Thursday, March 17, 2011

Permaculture Design Course on Ko Phangan

From the early days of planning this trip, we knew that we wanted it to be more than a sightseeing tour through some novel landscapes.  Along the way, we've tried to soak in as much of the culture and history of the regions we've visited, exploring ways to make our trip practical and relevant to our lives back home.  The connections weren't always obvious, but we had one plan that was sure to help us grow as we traveled.  We signed up for a Permaculture Design Course (PDC).

Permaculture is a difficult concept to get across in a short time so I've asked Wikipedia to help me describe it.  It speaks of an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies.  It is an ethical, practical, and sustainable design science.

Perhaps I can give some examples of Permaculture in action.  If we applied the concepts to our yard, we would in time replace our lawn with food trees and shrubs, herbs and berries, and vegetable gardens.  We'd have a living plant and animal system that helped maximize the capture of solar energy on the site, retain water, and largely maintain itself.  The idea is to combine human ingenuity with the best practices of traditional systems and nature to replace the current system which is bound to collapse as fossil fuels and mineral resources diminish.  

The whole thing seems very common sense but when you look at what is being done by the mainstream it is obvious that there needs to be a revolution.  

Don't worry mom, I'm not a revolutionary yet.  I just want to plant a good garden.  I want to be able to pick fresh herbs for my morning tea without getting out of my pajamas and be able to make raspberry jam from the fruits in my yard.    I want the knowledge of a thousand grandmas!  

We've only been on this island for a few days.  It looks like it would have been a real paradise before it was demolished by the influx of tourist infrastructure and we managed to find a spot that still has most of its charm.     Our little chunk of tourist infrastructure is a bungalow on the beach where Robyn swings back and forth on our deck hammock while I chase my tail inside.  Sometimes I settle down enough to read The Beach aloud to her and any of our neighbors who care to listen.  

The PDC course is inland, up a mountain on a piece of ground owned by some idealistic young travelers-turned-locals.  The whole thing is covered in jungle except for some small areas that have been cleared by the aforementioned occupants.  There are three of them who each built living spaces around the site.  The most impressive is Julian's house.  It is on the side of a rocky hill and each wall is actually made of massive boulders covered in by a grass and bamboo roof.  It's part hobbit-hole, part 5-star resort loft.  I should sneak a picture of it when Julian isn't looking because it seems like the perfect home.  Everything that can be outside is:  kitchen, shower, bathroom, stairways.  It's always warm so the well-designed houses always have a cool breeze blowing through them.  Because the house follows the natural contours of the land, there are interesting shapes and spaces throughout.  

The 'classroom' is Hubert's loft.  It is a wood-floor bungalow with only two walls.  To the west we can see over the jungle canopy all the way to the Gulf of Thailand.  Three points of a neighboring island point up from the water, perfectly in view while we discuss concepts of design that glorify natural patterns.  

It all seems pretty ideal and it really is.  We're at the point where the weather, food, culture, and even the toilets are familiar and are beginning to see more deeply into the spaces we inhabit.  Hooray for adventure!

If you are intrigued by the concepts of Permaculture, check out to find out more.  There are many resources and courses in Canada and would love to have good company on our journey to reclaim the earth!

David J Parker

No comments:

Post a Comment