Permaculture Practivism with Sierra Robinson

by | August 12, 2020 | Permaculture Podcast | 0 comments

It is a delight to share this conversation with 18yo permaculture leader, Sierra Robinson, on the show today on International Youth Day 2020. Sierra is an articulate and inspiring permaculture activist (practical activist = [pr]activist) and teacher from Vancouver Island, Canada. She gave a brilliant permaculture TEDx talk when she was 17yo in Seattle entitled Beyond Sustainability: A Call for Regeneration. Today, we discuss how permaculture can be used in the climate action movement – as practivism.

Sierra is also a Regional Crew Director for Earth Guardians – a global youth organisation run by and for young people. She’s an aspiring filmmaker and when we spoke to her, she had just finished her homeschooling.

Sierra has been around permaculture for 10 years and completed her first permaculture design course when she was only 12yo. She is now reaching so many people with her knowledge, skills and passion and sharing permaculture through the Earth Guardians.

Come and listen in to this conversation with Sierra, me and Permayouth representative, Maia Raymond (my daughter – 13yo at the time) and gain a glimpse of the amazing wisdom Sierra already embodies. Hear a little of her story and her work in the world.

Note: This interview was recorded just days after tragic killing of George Floyd and riots were erupting around North America and the world. Sierra’s friends were on the frontlines and her phone was pinging persistently (I’ve cut most of them!). In respect, we kept the call short and we continued this conversation with Sierra and the Permayouth on a festival.


Join me to learn more about permaculture. Come and explore the many free permaculture resources my Our Permaculture Life Youtube channel and subscribe to this blog below.

The world needs more permaculture teachers everywhere – local teachers share local ways for one planet living. Let’s work toward a climate-safe future through design, resilience and connection. For you that may be through film and story, kids clubs, workplace education, or hands-in the earth. Whatever the way that moves you to speak up and share, I wholeheartedly encourage.

If that inspires you, I invite you to join the Permaculture Educators Program with others from 6 continents to explore what that might look like and how you can make the change. This is a comprehensive online course that includes the Permaculture Design Certificate and the only online Permaculture Teacher Certificate anywhere. We are a global learning community. People all over the world encourage you to be the change you want to see in the world.


We support free permaculture education for people in refugee camps. Help by donating to Ethos Foundation– our registered charity.


If your main interest is getting a thriving and abundant food garden set up, then take a look at my online permaculture gardening course: The Incredible Edible Garden.

Much love


I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which I live and work – the Gubbi Gubbi people. And I pay my respects to their elders past present and emerging.

Read the Full Transcript

Morag: Welcome to the sense-making in a changing world podcast, where we explore the kind of thinking we need to navigate a positive way forward. I’m your host Morag Gamble.. Permaculture Educator, and Global Ambassador, Filmmaker, Eco villager, Food Forester, Mother, Practivist and all around lover of thinking, communicating and acting regeneratively. For a long time it’s been clear to me that to shift trajectory to a thriving one planet way of life we first need to shift our thinking, the way we perceive ourselves in relation to nature, self, and community is the core. So this is true now more than ever. And even the way change is changing, is changing. Unprecedented changes are happening all around us at a rapid pace. So how do we make sense of this? To know which way to turn, to know what action to focus on? So our efforts are worthwile and nourishing and are working towards resilience, regeneration, and reconnection. What better way to make sense than to join together with others in open generative conversation.

