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July 2005 newsletter

Greetings and welcome to The Permaculture Research Institute Newsletter for June 2005.

Griffith University in Brisbane was the venue for the final Permaculture Design Certificate course taught by the permaculture research institute in November 2004. This was the first course for us to be taught in an Australian University and was co-taught by Geoff and Danial Lawton. Students attended from most states of Australia with a few coming in from overseas. The universities auditorium classroom setting worked well with state of the art information technology in place for audio, digital projection and direct web link all on hand.

This course was set up in such a way that the students organized their own accommodation and food requirements with many choices available in Brisbane and lunch available for purchase on site at the university. This allowed the lecturers to concentrate on a high quality course delivery. An organized site visit tour of Northey Street City Farm and a course design process on one the students local suburban blocks completed a very successful dynamic Course.

The Boxing Day tsunami in Indonesia immediately created rapid response action on the part of all The Permaculture Research Institute directors and project workers. Communications were sent out all our contacts within the impact zone and we are very please to say all responses came back having survived the disaster and most were in action helping the recovery.

We already had been involved in the 1998 New Guinea tsunami when thousands of lives were lost in minutes when a huge wave hit the North West coast centered at the remote fishing community of Sissano Lagoon.

We held fund raising events and were given free airfares from New Guinea Air to send in a team of consultants to research and assess the impact damage to come up with design solutions for future security of people in similar tsunami events. Over the following period of six months, two teams of permaculture teachers taught permaculture design certificate courses and set up a demonstration site in the area. The research we conducted concentrated on the areas deep within the impact zone that escaped major damaged and why. Rather the opposite of the global media and global research organizations, which seemed to be fixated on the sensationalism of the horrendous damages caused by the natural disaster.

Our research team of consultants came up with some very interesting findings that seemed to have been missed by most other people. Wherever there was a dense coastal tree belt more than one hundred and fifty meters deep on the foreshore all infrastructure on the leeward side escaped with minimal damage. Such tree belts dramatically reduced the impact and all large potentially dangerous objects being carried by the wave and were filtered out, becoming a slow surge of water carrying nothing but fine floating organic mulch. This mulch was left piled up in long windrows up to three meters high on the landward side of these tree belts.

The local people, who had run to the leeward side of the tree belts and wrapped their arms around a tree and particularly large clumping bamboo stems, which have great tensile strength bending and recovering under impact, told a repeated survival story to our researchers. These survivors recounted sliding up the tree trunks and bamboo stems like a sliding fishing float up a line and back down again repeatedly as each wave surge came through, but with all large objects filtered out that could potentially dislodge their grip they survived to tell us their story.

Bill Mollison added some of his research from working in Hawaii recording ancient systems of dense coastal tree belts planted by the old Hawaiian culture concentrating mainly on five rows of coconut palms across the mouths of settlement valleys susceptible to tsunami damage.

Immediately following the Boxing Day tsunami disaster armed with the New Guinea and Hawaiian research information our directors were in action Paul Brant and Andrew Jones in New York, Julia Harris in Canberra. The United Nations agencies involved were contacted, as were numerous aid organizations and all governments whose countries that fell within the impact zone. We received many emails thanking us for making our research freely available and the planting of large coastal tree tsunami buffer belts are underway as part of the future security planning. With the inclusion of many appropriate and productive species to add value to the work and function of this designed system.

With many years experience in emergency response aid work Andrew Jones was offered the job of heading up the post tsunami re-habilitation assessment consultancy team for the United Nations Environment Program based in Jakarta. Andrew in still in Indonesia based in Jakarta going back and forward to disaster area working in environmental management support for the UNEP with permaculture design and education at the top of his agenda.

Geoff and Nadia Lawton were invited by Jo Pearsall and Bryan Innes to present lectures and workshops at the New Zealand Ecoshow 2005, March 3rd to 6th at The Trusts Stadium, Henderson Waitakere City, Auckland.

Geoff presented four lectures with digital slide show presentations on different aspects of permaculture work performed by The Permaculture Research Institute. Nadia presented three hands on practical workshops on Bedouin cooking on an open fire. Both Geoff and Nadia also sat on a panel of experts to answer questions on the effect of permaculture globally. This whole event was very well attended and organized with extremely professional presentations and exhibits, demonstrating the high level of environmental consciousness in New Zealand.

After the Ecoshow they were invited to co-teach with Robina McCurdy of Earthcare Education Aotearoa and her partner Huckleberry for three days of a permaculture design certificate course at the Taranaki Environmental Education Center at Inglewood just inland from New Plymouth. This turned out to be a very beneficial sharing, caring and connecting experience for all involved, with a great group of students and a fertile cross pollination of teaching experience making it possible to assist in mentoring new local teachers into action by honing their skills.

