Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Permaculture is a unique agriculture approach that mimics natural patterns to meet human needs while keeping the environment on a healthy regenerative cycle. Corinna Bellizzi sits down with author and activist Starhawk who shares how this particular farming technique can save the world from further degeneration and help rebuild the soil. She also shares how the concept of permaculture translates to the work of activism, helping in the fight against a patriarchal society and taking politics out of conversations about the common good.
Starhawk is an author, activist, permaculture designer and teacher, and a prominent voice in modern earth-based spirituality and ecofeminism. She is the author or co-author of thirteen books, including The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess and the ecotopian novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, and its sequel City of Refuge. Starhawk founded Earth Activist Training, teaching permaculture design grounded in spirituality and with a focus on activism. She travels internationally, lecturing and teaching on earth-based spirituality, the tools of ritual, and the skills of activism.
Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/star-starhawk-1325b37
Guest Website: https://starhawk.org
Additional Resources Mentioned: https://earthactivisttraining.org
00:00 – Introduction
02:40 – Discovering modern earth-based spirituality and ecofeminism
09:07 – Difference between permaculture and regenerative organic agriculture
11:34 – Rebuilding the soil
22:17 – Addressing the skepticism
26:31 – Earth Mother/Pagan Goddess
29:31 – The Fifth Sacred Thing
41:58 – Reaching a collaborative approach
44:37 – Starhawk’s courses
48:58 – Fundraising for refugees
53:20 – Closing Words
Join the Care More. Be Better. Community! (Social Links Below)
Support Care More. Be Better: A Social Impact + Sustainability Podcast
Care More. Be Better. is not backed by any company. We answer only to our collective conscience. As a listener, reader, and subscriber you are part of this pod and this community and we are honored to have your support. If you can, please help finance the show (https://www.caremorebebetter.com/donate). Thank you, now and always, for your support as we get this thing started!
How Permaculture And Regeneration Can Lead To A Better World With Starhawk
I’m honored to continue the conversation about all things as it relates to our food procurement and the protection of our environments, as I’m joined by Starhawk. I featured her before when I showcased a moment from the Soil and Health Forum back in Petaluma, California. There, Starhawk spoke on her work in permaculture. She helped us understand the concept, talked through its definitions, and made sense of how and why regenerative farming, permaculture, is our only path forward to feed this generation and all that follow.
Let me share her bio. Starhawk is an author, activist, permaculture designer, and teacher. She’s also a prominent voice in modern Earth-based spirituality and eco-feminism. She’s the author or co-author of thirteen books, including The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of The Ancient Religion of The Great Goddess and the novel, one of my favorites, The Fifth Sacred Thing, as well as its sequel, City of Refuge.
Her most nonfiction book is The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups or Group Dynamics, Power, Conflict and Communication. Starhawk also founded Earth Activist Training, teaching Permaculture Design grounded in spirituality with a focus on activism. She travels internationally, lecturing and teaching on Earth-based spirituality, the tools of ritual, and the skills of activism. Starhawk, thank you so much for joining me. Welcome to the show.
Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here.
As the bio that I’ve read helps detail, you are at the forefront of a couple of concepts that have only grown over the years since you released the novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing. I’d love for you to share perhaps a snapshot of your journey, your advocacy for mother nature, and your important works of fiction and nonfiction. Tell us what inspired you to undertake all of this.
I was an LA girl, a Valley girl. I always loved and craved nature. I remember there was one good climbing tree in the neighborhood. Every time my friends and I would climb up that tree, the woman who owned the place would come out and scream at us to get down so that if we fell, we wouldn’t sue her. I didn’t have the wonderful out-in-the-country upbringing a lot of people have but I’d longed for it. I always found my spiritual experiences and moments of feeling a deep connection with nature.
When I was in my first year of university at UCLA, in an anthropology class, I got to know some people who called themselves witches. They started talking about being part of a pre-Christian, pre-Judaic, Earth-based spiritual tradition that’s on nature is sacred. I went, “That’s for me. That’s what I’ve always believed.” I began getting interested in that.
It was centered around seeing the deity and divine as the goddess. I found that tremendously empowering as a young woman. Growing up Jewish, it had never occurred to me that you could see God as female. I found that to be tremendously empowering for me, as a woman, to think about spirituality that celebrated aspects of a woman’s body and sexuality and that empowered women instead of relegating women to serve a secondary role.
