This is a simple review of a wonderful book that I have just read – People & Permaculture by Looby Macnamara. This blog is not meant to be a thorough account of what permaculture is, so I invite you to check out this link in the permaculture magazine for more information, nor is it a detailed description of the book – as although it is only 285 pages long, it is absolutely bulging with essential information. I would not do it justice.
It is a timely read for me, whilst I am on a transition into a new life…It uniquely combines all the interests I have, into a well thought-out road map – a succinct companion for my journey. It gives me focus with a design process for my life and my career; with the finite planet in mind.
Much of the information is not new to me – much of it is common sense – but Looby has a way of pulling the key themes from many areas together and framing them in a logical way; deeply rooted in the permaculture principles and its design….She is a great systems thinker, with a solid understanding of the interconnectedness of all things.
What is the book actually about? Looby starts the book describing what permaculture is. In summary:
Uses nature as our guide
Is solutions based
Is a design system
Is based on co-operation and connections
Creates abundance and harmony
The three core ethics central to permaculture (Peoplecare, Earthcare and Fairshares) are regularly referred to, and she describes the 12 key principles of permaculture in such a way that you can relate to it immediately. My brain was exercised and stretched to it’s edges throughout.
She invites us to think like a natural ecosystem and apply it to our lives.The book nudges you to relate to the patterns in nature by providing many examples of application such as: looking at yourself, improving the functioning of staff within a team and re-energising educational and healthcare institutions. By continually comparing our lives and interactions with that of nature, it reinforces how interconnected we all actually are – we are Guardians for our planet and our actions will affect our future generations.
I particularly like her description of ‘spirals of erosion’ (of natural resources, social structures and personal capacity) compared with ‘spirals of abundance’ – how we effectively turn the former into the latter. The design tool she opts for is a ‘Design Web’ to help facilitate change and turn our ideas into reality. The web has 12 anchor points, each focusing on a different area to build up a detailed and holistic picture of where we want to go and how we are going to get there.
The book goes on to focus our attention inwards – looking deep into the centre of ourselves and how we can connect and reflect upon our internal landscape, in particular: our needs, beliefs and thinking patterns. She opens up the way of looking at our health through a permaculture lens by using the design tools to increase our wellbeing. She explores ways to balance our lives, plug up our personal energy leaks, increase our effectiveness, find the right livelihood, define our real wealth, tap into our creative selves, and enable us to achieve more.
One of the most valuable chapters for me was on ‘communication,’ as it is key to all relationships, and is the ‘bread and butter’ of our social wellbeing. There is an emphasis on observation, active listening and compassionate communication and how they are essential ingredients to glue our positive relationships together – whether on a one-to-one basis or within groups and organisations. An important chapter was how to work in groups, looking at: group structure, roles within groups, group life, decision-making and facilitation. She examines the similarities and differences between our generations and how we can improve the communication and connectedness of each other, to increase our yields and reduce energy loss.
Looby continues to expand our thinking beyond our direct interactions and explores the wider context of society and the bigger systems (such as education and healthcare) that we are part of and also globally. The approach is balanced without completely criticising the current systems; she takes us from where we are…to where we want to be… and asks and suggests how we get there. She also considers the ‘Transition Town’ initiatives and ways in which they engage the community in positive actions for a better way to live within the finite resources of the planet.
If I was to criticise the book in any way, it is only from the perspective that it leaves you wanting more detail about permacultures specific design web application within an education or healthcare setting i.e. more examples to improve understanding and build confidence in its application. But, I guess, that is for us to work out for ourselves in our own unique way. I am glad to see that Looby is also running specific courses to develop any ideas and applications for people and permaculture, should further input be required.
I found this book an essential and engaging read. To finish the book leaves one feeling uplifted and positive and acutely aware of how connected everything is, and how we can help the world become a better place (The Great Turning). It has changed me for the better, and I am looking forward to applying it within my life and work situation.