A Vision for the New Year

At the Dawn of 2018

A new year is beginning, and many of us are relieved to leave 2017 behind, as if the change in the calendar date could signify a change in everything. For me, last year was a strange mix—politically disastrous, personally full of satisfying work and some incredible experiences. 

Reflections on the Past Year

One of the highlights of 2017 for me was the International Permaculture Conference and Convergence in Hyderabad, India. What an enormous privilege it was to co-teach a Social Permaculture track in the lead-in course with Robyn Francis from Australia, who has been teaching and practicing permaculture since the early days all over the world.  One of the highlights was a visit to the Aranya Training Center farm, a permaculture site for over twenty years, where Narsanna and Padma Koppula have developed a beautiful model of food forests and mixed-cultivation fields in an area where GMO cotton is king. 

Most inspiring was their work with the local community; helping people get land—small amounts, like an acre or two, but adequate—and shift from growing high-input crops for the market, using pesticides and poisons that are costly and leave them deeply in debt, to growing food organically for themselves and their families first. 

Now, children who once were malnourished have plenty of good-quality, healthy food to eat. Families are working their way out of poverty. And women have more social power—because they are providing food for their families and are no longer dependent on their husbands for the family economy. 

Narsanna has also worked with the men, teaching them to respect women. And the women were so joyful, in their beautiful, bright saris, singing permaculture songs that they make up, telling us how they now travel and teach and work with other farmers.

I met Julious Piti from Zimbabwe, of the Chikukwa Project, who has transformed his area, regenerating the land and the local communities, by teaching people permaculture together with conflict transformation.  

And Ego Lemos, who has established permaculture gardens in East Timor in over a hundred schools, and is on track to bring a sustainability curriculum to all 1400 of the island’s schools.  And what the children learn, they bring home to their parents. He’s founded Permatil, which is publishing The Tropical Permaculture Guidebook, available free online.   

Clea Chandmal has a permaculture center in south India next to a tiger reserve, and works with thousands of farmers to regenerate soil and clean water. She shared her recipe for soil-building jungle juice, and I’m trying a version of it on my own land. The key is the action of beneficial microorganisms from ruminant dung and forest soil.

I shared a room with Hui-i Chang, who is spreading urban permaculture throughout Taiwan, and Rowe Morrow, my shero! In her seventies, she’s spent a lifetime bringing permaculture to combat zones, refugee camps and devastated places from Kashmir to Afghanistan to Kurdistan.

And there are so many more—people all over the world who are working on regenerating land and communities. I was impressed with the scale of the work—Aranya works with hundreds of thousands of farmers—and the simple and beautiful solutions that transform lives.

Walking the Walk (and Not So Much Talk)

So this is the message I’d like to offer for the New Year: All over the world, there are people working quietly and diligently to regenerate the land and support the communities who live on it. They’re not boasting on Twitter about how great they are, they’re just doing it. 

And it works! 

We know how to regenerate ecosystems and human systems by respecting and learning from nature and advocating for justice. 

Don’t ever doubt for a moment that another world is possible—a world of balance, harmony, beauty and connection. A world where every child has abundant, nourishing food and a safe and comfortable home. Where we wake up every day knowing we are going to do the work of regeneration, and all around us we see the process of healing going on. 

We can have that world; we need that world, and that world needs all of us to bring it into being.  Let us commit ourselves ever more deeply to bring it about, beginning now!  Then, 2018 will truly be a Happy New Year!

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