Schurn’s Big Change

I’ve been neglecting this blog during the past few months, in favour of moving countries and all the associated events that come with that – including hiking in tropical National Parks (see photo). The delays will continue for a few more weeks for another reason – I’m doing a Permaculture Design Certificate down Sunshine Coast way. It’s something I’ve been keen to do for over a year since I first read about permaculture, but the timing and language barriers never quite aligned in Europe. Every new piece I read about permaculture confirms the light globe moment I had initially – that this what I want to do with my life. It only took 32 years…or maybe only 17-ish years from the age when school starts suggesting one might like to ‘think about one’s future’.

Permaculture seems to me to be a bringing together of ideas from all different cultures and ecological designs, to create a system based on maximum efficiency by working with nature rather than against it. By thoughtful observation rather than thoughtless action we can put the right pieces together to let nature do her thing, and she’s pretty incredible. It’s about taking care of the planet and it’s people, and sharing the benefits you create from becoming as self-sufficient as you can. I’m rather excited, hopefully the course provides many tools so that upon completion I can change my world and perhaps yours.

Hopefully the course also provides many interesting networks and ideas, something along the lines of Transition Towns, which I have been reading about the past few weeks. Their experiment sprung from a permaculture group, and looks at ways of building communities which are resilient against the impacts of peak oil, climate change and global economics; in a way that focuses on thinking the future could be much better without oil than our current inefficient systems based on cheap energy.

See you in the self-sufficient future folks!

Activism…the point being?

It seems to me that established activism groups have been slow on the up-take of potential benefits with social media and the internet. The recent Kony 2012 campaign proved this – a video designed with a specific SM strategy that went viral, while many other equally (if not more) important issues plodded along with candle-lit vigils or email petitions.

The question I’ve been pondering is – does any of it matter? 80 million views of a video is not going to get a man experienced in hiding in African jungles captured, neither are some candles in a city park far from Syria going to get Assad to resign.

When I protested in 2003 with 500,000 others against the Iraq invasion, even then it felt like the entire population of Australia couldn’t change Howard’s mind. It felt unlikely that any of the Occupy sit-ins were going to achieve anything, yet still those folk sat-in, and just like the war protests they changed nothing. The people that think the system is broken agreed with them from their lounge-rooms; while people who thought they were whingeing hippies continued yelling at them from their loungerooms to ‘get a job’.

GetUp and Avaaz – the online petition sites – appeal to me because I’m not so keen on writing personal letters, even though I know it might be more effective. I just feel like I have limited knowledge on whatever the topic is, and will be shot down by anyone who has access to advisors or funds for research. Slacktivism in action. It’s why the Kony campaign was at least effective in getting it’s message out – people felt like their click changed something. Which of course it didn’t. I have read some success stories from the online petition sites, but still feel a little hopeless with each click.

So, I’m a big sceptic (not the only one) but still participate in hope. Hope that someone will change their mind, but how often does that happen? Not just the powerful, but us commoners? About major things, not where to go for dinner. Major change sometimes meaning admitting we were wro…wr….wrong. Are our minds open enough to this?

I prefer changing my actions and sharing my slacktivism to writing letters and organizing protests; hopefully this encourages my framily to think a little about their own actions in whatever the cause. I hope this happens in any case. It certainly happens in reverse – when I witness the actions of my framily, it reveals a little about their beliefs, but also triggers me to consider my own thoughts on said cause. If I see a way I can improve I take it, even if it is just filling up on previously absent knowledge. Recent cases are – how little I knew about the plight of West Papuans; and re-enforcing the horrors that a colonialist approach has inflicted on Australia’s Indigenous peoples from 1778 until today. Is this how social evolution (rather than revolution) works – people sharing and being inspired by other’s actions? If so, social media is at the heart of battles to come, even if it is slacktivism.

Perhaps this is why I do this blog – because I have doubt that group activism makes lasting change and find it more likely to succeed through personal discussion with those closer to me. It’s also why people shouldn’t feel hesitant to share the good things they do. Just do it on Facebook please.