Morag: In this podcast, I’ll share conversations with my friends and colleagues, people who inspire and challenge me in their ways of thinking, connecting and acting. These wonderful people thinkers, doers, activists, scholars, writers, leaders, farmers, educators, people whose work informs permaculture and spark the imagination of what a post-COVID, climate-resilient, socially just future could look like.. Their ideas and projects help us to make sense in this changing world to compost and digest the ideas and to nurture the fertile ground for new ideas, connections, and actions. Together we’ll open up conversations in the world of permaculture design, regenerative thinking community action, earth repair, eco literacy, and much more. I can’t wait to share these conversations with you Over the last three decades of personally making sense of the multiple crises we face I always returned to the practical and positive world of permaculture with its ethics of earth care, people care and fair share. I’ve seen firsthand how adaptable and responsive it can be in all contexts from urban to rural, from refugee camps to suburbs. It helps people make sense of what’s happening around them and to learn accessible design tools, to shape their habitat positively and to contribute to cultural and ecological regeneration. This is why I’ve created the Permaculture Educators Program to help thousands of people to become permaculture teachers everywhere through an interactive online dual certificate of permaculture design and teaching. We sponsor global Permayouth programs, women’s self help groups in the global South and teens in refugee camps. So anyway, this podcast is sponsored by the Permaculture Education Institute and our Permaculture Educators Program. If you’d like to find more about permaculture, I’ve created a four-part permaculture video series to explain what permaculture is and also how you can make it your livelihood as well as your way of life. We’d love to invite you to join our wonderfully inspiring, friendly and supportive global learning community. So I welcome you to share each of these conversations, and I’d also like to suggest you create a local conversation circle to explore the ideas shared in each show and discuss together how this makes sense in your local community and environment. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I meet and speak with you today. The Gubbi Gubbi people and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Morag: It’s my great pleasure to welcome to the show today.. Sierra Robinson. Sierra is one of the most amazing young people I know. She’s only 18, just 18. She’s a farmer, a permaculture teacher, a homeschooler, and a regional crew director for earth guardians, a global organization run by and for young people, she’s already done an incredible Ted talk in Seattle and as a seasoned and articulate speaker and aspiring filmmaker, I was introduced to Sierra by my friend, Hannah from Abundant Earth Foundation who offers her mentoring. And we joined together along with my daughter, Maia Raymond, who at that time was 13 and also co-founder of PERMAyouth. Just to note though, this recording was made just days after the tragic killing of George Floyd and riots were erupting throughout North America and around the world. Sierra’s friends were on the front lines and her phone was pinging persistently. In respect for this, we kept our call short and we’ll continue the conversation at another time. I really hope you enjoy this rich conversation with Sierra.

Morag: Thanks for your time this morning. It’s been, we’ve heard a lot about the work that you’re doing through Hannah. And so it’s an absolute delight to meet you. It’s so nice. It’s been lovely to connect with her. So welcome to welcome to our podcast. And also to our Youtube channel and this interview. We’re hoping to share out with permanent youth network, which is a global network and also through the, through the Our Permaculuture life, YouTube channel that I got as well. So it’s lovely to have you on the show. So Maia and I has got some a bit of the questions. My first question really is about what is it that drew you to permaculture in the first place? What do you love about and how do you, well, it’s kind of a few questions wrapped in one, but sort of, how do you feel about permaculture? What does it bring to the world and how do you think it benefits the world?

Sierra: Oh my gosh. So pretty much like the big question is like, why do I love permaculture so much? And how can I spend so much of my life doing it? I found out about permaculture when I was crazy.. 8 years old. I’m 18 now. So that’s been 10 and it’s amazing because I’m still as passionate about it now, as I was when I was eight and it wasn’t like the, my little pony phase or like the TV shows that I liked. And I was like, Oh, this is so cool. And then like a week later it was something I didn’t like. This has been something that has like changed my life in so many positive ways for years. Um, and yeah, I found out about permaculture when I was eight because of my parents. Like my dad was just starting to learn about it. And we bought and bought this little farm here on Vancouver Island, Canada. Um, and I had like a coupe of chickens and I kept overhearing this word Permaculture cause My mom went to this gardening course and I sat down and I was listening to this course. And I’m like, this isn’t about gardening. Like, this is so much more than gardening. This is about really like how we can create a regenerative, like regenerative cultures and like a way of living with the world that’s positive. And we can help build communities and help people. We can help other inhabitants. We can help the planet. We can also create a better future at the same time. So it was all of these, like all of these things in one package.

Sierra: I was like, so again, I was like this 8- year-old kid, but I was also kind of depressed, which is it’s sad, but it’s true. Like I had just learned about climate change. I was learning. It was, I was just learning about climate change and all of these different issues and it was upsetting and scary and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was like, I was like, I don’t know, like how to deal with this weight that I’m feeling and…. I’m trying to figure out how to stop that is a lot of my friends are doing really crazy activism work right now. And they’re all kind of like reaching out on this group chat. And I have no idea how to charge both my computer in here. Yeah. It was so I, so I realized these issues, right. And I didn’t know how to deal with them. And then I was like, my gosh, this is something like, all of these things are interconnected and permaculture is like this toolkit of solutions. It’s not only teaching us how to like take care of ourselves, feed ourselves, live in harmony with nature. It’s teaching us like, yeah, she’s really beautiful… [ping..inaudible] Uh, it’s, it’s absolutely crazy.

Maia: What are those, some of the interesting ways that you’ve been able to involve your friends and other young people like us in Permaculture?

