permaculture, nature connection & deep ecology

20th to 27th October 2018

a nature-based practice & study event

This course explores both the practical wisdom and the theoretical underpinnings of a shift to a life-sustaining future – set within a framework of nature and dharma based learning. It draws together the practical wisdom of permaculture design, experiential nature-based practice, and the theoretical foundations of deep & radical ecology. It weaves together study, meditation, and hands on learning.

During the course you will:

  • Learn the basic principles of permaculture and how to design, establish, and work with sustainable living systems
  • Participate in practical and experiential methods to support a deepening nature connection
  • Explore the key ideas of deep, social and radical ecology
  • Gain a deeper appreciation of the practical, theoretical, and spiritual roots of a sustainable and life affirming future

The permaculture component offers practical skills for designing and creating sustainable living systems, integrating human needs with the ecosystems in which we are rooted. The nature-based, dharma and meditation practices provide tools and a rich experiential context which support personal transformation. Meanwhile the study based aspect exploring radical and deep ecology provides a clear and structured framework for exploring our views and intellectual understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit.

Each of these strands of the course integrate with each other in a holistic way, to equip you with inspiration, knowledge, skills, and a deeper capacity to understand and respond to the challenges of our times.

More information

Permaculture Design:

Permaculture is a theory of ecological design which seeks to develop sustainable human settlements and agricultural systems, by modelling them on natural ecosystems. Developed in the 1970’s, it offers a core practical contribution to the creation of a sustainable future.

The term “permaculture” was originally coined to refer to the idea of a truly sustainable agriculture, but has expanded to embrace the idea of “permanent culture” in recognition that the social dimension is integral to truly sustainable living systems. It has been described as “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area or thing in isolation.

Permaculture draws from several disciplines including organic farming, agro-forestry, sustainable development, and applied ecology. The design principles which are the conceptual foundation of permaculture are derived from the science of systems ecology and study of pre-industrial examples of sustainable land use. The primary agenda of the movement has been to assist people to become more self reliant through the design and development of productive and sustainable gardens and farms.
Permaculture is a design science which develops sustainable human settlements and agriculturally productive ecosystems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It applies equally well to both rural and urban areas. Permaculture can also be called simply, “a revolution disguised as gardening.”

During the Permaculture component of the course, participants will learn:

• How Permaculture can contribute to the creation of a sustainable future
• The key principles and ethics of Permaculture
• The core design methods of Permaculture – applying the design method to the site at the Ecodharma Centre and how to continue to apply these methods in other sites. The design tools and themes include: Sector & site analysis; observation methods; water auditing and site planning; understanding soil and rejuvenation; examining microclimates and vegetation; propagating plants from seeds, cuttings and division.

Nature Based Learning and Connection:

At the Ecodharma Centre, we know ourselves the transformative and integrative power of immersion in non-human nature. We want to support others to re-connect with that source of nourishment, well-being, and inspiration. So, integrating insights and methods from both dharma and ecological sources, we apply an approach that we call Nature Based Practice and Learning.

Connection with wild nature is an important aid to developing an ecological sensibility and sense of connection with the web of life. This can support action towards a sustainable future for all. These experiences can be nourishing, enriching, and can demand that we radically re-orientate our sense of who and what we are.

In simple terms Nature Based Practice and Learning involves supporting participants to spend time out in the wilds connecting with the teachings nature offers. We use tools such as mindfulness practice and meditation in conjunction with elements of bushcraft, nature based education, as well as ecological and evolutionary learning, and solo time in wild nature.

The Ecodharma Centre is based in an extraordinary and wild place. From this supportive base, Nature Based Practice and Learning can help us step out of the human-centred world for a while – to wander deep into tangled woodland, to lie on mossy rocks, to sit in limestone caves, to traverse lofty ridges, and to loll on the edge of trickling streams. There we find something else.

Deep & Radical Ecology:

Deep Ecology offers a view of life which does not separate humans out from the natural environment, recognising the world as a network of phenomena that are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent. Drawing on systems theory and the life sciences, Deep Ecology recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings and views humans as one of many strands in the web of life.

Ultimately, deep ecological awareness implies a spiritual or religious awareness. It encourages a shift in consciousness from an alienating sense of separateness to one of belonging, of connectedness, to the natural ecosystems on which we depend.
Deep Ecology asks ever deeper questions about the very foundations of our modern, scientific, industrial, growth-oriented, materialistic worldview and way of life. It challenges this paradigm from an ecological perspective – from the perspective of our profound interconnectedness with one another, with future generations, and to the web of life.

