Teaching Permaculture with Rosemary Morrow

by | August 05, 2020 | Permaculture Podcast | 0 comments

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In this episode of Sense-Making in a Changing World, I am thrilled to welcome Rosemary Morrow – a respected teacher of permaculture teachers around the world, an elder in the Permaculture movement and author of the permaculture classics, Earth Users Guide to PermacultureEarth Users Guide to Teaching Permaculture and Permaculture Teaching Matters. If you’re interested in teaching permaculture, this is a must listen!

I would call much of what Rosemary does permaculture service work – offering permaculture education in some of the most challenging regions of the world  – because that is where it is needed most. She has worked in places like Cambodia, Bangladesh Timor Leste, Kashmir, Uganda, Afghanistan and the Middle East and she only goes where she is invited. This is the 2/3 world – the ‘edgy’ places of society where permaculture is so valued for surviving and thriving with little. Permaculture on the edge is the theme of her most recent writings to be released as new chapters in the updated version of her book. Rosemary is also the co-founder of Permaculture for Refugees.

In our conversation, Rowe and I explore permaculture education from so many angles. She sees its potential is profound and its application universal. Now, more than ever, she says we need to be teaching permaculture everywhere, and she encourages us to explore how to keep our permaculture thinking alive as we face an ever-changing world with cascading disasters like bushfires, COVID-19, climate change and economic collapse.

I hope you enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with Rowe as much as I did and are inspired to deepen your permaculture knowledge and widen your permaculture teaching reach, and support new permaculture teaching communities to grow everywhere.




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 this 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 Gamble: Welcome to the sense-making in a changing world podcast, where we explore the kind of 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.

Morag Gamble: 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 Gamble: 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 compot 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.

Morag Gamble: 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.

Morag Gamble: 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 Gamble: Today in sense-making in a changing world, I’m thrilled to welcome Rosemary Morrow, the teacher of permaculture teachers around the world. A highly respected elder and author of the permaculture classics, Earth Users Guide to Permaculture, and the accompanying teacher’s guide as well as Permaculture Teaching Matters. Rosemary does what you could call permaculture service work, offering permaculture education in some of the most challenging regions of the world, because it’s here that she feels it’s needed most. She’s worked in places such as Cambodia, Timor, Kashmir, Uganda, Afghanistan, the middle East. She only goes to by invitation. So Rosemary spends much of a time in the two thirds world, the majority world, the edgey places of society, where permaculture is so valued for surviving and thriving with little. Ro was awarded the 2017 advancing global Australia agriculture award. In our conversation Ro and I explore permaculture education. She says its potential is profound and it’s application universal. Now more than ever she says, we need to be teaching permaculture everywhere. And she encourages us to explore how to keep our permaculture thinking alive as we face the ever changing world with cascading disasters like fire, COVID, climate change, economic collapse. I really hope that you enjoy this conversation. This wide-ranging conversation with Rosemary Morrow, as much as I did.

Morag Gamble: Thanks for joining me today. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you on this show. So for those of you who haven’t heard about Ro’s work before. Ro is an author, she’s a permaculture designer and teacher well known in the permaculture movement I suppose, as someone who is working on the edges, working with displaced people, working with refugees and just being episode pragmatic and positive all the time and I, and some of your books, but I just have to bring these out to not be the current issue. And I know you’re doing something interesting with this now, but this book that the Earth User’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture was a really important book. I think I had the early edition. This is one that I had been handing around to my students, your very first one, I know when I was first starting out learning how to be a permaculture teacher, your approach was what really kind of grounded it and made it feel possible for me. So thank you for, for the work you’ve done in that. And I know since then, you’ve done a whole lot of other work as well. Like you put on what’s it called? The Permaculture Culture Teaching Matters. It’s a really clear guide about how to teach permaculture. It’s available online for free that people can download. So what’s the, do you know what the website is I can definitely put it down below in the show notes.

