Thinking beyond sustainability (let’s focus on that thinking part)

I think I think too much about thinking. BUT IT IS SO COOL. There is this guy, Glenn Aparicio Parry, who wrote a book called ‘Original Thinking’ and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between his thoughts and Tamara’s actions. As Tamara walked us through the pastures, she spoke of a deep-rooted connection between herself and the land she was on. Like Parry suggests, Tamara (at least from what I gathered) thinks in sync with nature and integrates head, hand and heart into all she does (what up ecofeminism!!). She described having this “energy exchange with the farm,” whereby everything is interconnected and functions based on the health of all parts of the system. Tamara may not label herself or her actions as permaculty, but as an eager student it is easy to see the similarities.

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Look at all that energy exchanging between Tamara, the cows, the trees, the weeds, the air, the earth… Okay, but seriously, look at it!

Let’s get back to Perry for a second. I understand he’s not the only person who thinks along these lines, but it was the last book I read (okay maybe it was skimmed), so hear me out. Perry describes “original thinking” as thinking that is “reconnected with a deep place of origin,” essentially it is place based. Now along with this he talks about thinking in a non-linear fashion (funny thing is the way he writes about this is super boring and linear… hypocrite much?). Anyway, his bottom line is that rather than suppressing intuitive thoughts, we must act on them and encourage that visceral feeling that comes with observation and interaction with the natural world. Perry says that by practicing that sense of belonging in our thought processes, we can connect with and feel a part of nature. Now I’ll be the first person to point out the issues that come with being too absorbed by academic theory, but there are moments when you can apply theory with practice and it is like the fireworks go off and the jigsaw puzzle is complete. I felt a little like that when Tamara was touring us through the farm.

What I appreciate about permaculture is that it is a method of putting all we have learnt in environmental studies into a place-based practice. From ecological restoration to political ecology to systems theory and beyond, all of those ideas must be intimately considered when designing with the land for maximum efficiency. This application needs both theory and experience for it to work, and it all begins in our complex and beautiful minds. Not minds that have been trained to come in a box set, but minds that are wild and running on the energy found beneath our feet.

Let’s ruminate on this for a moment longer. In nature, straight lines are the chaotic ones. Why must we walk from A to B, when there are herbs to pick, cow patties to jump over, and lakes to paddle on? No doubt, there are places for linear thinking. Adam’s market garden is one example, though even then you can integrate system thinking in terms of rotating crops and phenology. A lot of energy is expelled to keep things like carrot rows in order, but there is reason to it. By reflecting nature’s own symmetry, we can embrace the complexity of all living things all while conserving energy. So why doesn’t our society encourage “original thinking”? Are we scared? Or is that we have simply been trained to think that certain way in the last couple hundred of years and need to be reminded of other options? Whatever it is, I think it is high time we begin retraining how we think! So how can we allow our thoughts to root in the dirt under our feet and eventually sprout through our ears in all its weird n weedy complexity? Hmmm. Guess we better think on it.

 

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Dear Climate Change

 

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To read the letters that inspired this one, please visit the site Dear Climate. I took the liberty of addressing climate change, but i’m sure climate would appreciate a letter from you!

Dear Climate Change,

I imagine your mailbox is overflowing with letters of denial, fear, hope, and anxiety. Do you read them all? Or do you skim them, highlighting sections that make you think or giggle or shake your head? Well, indulge me and read this one all the way through. I think we could be good friends.

Don’t be alarmed, but there is a group of 21 young people who are waiting for your reply. We may look like we are ready to attack you, armed with pitchforks or pens and riding cows. But we come in solidarity and hope that you will become our ally. We’re a tactical bunch, filled with positive intent and justice, who are craving a world that harnesses your energy and turns it into something sweet.

In hopes of clearing the rising waters between us, I’d like to share with you my last week at Linnaea Farm. Perhaps you saw us? We were the odd bunch with straw hats and blundstones, plodding our way across an island at the southern edge of Desolation Sound. We were adding to our toolboxes, finding ways to combat, well, you (at least, the old you). And we’re hoping you will cooperate. We understand that our actions have caused you to grow at a rate that should only be preserved for sea monkeys. But we are ready to take ownership of that and work with you. Not to shrink, but to cease, your growth.

You see, since you began growing, we have been organizing. At a rate that may be comparable to yours. We have come together out of the ferocious love we have for our people and our places. In our effort to stop you, we have strengthened communities and invested in relationships. We have created art and honoured traditional knowledge. We have come to understand that we must follow a way of living that will generate all forms of life in perpetuity and in diversity. For some people, this comes through in practicing permaculture. For others, it is something else.

So you see, you have power in good places too. You have made us realize that this Earth we live on is precious. You have enacted us to take responsibility for our actions and make positive change. Now we need your help so that we can understand each other a little more. Do us a favour, read those other letters and share them with us will ya? I’ll be waiting by my mailbox, eager to read and take action with my community.

Sincerely, someone who used to not like you but is starting to see you for all the good you have catalyzed,

Temily

What if the Sex Pistols taught permaculture?

Or the Clash… Or even Green Day (do they count? Mike Dirnt’s frosted tips put them in the grey zone for me). Whoever it is, I’m sure Oliver Kellhammer would be their co-professor. The Mike to their Hannah. The Hawthorne to their grafted pear. And Meatpunk Max would be their TA.