Social Ecology augments Deep Ecology with an analysis of the way in which patterns of social organisation are central to the current ecological crisis. Social ecologists and ecofeminists have pointed out how the exploitation of nature has gone hand in hand with the exploitation of other humans in various hierarchical, militaristic, capitalist and industrialist forms. They point out that social transformation does not simply unfold from a change of consciousness, but also requires radical restructuring of the socio-economic system.
Where Deep Ecology has emphasised the psychological, spiritual, and cognitive aspects of the ecological crisis, social ecology emphasises the socio-political dimensions.

Drawing from both Deep Ecology and Social Ecology, Radical Ecology seeks to champion a sustainable and socially just world through the transformation of both our individual consciousness and our social-economic systems. Radical ecology is not a monolithic movement, nor does it suggest a fixed ideological position. Radical ecology is a critical encounter, a working out through thought and praxis, of how we can resist the destructive march of the industrial growth socio-economic system and effect the changes necessary for a new way of living in full partnership with the natural world. It includes work and experiments in non-hierarchical social forms, new economics, process oriented science, and a revitalised spirituality.
This component of the course will:

• Introduce the history and ideas of Deep Ecology
• Explore transformational workshops associated with Deep Ecology (such as the Work That Reconnects)
• Examine the position of Social Ecology and the critique it makes of Deep Ecology
• Offer a synthesising vision of these two strands of thought in terms of Radical Ecology
• Emphasis will be placed on how these theoretical understanding supports the growth of vision, inspiration, and experience in service of the transformation of self and society.

The Team:

Alfred Decker's passion in life has been ecological and social justice activism, of which permaculture has played a central part. Since his first PDC in 1998 in California, Alfred has been involved with social movements and projects throughout Europe and the Americas. He is the founder of the 12 Principles Permaculture Design consultancy, Permacultura Barcelona and the Forest Gardens project at Can Masdeu; is a co-founder of the Spanish Permaculture Academy (Academia de Permacultura Íbera); and was a member of the European Permaculture Teachers Partnership and the Permaculture Council of Europe. Alfred holds a post graduate diploma in sustainable architecture and renewable energy (Centre for Alternative Technology).
After taking a permaculture teachers training with Rosemary Morrow in 2011, he undertook a two year mentorship and later co-taught six courses with her, ultimately earning a Diploma in Permaculture Education & Community Development in 2013 through the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute (Australia). Committed to furthering the teachers’ training platform “Permaculture Teaching Matters” (PTM) that Rosemary developed in over three decades of teaching experience around the world, Alfred co-edited her forthcoming PTM manual and organised a successful crowdfunding campaign to develop the platform.
Alfred currently lives in with his partner on a smallholding in the Montnegre i el Corredor Natural Park north of Barcelona, Spain, where they are creating a permaculture demonstration site and educational project called Can Comú.

Grace McKeown has a long and close involvement in the ecodharma project, where she has provided continuity and experience to the development of growing and cultivating. She played a lead role in the design and implementation of the forest garden in 2012/3 and continues to help coordinate planning for land use. She has a special sensitivity concerning the preservation of the wild land in the valley. With decades of experience teaching and practicing integrative medicine and holistic health, this currently ties into her interests in the therapeutic dimensions of growing and food production, as well as the medicinal value of plants, both cultivated and wild.

May MacKeith is an experienced nature facilitator, who’s been helping people to connect with nature for over 13 years with Forest School Camps (FSC) which brings large groups of children and adults together in temporary community for 2-week camps. For the past 6 years she has been involved in developing and delivering training for FSC staff to help reinvigorate their passion for nature and fuel the fire in the bellies of the camps. This work formed the foundation for Wild Time Weekends, which May and the Co-Resist team set up to bring better access to nature to adults from a range of backgrounds. More recently she co-founded the Natural Resilience Project, which builds personal resilience though connection to nature with migrant women in East London. In her free time May is a passionate campaigner and activist, and for the last decade or more has worked on a range of issues, often with an environmental emphasis. With Plane Stupid she focused on aviation, and went on to help establish Grow Heathrow, a squatted community food growing project in the path of the proposed 3rd runway. More recently her energy has been with Reclaim the Power, fighting dirty big business, and standing with communities being damaged by extractive industries.

Suggested contribution in the Dana Economy €200/€500/€700 (euros).

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