I got involved in writing about that. My first book was The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. That came out in 1979. That talked about what a lot of us were doing, which was trying to recreate a spiritual tradition that had an empowered female center. We saw it also as an aspect of feminism. It was a feminist spirituality and about empowering women.
It wasn’t about seeing a big lady in the sky that you bow down to. It was more about valuing those qualities that women represented of bringing life into the world and of life in this world and of nature as well. I spent many years writing about that, teaching about that, and creating groups and organizations where we were practicing that and creating rituals and healing traditions.
I also encountered in the ‘80s some friends of mine who’d taken a permaculture course. Permaculture is a system of ecological design that tries to look at the patterns of nature and mimic them so that we can meet our human needs while regenerating the environment around us instead of degenerating it. I was fascinated by that and wanted to learn more. In the ‘90s, I connected with Penny Livingston, an amazing permaculture designer and teacher. We began teaching together. We founded Earth Activist Training.
In 1999, there was a big blockade in Seattle against the World Trade Organization and it brought a lot of activists together from all over the West Coast and the world. Penny and I had taken part in that action and talked about it afterward. We felt that there was this suddenly this whole new world of young activists that were out there and that were eager, dedicated, and smart but a lot of them didn’t seem to know what the actual solutions were.
There was also this whole world of permaculturists, natural builders, agroecologists, and people who had these tremendous solutions but sometimes seemed a little naive about the power structures that were in the way of realizing them. We founded Earth Activist Training to teach permaculture, focusing on organizing and activism and grounding in Earth-based spirituality. We felt that personal sustainability and regeneration are a vital part of not just growing crops, soil, and plants but growing the people who can grow the movements that can grow like the food, soil, plants, and regenerated ecosystems.
That sounds like an approach that is circular because it’s including humans in the story. There’s one thing that your talk at the Soil and Health Forum got me questioning and thinking about, which I didn’t have the chance to connect with you there. What is the difference between these concepts? Are they the same, permaculture and regenerative organic agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is a big, broad tent that covers a lot of different things and permaculture is maybe one particular movement or system that also incorporates a lot of other systems or ideas. The permaculture movement, for example, has made alliances with a lot of the holistic grazing and management movement that comes out of Allan Savory’s work around regenerating grassland and the ways you can use livestock to rebuild carbon in the soil and bring the certified grasslands back to life.
Permaculture has alliances with Paul Stamets around the mushroom work. It incorporates a lot of different things but it is a particular way of looking at those things. It has a lot of alliances and similarities to agroecology. You could say agroecology is a different way of saying permaculture but it also ties you into a slightly different group of people.
The agroecology people tend to be more based in the university. Permaculture people often tend to be outside of that a little bit. Although, we do like to incorporate sound science and research as much as we can. Permaculture also has drawn a lot of inspiration and influence from indigenous practices, traditional farming, and land use practices.
Something you mentioned was Allan Savory’s work. He hearkens from Australia if I recall correctly.
It’s from Zimbabwe, Africa.
Thinking about his work, he’s trying to help people in the regenerative space understand that animals can be part of the solution. Some of his work has come under fire when specifically, you’re looking at the ability of the soil to sequester and store carbon. He talks about oxidation, which isn’t as well accepted by what you might call those agroecologists, who work from the university perspective.
There is a place for things like manure and animal dung to rebuild our soils. I’ve seen that Sadhguru has taken on the mantle of wanting to talk about soil and soil health as critical to this future that we face, where we see topsoil erosion impacting entire communities. We’re going to essentially run out of top soil and healthy soil if we don’t do something dramatic about it and fast. Where do you see us now versus when you started this journey so many years ago?
The understanding of the importance of soil and the regenerative approach has made inroads into the mainstream much more now than years ago when I began. I remember in my first permaculture course, I first heard about biodiesel and this radical idea that you could run your car on vegetable oil. That’s a much more accepted thing. The City of San Francisco runs its buses on reclaimed vegetable oil from the restaurants. The airlines are trying to figure out how to use that to fly their airplanes. That’s good.
In the permaculture world, we tend to be edge species. We’re used to being on the margins but to be successful, we need these ideas to penetrate the mainstream. In California, for example, we have a lot of good programs and grants that you can get for regenerative systems, including some of the grazing systems that Allan Savory developed. His insight was to see that grasslands need grazers not to degenerate.
