Thursday, October 14, 2010

APC10 - and the Atherton Tablelands Permaculture Bus Tour

Where do you usually have lunch? I pondered my regular lunchspot, an alternately frosty or dusty stoop off my front porch, while sipping on tropical fruit smoothies and snacking on flowers at the Botanical Ark. Three weeks ago in the wee hours of the morning, I flew into Cairns for the Tenth Australasian Permaculture Convergence. What followed was four jam-packed days of presentations, design processes and meeting the elders and newbies of the permacultural movement in Australia and overseas, set to the backdrop of tropical rainforest in Far North Queensland. Alternately inspired, exhausted and enthusiastically manic, I spent four days refining my introduction to strangers from "I run a permaculture consultancy business in Central Victoria", to leaping from from a haybale stating "I'm committed to excellence in integrating permaculture, literacy and numeracy, running workshops from my place and interactive theatre", during Robin Clayfield's Leaps of Faith session. I made good on the interactive theatre soon after, see below...

It's not easy to coherently write about all the mind flutterings that overtook me during the Convergence. I was regularly scribbling good ideas in my notebook as they came to mind. One idea, however, kept coming back to me, in the form of a permaculture principle, "Use edges and value the marginal". The people that I was most drawn to were working on the edges of permaculture, following their passions and integrating permaculture into the things that got them bouncing out of bed in the morning. From Cecilia Macaulay's balcony gardening and share house permaculture, to April Sampson-Kelly's online Permaculture Design Courses to the Garden at the End of the World, I got most inspiration from those people working through different media, in far-off places, or finding their own niche within the movement.

One of the major issues leading up to and during APC10 was the call for a national representative permaculture body for Australia. Robina McCurdy, Robin Clayfield and Rowe Morrow, some of the best facilitators I know of, ran a participatory workshop to develop a needs analysis for the nation. The results are posted here. I came away from the Convergence, disappointed that there wasn't more of this. At APC9 in Sydney in 2008, there was ample opportunity to participate in workshops. Rowe Morrow's Water Workshop had hundreds of people brainstorming solutions for water issues for a number of types of human settlements, including small towns, cities, country/urban fringe, drylands, etc. In all, at APC10, I spent too much time sitting on my backside watching powerpoints, a common problem with conferences, but from a permaculture convergence I expected more. The first opportunity I had to participate in a presentation saw me bouncing off the walls. I made a personal commitment that next convergence I will only attend if I also present a workshop.

APC9 Water workshop: Source unknown
I made good on an earlier personal commitment involving what I called, for want of a better term, 'interactive theatre'. I had decided before the convergence to take advantage of any future opportunities to facilitate dance events. The final night party of the Convergence was scheduled, with Costa, TV's gardening guru, as MC I put my hand up to run the Interpretive Permaculture Bush Dance. Loosely based around a traditional bush dance, with some permaculture principles thrown in for good measure, it culminated in a spiral of dancers being dragged into a vortex screaming, "This is so much fun!". Suffice to say, it went off, and I am now addicted to the power of telling people what to do on the dance floor.

Lastly, one of the most exciting features of a Permaculture convergence is the tour that inevitably follows. The APC10 post-convergence tour took us through dry savannah of Mareeba and back to the tropical paradise of the Atherton Tablelands. So many things I haven't seen before, eggplant trees, green ant highways and creative approaches to cracking coconuts (see below right).


My deepest gratitude goes to permaculture elders Rowe Morrow and Phil Gall for their graciousness and effusive generosity. It's always humbling to meet those for whom you have so much respect and for them to be willing and happy to give so much of their time. Further opportunities to rub elbows with heroes, Robina McCurdy and Robin Clayfield on the bus tour, sounds captured below.

2 comments:

Cecilia Macaulay (Tess) said...

I cant believe I never, ever thought of linking permaculture, literacy and numeracy together. It will work, and everybody will want what you do. Once they know about it.

I learnt Japanese via Permaculture Design principles - Zones, design to accept feedback, Right thing in the right place, share the surplus, and so on...If you want to do something together one day...just make sure it ends in dancing, and I'll do my best to be there.

SAM DOWNING said...

Thanks Cecilia. I've done a lot of work with the physical doing of permaculture to support literacy and I've been thinking a lot lately about applying the principles to the actual teaching and learning side. Great to hear of your experiences learning Japanese that way. Would love to do something together one day, especially if it ends in dancing. Let me know when you're next in Melbourne.