Rosemary Morrow: It’s The Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute bmpi.com.au. I think in writing Morag, I’m writin not for myself, I am writing to fill a gap. So when I started to teach, after I finished my courses in 86, I realized that it was going to be really difficult for people to get started, that the course was pretty unwieldy and all over the place. And how could you get the flow of continuity that teachers could start and then deviate from it, according to their experience and understanding and wherever they were, but to get started. So I wrote the first book Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture for general readers. And then that teacher’s book, you brought up was to provide the technical information for teachers. So, you know, if you are teaching water then here are the stages to go through it, then I expect teachers to put it aside and probably never look at it again, but separate from their own course. And that’s fine. And the third one teaching permaculture methods, which I’ve just reviewed is how to teach teachers because I think the next thing is to teach teachers well. So they don’t spend years trying to get their courses and their methods and their content and their technique together. So teaching teachers based on learner centered, so all the channel, where’s the gap, where’s the gap. As I’m writing, I’m thinking, will this be useful to someone? Will it make sense to someone? Can they use it? Is there a sequencing? And it’s comfortable. I come from slightly scientific or not scientific science-oriented background. I’ve worked with the humanities. My sense of urgency about the natural environment is so pressing so strong that I keep saying, we’ll work with the earth and discover yourself as you do it. But if we keep waiting, sit down and become perfect, it’s not going to happen. So engage, engage with others and it will be a real growth thing for you.

Morag Gamble: Your key focus all the time has been amongst many things. It’s been about teaching the teachers.

Rosemary Morrow: I am profoundly interested in how people learn, because if you’re going to be a teacher, do you really just want to spend hours preparing a course and fewer than 5% take away or remember. In refugee camps, everyone wants to learn English and computers. The end of 3 month courses, three people sitting there. They wanted to learn what happened. So I think the only way to think about teaching is, are people learning is this accessible. And I think the ultimate test is to take a difficult concept and put it in a way that everyone can follow. It’s not a matter with the people literate or not. We will need special methods to do it. You can’t just joke, talk and have people understand you’ll need all sorts of creative, innovative ways to do it, but it just is such a waste to teach and not have people remember.

Morag Gamble: So what is that that actually drew you to permaculture in the first instance and why is it that you’ve thrown so much energy in your life to teaching people how to teach permaculture? What is it about the permaculture itself that you find so useful and practical, and particularly in those communities that you’ve just been talking about?

Rosemary Morrow: The couple of things, when I first did my course, I realized it could flow in such a way that you were building. They’re actually building the knowledge all the time. I look at it now as that tree, you know, you’re hoping you’re leaves grow. And I also realized you could go deeper if you taught the first place at that sector analysis, precipitation, radiation, wind that essentially what it is as what is what runs on and off the insects and the shape. But essentially it’s those major elements of planet. When you come to climate, you’ve covered a lot of it going a bit deeper and a bit broader when you come to forests and you’re looking at functions, students or with you and they end up going, wow. So of course, but you don’t want to stop in the middle of forest and say, photosynthesis is in radiation is you want to be using your vocabulary and knowledge. So you’re introducing quite small and getting them to work with the ideas themselves. And then by the time you get to the good stuff.

Morag Gamble: So it’s interesting, isn’t it. That’s why I tend to permaculture in a lot of ways is from my background in system thinking and design and not finding a way for it to be very tangible or understandable that permaculture somehow, you know, and just what you were saying then that this understanding of systems can come quite simply, regardless of your educational background, regardless of your context, you can begin to understand systems and how you can engage with them and how you can begin to transform them.

Morag Gamble: Yeah, you can keep layering, layering, connecting and connecting the people who find us most difficult or sometimes engineers. And I remember having an engineer in a class and he said, I said, we’ve done radiation in regard to climate or heaps, or, you know, um, in regard to, um, storage and black body. Now we’re doing it about soils. And then you said too many variables, too many variables can’t we hold everything constant interest, a sort of refuting of systems, processes, where everything is moving together. Really it’s all those variables are happening. And we’re looking at them first of all, one by one. And then in the next stage, it’s two, then three, then four. So the students think they knew before they did the course. That’s the idea you can get.

Morag Gamble: You’re, you’re doing some work on updating some of your material and adding in a couple of extra sections. I just want to talk a little bit about that because it sounded fascinating what you’re, what the edge that you’re…

Rosemary Morrow: So the last couple of years have told me how middle class in western permaculture is. People sitting around saying, you know, I want five acres in the country or I’m going to start a community or a meditation center enough. I want to provide something. That’s not relevant to probably two thirds of the world, you know, a huge numbers. And then we know that nearly 80% would be living in cities and very, very difficult conditions in the future. So I asked myself a couple of years ago from a culture to say to not just wonderful cities, like my land, where people have lived for centuries and they’ve worked out their spaces and their cultural life, and they need to get to the country. What about cities? What about cities that have got very crowded, enormously crowded, flat settlements, informal settlements, who’s accounting for those in permaculture. I don’t know that anyone is So I started to look at it partly through the eyes of refugee camps and what people could learn and do. And ended up with a real body, tiny taking the permaculture principles, but tiny strategies and techniques that would apply to a range of circumstance. And of course the students, they can see the application and they’ve run with it. And it’s good. It’s been very, very effective.