In pre-colonization times, you might have huge herds of bison all over the Midwest with thousands of individuals in a herd. They would move a bunch together and move on quickly when they had been in a place for a little while. If you’re a bison, you don’t want to stand around and eat the grass that your fellow bison have pooped all over. They stayed close together because that was their protection. There were predators out there like wolves. With that, they would graze an area down quickly and then move on. The grass would have time to recover before they came back.
His insight was to see that overgrazing wasn’t so much how many animals you had on the land. It was how much time the land had to recover between each bite from an animal. We could use livestock to mimic that impact. In doing so, we can bring back the health of the grasslands, which is vitally important because a lot of our soil loss in the world comes from marginal lands decertifying and turning into deserts.Overgrazing is not about how many animals you have on the land. It is about how much time the land has to recover between each bite from an animal. Click To Tweet
I’ve seen a direct example of this from my experience with horses. I’ve ridden horses off and on my whole life. I’ve owned them. I’ve worked on farms. I’ve helped to start cults in the Phillies and get them to a space where they can be productive members of the animal-lover world. I’ve often even rescued off-the-track thoroughbreds to help rehabilitate them from something that was probably not best for their livelihood.
As it stands, there was this one beautiful piece of property in Oakdale, which is in the Central Valley area near Modesto. They also are in the floodplains of the Tuolumne River. They reclaimed this floodplain from these banks covered in river rock by adding horse manure in the stretches for a long time to the point where grasses started to thrive. You have shrubs growing along the river banks, offering a break to prevent all that soil from washing away.
Throughout the 15 to 20 years that Connie Arthur was running the property, they developed some of these most beautiful pastures, some of which were naturally irrigated by the slow flood of the Tuolumne during certain seasons. They maintained herds of horses that were only fed supplemental grain and some hay during the summer months when that grass would get a little bit too lean to sustain them.
She essentially changed the entire environment over these 100 acres or so to make it viable and feel like paradise to anybody who visits. You see the birds return and all sorts of critters and animals that are thriving in this environment. As we know, when you have an ecology that is well managed, the biodiversity is intense. You can feel like you’re on a nature walk walking into a field. Whereas if we are to experience life in California on the Central Coast here and visit the strawberry fields, plastic sheeting, and strawberries growing poked through them and then bare earth between everything.
There’s a big movement in agriculture toward no-till, which is to stop churning up the ground all the time because when you do that, you expose all the soil’s organic carbon or the humus that makes it fertile. You expose that to the air and it oxidizes. It combines with oxygen and turns back into carbon dioxide and off gases. There are researchers like Dr. Rattan Lal from the Soil Carbon Institute in Ohio who say that we have as much excess carbon in the atmosphere from the Dust Bowl in the 1930s as we do from every automobile ever invented.
You explained it so much better than I’ve heard Allan Savory explain it. He refers to oxidation but without talking about that part of the cycle, which further confounds or confuses the issue.
There’s also oxidation if you have grass. Where I live, my land is up in Sonoma County and it’s a Mediterranean climate. We get lots and lots of rain in the winter. We’re the rainiest spot in California. We have these long, dry summers. If the grass gets eaten down or trampled down, it can get in contact with the ground and it’ll break down.
If it’s standing there up in the air, the first year, it’ll turn gold and still edible for animals. It’s like hay, which is dried grass. After the second year, it oxidizes. It turns gray, loses all its nutritional value, and becomes a huge fire hazard. We are looking at grazing an animal impact, both for regenerating the soil for the yields in the animals and also for reducing fire danger because most fires start in grasslands and then spread to the forest lands.
I abut in the nature preserve and it is mandated to have grazers on it. It was once cattle dairy land but then was donated to the state with the understanding that it would be used as a preserve for certain species that are somewhat threatened in the state of California. We have a beetle that hunts by sight so it needs grazers on the land.
When I first moved into the property we bought, thirteen horses were grazing in the field behind. I’m a horse lover so they sold it as much as anything else. They’ve converted to cows because of long droughts. We have different species of grasses that are thriving and horses are picky eaters, whereas the cows are a little less discriminant. They will eat more of the varieties because they have that four-chamber stomach.
