July 6, 2013

Permaculture and relocation

The Push to Move and Migrate

We’re very much still the same people we were over 10,000 years ago when we began to settle down. So when times get tough we often think if we just move we’ll be better off. While in the times when we were hunter/gatherers that was to find a place with more food today we do so more often because of jobs. Jobs are how we think we earn food today so it’s not a huge change but I was reminded of it when I read a post from a friend of Facebook. She said:

Need to figure out what states have all the jobs so I can apply for them Sure isn’t nothing here anymore, at least worth having. 2 steps forward and 5 steps back. sigh.

While I tried to post a comment right on Facebook I kept getting errors so I figured why not tell more people via my blog and just post a link to it for her since Facebook is failing to allow me to post it.

Don’t blame the location.

permaculture and migrationI’ve seen loads of people move in the last 5 years and most of them went where they heard there are jobs, while this can sometimes work (and almost always does in the long-run) the chances of immediate failure are really high and in the short term it’s rarely worth doing something this drastic especially if you have a family.

I can’t tell you how many people I know that struggled so much harder where they were, away from the safety-net of family and friends, and on their own with their money running out because they decided to chase the whisper of jobs.

So what can you do? You’ve got to eat, you’ve got bills to pay, how do you get by? If there are truly no jobs what choice do you have? You might not have one. You might have to move, it might be the only choice but if that’s the case focus on making sure you never have to do it twice.

Change is gonna come

I believe that we’re on the cusp. We can go one way or the other, the first way is not much different than what you see in front of you now if you’re contemplating changing your entire life to chase after employment. That’s because the people with most of the power and wealth want the world to go that way. That is to say they want to see people beg for work, to see an excess of workers that are fighting for a small handful of jobs so the competition keeps the cost of labor low and keeps the employees working hard. It’s not that they want suffering, it’s partly because they’ve convinced themselves that they’re not the ones responsible which allows them to focus on making profits rather than focus on building strong and lasting communities that they can be a part of.

The alternative to struggle

The alternative, and this too is already happening in many places, but is only happening because people are making it happen for themselves and their communities is a refocusing of work-life balance.

If we stop consuming, begin to grow more of our own food, find much of the rest of our food at farmers markets or through CSAs (where it’s much cheaper and healthier), if we reduce the amount of energy we use and start to create our own via wind,solar, and/or water, and we design ways to reduce our bills we build the alternative – we build abundant lives.

If we build or repair our homes in ways that are meant to last and to function to further reduce our bills, and we design a future where we have to work very little because our life works for us then we don’t need to struggle because we don’t need much money, our future will be abundant, free, and secure. This future doesn’t create laziness, (as some would want you to believe), it creates abundance. In that abundance we work hard but we’ll do so in far more enjoyable ways and for far greater rewards. 

How do I know? Because focusing on yourself and your family, working on relationships, on the land, and on ourselves and our own well-being is far more rewarding and enjoyable than punching keys on a keyboard or selling consumable goods, or answering questions over the phone.

Permaculture Design

Now, that being said we can’t just find a part-time job in our consumer culture, plant a garden, add some insulation to the attic, and find happiness. We need to design our lives and use design to create that abundance, security, and freedom.

We need to design our lives and we can do that with permaculture which is a means of designing systems, our lives are systems and we can design them better if we’re conscious of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.

Designing a better life through the Principals of Permaculture

We can use the principals outlined by David Holmgren in his book and on his website to stop from having to run away to look for a better life. We can instead design a better life for ourselves, our families, our communities that don’t require us to rely on people who have little interest in being part of a community other than exploiting it for resources.

To start we need to observe what needs changed and analyze how we are living and what changes we can make that will create abundance.

We must find ways to stop wasting energy and begin to collect it, and I mean all forms of energy from solar or wind energy to collecting rain water to collecting personal energy, and the energy that our families and friends provides us when we do positive things together. Space and time are intrinsically linked therefore time is energy and we can collect time and use it in a more efficient manor too.

We must obtain rewards at every step because we are still animals and it goes against our nature to not see a reward for doing something good so as the principals of permaculture tell us we must obtain a yield. That yield is our reward.

If we design our lives right those rewards will show up as part of the system but we must work towards building a life that returns those rewards to us. We need to apply self-regulation and accept feedback. I’m not talking about job performance reviews. Feedback can be but may not even be verbal feedback, we need to listen to what others are telling us true, and check that information against our design plans. We also must listen to what the life we’re creating is telling us in indirect ways as well and to what our own bodies are telling us.

If you’re getting repetitive stress injuries then your body is telling you something needs to be changed. Our bodies are not meant to be suffer these kinds of injuries. 

We need to value the resources we have in and around us and focus more on renewables and on consumables less. I’m not talking about just energy here, I’m talking about everything. Your garden is a prime example, plant perennials and they come back year after year, plant annuals and once consumed you need to buy more. Focus on finding other things that are renewable, things that regenerate themselves. What can you do to make other things in your life act more like a perennial plant?

We need to produce less waste with the goal of one day producing none. Waste is something that fails to continue to meet a purpose. If it can’t be reused then it’s waste.

We need to recognize that definition and think about it for a minute so here it is reworded slightly: Waste is simply any thing(s) that are not being used/reused continuously in the best possible way.