Morag Gamble: I was going to ask you where some of the places where you’ve seen that happen and how does it look? How does it look? We can maybe describe how that kind of permaculture looks.

Rosemary Morrow: I think there’s the classic icon model of a refugee camp or what we used to call for villages or slums, crowded, , crowded margins. People are marginal to the city in their marginal. Even if they’re holding it together, they marginal is rubbish because they’re not fully incorporated into society in life and access to resource the crowded. And that relates to our principal work on the margins. And because I didn’t want to use words like slum, you know, all that stuff. So develop own vocabulary. What word do you use for, um, just while we’re on that language? Um, global South, global North, third world, first little majority world, minority world. How do you what’s, west East know, what do you use?

Rosemary Morrow: Well, I try to refer to countries and places by name. When I’m referring to the rich and the West, I call them the rich, rich, rich. So they’re rich. If they’ve got some money in the bank rich, they’ve got three meals a day and the rich they’ve got secure, um, accommodation. And in the future, there’ll be rich, they’ve got a job, but anyway, I’m tending to do that, but there is a problem because some cities can contain both very easily, such as we realize the Singapore. Singapore has got its own slums of it’s migrant workers hidden away. And I’ve found them once I went to foster care in the back of Singapore and found these dreadful buildings, wide verandas and broken drugs stuff all behind the first out of orchard road or whatever it is. So every city has sort of got that as well. So the rich I’m represented, I’m reading told him that those were security options. I think to have choices makes you rich, extreme poverty have less or no choices. That’s a nice definition I can think of. So, um, what I found several things, it’s partly how you set up the design work. So I find a local NGO, not international, ask them if they’re interested, do quite a lot of preparation put together what I know is a PDC budget, and I’ll only teach a PDC because these people might never get another chance. And they’re likely to do a PDC. If I don’t do any intro here, they can all come back next week and do the full course. It’s not, but to offer people the full design options, I think is really important. Some people say they can’t understand everyone. They do understand that’s how you teach. Anyway. And then I include some local people. If possible, two thirds of the class has to be refugees or internally displaced people. The NGO can send their people. Then some locals and by accident type and mix works because we put enough money in the budget, not just to teach the course, but to leave the NGO with some money follow up for six months, because everyone leaves the course enthusiastic. We’re going to do this and do that. And it’s the same with refugees they’re not any different. About it’s a six months later, the unexpected person who’s emerged the person, but the opportunity, the group who’s working with something you didn’t think they would. So they said, yes, we’d like to try it. Secondly, no one knew what permaculture was, advertising was difficult. There wasn’t time to do a test and try. So people came who didn’t quite know and trusted. Um, we didn’t take more than 30 people except once where we got, we couldn’t resist. Um, I try new teachers with me as well, whose first experience or second two working camps. So there were, it was a, it was a systems approach, you know, refugees plus host plus local residents, plus some training teachers. And it proved to be very, very good indeed. Um, but the main thing was, I think that at the end of the course, we had enough people coming forward who wanted to do from the camps or settlements move on to second course And the demand was enormous. And the host people would be saying to us, you’d only have six left by now, or thought that they wouldn’t last or be really surprised. And I attribute the success of that to permaculture content, which is so beautifully flexible. It’s good for someone in a tent or a container who wants to make that plan or tent warmer or cooler in summer, they can get maybe a bamboo blind or a blanket to some, they want to do something with gray water differently from the rich backyard. Um, they know this room for shade tree that can be innovative about the roof. They can maybe get, you know, all this opens possibilities of where they are just as much as it does to somewhere in France and America.

Morag Gamble: So is this something about the possibility of reclaiming some dignity, reclaiming some power over their life. Seeing that by understanding this, it gives them an opportunity to transform the space or their life where they’re in this, it’s something to do with that. Or is it just something more simpler than that?

