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Climate Change Training Exercise

This is a training exercise that can be done with groups of around 20-25 people of all ages. Feel free to use, expand, or elaborate on it in anyway. Follow the activity with a discussion about climate as it relates to permaculture design.

The roles:

  • Poor Farmer
  • Sun
  • Summer Wind
  • Winter Wind
  • Rain
  • River
  • Cyclone
  • Shade Tree
  • Bamboo [X 3 or more]
  • Willows [X 3 or more]
  • Food Forest [X 4 or more]

Make up small pieces of paper with the role labels on them. Distribute these to participants any way you want. Extra people can always be Bamboo or Willows or part of the Food Forest, or other elements your imagination may conjure. Set up the room with a mat for the farmer’s house and another mat for the garden and a rope or long scarf to represent the river bank. Try to orient your room to the sun and wind patterns that are true to your region. Ideally the House and Garden are between the Bamboo and the river, and the Willows and the rest of the homestead lying between the Cyclone and the Food Forest.

Read the story slowly so people have time to act out their parts:

The Story:

Once upon a time there was a Poor Farmer who had a small piece of land that had been clear-cut and over-grazed.

The hot summer Sun beat down on the Poor Farmer and baked the bare soil.

The hot Summer Wind dried up and killed the tender young plants in her garden. Then it blew up the dust and swept away the topsoil.

The cold Winter Wind howled through the gullies and left the Poor Farmer shivering in her little house.

The Rain pounded down on the bare soil and turned the small River into a raging torrent which tore up the river banks, flooded the land, and then dried up and left the soil parched almost as soon as the Sun came out.

The Farmer knew that the situation was bad. She knew that during the Cyclone season her home would be utterly destroyed.

She decided to plant Bamboo as a windbreak to shelter her from the cold Winter Wind.

She planted Willows on the river banks.

Then she planted a Shade Tree to shelter her garden and protect her house from the hot summer Sun. She planted a Food Forest to cover the bare soil on the other side of the River.

When the summer Sun shone she sat in her garden and was cool and comfortable.

The warm Summer Wind danced though the Willows and then gently ruffled the leaves of the young plants in the sheltered garden.

The cold Winter Wind made the Bamboo sway and rock but the Farmer was warm and comfy in her little house.

When the Cyclone came the Farmer ran to the Bamboo and hung on.

After the Cyclone was over the Poor Farmer went into the Food Forest and was happy to find she still had food to share with her neighbours.

She went into the Bamboo grove and cut poles to rebuild her house.

She replanted her garden.

As the years went by the trees grew. The garden flourished and the Farmer prospered. She was no longer poor and she became know throughout the region as the Lucky Farmer.


  1. I remember the first time I visited Zaytuna Farm, with Geoff sharing about the then recent dry times they’d had, where neighbouring farms in the region (normally one of the wettest regions in Australia) were dry as a bone. A neighbouring farmer noticed Zaytuna’s still mostly green fields and said to Geoff how ‘lucky’ he was….

    It wasn’t the earthworks — the dams, swales, etc. It wasn’t intelligence and purposeful working-in-harmony-with-nature holistic design. No, it was ‘luck’.

    Climate change won’t get solved through ignoring it. It’ll get solved by designing our way out of it.

    The storyline acted out above not only builds resilience for the farmer and his/her neighbours, but directly works to restore the planets ‘lungs’, and takes carbon out of the air where it does damage, returning it to soil, where it serves a productive purpose.

  2. Hi all.

    My place didn’t brown off in January and February of 2009 when the summer rains failed. The neighbours around here think that it’s some sort of magic and that I must have better soil and a gentler aspect. Even when I show them the process of building top soil and building resilience and diverswity and they see it over the course of the months and years they still don’t believe the process!

  3. Hello all,

    @elaine : This is a really interesting way of getting across the solutions to a rather complex problem. I think given the predisposition of the human mind to remember (and enjoy) stories this method can be used quite effectively. Also, it would make the rather daunting task of passing on the knowledge to the next generation that much simpler. We have seen this kind of medium in use in practically all old cultures. Perhaps one could introduce the stories to children and have them enact it. Has somebody else tried putting permaculture concepts and solutions into stories ? If so could you please point mi to the resource.

    @Chris : Keep trying mate and hopefully someday they will come around. Best of luck.

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