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Permaculture course

What is Permaculture? Permaculture is a design system for creating human settlements that function in harmony with nature. Incorporating traditional knowledge, modern science, and the ecological patterns of the living world, permaculture design is applicable to farms, homes, gardens, organizations, housing developments, towns and villages, or city neighborhoods.

Permaculture is about designing & living in a regenerative human culture. Learn & practice the principles, strategies, and techniques for reinhabiting your world. Re-integrate into the Natural landscape in ways that neither exploit nor pollute, and which will provide the basis from which a regenerative culture can spring!

Permaculture is a design pattern for living more harmoniously with our life support systems, and with each other. It is a rapidly growing and internationally recognized design system for creating sustainable human environments. It is a set of principles and techniques that aims to create ecologically sound and economically prosperous human communities. This course gives students innovative conceptual tools and the chance to view that future from as many angles as possible. This is a unique opportunity for a hands-on experience in a class through Indiana University.

–David Haberman, Indiana University Department of Religious Studies

Permaculture is the art and science that applies patterns found in nature to the design and construction of human and natural environments. Only by applying such patterns and principles to the built environment can we truly achieve a sustainable living system. Permaculture principles are now being adapted to all systems and disciplines that human settlement requires. Architects, planners, farmers, economists, social scientists, as well as students, homeowners and backyard gardeners can utilize principles of Permaculture Design.

–Larry Santoyo, University of California, Berkeley

see also the essays “Time to Garden the Planet,” by course instructor Peter Bane and “Permaculture: The art of common sense and the science of hope,” by Thade Correa (describing his experience in the course), below.

What Kinds of People Take Permaculture Courses?

Renters & Homeowners: Learn simple steps to improve your home ecosystem and your immediate surroundings while saving money, resources, and building a healthy habitat.

Planners & Managers: Learn how to integrate sustainable design into the planning process.

Public Employees: Improve public service & work efficiency and community benefits via creative land, water, and air resource management techniques.

Building Design & Construction Professionals: Learn about current practical systems of natural building, as well as how to integrate land-use design into the built environment.

Landscape Architects, Designers & Gardeners: Learn principles and techniques of sustainable landscaping, with an emphasis on functional plants and rainwater harvesting.

Course Description
This is a 2-week certification course, after which you are eligible for a Permaculture Design Certificate.

First Week. Forty-four hours of instruction covers:
* Ethics and Principles
* Observation,
* Pattern & Design
* The Natural World: Climate Forest, Soils
* The Cultivated Ecology: Gardens, Plants & Animals, Human Dynamics
* The Home System: Building Design, Energy, Water & Waste
* Developing Settlements:
Land Use,
Appropriate Technology,
Economics & Finance,
Urban Applications

Second week
Combines the larger subjects of the permaculture curriculum with a focus on the design of the Lazy Black Bear landscape and culture. This course together with Fundamentals completes the requirements for the Permaculture Design Certificate. Presentations by experienced designers introduce mentored small group design projects.

Students will develop skill in:
Mapping, Field Survey, and Drawing
Pattern Languages and Meta-Systems
Economic, Social, and Community Design
Broadscale Landscape: Agriculture, Wildlife, Earthworks,
Interview, Presentation, Project Management & Earning a Living

Peter Bane, Certified Permaculture Specialist and Keith Johnson, permaculture consultant. Peter and Keith are co-editors of Permaculture Activist magazine. Rhonda Baird, permaculture instructor and founder of the Bloomington Permaculture Guild Lazy Black Bear staff.

Useful link for more information:

for IU students:
Course fee information for IU students, is available by contacting Heather Reynolds,, 812 855 0792 or by visiting

for all others:
Fee: $1050 – for reservations made before 3/31/07; $1250 after 4/1/07, covers facilities, all meals, camping, course materials, instruction, and round trip transportation from Bloomington. Contact Shagbark for information about work exchange options.