Rosemary Morrow: Well, a lot of people actually sit around all day and for the main, they have a great deal of anger and despair because they’ve been used to showing their skills and abilities and working. I mean, these are people like us and they arrived with all this possibility. You know, they’ve been farmers and growers and workers, French professors, and depending on where they come from, huge range of things and suddenly they stopped being needed and really. And they are hurt and wounded and they’re not, there’s no way to earn income. Cause the camps are so big very often. So they are, the food is often shocking or pretty dull. And so anything that you could just do here and now, but gives you your choice. If you want to play with gray water systems, or if you want to grow vegetables, or if we want to grow seedlings and distribute to others, you can have, you can choose where that little spark that says, I’d really like to do that. You can actually choose that if you want to. And so I think it’s been successful because permaculture is pretty comprehensive. I think it’s successful because you know, you can practice it anywhere really. The land was poor, a very difficult, you know, wandering around cities, the homeless poor. Um, but on the whole, these enormous number of people who find it relevant, some say, well, when we go home, if go home. I’ll be able to do this and others say, do you think I could own a living with this? And that is a topic I’m addressing now. So in the revision of Earth User’s Guide I’ve got a topic on work and livelihoods because if we hit the students economically and take a big downturn, not only refugees and displaced people on the margins, one book, everyone will want, so I’m trying to less employable work options for people without being clever. And just say, you could do this, or you could do that. I can do that from security but it’s not that easy. And they would have to be things put in place such as more professional courses to bring people up to a commercial applicable level, which we can’t do in PDC, but that’s getting away. I think it’s partly if you engage people in the learning, so you also get them to design for the camp or tent, you don’t get them to design for some imaginary place where I came from right here and now what could you do? And they have to come back next morning and tell you, they come back and they sit around at night apparently and discuss it in fairly crowded conditions with people. And that takes your wondering what’s happening in Yemen. What’s happening in Syria. What’s happeningin Sudan. And initial bit of freedom in your mind from being colonized by trauma.

Rosemary Morrow: So I don’t know whether it’s some.. I think it’s not one thing I think some people think I just love to do it and some think it is such a good thing to be doing this because I’m not thinking about home. Others would be interested in accumulating skills. We’re moving on. We haven’t done the work on that. The young woman from India to did her Masters on the impact of environment, natural environments, refugees, and she interviewed paperwork during the permaculture course and she’s written some really nice stuff in her masters about how people were responding differently on what they were doing. Having something to do is nice. I mean, COVID developed a lot of people, they couldn’t get out of that 80 story building or weren’t allowed out. The sense of what it might be like to be a refugee.

Morag Gamble: And so that was my next question is how do you think our experience is in this period now being too locked down with the pandemic and I know things are starting to open up now, but how do you feel about the the shift of our perception of the value of permaculture and maybe open up new potential for it in the rich countries, as well as maybe some big organizations might see more value in supporting it rippling out. Or is that not something that important? Cause you did mention about the working with the local NGOs and that’s where that kind of sweet spot is that you’ve found in really connecting and have..

Rosemary Morrow: I think for the New Zealand point of view of COVID-19 because it’s not the same in London or America and countries where it’s just starting to get first or second wave. And it’s terrifying actually. But in Australia, I think politically.. Politicians listen to scientific medical experts. Normally they wouldn’t do that. It’s all opinion and party platform. I think the second thing is realization how dependent we are in other countries to imports and exports. And some were already saying, we can’t let some of these go off shore. It’s almost by a regionalism meet needs and the things that are important, absolutely critical. So I think there’s been a coming home of what we’ve been saying for a long, long time is certainly need to look to making our own needs on that basis that we’re not caught in absolute panic when, um, when things shut off, or close down. That very, very difficult thing is whether they’ll find a medication, if they’ve done, If they don’t find a vaccine and they may not because it may take so fast, it might be like a few vaccine you have to, every week it may not be effective for all. And the third thing is if they don’t, our lives have changed. So it’s hard to really rewrite the permaculture. So I’m doing it. So if I’m trying to show that cities, when you survive about people, places, and interaction, and people being able to get fair trade shops and coffee shops and meet suddenly it’s become quite different. If you have to maintain nearly two meters distance between everyone everywhere, the city that we thought was lovely and rich and cultural and full of fabulous resources for people to grow and express themselves and be creative becomes something where people sort of doing slight amount each other down the street. And you’re trying to work with water design of a city should be because I’m having to rethink so much Permaculture it’s very hard. I think what they’re going to have to do is shut down some of the traffic streets and have more outdoor eating cubicles under trees, the strobe lines, and maybe a lot more streets have to be narrowed and changed to allow the spillover people that allows density getting closer to former densities to be in the streets. If you want a city.. Some are saying people are going to leave the cities now.. they’re going to desert.

