by Marisol Maddox – Hudson Valley, NY
As a new member of the Northeast permaculture community I was grateful to have the experience of meeting other permaculture practitioners at the recent retreat at Omega. My partner, John and I recently launched a permaculture-envisioned mushroom business called MycoCulture Design. We produce tinctures, incorporate mushroom landscaping into backyards and farms, lead mushroom foraging walks, and produce spore print artwork. Since we both had limited experience with the logistics of starting and operating our own business it was a true blessing to get to connect with a group of people who were familiar with the process and who were guided by the same permaculture principles.
One of the most important aspects of the evolution of MycoCulture Design has been to constantly re-evaluate and ensure that we are staying true to our core principles of building strong communities, enhancing the local economy, increasing local food resilience, and being ecologically regenerative. There is a lot of fluidity in the identity of a business as it gets off the ground and getting business advice from any old source could easily start to navigate us towards an extractive economy model. This is where the value of the permaculture network comes in because John and I met several people at the retreat who had recently dealt with similar situations and were able to save us hours of research with their advice.
The aspect of permaculture that most impresses me is the bravery that is almost inherent upon its practitioners. In getting certified in a PDC you confront the most daunting issues of our time. It is easy to become paralyzed by pessimism so it takes a strong individual to recognize those issues, look them head on, and then step boldly towards a solutions-oriented path. To take this path you must be creative and innovative, which is another joy that I have found in my exposure to the permaculture community of the northeast. The ideas that people come up with and the ways they incorporate those ideas into the already existing skeleton of society, in an effective and meaningful way, is truly inspiring. Many people believe we have to completely restructure society in order for humanity to survive, and yes, there must be some substantial changes, but it is much easier to work from within the system that already exists. An example of this that stood out to me was the work that Abrah Dresdale is doing at Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts. The fact that she was able to get a permaculture design course accepted as a lab science course is one of the most inspiring actions I have heard in some time. Education and spreading awareness of the potential of permaculture are vital in effectively creating positive change. I foresee many other schools catching on to her wisdom and hope that such an offering becomes commonplace in the not-too-distant future.
Permaculture communities have strong futures because of their structurally sound foundations. Permaculture values and open-source attitudes are positively reinforced by the individuals who collaborate to turn the vision of a regenerative future into a reality. PINE, as it develops its membership base, will be a wonderful resource for further connecting members of the permaculture community. I eagerly look forward to my future involvement and encourage anyone who is interested to take a PDC, if you haven’t already (the one I took at Omega in Rhinebeck, NY was fabulous, in case anyone needs a recommendation). If you have already taken a PDC then please take the next step and engage the community and contribute your strengths. Synergy is a beautiful thing.
by Marisol Maddox – Hudson Valley, NY
Blessed to be here at Omega, again, and sitting 10 feet from Vandana Shiva.
A crowd of teens just left the stage – teens from Yonkers, NY, my parents’ home town… where I spent the first 15 years of my life visiting my grandparents. It’s a superb urban “suburb”, just north of the Bronx. The talked about helping the community create a railtrail to Van Cortlandt Park . . and stewardship there . . and weeklong field trips to National Parks around the country . . Yosemite, Yellowstone. Lives changed? Yes. New ways of thinking about your home community? Yes. Audience inspired? Yes, a resounding Yes.
Van Jones takes the stage… and immediate laughter. How do you get folks to laugh about racism and Ferguson? . . must be something about juxtaposing what’s true and terrible with what’s possible in the human spirit. Should dogs be allowed to pee at funerals?
Now we are on Julia Butterfly Hill.. who lived in a redwood tree for over a year to stop the loggers. He recalls their meeting and discussion . . her heart speaks for the irreplaceability of species . . of individual trees . . no clear cutting, no extinctions. Van’s heart speaks about the irreplaceability of our young people . . no gun violence, no gangs.
And they realize how much they have in common.
