UBC PDC: Silvia’s Experience
BY SILVIA Di BLASIO
I discovered Permaculture two years ago, when reading a book named 12 X 12 by William Powers. First, I started following blogs and checking Youtube videos on the subject. Then I started buying books (there were not enough at the library, and the only ones I could find where always taken). Although I tried a few tricks in my own garden and started growing vegetables and herbs in 2011, I didn’t take it seriously until very recently. I was always checking for courses and meetups, but there was none in the city I live (Surrey, BC) and the courses were long and expensive.
Finally, in August 2013 I took the plunge and decided to enrol at a PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) through the UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems. The instructor was James R., from Conscious Design Collective.
The course allowed me to explore bits of Permaculture strategies and opened up windows to another, much more positive and empowering world.
After being reading and studying about things like Peak Oil, Climate Change, water and soil pollution and erosion, ecosystems collapse, food, water and health crisis looming, resources depletion, economic downturns, social unfairness, overshoot and so on, Permaculture was a fresh and welcomed new beginning: a portal to a new reality that seemed achievable and just for all.
There were many highlights in that course: from the awesome classmates (wonderful people with backgrounds as diverse as IT, urban planning, biology, anthropology, medicine, and even performing arts) to our first days at O.U.R. Ecovillage, a place I like to call “The Shire” because it resembles how hobbits were supposed to live.
I learned so many things in that course that it would take a lifetime to review them all in depth. The most important thing I learned was that Permaculture is not a science or even an art, but an umbrella that includes a positive way to see life and Nature and a “designer’s” approach to deal with all our human needs and wants. It is an approach that respects and works with Nature instead of going against it; a series of strategies that sees solutions within the problems and takes ethics seriously. It is an ethic that cares for the planet and the people while sharing the surplus in a just manner.
My PDC was intensive: three weeks fully packed from 9 to 5. The classes were varied and included regular classroom presentations, field visits and work, exercises, games and presenters from other organizations. I lived far, so I would wake up at 5 am to take two buses and the Skytrain and wouldn’t get back home until 8 pm or later if we had homework to do. During the first four days, we stayed at O.U.R., some of us camped; some stayed at the dorm and some (like me), at the Healing Sanctuary, a beautiful cob house: the first natural building on-site.
We explored ecosystems, natural building, guilds, invisible structures, water management, energy sources and management, animal inclusion, urban farming, self-sufficiency, art, baking…some of the highlights were Brandon Bauer’s class about forests, trees and guilds, Meghan Loop about animal systems and integration, Garliq from Urban Herb School on edible wilds and foraging, Lori Weidenhammer about pollinators, Chris Thereau from Food Pedalers about growing microgreens and out-of-the-box entrepreneurship and the folks from Inner City Farms, about growing foods in people’s unused urban yards. We interviewed potential clients (an elementary school and an urban Climate Change education and demonstration site, both in Vancouver area), analyzed sectors and designed whole new systems for them to enjoy their spaces, grow food and better utilize available resources such as passive solar energy and water.
There are few times when we live intensely: this was one of them, at least it was for me. When the course finished, I cried all the way back home. It was a mix of feelings: from knowing I was not going to see this amazing people for a long while to a sense of loss I couldn’t explain. I knew my life was going to change, but I also knew that I would go to work the next day and my routine may settle for a while.
How had Permaculture changed my life? It is probably too early to say. During the first days after the course was over, I experienced pain, even depression: how to incorporate all this through my current family life and work? It seemed impossible.
With the days, I developed a plan, a plan that was born one Monday morning at 5 am when I woke up in my beloved O.U.R. Ecovillage and went for an early walk to the site’s only hill and saw the sun rising behind the pines: I want to dedicate the rest of my life to Permaculture. I want to spread the word about this quiet revolution, I want to specialize in Community Service and Education and support people of all ages and backgrounds to get the same feeling of joy and empowerment I felt when I discovered and started applying Permaculture to my life.
When you experience what I experienced at my PDC, you find peace, you feel at home. We are no longer isolated individuals. We are not powerless. We are not doomed.
Argentine-born Silvia Di Blasio studied Psychopedagogy and systems analysis in Venezuela before moving to Canada in 2004. She has worked in open source and ICT systems for schools and specialized in eLearning and adult education. In Canada, Silvia works as a career counsellor, blogger and freelance writer and volunteers at the Surrey/White Rock Food Action Coalition. Silvia is one of the pillars at Village Surrey, a Transition initiative in the city she now lives with her family.