Morag Gamble: You think that will see another wave of that kind of back to the land movement or, you know, going to the edges of the city rather than cause it we’ve had a recent wave of people coming in and the city is going up and are we going to see that sort of coming back out again because of the fear of these waves and you know, if it’s not COVID-19, whatever it might be, that’s coming, are we thinking how society can influence how, like you’re saying how we think about permaculture and how we need to keep the permaculture alive?

Rosemary Morrow: What I think is we don’t know. Therefore getting ready, preparedness speech reaction, any day scrambling to catch up and get things right. Just to expense it to heart too emotionally. And when I do disaster, this whole short course.. I know what I’m doing…I’ve got it done. Okay. I met someone in the co op two major subways. She said, I did a course with you in 2001. And the one that made the biggest impression was disasters and right to the Bush fire something fine. And I’m okay now. So I think if you want us to cure a trusting population, permaculture almost becomes a bigotry in terms of what ever their disaster or more likely cascading disasters, multiple. It wouldn’t just be famine or disease. It’s likely to be fire plus COVID plus economic breakdown, those three. And it seems to me that really forward thinking planners and governments should be advising people now how to start preparing for conditions, which may not be, which may be two or three at the same time. And I can’t think of anything other than permaculture.

Rosemary Morrow: I’m not a permaculture believer in the sense that permaculture is the answer to every question. Organic gardening and biodynamics and everything, or regenerative farming. The only thing that provides you with a coherent set of principles and ways to build for uncertainty, which is the only certainty is permaculture. Take it anyway. You know, in a way people used to say, everyone should learn, they should approach a double disaster and the government stretching and say, well, actually you said one’s going to have to teach it in schools as a priority to teach it everywhere.

Morag Gamble: It’s interesting because the farm household allowance, um, there’s a number of people who are doing the course who actually sponsored by a government to come and do this course as part of their farm hustle. Now it’s because of the droughts, there’s young girl on another program because of mental health issues has been sponsored by government. It is this recognition in pockets that actually does help to respond to I really different things. But how can you say I was going to ask you two questions? So the first one was about, um, yeah. So if permaculture is at this kind of micelium level at the moment, and it’s everywhere around the world, but it’s not being heard or recognized by those government organizations and they’re making decisions, you know, what does it, what would it take, do you think to kind of help to meet these? Or is there another way of thinking about this all together now?

Rosemary Morrow: I think there’s possibly a way through, and I hadn’t thought this before, but I’ve been in touch with Noorani. We’ve been back here in Malaysia university there and she is the SDGs officer for the university, big, amazing university. And she is dynamic and extraordinary and she is putting the SDGs through the whole university. So everything they do is held up to the litmus paper of an SDG. However, when you sit down and compare the 17 SDGs of permaculture principles, permaculture principles, give her a better overall guide. And so she was the one who got Kat Lavers and Greta Carol herself to go there and teach. And since then, she’s known how to apply the SDGs very, very strongly. And I’m not talking about techniques of making compost. It’s an approach to reaching more sustainable greener or environment, like not wasting water and local food and things. Than the SDGs give you. But as a result, when I’m talking about permaculture principles, I also in the new book you know, just the UN SDGs, sustainable development goals together with the principles, because in many cases they have got some nice distinctions to those SDGs. So I see it as if we could get married Permaculture and the SDGs would have a wonderful future and relationship because they provide the balance and carry on that neither ones has got enough. Now SDGs are being picked up by companies, governments, by universities, they have SDG offices. Now, when they put that together with permaculture, they’re nearly unstoppable. So these permaculture is gone right through this university. Now in the grains and in buying policy. We buy organic, we buy local… It’s sort of the SDGs, they’re just, you know, they love and married.