Sierra: Um, my community, especially we, we have like a lot of climate change here as, I mean, a lot of places around the world do. Um, but our community has a lot of flooding, especially, and real lack of food security. Um, and I live on a little Island and so it’s really interesting to deal with that, like flooding and a lack of food security. And so permaculture really helped us show how we can turn this problem into a solution when we have like such bad droughts and also such bad flooding and also a lack of food security. So like, what if we just like make a bunch of swales in areas that are flooding a lot and help redirect that water and make that problem into a resource. Right. And so I talked to, I talked to some kids at school about it and, um, I’ve been homeschooled, but I’m really connected in the community through like my friends and stuff. And, um, yeah, I don’t know. I’ve always, it’s been an interesting way to connect with other youth. At first I really didn’t think there was other youth that were interested in permaculture and I was like, why am I, the only, I felt like I was the only one. And it felt like a lot of weight on my shoulders to like, be thinking about all these different issues, um, and having these solutions, but not really knowing it have some adults and they talk back and forth, but I was really like lacking that connection. And, uh, yeah, it just was really cool when it started coming together and it took a couple permaculture courses and was able to realize that there is other kids out there. Um, and I started working with the organization earth guardians and that kind of feeling for sure.

Morag: Can you talk about the Earth Guardians and how Permaculture and Earth Guardians go together.

Sierra: Um, so earth guardians is a youth led global organization based out of Boulder, Colorado right now. Um, and yeah, it’s an organization run by youth and kids for kids. Um, it’s a nonprofit and it has like, it’s doing so much. It’s kind of hard to narrow it down and talk about it really quick. Cause I’ve already had like three-hour long meetings for it today two yesterday. Like it’s a huge, huge part of my life because it’s, it’s, um, like we work on all these different projects. It’s like my friends, like my family, my activist family, the way, um, and, uh, it pretty much talks about how we can help change the world and do activism through, um, through our passions and through doing what we love like art. And if you’re an artist, paint a picture of the world you want to see. If you’re a musician, sing songs, write music about it. Um, if you’re a poet, like bring that aspect, bring whatever aspect of yourself, um, into the work that you’re doing and like how you want to try to create change in the world. Um, so it’s really, it’s really beautiful through that. And I mean, working with other youth and kids that are special too, and, um, yeah, like it’s, it’s a really big, it’s a big organization and there’s thousands of kids around the world that are part of it. And it’s really interesting. Cause right now we’re really trying to connect all the movements because there’s climate strikes. Uh, there’s all of these things and there’s all of these different projects, but there was a lack of connectivity between them. And like you think about mycelium in a forest, it weaves this net and that’s how it becomes strong and communicates with the trees. And it, it creates this living whole system. And right now our activism and our movements are a little bit fractured. And we think that like, we think that black lives matter is different than permaculture work. Or we think that maybe it’s like someone protesting about a drought in there, like trying to like create change on like a law level with politicians and stuff is different than, um, the farming work that we do. But it really isn’t like all of these things are super interconnected and once we realized that, like it makes the biggest change. And so that’s partly what is doing like education creating platform for youth and yeah, it’s just like a really cool thing.

Morag: That sounds absolutely cool. And I, and I really look forward to the Permayouth being connected with that as well, because you know, also that sense that together we’re stronger and using or thinking like nature recognizing we’re part of nature and connecting in that way. And we’re all part of thinking about how we can create a more, just more equitable and more regenerative future. And we’re all part of this together. We can’t do all of it. We can only do the bits, like you saying that where we have the passion and the drive to actually move it forward. So it sounds fantastic. It’s wonderful.

Sierra: Yeah. It’s, it’s really special in that. I’m super excited to be able to talk with all the Permayouth and where was the Permayouth when I was a kid..

Morag: There’s much interest in with all your friends that you work with, like activism talking about, you know, the change you want to see in the world, but is there also, does it ground a lot to people grounded in permaculture action as well? I can say permaculture is I call it practivism. It’s practical activism. It’s everyday activities. Is there that, do you see that connection is that awareness there?

Sierra: We’re starting to, and that’s, what’s really feeling good about this is like I, when I first got into activism stuff, I thought that being an activist meant marching the street and holding a sign and screaming for justice. But like maybe activism just looks like different design thinking and like permaculture, maybe that is just like, it is, it’s a huge part of it. And, um, at first I think a lot of the activists and young people in different organizations thought that too, and we’re all like slowly over time starting to realize that I’m not even slowly now it’s all happening at once. It feels like, but everyone was like waking up to the fact that it’s all interconnected and working with nature and finding ways to be harmonious with nature is the key to being able to create the change we want to see in the world because a lot of these issues are interconnected and we need to find interconnected ways to deal with them. Um, and yeah, like a lot of my friends are like really, really into like really working on permaculture stuff too.

Morag: Do you want to ask any more questions?

Maia: Do you have any advice for young people who are concerned about the state of the planet?

