BY BECCA KRASKY
This fall I’ve been reflecting on endings and beginnings, which seem to happen quite often in young adulthood. In July, my first year as a LoVo ended, in August, my second year began. Elections are endings and beginnings. Fall is an ending and a beginning. A recent ending for me was the conclusion of my Permaculture Design Course (PDC) through the Denver Permaculture Guild in early October, which marked the beginning of the “rest of my life”.
Permaculture is a holistic way of seeing the world by recognizing patterns in nature, and designing systems with those patterns. It focuses on abundance and adaptation, and the positive impacts people can have working to heal the land. While the structured world of permaculture was “founded” in the 1960s by two white European ancestry men in Australia, the methodologies and worldviews are really a compilation of indigenous wisdom and traditional ecological knowledge. My course, through the Denver Permaculture Guild, was entirely online due to COVID-19, but still managed to be a life-changing experience. One weekend per month, my thirty classmates and I logged onto Zoom, and spent the weekend together learning about the permaculture design process (both in ecological landscape design and human systems), and all of the ways to redesign our society to return to a right relationship with Earth.
We often referred to the class as “drinking from the fire hose”. Amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice uprisings after the police murder of George Floyd in my home city of Minneapolis, and the record-setting wildfires of this summer, this course helped me envision alternate futures of abundance and peace.
Permaculture loves identifying patterns in natural systems, like spirals, fractals, and waves, and pointing out how those patterns can be replicated in ecological and social design. There are three ethics within permaculture: care of people, care of earth, and redistribution of surplus, and twelve principles, which I’m listing here. I taped up the principles around our Denver volunteer house, to be a daily reminder.
Observe and interact
Capture and store energy
Obtain a yield
Apply self regulation and accept feedback
Use and value renewable resources and services
Produce no waste
Design from patterns to details
Integrate, don’t segregate
Use small and slow solutions
Use and value diversity
Use edges and value the marginal
Creatively use and respond to change
Permaculture offers an integration of the world in a way that I’ve never experienced before. There was much overlap between “environmental” topics like soil regeneration, forestry, and growing mushrooms, and “social” topics like alternate economic systems, community design, and social permaculture. Conversations about alternative economic structures, decolonization, and appropriate technology brought complexity and necessary discomfort. Permaculture is imperfect and has historically often failed to properly acknowledge and honor its indigenous origins. As a new graduate of the PDC, I have a responsibility to be striving towards an antiracist, decolonized permaculture. I’m grateful to have had access to a scholarship through the PDC, as well as the support of the Loretto Prop-10 Committee and my Angelica Village community, and am committed to (when I have actual income) supporting scholarships for future PDC students.
In a time of so much loss, this permaculture course provided a space to grieve and dream. There is so much still to save. One particularly memorable session, my instructor (the wise and wonderful Asia Dorsey) encouraged us to practice living resilience and adaptation through considering what we can give up to decentralize our power. In our last session, this was asked of us again: what can you let go of, to make space for the future you want? What dead or dying parts of our society can we let go of?
Our world has an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor. As a global community, we face a pandemic, climate catastrophe, white supremacy, and perpetual war and violence. This is the moment to reimagine, to let go of what’s not serving us. What do we want our future to be? What can we start right now to move towards that vision? I believe permaculture is one tool for building a world of plenty and of peace.
Becca Krasky (she/her) is a second year volunteer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She majored in Environmental Studies and Geography at Macalester College. Becca works as the Sustainability Coordinator at Angelica Village, a nonprofit intentional community that houses refugee and immigrant families and youth. She has found her niche in growing food, at Angelica Village, her own backyard, anywhere there's a patch of earth and some seeds. Her newest projects are seed saving, mushroom growing, and permaculture design. When she's not in the garden, Becca is probably in the kitchen, baking bread or cooking. She's also a fan of fermentation: she's kept both a sourdough starter and a kombucha SCOBY going since November, 2019, and might make some sauerkraut if any of her cabbages actually grow (Oct 2020 update: they didn’t grow). Becca does have interests besides food: she loves walks, hikes, and long bike rides, is an avid reader, and usually has a project on her knitting needles.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.