Sue Girard. New South Wales Regional Meeting.
I have a “Concern”; in fact I think I have always had it, but it has developed from just an interest into a passion as I have gotten older.
As a child I felt misplaced; I had a desire to make things, to be as self-reliant as possible. But living in cramped and busy suburbia did very little to foster my wishes to live a more down to earth lifestyle. I married into a family with farms. I loved the open spaces and the rhythm of the seasons. Yet as strange as it may seem, even there I lacked the intimate relationship I desired with planting, harvesting, preserving.
Twenty-five years ago my vision refocused. It was a time when a fledgling Aussie movement called Permaculture was becoming established. It took me many more years to fully learn and appreciate its concepts. I was intrigued with its holistic design system that emphasized Ethics, as well as Principles. It gave me a structure that resonated with my spiritual rummaging of that time and now as a Quaker these ethics meld happily with the Testimonies that I strive to live by.
The Permaculture ethics are:
▪ Care of the Earth by providing for all life’s systems so they continue and multiply.
▪ Care of People by providing for people so they can access the resources necessary for their existence.
▪ Setting Limits to Consumption and Population by being responsible for our own needs, setting aside resources to aid the first two ethics.
In Australia Permaculture has always been a grass roots movement where its supporters have been keen to share what they know about living sustainably within the environment, often with the recognition that the rewards are rarely financial. It is this vehicle that I have been using for over a decade to get people thinking about what ‘caring for our planet’ really means.
Experience has taught me that people seem to respond to knowledge in small chunks and visible at a small but significant local level, rather than the heavily orchestrated propaganda of large and political power structures.
Many people seem to think that Permaculture is all about gardening. It isn’t. However food is one of those vital human needs and, as Costa Georgiadis from the television programme Gardening Australia makes clear, this makes eating a part of an agricultural event – the importance of caring for Earth and People is intrinsically linked.
I am lucky that I have occasion to work with NSW TAFE Outreach. This involves teaching Sustainable Gardening at the grass roots level (literally) in a Community setting rather than within a TAFE Campus. This involves different towns and different surrounding schools, Community Gardens, and Neighbourhood Centres within my Local Government Area. I also do small workshops, when other Community Networks ask me, throughout the Blue Mountains and beyond. I am able to show members of the public how relatively easy it is to grow food whilst still caring for the environment.
In this work I experience Quaker Testimonies everywhere, making life more straightforward both locally and globally. I imagine that with the earth in good health all people can be truly cared for – with an absence of needs bringing about agreement and true peace.
The simplicity of planting a seed in the earth, and meeting its needs for water, light, nutrients…By abiding by the integrity that is right-livelihood, in accepting the role of insects and so called weed species into the paradigm…By living the experience of eating local, seasonal grown produce, be it in a few herbs in pots at the backdoor, or the reward of a crop of home-grown tomatoes, that can be shared amongst friends and community.
Consuming more wisely so that choices today seem effortless when it ensures that any burden will not be passed on to future generations; insights that tap into our planet’s innate way of cycling and recycling. Illustrated everywhere even within the small realm of composting – understanding that kitchen scraps and manure are of value rather than a waste product. That even toilet rolls added to the pile will add air-gaps and carbon beneficial to those microorganisms that tirelessly cultivate and produce dynamic soil generously and unceasingly.
When producing systems that are at harmony with land, water and other natural resources, systems that reduce human demand and allow an equality of human kind and earth kind.
And then to protect this biodiversity, which restores the key ecological processes that, too, are necessary for our food, water and energy security, as well as global resilience and adaptation.
Working against Nature is quite futile unless you are willing to incorporate a lot of valuable non-renewable resources.
I hear people talk about how depressed and powerless they feel in the face of climate change. Personally I feel a sense of power, that in some small way I have a degree of knowledge that I can share with others that will give skills and confidence to move forward in whatever conditions of environmental change may come our way.