What is Permaculture?
Permaculture is a design methodology that applies observations of ecosystem patterns to improve the functioning of human systems. That’s a mouthful, but what it means is that we can learn to bring the patterns of nature into our work as humans to make our communities more sustainable, less resource and energy intensive, and to build systems that become more abundant over time. A methodology of whole-systems thinking, Permaculture is most familiar to people as an agricultural and land stewardship system. But all of our actions as humans are intricately linked to human and earth systems, and so Permaculture offers us tools that we can use not only in our gardens, our lands and our built environment, but also in our organizations, our education systems, our healthcare, and our social structures and communities. Indeed, Permaculture is at the heart of the global EcoVillage movement, where folks are learning (or re-learning) to live together in communities that support us as whole people.
Permaculture encompasses many skills and techniques: organic gardening, composting, green building, greywater filtration and recycling, animal husbandry, food preservation, alternative energy, environmental remediation, popular education, nonhierarchical organizing, nonviolent communication, alternative healthcare, and many other strategies that let us meet our needs as individuals in a way that benefits our larger community and the earth.
Hailing originally from northern Vancouver Island (Kwakwaka’wakw Territory), Erin is a radical educator, Permaculture activist, and cultural changemaker. Her background in anti-capitalist and environmental justice struggles informs her practise of Permaculture as a radical realignment of human social processes with the living earth that we are a part of. From natural building to urban farming to nonhierarchical organizing and direct democracy, Erin’s work centers around skillbuilding and empowerment within communities to create justice, beauty, and abundance; to meet our own needs through mutual aid and collectivity, in harmony with our ecologies and outside of the destructive machinery of capitalism and the colonial state.
Erin is a Certified Permaculture Designer and a recognized Permaculture Teacher with the Urban Permaculture Guild. She has been deeply involved in grassroots food justice work, through the international Food Not Bombs movement and as a volunteer and worker on many organic farms and community-based farming and farming education projects.
In 2008 Erin started the Farmhouse Farm, Vancouver’s first bike-powered backyard CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project, as an offshoot of the garden at The Farmhouse, one of the city’s longest-running collective houses. Starting with the radical ideas that people should get to make their living in a way that benefits their community and that growing food is a human right, no matter where you live, she turned the lawn of this rented home into a farm that provided produce to the Farmhouse’s five residents as well as to five other families across the city, delivered once a week by bicycle.
After two highly successful years, Erin handed off the Farmhouse garden to a new set of Farmhouse Animals and now works and teaches with many diverse groups around the city and the region, and writes on food justice, farming, and sustainability issues for publications around BC and across the country. She lives in a collective house deep in the heart of East Vancouver with several humans, her dog, and all the bugs in the dirt under her fingernails.