Robina McCurdy & Courtney Brooke: Permaculture, our social needs, the inner being - the ‘Invisibles’

Interviewed by

Tim Lynch

Robina McCurdy & Courtney Brooke: Permaculture, our social needs, the inner being - the ‘Invisibles’

I (Tim) have known Robina for over 30 years, she is one of New Zealand’s most experienced Permaculture teachers. She is now an elder and is passing on the torch, sharing the taking on of roles, responsibilities, plus the methodology of a Permaculture educator and designer.

She has also been extending the Permaculture philosophy of our social needs, the inner being and the ‘invisibles’ that link into the web of life - on numerous levels.

Having a similar world view to Robina, Courtney too relates closely to indigenous ways of becoming more aligned within the localised environment.

Going beyond but inclusive of the importance of the physical environment, they are looking at the social needs of both family and community, the inner being - our inner landscape and the ‘invisibles’ the agreements and codes of conduct - that we all embrace as we embed our being into the web of life - on numerous levels.

Robina relates her story of taking Permaculture out into the world.

Robina tells of her Permaculture venture at the Tlholego Development Project, rural NW Province in South African when the NZ High Commission at that time, assisted in financing her with putting in a Permaculture system on that continent.

The task in the late 1990’s was to change the school ground which were basically of sand – into a productive learning environment along with Josee Lebel her NZ colleague. It was a dangerous assignment as they were the only two European people in that locality. Plus, they had the assistance of Daniel Nepia who with Maori whakapapa – (bloodlines), was seen to be coloured.

This initiative just took off and now it has been replicated around South Africa and it is now fairly well embedded as a practice or way forward or blueprint in future education and learning within South African Government structure.

Robina says it was challenging … and that she also worked with squatter settlement leaders and totally redesigned from a permaculture perspective - permaculture values and permaculture principles – their squatter settlements that were predominantly tin shacks with shelter being basically knocked together - but they could also easily knock them down again. So afterwards, when Robina’s left, they, through a participatory process redesigned everything and knocking it all down replaced the settlement along permaculture lines. These included gardens and water systems etc. As an informal settlement.

Yet one of her more challenging assignment was in the first world and the United States. The Suquamish a Lushootseed-speaking Native American people, located in present-day Washington in the United States. Where they were very marginalised and living in substandard conditions and in no way were representing their previous culture instead, many working and gambling in casinos. To Robina it was tragic to see what had happened to them. (This was of the same tribe that Chief Seattle was once a leader.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Seattle)

Courtney Brooke

The need to know what the challenges are:

Courtney Brooke who comes from the South East of the USA, sees that the local population there have increased urbanisation and that farms disappeared, thus people have lost touch with growing both veggies and fruit and it is beneath their dignity to get dirt under their fingernails.

Thus the residents frequent supermarkets and get their polished apples with a sticker on never daring to go out and pick an apple off a tree, or worse - pick one up off the ground for fear that there may be a worm hole in it. (that they just, will not cut it out and eat it, though the apple is still good and fresh). Such is the disconnect from nature in the first world, because it is educated (programmed) out of us.

That for many urban people in the USA bees and wasps are bugs – no real distinction – get rid of them - and weeds, as against plants. Weeds are often plants that are good, but just in the wrong place in many instances… some are invasive whilst others are medicinal and culinary.

That there is a major predominance of mono crops in America – one is known as a lawn. A prestigious symbol of how well off we are and our well manicured lawn of a mono culture (one grass type only) is another game that is being played out. For example if a dandelion plant pops up on one’s lawn, yay it is a medicinal wild flower – but if you are not aware that nature’s plants all have a medicinal quality and if you don’t have a relationship with the plant kingdom – then this is just another weed that upsets the picturesque beauty of the lawn.

This is where Permaculture uses and values diversity on our planet.

As for permaculture in NZ – Robina says we are a humble people – who like to grow quietly about transforming their land. It’s like if someone stumbles upon a property and asks about it or talks to a neighbour who knows about it, and maybe asks if they could see that property and with no fanfare it grows from people talking and sharing and after a while it gets on the map and then the general public hears about it.

She says most people are quite grounded and eloquent and can readily talk about how they manifested their creation and often do not mind talking about it and sharing so as to inspire more uptake. For example Robin and Robert Guyton. http://foodforest.co.nz/the-guytons-riverton-food-forest-nz/ In Riverton the deep south of the South island and their food forest - a plethora of fruit trees, among perennial herbs and native plants – are thriving. This is where they value heirloom apples and pears due to the very temperate climate and at the ‘autumn show’ many growers come and share all varieties plus grafted ones too. She says that this is deep within the culture.

Also there are many Community Gardens in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch having many – Auckland having up to 50.

See Kelmarna Gardens and their seed store.

Plus the Hamilton City Botanical Gardens that has a whole Permaculture example among the beautiful floral landscape plus a microcosm of a backyard quarter acre section these examples are all over the country, but is not shouted out across the media.

Brendan Hoare and Richard Main’s names come up with what they did with organics at Unitec here in Auckland and are still a force here in NZ.

Coming Together to Share.

Courtney mentions that Hui’s and meetings and gatherings that are nationally happening around NZ annually are really important for every province around the country - where issues are talked about and training courses take place.