Now he is talking about the Oakland Green Jobs Corps… energy retrofitting, solar installs, is gardening in there? Cali’s know for being pretty green… but still there was quite a ‘dance’ when Van talked the talk at city hall into getting this program going… and it’s good, b/c there was a crazay backlog on solar installs due to lack of trained workforce.
More humor… how teens don’t always watch the news… he is hearing them talk about Nancy Peloskyyy… who? Yeah, they were watching t.v. and she said that she liked their program. And it comes full circle . . local action, national attention, local attention . . more funding . . and the Green Jobs Corps grows.
Van is seriously hilarious… he’s talking now about conspiracy theories . . and how the Koch brothers interest group killed the green jobs movement in America. How are we laughing about this? Because we are. Because it’s too awful to believe, and yet it’s true.
“People ask me how I can get along with Next Gingrich. I tell them – there are only two political parties in this country – The Give-a-Damns and the Don’t-Give-a-Damns. If you care enough to actually stand for something, I want to talk to you.
“Let’s talk about fossil fuels. Let’s pull up 2 million year old dead stuff from the ground, without ceremony, and burn it . . all over the world. There won’t be any problem.
You shouldn’t be surprised that our kids have asthma . . You shouldn’t be surprised that there are oil spills in the ocean . . You shouldn’t be surprised that we’re having death with climate change. Ask Winona LaDuke . . indigenous people have know this for years…
A Saudi Arabia’s worth of solar energy falls on the US every year. George W. Bush . . that’s right, George W. Bush, said there’s enough wind blowing across our plains to power the whole country.
Focus groups spent 10 million dollars to kill green energy . . to kill the green jobs bill.
Why? . . for profit.
“Last time I went to jail . . that’s right. I like to say that. The last time I went to jail, I was marching with coal miners, who were asking for their pensions back.”
“You punch a right-winger, they get mad!
You punch a left-winger, they get sad.
What’s that about? It’s called low self-esteem.”
“We need numbers in the green movement.
When we set out to create green jobs, we didn’t have the numbers.
We have to set numerical expectations.
When I worked in the White House, we created a million jobs. But it wasn’t the numbers we promised. If we created a million jobs now, people would be ecstatic.
“Problem 2. When Obama got elected, we acted like the battle was one. We acted like it was Yes He Can, instead of Yes We Can. We sat down instead of getting up. And so others got up, like the Tea Party.
“Problem 3. We’re not using our power. We’re hot right now. We’ve got Pelosi, we’ve got lefties everywhere. Look at what the other communities of power are doing – we’ve got the plutocracy, the celebtocracy . .
“It’s very simple. Thank you very much.”
<<<awkward silence. then laughter. that van jones 😉 >>
“I amuse myself.
“Okay, it’s simple.
1. Close prison doors. 25% of the world’s prisoners are American, mostly black, brown and poor. I went to Harvard law school – 95% nonviolent drug offenders . . Past skulls and bones, where the hard drugs were being used . . straight to the projects, where kids are getting 10-20 for less. You know it and I know. This is something Newt and I actually agree on.
“Let’s bring these people into a new economy.”
“I’m tired. Help me. I’ve been a grass-roots insider. I’ve been an oval office insider. I’m equally uncomfortable everywhere now. Help me.
. . . on to questions . . .
A vocal woman from the front of the room lauds what we are doing in our cities, in our communities.
Van says, can I get an Amen?
Now Van is talking about the opportunity for young folks, especially people of color, to step up and fill the growing need for tech workers.
Now a young woman for “Off the Mat and Into the World Yoga” is talking about the need for GREEN to be everyone’s movement . . the need to organize cross-movements.
Can I put in a plug for 50 Shades of Green? Because this is the people want.
And now Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is the 13 year old indigenous environmental activist and youth director of Earth Guardians (http://www.eomega.org/workshops/teachers/xiuhtezcatl-martinez) is speaking . . and Van says, you’ve been by mentor for 4 years. <3 <3 True.
Van’s talking about stretching our muscles . . about how when his wife started yoga, there were things she literally couldn’t do . . and then she stretched and she practiced and she stretched.
The muscle we need to stretch now is our hearts.