PS  I think this post rambled a bit, but it’s been hanging about for days because it’s all been disjointed in my head….but I need to move on, and get it out there. An aim with the blog was for things to be clearer in my head if I wrote them down…hasn’t worked so well with this one.

A Natural Connection

I think I’m turning into my grandpa – my morfar as they say in Swedish (they are a very specific race and don’t have a general word for grandparent, rather mother’s father etc). This thought hasn’t concerned me so much as satisfied me – he is one of my favourite people in the world and if I achieve even a small part of what he has so far then I’m sure my immediate world will be happier.

There are two main indications that lead me to think I’ve taken a lot of his traits.

Firstly, he is constantly thinking about food. His children and grandchildren are often amused and occasionally stressed by how far in advance he can mentally prepare a meal – talking about dinner over breakfast is a regular occurrence. I suspect all people of a certain era do this, born out of necessity to prepare every meal themselves, from an age before fast food and take-away was within easy reach. I also behave similarly out of necessity – it is quite hard to match my food choices to many take-away options; and as mentioned in previous posts, my preference is to avoid packaging…soaking beans means I often out-trump grandpa by thinking about tomorrow’s dinner while tonight’s is on the stove. Not having many on-the-run lunch options means I have to think ahead about that as well. I’m comfortable with this – less fast food is healthier and less take-away makes the wallet heavier.

Secondly, the most recent time I spoke with grandpa he said – “the garden is one of my best friends”, which made me laugh heartily. It wasn’t (in my mind) a sad reflection on his friendship circle, rather an acknowledgement of how important his garden is in his life. My favourite pastime on Kangaroo Island is poking about the garden. Along similar lines is his attraction to the land – he grew up in country towns, which he (I think) fostered in his children, despite them living in the ‘big smoke’ of Adelaide throughout their youth. They have all at some stage owned land ‘in the sticks’ and increasingly I feel myself being drawn out of the city – to a life where the rise and fall of the sun constitutes time; where I can grow all my own food, be forced to think about what to make for next Tuesday’s dinner because there really is no other option; or get enjoyment from just being outside.

There are quite a number of other traits I see in myself that came from morfar – another prominent one is the urge to travel, especially on the road. Of course, I can picture things I do that come from my entire lineage, but a character connection with my morfar feels the strongest of all just now, even from half the globe away.

Solving Multiple Problems At Once?

Differing interests have been converging for me in recent weeks. The carbon tax issue in Australia has highlighted to many the need to plan for a world where we don’t rely on fossil fuels. I have also been patiently awaiting a harvest for our balcony babies that sadly receive too little sunlight. The plants and herbs do add colour and character to the balcony but I wish I could grow more of our own food. Lastly, I’ve been reading about past societal collapses and ways in which we can avoid doing the same to ourselves.

All of these interests have magically wound themselves together in one bundle called permaculture. My introduction has been through a friend whose friend is a permaculture junkie, and then through further investigation in the form of reading; and watching a few documentaries – the foremost being “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”.

The premise of the movie is that we don’t need to wait to see what impact an oil-less future will have on our lives; an example already exists in post-Soviet era Cuba – whose oil supply was dramatically cut with the fall of the Iron Curtain. They had no oil to power their agricultural machinery and very quickly the big cities were facing a food shortage crisis (amongst other major problems). Havana today, a city of about 2 million people, grows 50% of it’s food within the city limits through permaculture techniques – doing away with those oil-sucking machines in the process.

The goal of permaculture is to mimic patterns that occur in nature to create interwoven relationships that grow the majority of a household’s food supply on their own block – everything within walking distance. The thinking that formed the techniques was that nature has evolved these relationships over such a long period of time and therefore she, and not humans, knows the most efficient ways to do it.

I have only read one book on the subject, but just 10 pages in I knew that I had potential to become an addict too. Stay tuned for more confessions.