An example, leaves that fall from the trees in the fall are not waste. If they are left to rot they create an environment for the microbial life that breaks them down and allows their base components to be reused by the same tree they fell from by that tree putting out new roots. It’s not just about the tree either, we’re not wasting time letting them rot, the rotting serves a purpose too, in fact it serves many purposes because active living soil acts as a sponge and slows and sinks water, it creates all sorts of compounds and helps break down mineral rich rocks and soil, it does so much more too.

It’s all a system that nature has had millions of years to work out and every step in important and useful. How many of us can say that, in our lives, every step is useful and important? I can’t, but that’s the goal and I work every day to get there.

So how do we design such a life?

If I don’t answer that then I’ve generated a lot of wasted time in the above paragraphs. We start with patterns and work towards details. Nature produces abundance through patterns. Repeated patterns make the natural world work. Too they are repeated not just in one setting but in many, take the branching pattern that we see in plants, we also see it in river systems, and in our own vascular system. Patterns are the language of nature and if we can replicate natural patterns and work from pattern down to the details we can build abundance.

Another way we must use design is to integrate patterns, objects, systems, etc and encourage collaboration while discouraging competition. What in your life is competing most for your time, for your money, for your energy? Find ways to integrate things to reduce their use of your energy, time, or money. Better yet find ways to integrate things so they better take care of themselves and each other. 

Don’t make big changes. Don’t throw out the system you’ve been designing already even if you feel that it’s just been designing itself. Focus on small changes you can make and make them slowly. Rapid or massive change shock the system. They disrupt the patterns you’re in and they almost always lead to a rebounding of sorts. Smaller slower changes are longer lasting and easier to make.

This is important because it speaks to what we were talking about with migrating or moving in order to seek better economic stability. Those changes tend to be big and shocking, look for ways to make smaller changes.

Diversify your life

Diversity. What does it mean? It means don’t find yourself without options, if you do the stresses will become greater and the chances of catastrophic failure will be greatly increased.

How do we build redundancies? Make sure that every element has more than one function and that every function is performed by more than one element.

And what does that mean? It doesn’t mean have a backup, it means have two or more primary systems for every function. A good example of this is our food. We need protein so if you really want to take care of supplying your own protein then having chicken is a great way to do so because they will continue to produce eggs for several years and if you’ve got a rooster they’ll make more and more chicken who will produce more and more eggs. What happens though if a disease or a predator takes them all? If you have a few nut trees growing nearby that wouldn’t be as big of a problem, you’d still have protein. So think of ways to apply that to your life in other ways.

For me I don’t rely on one job or one industry. I’m a photographer, a web designer, a permaculture consultant, I do arts education, and as I say to people when they ask – I do most anything you’re willing to pay me to do. How can you foster diversity and make sure that every function is being performed by multiple elements in every aspect of your life? Start to think about that, start to list different ways it can be done. Assess your life, build a plan, design a better way. 

I believe in permaculture for a number of reasons. One of the big ones is that it’s a means of getting through times when resources are scarce. It’s a system design philosophy that can be used by those with the least resources (be they money, water, land, etc) best because they understand in an almost genetic way what resource scarcity is.

Wealthy people, for the most part, have never experienced resource scarcity. Permaculture was designed primarily to get us through the coming collapse of fossil fuels and other shortages but it also works when resources like money or jobs are scarce or when time is scarce. Name the resource that you’re dealing with a lack of and design a way to live through that scarcity.

Money is a resource so designing a life where we can live with little money, and not struggle but in fact live in abundance is possible with permaculture. I see people doing it every day. 

I talked above about diversity and about making things work collaboratively. The best places to do that are on the margins. Where two elements or two systems meet is where the most abundance will be generated. Think of a pond in the woods. The trees give way to an area where, during the wet season, the water is high and where the ground is wet still much of the growing season. This area is full of plants that live both in the woods but can also live in the water, there is a mixture of forest plants and wetland plants – there is more diversity and greater abundance here in the margin, on the edges.

How can we encourage more edges in our lives and benefit from them?

I do it by mixing the work I do. I get photo clients from web design clients and vice versa. The community development hat that I wear has edges where there are clients because I work with small businesses in the community that may need a web designer or photographer – the amount of clients in this space is abundant. The space around the trees in the yard, (at the drip-line), is where loads of shade-loving and sun-loving plants mix and that area is not only full of diversity but it’s also full of activity, of energy, of life. Some plants only thrive there because it gives them enough warmth to make it through the winter but keeps them shaded enough that they don’t wilt in the summer.

Change is natural

The 12th principal of permaculture is this – creatively use and respond to change. Change is constant. The wind is always blowing, the earth is always slowing in it’s spin. How we respond to change is vital. If we design our life thoughtfully, using the principals of permaculture, the patterns of nature, we will be more prepared to creatively adapt to the changes we see. If we have multiple elements doing each function then the changes that come happen more slowly, they’re buffered, and we can adjust and work through them because we’ll have more time and more energy to direct the changes in a way that works for us rather than opposing the change outright.

I know I just said is a lot of stuff and is maybe a touch beyond the topic but we’ve got an amazing amount of intelligence in our giant brains and if we use it to better design our own lives, in more active and thoughtful ways we can and will create an enjoyable, and abundant life for ourselves and for those around us.

You can do it, I can do it. We all can do it.

July 6, 2013 | W.D.Orkoskey
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