Ask 10 people what Permaculture is, and you are likely to receive 10 different answers. You might get a similar variation when you ask what a PDC is. A PDC is a Permaculture Design Course, but it might also refer to a Permaculture Design Certificate, which participants receive upon completion of the course. For myself, the answer has changed over time. Before enrolling in the course, I had a fairly basic understanding; I just knew that it seemed awesome! Many of the brightest, most resourceful, and truly inspiring people I knew had taken a PDC, and I noticed a pattern between them. They all cared for the Earth, and they all had very refreshing attitudes and perspectives. Upon enrolling, it became clear to me that a PDC was something far greater than I could have anticipated. It was an Initiation.
When I consider the word “initiation”, a vision of being invited into a circle of wise elders around a blazing fire comes to mind. Although the journey through the Permaculture Design Course was filled with insights and realizations fit for a mythical quest, make no mistake: this course is not smoke and mirrors. For the sake of this article, I will focus on the practical and down to Earth, which is very much the focus of a PDC. The three main ethics of Permaculture are Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. A fourth ethic of Transition has been proposed, which I strongly support. My course instructors shared this very sentiment. We are all in a state of transition, moving towards an idealized vision of the future. There are many stages on the path, and we are all in very different places. In my class alone there individuals like my self, who have been gardening for less than two years, and there were also those who have been working with the Earth for over 30 trips around the Sun. Learning in this environment provided an experience that no textbook could ever reproduce. Sharing in the journey with over twenty other passionate, inspired, and caring individuals from all walks of life, was rewarding in the most surprising of ways. It is truly magical when open, like-minded, and forward thinking groups of people come together.
During the duration of the course I received recipes, wine-brewing techniques, car-share information, a parking space for my camper van, job-search leads, volunteer opportunities, personal contacts, as well as inspiration by the heaps. I also made a host of new friends. This all occured in a city I was new to, and all of it occurred outside of the curriculum. If I had a problem,someone in the class had a solution. This was a result of several conditions. First of all, a Permaculture Design Course seems to attract the type of person who deeply cares about the environment; fellow human beings included. Secondly, a dramatic shift in mindset occurs for many who enroll. By modelling Nature, we realize that there is truly no such thing as a “problem.” A problem is simply an opportunity for a new possibility to emerge. As quoted so often by permaculturalists around the world, the problem IS the solution. If your garden is being devoured by slugs, you do not have a slug problem, you have a duck opportunity. The more we take this approach to our gardens and our to lives, the more we begin to appreciate the oustandingly complex and inter-related nature of our Earth. The rhythms, patterns, and systems in place on our beautiful planet are seen in an entirely new light. The intelligence governing Nature humbles and inspires all at once. For myself, a child-like wonder was re-awakened.
Looking back on the course, I realize that like a child, I have much to learn. Before enrolling in this course, this fact might have discouraged me. As a university graduate of the Urban Studies program, I am well versed in the challenges we as a species are faced with. I concluded my degree travelling across Pacific Asia, studying Globalization & Sustainability of Cities. Here I was able to see first-hand the incredible impact that urbanization has upon Nature, and I witnessed it on a scale I could have never anticipated. The problems seemed immense, and I felt powerless to make a difference. After an intense period of what many refer to as “eco-despair”, I knew it was time to take responsibility for myself and my environment. I committed to attending a Permaculture Design Course by the end of the calendar year.
When I discovered that a Permaculture Design Course focusing on Urban Permaculture was being offered in Victoria by Permaculture BC, I seized the opportunity and haven’t looked back since. An incredible shift has occured in my life. I graduated from the PDC empowered, inspired, and supported. I learned to observe my environment like never before, and obtained hands-on experience saving seeds, testing soil conditions, building earthworks, grafting trees, and remediating contaminated soil, to name just a few of the projects we worked on. We worked in groups creating site designs, conducting mapping exercises, and even had the opportunity to self-organize and respond to an earthquake scenario. The guest instructors were of incredible calibre, and they provided us with first-hand, real-world experience that included animal husbandry, natural building, rainwater harvesting, greywater systems, wildcrafting, as well as specific bioregional strategies for everywhere from the drylands to the tropics. I also received a weath of information about water, climactic factors, forest dynamics, mycology, companion planting, guilds, and recognizing patterns in Nature. We also learned the finer points of composting from experts who have been at it for over 20 years.
In addition to the course content, the learning atmosphere was one of a kind. There was no sense of competition, and business ideas and personal connections were handed out like they free samples at the ice-cream shop. It is rare to take part in any learning endeavor where the end of the course feels like just the beginning, where the instructors hold nothing back, and where ongoing relationships beyond the classroom are so openly encouraged. It became very clear to me that the instructors of Permaculture BC cared deeply about me as a person, and about my future success. I graduated with a list of connections, additional resources, and supplemental materials that was worth the cost of admission alone. The course concluded with an exercise that was designed to help us find our “Permaculture Niche”. I found this tool to be invaluable as a means of navigating endless possibilities, while focusing on ourown unique strengths and passions. The Initiation was complete, and a new beginning lay before me. I graduated with an understanding and connection to Earth, to Life, and to my Global Family that I had never before experienced. I look back on this course with a smile, and I look forward with new eyes. Ask me today what a PDC is, and my answer would be simple…
A Permaculture Design Course is a gift to our children.