Accommodations: Camping facilities (including solar showers and composting toilets) and hearty local, seasonal, and organic fare are included in your registration fee. Other accommodations on site are available for an additional fee;

About the Lazy Black Bear
The Lazy Black Bear is a rustic and eclectic guest lodge and farm located at the end of a dead end road, nestled in the gently rolling hills of the Hoosier National Forest four miles south of Paoli, Indiana.

NOTE: The Lazy Black Bear is a fragrance free zone. Please bring only unscented soaps, detergents, shampoos, and body care products and leave perfumes and fragrances at home.

Shagbark is an Indiana not-for-profit corporation which operates the Lazy Black Bear as a center for renewal, reunion, and education. Shagbark also hosts Sun Circle Farm, a working farm producing a variety of all-natural, healthful fruits and vegetables; and Possum Ridge, an orphan possum rehabilitation and release center.

Field Equipment and Clothing
What to Bring: Bring your own towels, sleeping and tenting gear, work clothes, toiletries (unscented), special foods, musical instruments, notebooks and writing materials, water bottle, flashlight and batteries, and rain gear. Because Indiana weather is highly variable, be prepared for different kinds of weather, from warm sunny days to rainstorms and cooler nights. The best solution is to bring layers. Here are some suggestions – happy packing!

Field Clothing:
Sturdy hiking boots (preferably waterproof) Work Clothes Warm weather gear (shorts, T-shirts, sunglasses) Sweatshirt and long pants Comfortable footwear (running shoes, Tevas, etc,) Sun hat or visor/sunglasses Rain slicker or windbreaker Swimsuit

Other Field Equipment:
Day pack (large enough for notebook, sweatshirt, etc.) Sunglasses/sunblock Tweezers Toiletries (unscented) Personal first aid kit Medications Water bottle Notebook, pens, pencils Flashlight

Optional Equipment Which You May Find Useful:

Camera, film, batteries
Spare prescription sunglasses or contact lenses
Long distance phone card
Musical instruments

Last modified January 8, 2007

Time to Garden the Planet
C2006 Peter Bane

This is a season for talking truth about the world. Americans do elections and feasting in the same month and for good reason: All politics hinges on the question, “Who eats?”

When we shifted our economy from the wild harvesting of nature’s surpluses to the cultivation of cereal crops at the end of the last ice age, we started on a course of collective self-discovery: Will the clever monkeys solve the puzzle in time? Can they figure out how to grow enough food to keep up with their sex drive?

So far, the answer is no. The Agricultural Revolution, sparked in the semi-arid regions of the Near East about 10,000 years ago, has been a failure. The production of surplus grains has always led to increases in population that outstrip the productive capacity of their regions, leading to war, empire, destruction of forests, and migrations. On a shrinking planet, there’s nowhere else to go.

To get to the root of politics we have to talk and act on food. Freedom isn’t just “nothin’ left to lose,” rather it’s an abundant supply of locally grown food for every household. Our current food system, and with it the entire economy of the now hyperlinked world is balanced precariously on a dwindling supply of fossil oil and gas, controlled by a tiny elite of mostly foreign powers.This is not a temporary problem to be solved by technology or better management. It is a structural problem of
geological limits and burgeoning population that will never go away until we break our addiction to oil.

Thirty years ago, two Australians, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison discovered in their conversation about energy and equity that they had something to say about this problem. They described their response to global limits and the failure of central authority with the made-up word, “Permaculture,” or “permanent agriculture.”

In the generation since “Permaculture I” was published, a hundred thousand others have joined this conversation around the world and Permaculture has come to mean “permanent culture,” because, of course, no system of farming can exist without a just and stable society to support it.

Besides being a paradox (“permanent” means long-lasting while “culture” is about continous change and adaptation”), Permaculture is a way of seeing the world that emphasizes context and processes. It requires a shift of focus from objects and actors which is the cultural bias of western civilization and of our English language in particular to relationships. Whether seen as feminine or right- brained or Eastern because these qualities have been suppressed in our culture, the capacity for holistic thinking is really about balance drawing on both sides of the brain and emphasizing the connections between them.