Self proclaimed punk rocker and permaculturalist, Oliver is the guy you wish would move to your community. It seems everywhere he has lived, Oliver has left behind a handful of permaculture crystals and when he leaves (this is the best part in his opinion) those crystals form into that ever flowing Kool Aid for years to come. From East Van to New York and then onward to Cortes Island, he uses art to create interactive solutions to serious social/environmental/political issues (you can check out his projects here).

While spending the day with him, I could not help but feel an urge to cause a ruckus. As a student, I find myself feeling apathetic way too often… Even though it is a time in my life when I am expected to speak up, act out, and cause reason for that ring road! In times of apathetic nonsense, I’ll be sure to refer back to my notes from this past week and remember to lighten up, make up a sign, and park wherever I damn well want to (within reason of course, what if someone was really banking on parking there and has a personal protest of their own going on…?). Here are a few of my notes for you to do the same.

Notes I jotted down while listening to Oliver:

  • Love your monsters
  • People forget they are dangerous. Assert your power
  • Lighten up!
  • Question authority
  • The soil has been colonized
  • Wildness is a western concept
  • Does climate change make me look fat?
  • Tweak the forest
  • What can I not do?
  • Why not keep a fucked up functioning ecosystem?
  • “Take photos, leave only footprints” – screw that!
  • Use slime mold as a quantum computer or an eight ball
  • Being a control freak is exhausting
  • Question the word ‘allowed’

Notes I jotted down listening to Meatpunk Max:

  • You don’t need to be an expert to do something
  • What we think of as gross is learned
  • Testicle pâté is a great way to get rid of the odd organs
  • Eyeballs are high in vitamin A
  • How do we unlearn the culture and broaden our palette?
  • Nourish traditions
  • There’s a greater diversity between individuals than within species
  • “The nose knows”
  • Approach road kill with an open heart and open mind
  • Think about the meals per death ratio
  • Harvest the blood

Like true punks, there is shock value in their words. Yet beneath the blow are resounding truths. These guys walk the talk and are not afraid of crossing a few lines to do a bit (or a lot) of good. Not everyone has the privilege to punk out in the ways Oliver and Max do, but I do think there are ways we can all overgrow the system. As the ol’ permaculture principle goes, ‘the problem is the solution,’ and whether or not you have ruptured into the punk scene, if you can solve issues creatively and have a bit of fun thrown in there too… I’d say you have some anarchist blood flowing through those dendritic veins of yours.

Who knows? Blood could be the next kale. And WE could be the next Johnny Rotten.

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I have to admit that my knowledge on the punk scene is abysmal. I had to google ‘top punk rock bands’ to make sure I was even on the right track.

 

Enriching community through creative play

By Temily McCutcheon

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A particularly unusual improv performance where Mother Earth and a salesman found new prospects after a rainstorm. Many of these actors played music, danced, sung, spun hoops, spun their bodies, and spun the audiences minds earlier in the talent show.

Saturday evening arrived, the moon as full as our hearts. Our minds buzzing like bees, our notebooks scribbled with dreams, our mason jars oozing with 100-year-old sourdough starter and kefir grains. Abundance was in and around us. It was the second last night all together, a time for jubilated costume shows and pre-emptive celebration. Some folks sung sweet serenades, others playfully danced as leopards and princes, and even more tucked into the farmhouse, eager for a deep sleep after another busy day. By any standards, it was a night to remember. The next morning, hands wrapped around a mug of coffee, I wondered if we could rally again and come through for our scheduled PDC talent show that night. You could sense the nervous energy floating around at breakfast. What are you going to perform? Some people asked. Participation isn’t mandatory, others pointed out.

Looking back on the week, I was confident in our skills as party animals. We found fun in every nook Cortes had to offer. Yet, as Sunday turned into Sun-night, the mystery of our closing celebration spread a soft haze over the newly anointed permies. For the readers who do not know this group personally, we are a funny bunch. Diverse as we are ripe with talent, there is not a boastful fruit amongst us. And so, as Em and I passed around the sign up sheet, I continued to wonder how this final celebration would reveal itself. Well, my dear readers, whatever it is that I wondered does not matter. My imagination (however wild it may be) could not have conjured up the display of talent that we all witnessed on that last night. Creativity surged through the room, playing with our hearts like bouncy balls. Joy, admiration, fear, surprise, hilarity… Each minute I was pulled into a different world, crafted by a peer whose ingenuity stemmed beyond their physical act. After the final performance (an inimitable dance number by our three hip-swaying professors), I looked around with fresh eyes and noticed things about each person that I had not understood prior to the show. Under the veil of creative play, I became aware of the roots we all grow from and was able to draw connections that could have otherwise been left dormant. So much of the who/what/when/where/why/how of a person comes through moments of passion and this talent show enabled me to see how important creative outlets are in the shaping of a community.

At Linnaea Farm, we collectively crafted a space that inspired curiosity, candor, and creativity. I feel we enacted our own personal truths through whichever practice we felt right with. In turn, we were able to learn and then interpret from 24 different creative bodies of knowledge. Within that is some crazy exponential of diverse ways of knowing, a web of various strengths, weaknesses, energies, and passions. Thinking of the community we revealed in eight short days and one (albeit electrifying) talent show leads me to wonder what could emerge in a lifetime of creative practice.