As it stands, they rotate the cows from pasture to pasture to prevent overgrazing because overgrazing can kill that rootstock and the grasses don’t come back as strong the next year. It ensures that they’re leaving their dung behind, the soil remains fertile, and they’re part of this whole cycle. There’s also a species of grass that’s native to California that is part of that preserve, which needs grazers, the California salamander or newt. I forget what it’s called. All three are protected on that property.
It’s refreshing to me to see this real-life example every day as I go on my hikes around the neighborhood but there are too few of these. This is part of the problem. We hear from a populace, “How are we going to feed everybody? If we convert to this regenerative style of agriculture, we’re not going to be able to have enough cattle grazing on that property or enough of this or that.” What would your answer be to these individuals who come first from skepticism, even without seeing the evidence?
There was an article in the Washington Post about a food writer writing about what she knows about food, saying how organic can’t feed the world because the yields are down from conventional agriculture. One of the things we learn in permaculture is if we say more than anything else, it depends. Things are complex. There aren’t simplistic answers to natural systems because natural systems are complex.
You say organic agriculture can’t feed the world. You have to say, “Is conventional agriculture going to be able to continue to feed the world when it’s destroying the soil?” That is the basis of what we’re using to get those inflated yields. It’s not so much about how we grow wheat, corn, and rice on every scrap of land. You have to look at what is this land suited for. There are many places where you can graze animals that you couldn’t plow up and plant grain because you would simply destroy the place. It would erode. It’s far too steep and rugged.
That’s why we had the Dust Bowl in the 1930s because they were trying to grow corn and wheat on marginally dry land. In the wet years, it could work. In the dry years, it dried up and blew away when it was exposed to the air soil, whereas that same land had supported massive herds of buffalo for tens of thousands of years that built swell, fertility, and grasslands by doing what buffalo do.
They didn’t till the earth, that’s for sure, not in the traditional sense.
More than anything, for me, both permaculture and Earth-based spirituality are about shifting our way of thinking. It’s to understand that it’s not about simple isolated solutions or simple isolated cause and effect. It’s about looking at complex systems and understanding that things are interdependent and interconnected. That’s both a scientific principle but also a very deep spiritual principle.Permaculture and earth-based spirituality are about shifting our way of thinking. It is about looking at complex systems and understanding that everything are interdependent and interconnected. Click To Tweet
It’s the same principle that indigenous elders of so many different traditions have been trying to tell us. In the Lakota tradition, when they say, “Mitakuye Oyasin,” they’re saying, “All my relatives, all my relations.” It’s about our relationships. When we design a permaculture system, we’re not just saying, “I’m putting this rose here and this apple tree here.” We’re saying, “How do I create a system that’s going to provide for as many of its needs as possible that’s going to generate some of the things that I need and that’s going to be building soil, resisting pests, and creating beauty?” If you do it right, it is beautiful all at the same time.
I know your experience of living in this world of permaculture and educating yourself about being respectful of life and Earth first. You’ve even been called Earth Mother by publications or a pagan goddess. I have this wonder in my heart and soul about how you see yourself. What do you call yourself?
I once had a huge fight with my mother. I invited her to come to this Jewish feminist conference that I was speaking at. She looked at the list of who was speaking in the bios and mine said, “Starhawk is a nice Jewish girl who grew up to be a witch.” She was like, “How could they say this about you? Everyone else is a doctor of this or that.” I said, “Mom, that’s what I told them.” She’s like, “How could you tell them that? Why don’t you list your credentials?” That’s how I see myself.
I felt deeply connected to my ancestral tradition and the even deeper spiritual roots. I do my best to practice in very hands-on ways, whether that’s in advocating for environmental policies or social justice, running an organization that trains people in regenerative systems, taking action, or doing forestry work up where I live to help protect the community from wildfires. To me, all of it is very interconnected.
I was hoping we could dive a bit into your fiction work with The Fifth Sacred Thing, mainly because one of my best friends would never forgive me if I didn’t ask you about the book. She had requested that I read the book years ago. She’s like, “I think you’ll like this.” Her copy was tattered and had been circulated several times and probably even ran in the bath and dropped in at a few. It’s the fact that my first encounter with your work happened years ago before I had kids and well after I was already on my own, let’s say uber-liberal or uber-eco-friendly journey.
I was born in a hippie commune and grew up with a lot of these things percolating in my system. I then moved to California and I’m living in this tech giant area of Cupertino and Silicon Valley, having conflict with it in my earlier life. I came to a place where the only place I could feel at home in Northern California was Santa Cruz and going to UCSE to study Anthropology, much as you did.