Permaculture is also a design system, based on ecology and taught by grassroots networks, for creating human habitats homes, neighborhoods, towns, and the countryside that capture energy, grow food, and recycle wastes, as they grow ever more diverse and abundant. The principles are simple but not trivial:
. Humans must be engaged interactively with the natural world around us;
. Our chief task is to capture and cycle solar energy, using it to meet our needs;
. We have to feed ourselves and regulate our behaviors to fit in with nature;
. Biological systems work best;
. Waste equals food;
. The patterns of natural systems show us how to create cultivated ones;
. Combine top-down thinking with bottom-up action;
. Always integrate elements and systems for mutual support;
. Choose small and slow means;
. Cultivate diversity and look to the margins for action;
. Be prepared for change.
These have endless ramifications.

And out of these networks of “each one, teach one,” has grown a social movement for people-centered development and grassroots scientific research that has successfully demonstrated pathways for a low-energy future in 100 countries. The abundance of cheap fossil fuel and the material excesses of USA culture have retarded Americans’ awareness of Permaculture, but the rise of energy prices and the continued contraction of the global economy are helping awaken more people to the need for which Permaculture was created.

Permaculture has a great analysis of the world Energy comes from the sun, therefore it’s time to reorganize our economy and technology to recognize that (Think biology.); The Earth has limits, of which energy, water, tree cover, and soil minerals are especially critical to life; People, once educated, are best able solve their own problems and meet their own needs locally, so teach them to teach others. The household, not the factory, is the source of prosperity, so create edible landscapes everywhere people live. But the Permaculture story would be empty theory if it didn’t lead to positive action for change.

If you want to turn the world on its head, it takes a really good idea and a lot of practice. And that’s where the design system comes in. You apply these principles to your own life, your own household, your own economy to make permaculture happen where you live. And every one is different. Starting at the back door, permaculture designers and activists have created city farms, food forests, solar homes, living roofs, edible parks and schoolgrounds, backyard fish ponds, community health centers, water gardens, local currencies and credit unions, farmers markets, ecovillages, and a worldwide university.

What will be your part of this story?

The true test of permanent agriculture is whether it builds and maintains carbon (organic matter) levels in soil. This takes trees, animals, careful observation, persistence, and a new worldview. No mechanized agriculture can do it, only people who understand their kinship with all of life can. The land needs people. At the same time, there can never be enough “stuff” in the marketplace to satisfy our profound need for love and meaning. These can only come from relationship-people need the land and each other. In a world of diminishing resources, the only inexhaustible resource is our creativity and our undying connection with the Earth. These come together in the garden, and while Permaculture is much more than can be imagined by one person or captured in an essay, it is most often and truly associated
with the garden, our deepest image of connectedness with the original source and of a world filled with pleasure and delight.

Politics has captured the attention of Americans again after a generation of lethargy because the world’s problems are growing more complex with each passing day. We face endless war over oil, rampant consumerism, a hollow economy and a crumbling dollar, an epidemic of obesity, toxicity and illness, and a medical system out of control. Hunger and plague stalk the global South. At the risk of being thought romantic or utopian, I assert that the solutions to these and most of the world’s dramatic crises rests in a rather simple shift of our awareness and our behavior. We must care for the Earth and for people, and share that which is surplus to our needs so that others may meet their own. We must also consciously limit our consumption and population. These ethics are central to permaculture: they belong to no nation or creed but to all of humanity. It’s time to garden the planet.

Peter Bane publishes Permaculture Activist, the world’s longest- running journal of permaculture design. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Permaculture Resources
Permaculture Activist, quarterly journal, PO Box 5516, Bloomington, IN 47407. Magazines, books, videos, global directory of permaculture organizations, seed and nursery sources. Permaculture Magazine (U.K.), quarterly.

