Tag Archives: biodiversity

To be or not to be. To do more or not to do more. That is the question. And that is the challenge for people like me, with businesses and projects based on trying to inspire people to be and do more with their land and space. Respected experts from many fields have all agreed that the single most important thing anyone can do to help the planet, and all that that means, is to ‘grow your own food – and as much of it as possible’. This simple action has so many short and long term positive results, so many far reaching effects on so many aspects of lifestyle and the Earth. But how do we motivate people to take up such a challenge?

What happens in the human mind after listening to educators, including some very inspiring and entertaining speakers like Costa, the Gardening Australia crew, Dr David Suzuki, Joel Salatin and others, just to name a few? During the talk, the info is inspiring. The data, stats and facts are fascinating, even disturbing sometimes. The situation is laid out for all to see. There is head nodding. There is agreement that we all need to do more for the world to be a better place. There is laughter and connection with such speakers and educators. But on the way home, or once at home, it all seems to slip away and minimise. That very ‘call to action’ that these speakers embody and share rarely ever translates into most listeners’ hands, gardens and lifestyles.

Few people return home with any technical information and actually improve their soil, grow things differently, make the changes that will improve their space. Few people return home with that inspiration and motivation and use it for the greater good. Why? Did they just attend to see and hear those speakers for the fun, for the laughs, for the buzz of seeing a celebrity and saying ‘I met Costa’ or whoever? There is an old Chinese saying, “A finger pointing to the moon says look there, not here!” These speakers, however entertaining and celebrity-like, are definitely saying ‘look there, not here’ when they point their fingers at what we can all be doing differently, better, for the world we all live in.

The real ones, the true teachers, are always saying ‘look there, not here’. I wonder how many people really get that. In my opinion, not many, not enough. And the reason I know this is because the proof is in the pudding – many, too many, are looking, listening, reading, Googling, discussing – but not doing. Not translating that data into action to create what we need most in the world. Is it apathy? Is it overwhelm? Is it laziness? Is it busy-ness? Is it lack of understanding of the ‘message’? Why are they not really ‘getting it’? These are the questions I ponder.

So many are asking questions and sharing their challenges, yet not seeking the right knowledge, through the right people, to find solutions. Many even attend really good training and education, yet still don’t use that knowledge and skill to improve their situation, to correct their poor soil, create better gardens, grow more food, take pressure off their bills, empower their own health and so much more. Too many, I think, believe they are ‘doing’ permaculture and urban farming, by growing a few herbs in pots and dabbling in their gardens with hit and miss results, when in reality they aren’t even anywhere close to any real permaculture or urban farming understanding.

Those who ‘get it’, understand it, even on a basic level, and embrace it to some degree, get results. Their space improves in so many ways, including their lifestyle and interaction with the world. Those that truly make any real connection between permaculture and urban farming, and its applications in making the world a better place, in improving life and planet on so many levels, achieve real, lasting results. Something changes internally. Something alters forever and life becomes different. Better. Richer. That connection, that understanding somehow transforms that person into a more aware, caring, sharing, authentic person – and that new awareness, caring, sharing and authenticity only grows deeper and richer as they continue their journey on a path that embraces and implements these skills and knowledge in a real, lasting way in their own backyard, community, profession, circle of influence and ultimately their planet.

In my opinion, if this kind of dialogue and discussion is not present in the permaculture and urban farming communities, on related Facebook and other social media pages and groups, in related meetings, forums and groups, then something very real and essential is missing. A true understanding of these systems is missing. Growing food and gardening are just one small, albeit important, part of permaculture and urban farming. But people focus only on this side of it – gardening – and miss everything else.

Challenge, fruitful discussion, action-based dialogue, at times strong and heated, is needed to change the status quo, increase awareness and create lasting change. I believe that if you’re into these systems, if you really believe in them, then you need to get some higher education in them and stop dabbling, believing you are ‘doing’ them when you’re not. If you were educated in them, and you ‘got them’, you would definitely be doing things differently. You would definitely be getting better results. You would be on a different, new journey. You would be thinking, feeling, doing and living very differently. Anything less is simply not real permaculture or urban farming.

It is frustrating for us educators and change-makers when so many people following us are just dabbling and not taking this stuff seriously. My call to action to you is to step up, make a choice, make a commitment to start doing things differently. Attend some education to get skilled and get the right knowledge. Decide to be a different person, the kind of person this world needs many more of right now. Strive towards a deeper understanding of permaculture, by embracing urban farming – commit to increasing food production on your land, to creating soil fertility and increasing biodiversity, to making the deeper connection between these actions and how they play out in the bigger picture.

This seemingly simple, individual act of growing as much of our own food as possible improves our health and wellbeing, takes back control of what, how, when and why we grow our own fresh organic food, reduces emissions of many kinds, keeps it local, takes pressure off an ailing, failing farming system (responsible for land destruction, soil degradation, wildlife loss and extinction, use of deadly chemicals, degraded food quality – all part of a system that supplies corporations with no or little respect for people, planet and nature), reconnects people to land and food, builds community, connects people, aids in positive networking, improves mental health, sequesters carbon, simply makes life easier and the cost of living less expensive, and so much more.

This connection between urban farming and the greater good above is sadly missing, in my opinion, in the greater community that claims to support it. To these people, I ask: What is preventing you from going to that next level? What don’t you get?

Chuang Tzu, often described as the ‘do nothing Taoist’, may have been on to something when he seemingly lazed about and lived at his own pace, despite the criticisms of his philosophical colleagues.

Taoism is an ancient spiritual system originating in China. The founder is believed to be Lao Tzu, born around 400 BC, keeper of the archives in the imperial palace of the time. Seeing society decay around him, he chose a solitary reclusive life deep in the mountains. On his departure, he was asked to share his wisdom and experience in writing. He wrote down a collection of 81 short verses, almost poetry, called the Tao Te Ching, that formed the basis of this now worldwide respected path.

So what does Taoism and ‘doing nothing’ have to do with gardening? Well, my garden to be precise. Last year, like any good gardener, passionate about their plot, I tended, fussed, prodded, poked, plucked, dug, watered, fed and watched my garden daily, observing all the things that happen, and don’t happen in gardens, with all the hopes and aspirations of any keen gardener. And of course, I got great results. But I wonder, was all the fuss worth it? Could I have achieved the same results – a thriving, abundant, almost jungle-like space – with a little more ‘doing nothing’? Let’s see.

As a permaculture educator and consultant, of course I design my gardens on those principles, especially with a view to maximum production for little effort. I can report, that since December, a combination of summer heat, travelling, guests over the new year, lots of rain and lack of motivation at times, my garden is doing better than ever, even thriving with absolutely no input from me. I have watered a few potted herbs during hot periods, but the rest has been ‘respectfully, even artfully, neglected’. Yet food production has increased. Soil fertility has increased. New food plants, from self-seeding, are growing everywhere. Old friends are thriving and bigger than expected. Seedlings, once forgotten, are now mature, productive plants. THIS IS PERMACULTURE!

This is biomimicry. This is how nature works and works well it does. There is some work at the beginning, some design and set up. Then a little guidance and maintenance to keep things moving until a certain natural process takes over, and voila!, your garden is no longer a bed with rows of planned edibles. It is an ecosystem, with thriving biodiversity and life beyond anything you could have imagined, and most of it unseen. THIS IS PERMACULTURE. This is Taoist ‘do nothing gardening’- yet pregnant with possibilities, potential and abundant produce – something Chuang Tzu would definitely approve of.