I was doing archeology digs around the world and wondering about this past of humanity and what our lives might’ve been like. I found that as I read your book, The Fifth Sacred Thing, it caused me to consistently reflect on not only my early life but wondering what humanity was like before the handwritten recorded era, thinking of the world that you depicted when this book was published in the ‘90s of a future in 2048.
It seemed a lot further away in the ‘90s.
It seemed so far away, and now not so much.
Throughout the ‘80s, we had been doing a lot of nonviolent direct action around nuclear power, nuclear war, and intervention in Central America. I had been training people in nonviolence for many years. I am wrestling with the question, especially if it would come up around Central America, about how far you can take this. Could this work in the context of ruthless people? That was the underlying question of that book.
I’d also been doing a lot of historical research into the transition from the old matriarchal pre-Christian, pre-Judaic, and pre-civilized cultures, which were Earth-centered and much more goddess-centered and centered around imagery of life and regeneration. How did that transition to patriarchy and top-down hierarchical systems? How much war was at the root of that? The question I was struggling with was how can a peaceful culture defend itself and survive in the face of violence.
In some ways, that book is an attempt to explore that. What would it look like? Could it work? What would it take to make that work? What if you had a culture that had decided they were not going to defend themselves with weapons of war? Were there other options? It’s still a question I wrestle with. It becomes more and more vital with every passing day and every time you open up and read the news. In our culture, we have this very patriarchal definition of strength. We see strength as the ability to inflict harm and destruction.Our culture is patriarchal. The definition of strength is about our ability to inflict harm and destruction. Click To Tweet
It’s the ability to control resources, extract maximum profit, and yield from something.
Things that take care of people and nurture and nourish people are often seen as weaknesses. You can see that in the dialogue around almost any issue. It’s around Gaza and Palestine. It’s like if we stop bombing civilians and killing children, we’ll look weak. There’s a different definition of strength than I see that comes out of the feminist movement but also out of Earth-based spirituality. Also, in permaculture.
Strength is important. It’s helpful in permaculture. You want to be able to dig that ground and move those rocks, whatever gender you are. That strength goes into systems that nurture people, feed people, and regenerate soil and land. When you see the strength it takes to do that, it takes a lot more strength to take a damaged piece of ground and bring it back to life and health than it does to pick up a gun, go into a crowded movie theater, and shoot a whole bunch of people. That takes no strength at all.
The recipe that has landed us there is one in which we don’t have strong communities the way we did 100 years ago. People aren’t raising children together as a larger family unit. We are units alone. I experienced this myself. Part of this is part and parcel of the fact that women like myself are professionals or have children a little later in life. As I’m having a child later in life, my mother is not as likely to be able to help in the same way that she might have twenty years ago.
The same family unit isn’t raising our children anymore. We are, therefore, getting a little less of the nurturing grandmothering of our youth than we once did. What are the common constructs that we have about women as grandmothers? We think about them as being a little more lenient and patient, perhaps not cleaning up the messes the same way but allowing a little bit of the rambunctiousness of youth to exist in a way that often the parents don’t have the time or patience for.
When I was a child, I went to school in the neighborhood school and came home for lunch because it was close and there was someone home to cook lunch. I support this movement in getting women out of the home and into the working world but it’s also meant that we don’t have those communities where women were around to connect and bond with each other.
We say it takes a community to raise a child but now, it’s a paid community. It’s childcare. That changes things. Commerce will change things. We’re in a different world than the one I grew up in and the one you grew up in. That’s only continuing down that path. When I see things like the school shooter, I always see the fact that he was experiencing some psychological difficulties.
Where did they take root? What was the problem? Why didn’t people identify earlier? How come their calls for help weren’t heard by the community? This all ties in with the same thing. We’re going bigger, better, and faster. Everything’s disposable, move away from land and into technology. Bigger, better, and faster don’t mean better. That’s something you and I are in full agreement on.
I want to point to a couple of things in your book, The Fifth Sacred Thing, that stood out to me and then get your perspective on the world. One is that it was in exploration also of not only our experience of being Earth protectors versus those that might be more extractive or are more extractive but also from this cultural significance perspective, you shared a world in which some of the non-binary sexuality and relationships as being broader were explored.