Permaculture: The art of common sense and the science of hope
By: Thade Correa

This summer, fourteen students participated in IU’s second-ever permaculture class, conducted at Linda Lee and Andy Mahler’s Lazy Black Bear Lodge in Paoli, Indiana. The course, offered through IU’s Department of Religious Studies, is in many ways the very first of its kind to offer an education in sustainable living in an interdisciplinary setting to students at a public university. Leading the course were Peter Bane and Keith Johnson, expert permaculturists who live and work at Earthaven, an ecovillage in the Black Mountains of North Carolina. The fruit of the vision and passion of the department’s own David Haberman, this class has, for the second time, ignited the hearts and imaginations of a group of students wishing desperately to change their way of life (and potentially the lives of those around them) but needing only to know how to begin. For myself and so many I know and care for, it seems at times an unbearable curse to simply care at all about anything beyond one’s own immediate ‘sphere of influence.’ It seems the more we care about the world and all its life, the health of the environment, abusive economic systems leading to rampant poverty and tremendous destruction, or anything that involves changing things in our society for the better?the more excruciatingly frustrated and angry we have a tendency to be. I’m not suggesting that every person with a vision is also a malcontent, but especially today the resounding question for nearly everyone I know is, “But what can we really do?” The powerlessness we feel is overwhelming to the point of apathy sometimes.

This was very much the place the Australian scientist and ecologist Bill Mollison was when he decided to withdraw from society and not return until he had found “something very positive” to bring back. Having watched the ecological destruction of his homelands, he once protested against their political and industrial causes but became disillusioned, feeling his actions changed nothing. During his retreat from society, he developed permaculture, which in his words is “a design system for creating sustainable human environments.” In short, this means working with the myriad natural forces all around us to create living systems that are “ecologically sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, [and] do not exploit or pollute.” (Bill Mollison, Introduction to Permaculture).

At its core, permaculture is a holistic system of living in harmony with nature. It encompasses many disciplines, from gardening and agriculture to economics and anthropology. It synthesizes modern science and ancient knowledge, and acknowledges that the path to wisdom is not only mental but emotional, spiritual, and intuitive as well. All this and much more was touched upon in our two-week class, and gradually I came to understand that humans have the ability not only to desist from harming nature, but also can actually live in a way that heals and helps the world. Like modern medicine men and women, we can cultivate positive energies every day in our lives that will have immediate effects and eventually return the earth and ourselves to wholeness.

Each day at the Lazy Black Bear began with a wake-up call at 6:45 am. It is not at all difficult to rise early in the middle of a beautiful wilderness farm, especially when there will be excellent food and conversation around the breakfast table before the day begins. Afterwards, we all gathered in the newly finished barn/meetinghouse, newly furnished with comfortable couches, and informally began the day’s lectures. Classes were held from 8:30 to 6 every day, with time devoted to housekeeping, announcements, chores, and meals, of course. As a note, the kitchen staff was amazing, preparing vegetarian/vegan meals that were healthy, extremely nourishing, and primarily used produce from the farm itself. What impressed me most, however, was the richness of information covered in class every day. We covered topics as diverse as the philosophic bases of permaculture, biogeography, organic gardening, natural building, and the like. I remember thinking that almost every lecture could have been expanded into an entire course, so great was Peter and Keith’s immense learning and experience. We gained practical, earthy experience as well? one day was spent entirely digging a special type of ditch called a swale; another was spent organically mulching the garden. The combination of brilliant lectures, hands-on experience, and Peter and Keith’s humane and gentle guidance was beautiful. I learned more than I thought I ever would.

In the evenings after dinner there was no shortage of things to do. We went on hikes, swam, played music together, and simply talked by the campfire. We talked well into the early morning many times, and the darkness and beauty of the sky, the loneliness of the stars, and our own solitude seemed to make deep understandings and connections more possible than in our everyday lives, so caught up with ‘getting somewhere.’ We were very human together, and very close to one another. I believe every one of us came away feeling richer and full of hope because of our experiences. We inspired each other.

Permaculture itself is a type of hope. It is a concrete, physical path to accomplishing the immense work of caring for the earth, for all living things, for those we love and for our own beings. It is absolutely not pie-in-the-sky theorizing. It is sublimely practical and material, while at the same time retaining that essential idealism that constantly creates the turbulent ache for change in the hearts of those who love this world. It is our only world. Permaculture enables us to put our love and consciousness into action, and in this there is great hope. I believe nothing can stand against those who have a heart for changing the world and the tools to do it.





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