Morag Gamble: I went and did some training with GAIA education on SDGs, multiplying the SDGs. And so we have kids have these really interactive processes that we use, or that Mace who is one of the actual orphans of the SDGs I was talking with her. And she was saying that, you know, the SDGs are kind of the framework that connects and permaculture is the way to make them all happen. And she said that last year to me, and it just hit home. And I’m glad you reminded me because it’s, you know, there’s so much going on in their lives to keep those that is really the avenue, isn’t it? Because SDGs have gone right through from the very top, right through to African villages. People know these and understand them. And they’re talking about them. That marriage, I think is absolutely essential. I’m kind of like getting old tingles, thinking about the potential.

Rosemary Morrow: You know, I think they do. You can just say to people, what’s the best way for you to capture and store energy. They’ll give you their own processes and ways of doing it. And some will be glass and some will be through some stuff. They can do all that. Once you say, translate that SDG at that point, they’re able to do it to, you know, create no waste. Very good. How can you do that what are the ways? And all you need to do is fill in with anything new or special that works for people. I think I wished we could get it together. Maybe neuro’s works exceptional. It would be interesting if she was able to write a paper and feedback to you. And cause we want people who were doing it, not just us saying, we think you should actually put them together.

Morag Gamble: Well, May East and I we’re planning on writing a paper together, about SDGs and Permaculture but it sounds like we need to have a bit bigger team. Is it Noorani did you say?

Rosemary Morrow: Norani.. She’s Malaysian and she may be on Tuesday night if she can. She’s pretty busy dynamic, but quite wonderful. So she’s taught refugees employed in the permaculture and the SDGs. She chose those ahead You know, young 16, 17, they’re just pushy on. We can do this let’s so refugees got jobs from us, so not good enough. And they are now writing materials and teaching in the languages. And the, I forget which other groups, language groups that have been pushed of to the East, to the West and these other groups. Anyways. So, but I think actually COVID is really, really challenging. And the other thing that’s challenging if you want him to write permaculutre gain or materials that the average is that we were using in terms of climate and wind and predictability. The only thing that probably hasn’t changed is day length, evaporation pressure, and the reliability of water. Whether you get drenched, all is changing so fast. I think we have to pick up that word opportunistic and we have to train people to be much, much better observers so they can be opportunistic about their own environment, not the weather Bureau and see if they’re going to get the rain and the seedlings shredding or materials or whatever they need to do that opportunities about implementing permaculture practices has to be one of the perhaps newer ideas that were need against global warming disruption, because I’ve been looking at some things and I thought, gosh, 10 years to go onward. It built water harvesting on those figures in Western Australia today, the rainfall is half over the last 10, 15 years. So if I got the wrong figures and will they change again in the future and to watch.

Morag Gamble: So really keeping that clear in mind too, that the permaculutre to your design is not a fixed thing either is that, you know, you don’t just design once. It’s that constant observation and interaction and refinement and that iterative process that you are as a designer, it’s not designing a thing or a map it’s designing a constant approach to being community and the whole system. And I think that’s where it really kind of sits me, is it helps us to become more in relationship and to set on a path of enriching those consistently. And that’s kind of where I feel like, because it’s it, isn’t a way when you enter into the world of permaculture, thinking of flips and flips, how you see yourself in relation to others and to you, to the land and to, even to yourself, and once you see that that you can’t unsee it.

Rosemary Morrow: Yeah. We’re no longer people who design landscapes and put them in with people who observe and respond with their knowledge of how to design something might have to come out or something. We have to be what set, terrible words. It’s going to be a real word, like incredible. I think agile flexible enough ensure enough of the observation decisions to be able to connect those changes in time.

Morag Gamble: What would you say to young people who are in the world now thinking, gosh, what’s happening with my future? What’s happening with the future world? What would you recommend for them to, how to, you know, maybe getting involved in permaculture , how would they enter into this space? Do you think.