There are things we couldn’t do yesterday that we can do today.
There are things we can do tomorrow.
<<<thanks and apologies for para-phrased quotes – – may the heart-speak of his words come through.>>>
(Thank we, Laura Weiland!)
by Jono Neiger
The convergence was conceived when a group of people from around the region gathered at Jono and Kemper’s house in western Massachusetts in winter 2005. The question was raised, “How can we support the growing interest in permaculture and what resources and tools are needed to support the network?” Out of this series of meetings several actions were taken, including founding PINE as a regional support organization, and starting a yearly gathering of people involved in permaculture from around the region. The central idea of the convergence was to bring folks together to share ideas and inspiration around permaculture; to support people in their local areas and encourage connection to the larger regional network. The event was conceived as a celebration more than a conference, a bringing together of people practicing and organizing around permaculture.
The convergence was also designed to move around the region and thus bring the network to the host community. In this way the local areas host an exciting, highly visible event with knowledgeable, experienced permies from around the region. The organizers can use the event to educate locally and build the local permaculture community. Additionally, the event is a chance to highlight projects in the local area. So typically the Friday before the convergence weekend there are field trips to any number of sites. This is also a good chance to share what people are doing and what is working both technically and also in communication and outreach.
The idea of moving the convergence around the region to stimulate and promote permaculture has been very successful. I remember being on the site tours at the Vermont convergence in 2009 and we heard a radio program interview about the event. The interviewer was trying to understand what exactly permaculture is. In this way the event really highlighted that neighbors in the area are doing permaculture, this really exciting and transformative practice.
Each local host group designs the particulars of the event with an eye towards continuity as the years have gone by. (Incidentally the Permaculture Olympics have not been repeated since they were held initially in Holyoke Massachusetts. The saladathalon and dale swigging champions have gone unchallenged.) This allows the convergence to fit the local needs and capacity of the area.
In the early years choosing the site was ad hoc and very loose. At the 2007 event in Ithaca there was a Saturday evening keg party. I went through the crowd and asked the western mass contingent if they wanted to host the next year. In the excitement, everyone said “of course!” Little did we know what a big undertaking it would be, though it was very successful the next year at Nuestras Raices in Holyoke, MA.
At the first convergence there were only 30 to 40 people. The inspiration was David Holmgren’s visit to North America and we used his visit to New Hampshire to bring folks together to meet him and talk about what was happening with permaculture and how we could reach more people. He toured the Dartmouth College student farm, thus beginning the tradition of tours of local projects as part of the convergence.
Here is the list of where the northeast regional convergence has been held so far, and the local permaculture groups which supported the event
- 2005 – 1st NE Regional Gathering “Convergence” with special guest David Holmgren, Cold Pond Community Land Trust, Acworth, NH
- 2006 – D’ Acres Farm, Dorchester, NH
- 2007 – Cayuga Nature Center, Ithaca, NY / Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute
- 2008 – Nuestras Raices, Holyoke, MA / W. Mass Permaculture Guild
- 2009 – All Together Now Farm, E. Montpelier, Vermont / Winooski Valley Permaculture Guild & Transition Vermont
- 2010 – MOFGA Farm, Unity, ME / Portland ME Permaculture
- 2011 – Epworth Retreat Center, High Falls, NY / Green Phoenix Permaculture & Rondout Valley Permaculture
- 2012 – Soule Farm, Marlborough, MA / E. Mass Permaculture Guild
- 2013 – Frelighsburg, Quebec, Canada / Mouvement des Artisans du Changement
- 2014 – ?
[Editor’s note: Attendance at regional convergences has now grown routinely into hundreds of people, and the NE permaculture network as a community (and a network of communities) continues to evolve and grow. PINE continues to strengthen our intra-regional communication and connection and to support the local groups that step-up to host the convergence each year. We welcome feedback and input about regional-scale gatherings and other topics. Join the conversations at http://northeastpc.ning.com/ or receive announcements and discussion items on our regional listserve https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/northeasternpermaculture — A. Lo]