For several years following its official creation by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the late 1970s, permaculture had remained a marginal approach practiced by a small number of individuals.
Today, as we become increasingly aware of the amplitude of environmental and economic crises, more and more people look for solutions to problems created by the industrial civilization. Many of those who discover permaculture find new inspiration and a set of tools that make regenerating human and natural ecosystems a realistic, tangible project.
As the ideas of permaculture slowly permeate society, a growing number of people seek to learn the skills necessary to apply its principles in their own lives.
The Permaculture Design Course (PDC), a 72-hour intensive program typically held over a period of two weeks, has become the international standard in permaculture education for those wanting to learn how to design regenerative, abundant systems.
"We've hosted over 400 students from half a dozen countries and from all over North America," explains permaculture teacher and practitioner Ben Falk, whose company Whole Systems Design (WSD) has been facilitating PDCs in Vermont, USA since 2012. "[We study] the relationship of people on this land, how to work and live on a piece of land in a way that's improving the health of the living systems on site [...] while also getting a yield."
Each year, WSD's PDCs call on a group of seasoned instructors to transmit their knowledge and expertise to a group of 30 students gathered in the Vermont hills. "It's about learning how to be a human in the modern world that's actually giving back more than we're taking from it," says PDC instructor Mark Krawczyk. He explains that a PDC can be a life-changing experience, and leaves participants with the drive and inspiration to give their life a new direction.
"I left after a two-week intensive with a world view that had changed in a somewhat subtle but also profound way," recalls Karwczyk about his own experience as a PDC participant. "There was something different in me that understood my place in the world and the ecosystem I live in."
In response to an increasing demand, WSD hosted three classes in the summer of 2014 instead of the usual two. It's also because of the high demand that Ben Falk decided to team up with film-makers Olivier Asselin and Bart Glumineau to produce a series of videos based on the contents of the PDCs.
Olivier Asselin, who also directed The Permaculture Orchard: Beyond Organic, and Bart Glumineau, the man behind the educational DVD The Art and Science of Natural Plaster, filmed the entirety of two 10-day classes held in August.
Asselin is currently running a crowdfunding campaign that will allow the team to work throughout the winter months and edit the material into a 3-DVD set named Permaculture Skills that will also be available in online streaming format. "Watching the videos will by no means give you a permaculture design certification, but we think it offers a lot of valuable information in a format accessible to most people," he explains.
Funding the project through Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding platform, works as a form of pre-sale, where people front the money that will help the film-makers work full-time on the project that is scheduled for release in the spring of 2015. "It's not asking for charity," says Olivier Asselin. "In a way it's very similar to the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model used by small organic farmers. We're just producing educational videos instead of vegetables!"
Every PDC has its own flavour, with instructors putting the accent on what they believe is most essential. For Ben Falk, one of the key elements is to focus not only on the concepts of permaculture, but also on real, hands-on skills that support those concepts. "We have far more people in the world today with a lot of information in their head than hands-on skills", says Ben.
"We're trying to address that limiting factor to making the world a better place, which isn't just knowledge in the mind, but also know-how in the hands and in the body." On top of formal lectures covering design principles, WSD's courses include a wide range of practical skillshares, from plant identification to tree grafting to mushroom log inoculation. Ben admits that the Permaculture Skills video series won't be a substitute for attending a PDC in person, but that it should help communicate a lot of the lessons taught and allow them to reach far beyond the small groups hosted by WSD.
Not everyone can take two weeks off or afford the cost of a PDC, says Asselin. "What we really want is to make this content available to as many people as possible. We want to help permaculture become mainstream."
To help fund the production of Permaculture Skills by pre-ordering a copy, visit http://bit.ly/permacultureSkills
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