Today was an awesome day! I was able to get hot water for my coffee this morning, then went for a little walk and found that despite it’s strip-mall and industrial park cosmetics
Chicopee has a heart of gold. I took my coffee down to the parking lot and started looking at the flora when I noticed an old road or path running behind some shrubs and decided to explore further. Some black caps, black-eyed susans, milkweeds, sumacs. Then I came around a corner and found myself in a state park. Walking further I found a swimming area which turns out to be the Chicopee reservoir. Thus, it’s a short five minute walk from that to this:
I was completely astounded by this, and spent some time there to start the day. I went back for my camera and tried to drive there, but couldn’t find a way! Walking was the most direct method. After a McSaussage I went on the the Convergence.
In the morning Ethan Roland ran a session on Scaling Up, that is how we can work on bigger projects or think about bigger projects. He put an interesting twist on “succession” asking, what do we need as designers to accelerate our inner, as well as the outer, succession. There was some discussion about building community and Ethan specifically demonstrated a design that was not accepted. He said he didn’t know why, but it seemed clearly that there was not buy-in or ownership from the community, some lack of trust by the community for the landowner based on history. This started to emerge as the main theme for me: it’s not the designs, it’s the social and hidden structures that will ultimately determine whether our designs get implemented.
Steve Gabriel made a similar point in the next session- that most designs don’t get built. This was a very instructive presentation on his experience with FLPI, their relationship with an existing Not-for-Profit, the dream vs. reality (”where the rubber hits the road,” Bill would say), and some successes. I was starting to conclude that small was good, that the way to go big is still to expand small successes, join and network the nodes of permanence as if they are components in a design, a bigger design.
After lunch we had the first two events of the Permie Olympics, which involved eyeballing elevations for a swale, then speed digging. There were I think five teams and the result was two nice swales built in a couple of hours for fun and for free.
After lunch, Phil and Sharon gave a talk on their experiences trying to get diverse, multi-cultural (”people of flavor”), urban permaculture going in NYC. I want to talk more to him about the specifics of his experiences, what worked and what didn’t. They seem now to have got a core site at a community garden in Harlem, and have had a very successful PDC where 23 of 24 finished the course. He also talked about financial issues of pricing and chasing down payment and scholarships, which I want to hear more about.
Dave Jacke then led a roundtable on issues related to certification and organization within the movement as a whole, and I found myself contributing some models that might be helpful, and questions about standards being set purposely at a very low level to generate quick growth. As Mollison says, we can’t possibly do worse than the way things are being done now. I’m wondering whether the certification wasn’t Mollison’s way of not dealing with centralized authority and structure. I’ll probably get struck by lightning for saying that. I was glad to add to the discussion, and the point was made several times during the day that the ideas generated by newbies were often very interesting and productive. We’ll see.
I got to talk to Tom and Martin a bit afterwards which was cool, the discussion leading to Bateson and patterns among other things. Some books I need to get:
- Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander
- A Long Deep Furrow- Three Centuries of Farming in New England
- Luscious Landscapes
- Human Ecology, or books on this topic
After that my brain was pretty much moosh. Looking back through my notes there’s a ton of material that will be fodder for future posts. For now, my stomach needs food.