Sierra: Yes. Um, I, it’s a difficult question because there’s so much going on and, uh, yeah, you should like a couple of things I’d have to say. One is you should be [inaudible].. it’s scary and we shouldn’t settle for, for what’s happening. We need to like really work to help create the world. We want to see because we are, we are the future generation. Like we’re the ones that are going to become future business leaders and teachers and all of these things. We’re also like here right now. And we, our voices do really matter and recognizing that and using our voices and talk, speaking up about issues that matter to us, but not even just like fighting against issues, but like fighting for preserve and create more of, so like focusing less on like the hate and anger and the despair, because that’ll just take you down a deep dark hole. And I’ve been there many times. It’s not a nice place, but like if you try to focus on the hope and the excitement and some of the solutions [inaudible] different direction, you’ll see so much change starting to happen really soon.

Morag: You’re completely busy with big things going on. But last, last question chat is really about, you know, the Earth Guardians has been able to really activate a sense of cohesiveness and ripple out quite widely. So how do you think, what are the lessons from the kind of the earth guardian way that can help other young people activate and spread out their movement as well? You know, connected obviously, but you know, there’s something about how you do it in Earth Guardians that I think it really works and is really interesting. And we have a lot to learn in other movements from how you do that. So can you sort of point to any of the key things that you think might work really well..

Sierra: Okay. So there’s a couple of things and it appears to work really well to people on the outside too, but we’ve dealt with our struggles as well. And it really is a trial and error and earth guardians has been around since it was created in 1992 as like a experiential learning high school in Maui, Hawaii, and my friend’s mom. And then he picked it up and then it’s been, it’s been a thing that has been really developed and changed a lot over time, but sticking to your goals and your morals and what you, what you’re wanting to create, like get really clear on the vision of what you’re trying to create and why you’re trying to create that vision, like find the heart behind it. And once you find that heart and like the passion behind it, you’ll see the project start to like go to beautiful places, like in a lot of ways. Um, and then creating a platform is like a powerful thing to like opening the space up and allowing stories to come together. Um, because I think, uh, yeah, stories hold so much power and our voices hold so much.. [Ping] [ inaudible] Sorry. My friend’s mom, my friend’s mom is having a baby and she’s talking about on the group chat and it’s like a whole thing. And other friends are doing protests cause of like a bunch of stuff that is happening in the States. And everyone is like, some of them are being shot by rubber bullets. Other ones, their moms are having babies.

Morag: I think we could do it another time. It’s been great to chat with you now. I mean, I can see that you’re in the midst of a whole load of stuff happening.

Sierra: Usually it’s like, this has never happened to me. It’s never my never done this. I really don’t know what’s going on.

Morag: Finishing school and all sorts of things. How about that?

Sierra: It was so crazy.. I procrastinate sometimes, um, to one of my, I have a lot of things I need to work on that. So one of them being an adult is weird, like just turning 18. But I, I left it all for like the last week. Cause I was doing busy, doing other things and I really cared about in school. It’s not like I don’t do my schoolwork. It’s just, my schoolwork looks different. Cause I’ve been homeschooled. They focus on things that really mattered to me. Not like things that, um, like I had to write this English story, a, one of my last English assignments was writing this story about this like stick man named Bob. They literally, that was the prophet. They like read this short story about this stigma named Bob and like his adventures. And then like give us a write up about that story. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I wrote it. I was like, you guys just want to like watch my Ted talk instead? So, um, it just, it’s hard on my heart and.

Morag: I completely understand Maia she’s actually just in this last week, decided she wasn’t in school for a long time to go to school for while. So it’s been a few days that she’s back at homeschooling again,

Sierra: Wholeheartedly I think homeschooling is amazing, but I understand too, like the school schools are amazing cause you get to like connect with friends, but it’s like the whole system has really not been created to. It’s kind of, it’s an, that’s a whole other conversation..

Morag: I’ll let you go. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been lovely to meet you and it’s, and I’m, you know, I’m sure the start of many conversations to come.

Sierra: Let’s collaborate. Let’s do some fun projects together.

Morag: Fantastic. Yeah. When it gets opened up again, you’re very welcome to come down to this part of the world lots of Permaculture stuff happening around here.

Sierra: As soon as it opens I’m coming.

Morag: Alrighty, take care and have a good meeting for the next one. Hope that all goes well.

Sierra: I’ll talk to you guys soon.

Morag: So thanks for tuning in to the sense-making in a changing world podcast today, it’s been a real pleasure to have your company. I invite you to subscribe and receive notification of each new weekly episode with more wonderful stories, ideas, inspiration, and common sense for living and working regeneratively. And core positive permaculture thinking of design interaction in this changing world. I’m including a transcript below and a link also to my four-part permaculture series, really looking at what is permaculture and how to make it your livelihood too. So join me again in the next episode where we talk with another fascinating guest, I look forward to seeing you there!


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