Not many 20 year olds would be embracing permaculture, traveling the world and taking action to gain the skills they need for people care and ecological restoration. Laura Kaestele from Germany is an inspiring exception to the rule.
At 16 Laura moved into an intentional community, supporting it to grow from an idea into an established community, where she would develop a deep awareness of community life and what it means to be human.
My story is in parallel with humanity in general; growing up from being a teenager, not seeing the bigger picture, to being more responsible and caring.
As a teenager, permaculture was in the background of Laura’s life, as different courses were held at the community where she lived. She caught glimpses while she was still busy attending school. Finally she participated in a course and never looked back.
We are so tied to competition, consumerism, capitalism and oppressions. Learning about permaculture enables us to shift our mindsets. For me permaculture is not just a concept, but a lived reality in everything.
Like many school leavers, Laura took a ‘Gap year’. Except she’s still in the gap, and unlikely to set foot in conventional education again. She said she didn’t like the system, it felt neither comfortable nor appropriate, and she craved something more, that linked her passions for design, nature and community.
In 2012, Laura found Gaia University, an alternative institution focused on integrative ecosocial design. It sees design as the primary tool for accelerating social change and personal growth. Learning is self-determined by the learner or “Associate”, who completes a series of ‘output packets’ documenting their real world projects, reflections, design decisions and more. The whole model is based on an action learning pedagogy.
Gaia University has really inspired, empowered and challenged my passion for learning. There is so much freedom to really go for it, but just enough structure supporting me to be more creative, productive and impactful.
Laura has enjoyed being part of a global community interested in similar work. Documenting and harvesting her learning has been a new approach to grasp, yet she is thrilled about the quantity, depth and transformative power of what she learnt so far.
My current pathway is centred on building a right livelihood around what I’m doing and continuing to creatively explore my life purpose. How can I live my gifts and share them with the world in every moment?
Exploring these questions propelled Laura to visit permaculture communities around the planet. This summer she returned from Thailand, where she has been working with permaculture projects, collaboratively designing land-based systems and developing natural building skills.
Laura participated in the 2nd Thai Permaculture Convergence, where she observed the abundant edge between Thai communities and their traditional knowledge, with foreigners like herself. Laura also visited Cambodia, Italy and Portugal. She has also played an active role with the organisation, Be the Change, that aims to support young people to respond to the crises of our time.
Laura is now focused on developing her social permaculture skills, exploring tools like the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Meaningful Conversations, cultural mentoring, facilitation and group decision-making methodologies.
For people of any age exploring their life purpose, the permaculture principle of ‘observe and interact’, may be one of the most useful. In her travels abroad, and land and community-based experiences at home, Laura is learning how she can best interact with the world to make a difference.
Whatever the future holds for Laura, it is likely she will be a leader in the field, making permaculture second nature to the next generation.
For more information about Laura’s work visit her portfolio.