Rosemary Morrow: I’d say never accept a limited future. So instead of saying, I can’t do that and I can’t do that say there’s another way to do it. There’s a way around. So it’s really about seeing possibility. So just don’t accept a limited future. Even if we end up with the whole series of cascading disasters, a future that create broader in what we can do. And then it was predictable, which is actually more constrained having irregular climate, which provides you with a narrow talent compared with uncertainty, which gives you a wider spaces or responsive. I would say getting ready for changing futures, be flexible with the sorts of information that you know are pretty reliable group. You probably can’t go past permaculutre, um, and throw yourself into the future. It’s going to have lots of challenges and lots of interests. Now there’s two sorts of people who are disappointed. Those who feels that they can’t have what their parents had. That’s my generation’s children and grandchildren. I feel bad that I’m not sure what you do, but you know, they will be things for them to do things, to do never stop and being part of the solution, never stops either small or big. But the other thing to remember is once you engage in something, you’re going to feel better. You’re going to probably develop a passion, whether you’re at the teaching over somewhere and someone watches and what are you doing? Can I help monitor staff? I think when she knows that you’re on a road, even if you don’t know exactly where. So some people would be on the road and they’d be to natural building or some to ethical money and some might be to reshaping or restoring landscapes. And for a little while you tried different dead ends, but you end up on the one that you really seem to, you don’t want to do anything else with your life. You know, we’re not much not born with a symphony in our heads. We’re born finding our way, but once we’re on that road, we’ll find our way.You will find your way.

Morag Gamble: I think having the courage to also, to, to reach out and ask people, who’ve been doing it for awhile. Sometimes we sort of have this generational rift between all, you know, you don’t have to wait to be actually reaching out. I know that that has been something that has been absolutely critical to me, do my development and is following like, following my heart. So in the past and find where I feel like the work needs to be done and being drawn to that. And I’m approaching the people that I know who who’ve been doing it for a while. And just knowing that I never know everything and I never ever will know everything. And then I’ll always, I’m always a beginner and I’m always a learner. And it’s by that learning together that we can connect the key, uh, you know, keeping it relevant.

Rosemary Morrow: It’s helpful to learn from others who are very good, but it’s also good to be having those collegial conversations regardless of age and time. So there was a wonderful someone from United or something and someone from India on a Skype together. And I realized we were having the most rich, wonderful conversation on the application of permaculture on where they live now, because I had the real knowledge of where they live and they belong. They were able to eliminate and challenge. I hate to think where the same is true and applicable. So it was very rigorous to test whether you’re just raving on permaculture is great. You should just do swales sort of events or whether you have to absolutely think that that integrity of your words and applications sort of conversation, you come away from feeling terribly enriched and they’re very young! Wonderful thinkers and questioners and doers. So I don’t think it’s generational. It’s something to do with the conversation. Isn’t it.

Morag Gamble: In those last two things that you said, it’s also about going off script, you keep the essence, but it’s not about just repeating the same things over and over. And it’s like, you talk about the biggest scale system, the point before was that actually now culturally where we’re off script, COVID has pushed us off that we had. And then we’re now trying to redefine what that is and just keep rolling out the same things that we always have because the seeing the cracks in the system, we seeing that where those scripts, and that’s interesting..

Rosemary Morrow: Coming back to COVID. I think if you’ve got any money, if you’ve got any versatile system, if you’ve got any choices prepare now your home and living space to the best you possibly can thinking the worst may happen, that it may not. Getting prepared now will save you money, save you, resources, save you, just stress everything. So whether it’s a matter of simply putting in whole mass of potatoes or getting a banana growing outside your door, do it now and do it as soon as you can because, um, that’s just uncertainty again. The earlier preparing now, the easier it’s going to be for you. And it also frees you up to work with others. If you want to and be modelling something for them. Um, in some ways they were people writing about a pandemic as early as 2012 and no one listened to them. And I think we’re not saying you’re going to be unhappy and just say, life changes, let’s get ready for the change now by getting your own needs sorted as well as you can. Um, and that really means quite good permaculture principles. So I think, yeah..

Morag Gamble: Yeah. There’s I mean, there’s big changes and I think, you know, the more that we, those of us, I suppose, who are able to share it to be able to keep on rippling it out. And, but I guess the thing that’s challenging right now is that for example, the work that you’ve been doing in the world directly face to face in groups of 30 here, groups of 30 here group sets over here and that rippling out.. that’s change. So I wonder how the kind of work that you’re doing will be able to continue in the near future without being able to be there. How can you do what you do and not be there?

Rosemary Morrow: I don’t think I’ll be doing the same thing. I think it will change. So where are we starting PDCs, make sure local NGO, and some people knew about them in addition to refugees. The next step that we weren’t able to was to train refugees, to be PDC teachers, by train them. I mean, give them the skill set and not spend 10 years learning it the hard way themselves. It might be fun and interesting, but you know, it shortcuts that learning.