You covered topics like jealousy from what might be a more solo relationship versus something that was a little different and what I might say is a little bit millennial in its perspective. How do you see this book coming into? It was also read as an audiobook, which I listened to and loved. I feel the relevance is there and I want for the younger audience to hear from you about that cultural perspective that’s also brought it.
For me, it was a chance to explore all of that. It’s nice to explore all those multiple relationships in fiction because if they go wrong, it doesn’t mess up your life the way it does when you explore them in real life. Look at all the different possibilities. We don’t need to be locked into this one mode of a heterosexual nuclear family. There are many ways to be. There are many forms of sexuality.
If we believed sexuality was sacred, instead of having this suspicion that it’s something nasty and sinful, then we would be much more supportive of people exploring, discovering it, and finding multiple kinds of pathways and expressions for it. Younger people are intent on doing that. We certainly were back in my generation but we were coming out of a much more restricted place to begin with. I don’t know if they necessarily know it and give us credit for it but they’re coming out of a very different place. It makes some much wider kinds of explorations.We don't need to be locked into this one mode of heterosexual nuclear family. There are many forms of sexuality that we should view as sacred instead of seeing them as something nasty and sinful. Click To Tweet
It made me feel like your work was prescient. It’s almost like you took a snapshot of now and the future somehow. Thinking about things like how much we’re talking about gender and non-binary or even individuals who explore their sexuality and being in different ways, which falls under fire and criticism from different political factions. You might be in the same camp here. I don’t see environmentalism as a politically charged issue. I also don’t see sexuality as something that should be politically charged and yet, here we are.
Public health shouldn’t be politically charged. Every single thing in the world that should be common sense becomes politically charged. It becomes very destructive in our current time. I’m with you on that.
I wonder from this perspective of the futurist approach. Do you think that we, in 2048, can come to some collaborative approach to the protection of our futures as opposed to making all of this so polarized? Do you see a silver lining?
I hope that we will. It’s hard sometimes to hold onto that hope when you look around and see what’s happening and you read the news. I come back and look around at things. In my community out in Sonoma County, out in the woods, people come together. Over COVID, we started having work days in the woods every weekend in the winter when you can do work there.
We are getting together thinning, pruning, liming up, and doing what we need to do to make our access roads safer in case of wildfire, and tending the forest. People come out and nobody’s asking what your politics are or who you voted for but people have a common interest in caring for the land. That has been happening all over the country in different places and communities.
There’s a whole movement to bring back prescribed fire to the land and organizations all up and down the West Coast that have been doing that. There’s a lot that’s happening on the ground of people getting together to care for each other and the community. We often miss that when we’re looking at how polarized the politics have been.
For me, permaculture is one of the places where people connect across some of those barriers around what we usually think of as our political orientation. We can go back to saying, “This is how we can care for the land, the community, and the future.” Those are the core ethics of permaculture and we all have a vested interest in that no matter how we define or see ourselves.
This is a perfect segue to talk about the courses that you’re presently offering. I want to know more about what I can do to be a good steward of the land around me and the community that I’m a part of. I’d love for you to talk about what people can expect from participation in your courses. I believe you have one coming up on November 15th, 2023, and then another in January 2024. Why don’t you talk a bit about that and then share how you prefer people to connect with you? You have your website, Starhawk.org, and also another specific to the eco training called EarthActivistTraining.org. Tell us about the things that you’re doing to help prepare future generations.
Earth Activist Training teaches permaculture design certificate courses. There is a globally recognized 72-hour course that teaches the basics of regenerative approaches to agriculture, culture, building, and all the things we need to do to sustain our lives and how to weave them into systems and put them all together in ways that make sense.
We do them online but we also have an upcoming in-person course from January 6th through 20th, 2024 out in Western Sonoma County that I’ll be co-teaching with Charles Williams. He’s an amazing permaculturalist, designer, and practitioner. We’ll have a later intensive in February 2024, a shorter one, that’s hands-on, focused on restorative and regenerative systems, focusing a lot on forestry and animals and maybe some stream restoration work.
We also have a long-term training program for people who have some background in permaculture and want to do a multi-year diploma program we call Regenerative Land Management. The idea is it’s a mixture of online courses, in-person intensives and internships, apprenticeships, and mentoring that by the end of it, you could feel confident to take on a piece of land, manage it regeneratively, and bring it back to health and life. We do that in association with PINA, the Permaculture Institute of North America so that you get a diploma at the end of it.
