The last six months of 2005 were very busy for The Permaculture Research Institute, with activities in diverse locations around the world.
Nadia and Geoff Lawton flew to Jordan early in August 2005 for six weeks of work on permaculture projects in the Dead Sea Valley. The demonstration farm and the numerous village home gardens involved in PRI’s on-ground funding scheme were looking strong and secure especially considering the mid-summer high temperatures of 50 centigrade plus.
Flying straight into Melbourne from Jordan to co-teach a Permaculture Design Certificate course with Bill and Lisa Mollison at Melbourne University, Geoff and Nadia were met by course coordinator Tony Watkins. Tony, a long-term permaculture worker and one of Bill’s very early students, organized an exceptional, professional course of the highest standard, with 65 national and international students in attendance.
During the two-week course, Bill taught most morning sessions, which were full of great wisdom and global experience and spiced with great stories and humor. Geoff taught most afternoons and did his best to follow Bill’s great ability. Most evenings, students presented their projects from different locations around the world. On the day off in the middle of the course, many students attended a tour of Ceres City Farm with Bill as one of the guides. Bill recounted the early days of the establishment of the farm, in which he played a founding role.
The design exercise presentations were exceptional. The traditional participation party in which everyone is involved went on until the early hours of the morning, with extremely diverse and talented performances. The final day was charged with emotion, and after certification, all participants gathered on the front steps of the university science building steps for the class photos. The entire course was filmed by a very dynamic team of documentary filmmakers with 3 cameras running continuously. This footage is presently being edited into an extensive educational format for distance learning and teacher training.
The following weekend after the Melbourne course Geoff and Nadia were back in the sub tropics teaching a permaculture design certificate course in Northern New South Wales. Yulunga is an ex-dairy property at Barkersvale that is owned and run by the Rainforest Information Centre and is adjacent to the Border Ranges National Park. This was an aid benefit course with the net profit going to permaculture projects in South America run by RIC and to Middle East projects run by PRI. A total of $7,000 dollars was donated towards permaculture aid project work. The course was fully booked with 27 national and international students of great diversity. There was even a waiting list of people willing to take part at the last minute if there were any cancellations. The classic setting at Yulunga, looking out over the ancient national park forest, and the warm sunny October springtime sub tropical weather made this a very enjoyable course for all.
At the end of October, Geoff and Nadia flew to New York, first visiting PRI directors Andrew Jones and Paul Brant. Then they went on to Epworth United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center in High Falls, 2 hours north of New York City, to teach a PDC. With the beautiful autumn colours fully displayed in the local forest, the site was a classic riverside setting. The course was attended by a dynamic group of students seeking sustainable solutions to the immense environmental problems which are becoming glaringly obvious in the USA. During the PDC, a new permaculture group, “Permaculture Hudson Valley” was launched with its own web site and scheduled group meetings.
The next stop for Geoff and Nadia was Ithaca Eco-Village where they spent 3 days of teaching and designing at this site, 3 hours further north in New York State. This was the first 3 days of a PDC, which was to be taught over a six month period by 3 new permaculture teachers. This leg of the course was taught in a passive solar community building- a very pleasing experience in cold early winter temperatures. A very successful consultation on a future neighborhood for the eco-village was conducted with the local residents, with a final presentation by Geoff on the third day.
On the 27th of November Nadia and Geoff flew to Stevens Point, Wisconsin to teach their final PDC of the USA tour, sponsored by the Global Environmental Management program of Wisconsin University. With temperatures dropping at times well below freezing and a blanket of snow covering the entire landscape, this was a completely new experience for Nadia with even some sledding on the day off. Enthusiastic Minnesota and Wisconsin participants attended the course. During the course, many new connections were made and the Upper Mid West Permaculture group has now been formed with 700 people on its mailing list.
On December 14th, three days after returning to Australia, Geoff and Nadia were off again, this time on a plane to Hanoi, Vietnam for a 10 days consultancy. This opportunity was at the invitation of one of the students of the Melbourne course, director of a Vietnamese NGO whose aim is to establish permaculture demonstration sites and education centers that network their information. With 5 projects in Vietnam, 1 in Loas and 1 in Southern China, they are ideally suited to be Permaculture Research Institute Vietnam and link all the 9 countries of South East Asia.