After Taranaki Xavier and Caralina Meade invited them to Raglan to be guests in their beautiful rammed earth house over looking the famous surf break and to take part in the Raglan Permaculture Week. Nadia as an experienced beekeeper was also very happy to help Caralina with her bees helping to smoke and inspect her hives. They attended farm and garden tours, consulted on a Maori community and participated in a catchment management-planning meeting. One highlight was a tour of Extreme Waste, Raglan’s highly successful waste and recycling center.
Next stop was Rainbow Valley Farm, Matakana near Warkworth north of Auckland a world-class permaculture demonstration site, education center owned and run by Joe Polaischer and Trish Allen. This turned out to be another highly beneficial set of connections with many ideas, experiences and stories exchanged. They helped out with a cob oven building workshop with Nadia adding a great deal of traditional Middle Eastern knowledge and experience in building techniques and cooking using cob ovens. Nadia also made many types of Middle Eastern dishes and baked fresh bread both in the cob oven and flat breads an up turned wok on the open fire sharing recipes and techniques with the students.

Koanga Organic Gardens was another classic permaculture site where they visited and were hosted by Kay Baxter and Bob Corker. A permaculture community property in action and flourishing with an excellent nursery and garden shop offering all kinds of appropriate products plus many varieties of heritage fruit trees saved by Kay’s long term thorough research. Geoff and Nadia joined Bob on a consultancy job on the West Coast near Kaipara, with a client’s brief to find land appropriate for a large-scale permaculture community development.

An advanced permaculture design workshop was held by Geoff on a eco-village community in the Kaipara Harbour area and was well attended by many of the Northlands long term permaculture consultants and teachers, resulting in many shared ideas to focus the movement into the future.

Manganui in Northland where Geoff and Nadia were hosted by permaculturists Richard and Alix, was the venue of a one-day permaculture design workshop at a local school where Yvonne Stynneman has established a great example of a permaculture food forest.

On returning to Australia Nadia presented a slide show and lecture on the Jordan Permaculture Project at the Women Earth Change Conference in Northern New South Wales. She also sat on a panel of speakers representing permaculture. In this situation Nadia was able to explain how permaculture has been able to help women in her culture and those women were creating positive change.

As soon as Nadia finished her presentation both Geoff and Nadia jumped in the car and headed straight for Melbourne to attend the National Permaculture Conference. Stopping over night in Western New South Wales with one of our directors Julia Harris and Majdy Adwan on their large grazing property at Premer. During the conference Geoff presented a talk on Global Permaculture Projects, which was very well attended and very well received.

After the conference Geoff and Nadia had the opportunity to meet with Bill Mollison for two days to talk about the up coming Permaculture Design Certificate to be held at Melbourne University in September 2005, co-taught by Bill and Geoff. This course will be filmed with the intention of producing an educational documentation.


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The annual general meeting for Permaculture International Limited was held at the end of the national permaculture convergence and Geoff was re-elected as a director.

Following on from the Geoff’s talk at the National Permaculture Conference in Melbourne he was invited to present a talk at the university of Wisconsin. The invitation came from their Global Environmental Management education center to keynote speak as part of an international seminar series, 2004-05 theme global security, Geoff’s requested topic “Permaculture development projects to enhance global security”. Geoff spent five days at Stevens Point College of Natural Resources and initiated enough interest in permaculture design to propose a future permaculture design certificate course and the set up of a typical local farm conversion to permaculture demonstration site. Also making links to our permaculture trained professors in Louisiana teaching permaculture in universities there, a very interesting connection as Wisconsin is almost at the top of the Mississippi water shed and Louisiana the bottom.

While in the USA Geoff was able to visit Paul Brant in Brooklyn, New York who has been working on a very big proposal involving permaculture in Turkey. Also Andrew Phillips from Hancock Permaculture Center organized a meeting with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden environment group and a talk in Hancock up state New York. Many new contacts were made on this visit and future courses are now being planned.

On the 13th June 2005 Geoff and Nadia started teaching a permaculture design certificate course at Murra Murra a 97,000 hectare (239691.3 acre) property owned by the Kooma Traditional Owners. Murra Murra is just east of Cunnamulla and west of Bollon in the Southwest Queensland outback. It is planned for this to be a Permaculture Outback Aboriginal Education Center and demonstration site. The course has been very well received by all of the participants who have accepted Geoff and Nadia as part of the family.

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