Thankfulness as a Permaculture Principle

Sam Dunlap
Garden Cincinnati

My dad’s a minister. So on this Sunday afternoon, as I sit here at the Civic Garden Center, I’m waxing philosophical about gardening, permaculture, community and sustainability.

When I tell people that I’m into permaculture, most often the next question is, “what’s that?” While it’s not necessarily a straightforward answer, I usually respond with something like: it’s a design method for creating sustainable human habitats that uses the principles of nature as the guide. For example, nature creates no waste. Every “waste” product is a resource for some other member of the system. How can we apply this principle to the design of our homes, communities, farms and gardens? There’s more, obviously, lots more. But that’s the basic idea- mimicking nature to bring about a regenerative system of living on this planet.

What’s inspiring me today is the dimension of permaculture that focuses on relationships and connection. It’s not hard to see that there are a lot of hurting, suffering people in our world. And we all hear daily about the fragile environmental situation that we find ourselves in. Might there be a connection here?

One of the core critiques from the permaculture perspective has to do with the fragmentation of our modern society. In a drive for more freedom and to make our lives more “advanced”, convenient and prosperous, we tend to remove ourselves from the web of connection that supports us and makes us feel healthy and complete. For most of us, this is a pattern that we inherited and we enact and reenact it constantly because it’s what we know. We see the same pattern of disconnection in our relationship with the natural world.

Sometimes the challenges seem overwhelming and the answers seem perplexingly complex. It’s as though we’ve forgotten how to live in this world. But some of the answers don’t have to be so complicated. Something we can all take control of right now is our state of mind. If we’re filled with fear and negativity, we broadcast that and bring more of the same. Let’s be radical in embracing hope and positivity, in having fun and sharing time with family, friends and community. If we begin healing ourselves in this way and reorienting our sense of what makes a satisfying life, we are certain to see the effects rippling out far and wide in ways that we might not expect.

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