here’s to those who have learned from experience! Here’s to those who have failed and have something to share about it! Here’s to those with many passions! Experts can be generalists, they are just simply expert-generalists. Permaculturalists tend to be generalists. One could spend a lifetime devoted to just one topic we covered in the PDC, however that isn’t necessarily going to be conducive to supporting a whole system, or a whole heart.
There is a certain anxiety that comes with being a perma-newbie-non-expert-generalist. Am I doing this right? Should I prune this? Will this make me sick? My education thus far hasn’t encouraged me to take risks. However, the folks we learned from throughout this course were experts and inspirations in the art of risk taking. Jump in with both feet they say! It’s okay to not be great for a while they say!
Our friend Meat Punk Max, is one of those self-described non-experts and feels like he’s doin’ a-okay! He’s content in his generalism, and he’s critical of the idea of people who don’t try because they don’t know everything. Then there is Oliver Kelhammer, and artist who happens to be an ecology master. He reminded us of the change making power that is in each of us, if we just let it out.
Learning from these non-expert experts over the past week has inspired me to be less caught up in needing to know everything before I can be proud of myself for knowing and doing some things, before I can confidently share the knowledge I do have, before I can try my hand at a new skill. I do however want to take a quick moment check my privilege; to honour the fact that not everyone can take risks in the same way, not everyone has the same social safety nets to fall back on, or the opportunity, support, time and money to get started.