We’re going to have a one-time ritual celebration called Seeds of a Brighter Future on November 17th, 2024 that’s celebrating some of the work we do. We’ve been giving diversity scholarships to people of color and indigenous folks for many years. We do a lot of fundraising to help support that. We want to bring these skills and tools of regeneration to the frontline communities that are most struggling against environmental destruction and degradation.
That’ll be November 17th, 2024 from 5:00 PM Pacific time to 7:00. We’ll showcase a couple of the projects some of our students have done and do a seed blessing ritual. People don’t often think about planting seeds in the winter but there are a lot of seeds that need a period of cold to germinate. In our climate, there are a lot of cool weather seeds that do best in the winter when the rains come and flourish. The times seem pretty dire but if we can envision a brighter future, we can start to make that happen.
I don’t think there’s a more perfect note to end this on. I want to see that brighter future. I love this idea of funding people to explore. These are very important topics. If there are any other closing thoughts or perspectives you want to share with our audience about how they can care more to create this better future, I’d love to offer you the floor.
We’ve also done a project of fundraising for a group of Afghan refugees who were doing permaculture and human rights work in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over. We’ve been able to get them resettled, many of them in Portugal and Spain. We continue to raise funds around that. I’ll be co-teaching a permaculture course in Galicia for some refugees and other people who want to come and learn in that environment and support the work.
We were able to help one of our students. The wonderful thing about doing things online is you can have students all over the world. We have a student who is part of a community of Ugandan Jews that converted 100 years ago. We’ve helped them connect them to people who’ve helped raise funds to get them water tanks and some permaculture training. It’s very satisfying to do work where you can see the results.
We have another student from the Reserve at Standing Rock who’s been doing tremendous work with the clinic there and helping to design a school that’s going to be teaching regenerative systems and be designed in a regenerative permaculture way. We co-teach at an eco-village in British Columbia called OUR Ecovillage on Vancouver Island.
We’ve had several of our students have done design projects with the local Powhatan tribe there and have built food for us on the reserve. For me, it’s been a very satisfying counterbalance to all the years I’ve spent protesting against this and that, which we have to keep doing. It’s also very satisfying to be able to build, create, make, and grow things. One of the great joys that permaculture offers is there are so many productive, creative, and regenerative things to do. Having the skills to do them is empowering to people.
I love that your platform provides them with an opportunity to gain those skills. I want to thank you for your continued hard work in this arena. Many people at your stage in life might say, “I’m done.” It feels like, in some ways, you’re just getting started. You have grounded yourself in this next stage, which is all about moving things into action. I’m an activist too. I want to protest as much as I’m sure you did and are in your way. You want to move from activism to action, creating these regenerative systems. I love it. Thank you.
What an incredible treat to finally have the opportunity to speak to Starhawk and ask her about her many perspectives as they relate to where we’re headed as an entire species as a planet and as a part of nature. Her courses on permaculture would be an absolute gift, I’m sure, to those of you who are interested in what it’s going to take to rebuild our soils and our ecologies around the globe.
I hope that you’ll join our newsletter. Among other things, this will provide you with a five-step guide to help unleash your inner activist, organize your efforts, or even operate as a project management tool. It was the creation of myself and another individual who worked together in graduate school getting our MBAs. We thought, “Why can’t we go ahead and distill this into something that would be usable for every day?” That’s exactly what it is. While visiting our website, you sign up for the newsletter and you’ll get that as your welcome gift.
I want to also share one thought on closing. Each of us has the capacity to create change in our local communities and push back against the things that we don’t agree with and also be a part of the solution for today and tomorrow. Much of this is what you learned from Starhawk, moving from activism into action.
I hope you’ll also consider sharing this episode with your community so they can read these words of wisdom as well. In so doing, you might also leave us a review, a thumbs up, or five stars to help us reach more people. I want to thank you now and always for being a part of this show and community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can even integrate these ideas of circularity, permaculture, and regeneration into our day-to-day lives, the future of food, and the future of how we live. Thank you.
- The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of The Ancient Religion of The Great Goddess
- The Fifth Sacred Thing
- City of Refuge
- The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups or Group Dynamics, Power, Conflict and Communication
- Earth Activist Training
- OUR Ecovillage