She says, people are turning up to see how they can make ‘broken systems better’ being that permaculture is a ‘solutions based design system’ that is where the movement is also heading – be it a landscape system or a social system.

It is like looking into the book of nature and perusing the underlying patterns that uphold intact systems and using that patterning and language to create systems be they food systems, social systems, economic systems – whatever it is – a landscape system - that mimic those patterns of nature in order to create functional systems that are honouring life, earth and people.

Robina Passing on her Experience

Robina, says that as an elder after 35 years at the cutting edge of the wave, that in passing on information to the younger generation she is finding them hungry, savvy and quick to embed the old earth wisdom. That by passing over the baton to our planetary youth they realise that we have to take sustainability to a new level of enduring prosperity and deep ecology.

That it is time to take stock and actively and consciously pass on the skills of regeneration to younger people who are ripe and ready and who Robina says have another blueprint than her. It’s like they have come into the world with a better knowing and the dedication to make a better world for them and future generations – in ways that she does not conceive of.

This being an intergenerational shift of wisdom deep knowledge and life energy.

Sun, seasons, wind, gravity, soil, tree belts, building materials, position, soil structure, microbes – and as a community etc.

Courtenay talks about: - that many people who also turn up to Permaculture gatherings is that they have land that has been broken down and they want to turn these around and make them far better and viable. Because Permaculture is a solution based design system – they are always looking at grounded innovation. Be it a land based system or a social system – they are looking at how nature works out these situations. Or As Courtney says looking at the book of nature and the underlying patterns that uphold intact systems. Listen to Courtney explain a deeper level of this.

Permaculture is Continuously Innovative

What Robin says from her perspective of Permaculture these days - it's now Social Permaculture. Since the late 1970’s the focus has been on the landscape - transforming the landscape into productive, functional; sustainable systems – and she says that the weak link has been the people, hence the evolution of a people component and teachers like:

Robin Clayfield in Australia

Starhark in the USA

Looby McNamara in the UK

(Plus Robina here in NZ).

This is by applying the Permaculture principles of design and integrating them all into social systems – so that the can be really resilient. Check their web sites above.

Invisible Structures

Bill Mollison the initiator of Permaculture also did a chapter on invisible structures – legal systems, how to communicate and how to do governance - to bring about sustainable communities, where you are land based as kaitiaki – Caretakers of land. Food production on the land and building soil fertility – having thriving children and families - that are intact

Research global ecovillage network, it’s a very good source of community resources and info – plus models of what to follow.

Sacred Earth Festival here in Auckland NZ as a gathering place.

What has happened since the Christchurch Earthquake - is that it is now being called “the edible garden city.”

Some Councils in NZ have sustainability as one of their platforms and this is where Permaculture can back into their Sustainability Department and offer them their many years of experience.

Robina relates to her work with Project Lyttlelton - after the earthquake - giving permaculture workshops nearly every weekend to the affected people of Christchurch – and tells a very emotional story of her connection to the city of her birth – and that grass roots organisations may hold the key to that city.

Transition Towns also is mentioned as we deal with the increase of climate change and where it is going.

How do we mobilise a country to come together as a conscious ecological community that’s aligned with the land?

The subject of Nuclear Free Zones comes up as a grass root movement so does the ideal of having GE and GMO Zones as well and what are the catalysts to instil in people the need to take care of our children’s future.

Robina said pre Christchurch earthquake people for example - in say supermarket queues, talked about the weather – Post Earthquake - the shift was immense – they showed deep concern for all people - they stopped and talked with them – there was a level of commitment as they inquired caringly about each other.

What is the catalyst for rapid compassionate change?

What is it that will magnetise the community to wake up to their unity as the sharers of breath in our common future. Robina surmises – do we need an inner earthquake to snap us out of our dream spell of disconnection? So that we rise to the occasion of giving and or service to make the change that we at heart would love to witness and be part of.

There is a big awakening around our planet – however many, though they are concerned and care, are still not sure what to do and where to put their energy into.

So Robina says – what is your passion? Just go and push the edge and step out. And if our intent is pure that in the spirit of goodwill, the world of nature and the ‘invisible’ does its part in coming in and just holding hands with us by opening up new territories and giving gifts and bestowing on us so much energy that you never look back …

Another helpful website: www.Localisingfood.com - project around NZ 'SOS' Save Our Seeds. Documentary Videos and short stories on this web site – global impact.

Plus food forests are starting to grow in public places around the country.

Courtney says she would dearly like us to become ancestors that future people will be proud to descend from … She also speaks so elegantly and in the flow with a youthful yet wise exuberance.

This was a delightful interview of Robina & Courtney - lots of passion and emotion - ‘the salt of the earth.’

https://earthcare-education.org/wp_earthcare/about-us/robina-mccurdy/


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Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch, is a New Zealander, who is fortunate in that he has whakapapa, or a bloodline that connects him to the Aotearoan Maori. He has been involved as an activist for over 40 years - within the ecological, educational, holistic, metaphysical, spiritual & nuclear free movements. He sees the urgency of the full spectrum challenges that are coming to meet us, and is putting his whole life into being an advocate for todays and tomorrows children. 'To Mobilise Consciousness.'

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