Empowerment Through Permaculture.

by on February 23, 2012

The world belongs to those who give it greatest hope (Teillard de Chardin)

Children Are Our Hope

Is there anything more important in today’s society than the knowledge the our children, and the children of our communities are will be able not only to survive, but to be Empowered through skills and knowledge ?!?

How many parents, and people in general feel ‘Hopeless’ to give our Children a Bright Future? If I had to answer that question myself, I’d have to assume it was many….

Today, in a world with access to skills development due to organizations such as IRDI, Rural development is not just a lofty dream and OUR communities are more likely to become empowered and therefore pass on the necessary fundamental skills OUR children so Desperately need.

Without Hope we are lost, a hopeless life is a desperate life – and desperation leads to nothing good, it creates fear, anger, angression, and it makes a person feel defensive of the little they have to cling onto.

Just Imagine if WE as parents, individual, neighbours, friends, and human beings could not only Empower ourselves, but OUR children, their children and even contribute to making the world a healthier, safer place to live….. sound impossible ?

Well, I’d like to share something with each and every one of you: Permaculture Design inspires Hope!!

Rural Development is Here Today.... Empowerment

One comment in particular sums up the feelings expressed by many:

“The permaculture course was almost like a religious experience. I felt inspired with hope, excited that I could make a difference, touched by the realisation that I could be in control, empowered.”

On reflection I realised that I too had been empowered by permaculture. How else could I explain my continued interest, growth, understanding and participation as a permaculturist? And how else can we explain the phenomenal expansion of permaculture in less than twenty years into a worldwide movement with representation in at least eighteen countries on six continents?

As William Blake reminds us, reason alone leads to despair. Information without the means to seek solutions can, at worst, lead to depression and apathy.

In sharp contrast, through permaculture education we learn to take back power into our lives; we become empowered through achievable actions in an ethical and, for some, a spiritual framework. Permaculture gives us the tools for personal action to take back our sense of control, whether it be growing food or growing community. It allows us to start where we are, be it the window box in the city, the back door or the large farm. David Holmgren believes that the home represents a crucible for experiments in redefining our relationships with each other and with nature.An experienced permaculturist describes this as:

“You can start where you are at, you do not have to have any prerequisites to do this… you can do it at home.

Simple materials you can find in ANY garden...

Permaculture gives people both a vision and the practical means to take back control into their personal lives, generating in turn a renewed sense of hope and purpose for the future. It gives us the means to move towards a sustainable world.

Literature on empowerment stresses the importance of supported participation. Through food production, allowing us to participate actively in earthcare, we begin to take back responsibility for the earth. With its emphasis on small and local communities, permaculture gives us back our sense of belonging – our place in communities which extends to our place in nature.

The empowerment process through permaculture is a journey whose beginnings for some may even be forgotten. For others it has a definite starting point, a crucial event or realisation that things have to change. Empowerment emerges and grows through connectedness with each other, by supporting each other in our journey, by helping each other to acquire knowledge and insight. Our empowerment is synergistic, as we empower each other so we become empowered ourselves. It is far from the zero sum power games of deadening, outmoded authoritarian structures, where my power gain means your power loss. Like love, empowerment is enabling, it is boundless. It grows when we are able to be affirmed for our work, when we participate, be it in our local group, at this conference, in our garden. We gain confidence, increased knowledge and understanding. We gain a sense of rightness, of flowing with nature rather than battling against her. Our empowerment manifests in passion, action, commitment and advocacy. As we continue to grow, experience and learn, we are continually confronted and challenged by the contradictions of life in this period of our history. Our sense of empowerment through participation and action will ensure new meanings and ways of seeing will continue to unfold.

Working together, Re-Connecting = Empowerment

In my sweetest dreams I see a just, sustainable future where the very best of human values are our guiding principles. Permaculture may not be the only solution to our crisis, the “global problemmatique”. But it provides a powerful philosophy, ethic, knowledge base and practice upon which to build a sane, sustainable future. By its vision of reconnecting us to nature and to human scale sustainable communities in a practical, accessible way, permaculture offers purpose, energy, means to action and most importantly, hope.

I’ll leave the last word to another PDC participant who described permaculture thus:

“This feels like following the soul or instinct … the content of the course has confronted me with a huge sense of guilt, inadequacy, … but also of great hope”


1 Gross, S.J. (1985) Personal power and empowerment. Contemporary Education 56,(3), 137-143.
2 Hicks, D. (1996) A Lesson for the future: Young people’s hopes and fears for tomorrow. Futures Vol. 28 (1) 1-13
3 Hamilton, C. (1994) The Mystic Economist Willow Park Press, Canberra.
4 Fein, J. (ed.) (1993) Environmental Education: A Pathway to Sustainability? Geelong: Deakin U. Press
5 Holmgren, D. Permaculture paths to a sustainable future. (1995) 6th Australian Permaculture Convergence, Adelaide
6 Francis, R. The Mandala Garden. Lismore: Permaculture International
7 Catholic Education Office (1994) Quality learning and teaching: Tutor training program. Melbourne
8 Slaughter, R. (1995) The Foresight Principle: Cultural Recovery in the 21st Century. London: Adamantine Press Ltd.
9 Bouchon, M. (1996) Business and its environments. Earthwise Women 3 10-11
10 Lovelock, J.E. (1979) Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford University Press
11 Macy, J.R. (1983) Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age. New Society, Philadelphia.

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