Morag Gamble: What are some of the easiest, or no not easiest…. shortcuts. What do you think is some of the most important shortcuts that we can take as many people as possible on this journey to be able to teachers everywhere around the world?

Rosemary Morrow: Well, I’m thinking at the moment, if we’re in touch with any NGOs, let’s try and as engineers to be permaculture teachers, they speak the local languages that probably got English and can to work directly. Or if you’ve got another language, maybe you’ve got French or Arabic or something, then you can use that. If, and I think we’ve nearly got enough message to teach a course well online. So people would have to go home that evening after a course and teach someone something tomorrow morning before they come back to the online course and they have to choose a topic and say why they chose it. And they’d have to add their materials to say why it was valuable. I think it would be a little bit rough at first, but I think we’d probably be able to emerge and that teaching teachers becomes important, but at the same token, they’re going to be huge shortages. So somehow we need to be talking to people. They’ve got entry camps to say, come on, get people growing seed..we must have the seed grows with this kind of situation. And let’s get you some money to pay those farmers to grow seed that can have a small business distributing seed or seedlings. I may be some materials sometimes. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking, how can we equip the people are there. We not be on a plane to those, those places. Some of them for years, you might be able to go New Zealand next week, but you won’t be going back to Bangladesh or possibly India, not Iran or Iraq, all those places. So, you know, how can we work with the people with whom we’ve made contact with? And very often we’ve been working with the mingling or I’m sorry, it’s Imperial language, but this now the universal and we’ve got relationship. So what we’ve been talking about are ways of teaching and offering them better teaching methods from chalk and talk or sage on the stage to more interactive. And there’s some fabulous stuff coming up, but it’s not matter of just referring into a video clip or Vimeo, or it’s a matter of getting them the other side of the screen, doing something. Yeah. Go and do something. Don’t name all the plants you can see in next 20 meters circle from your place, write them down and come back in five minutes. You know, that sort of thing that you do in the class.

Rosemary Morrow: But if people are not online, then we’ve got a couple of wonderful people who are working on illustrations and Ruth Harvey said to my brother that all I want to do is to tell a story. And they wouldn’t have language…. They would be succession, or that would be. Lovely office. She can’t wait to setting up a space to do that for this sort of situation. Um, and I think that I mentioned it to James, that we need to fund someone to look up the world’s best resources in languages, in permaculture, everything, nothing more than five minutes properly and get a research person who knows permaculture in different cultures possibly have a couple of advisory committees, two or three papers that won’t happen because of that. Or I can see that that is pig in that one was a cow is a cat in that one and that sort of thing, and be able to help people with cultural context or too fast or something.And then we also feed those through to hosts, to use in different ways, so different. I haven’t thought it through, but I have tried looking at materials as you know, and sending them to you. I’ll try again. And, um, but what I have found that what I’ve mainly got is from course materials, PDCs, but I haven’t got it. Um, [inaudible] in Arabic, these languages, um, [inaudible] And what we need is someone to do a search, you know, six or eight months we fund them. They terrific. They love it. They finding the right stuff. And to do that first, we’d probably have to have an agreed list of things you must teach the people to be. They must know about water they must know that soil, whether it’s on their roof or whether it’s in their garden, they must know about water cleaning and storage. They must know about trees… They must. So, you know, we could easily get a must know list, which is different from should or not know, or could know, and then someone could fit the research to those musts and then we could draw on them. So there might be something in French and something here and something that each of us is working in this area or other organizations could go through online and stuff, but not too big. We just want everything to be selective nationalities, certain types of things as well. What’s your response to that?

Morag Gamble: Well, it’s a huge project. What you’ve just articulated, I think, but then it can start really simply also, as you said, just with the, that must know, and it feels like if there’s a possibility to have just that ever so simple skeleton of the system, then each time it goes to a different place. I’m thinking, for example, if the group that I’m working with at the moment in the refugee camp, in Uganda, the Permayouth group.. that by providing some kind of overall structure of must know and then through conversation that we can inhabit that skeleton with things that they need to know there. And then, and then that kind of can be then spread out somewhere else and they can get real. It still feels a little bit slow and incremental, but I think that generative approach is where it’s going to become locally relevant. So just the absolute structure, because if we start to create too much, I sort of sometimes feel like you have, so if a group, another group started to ask for it and I gave them this great big compendium of information. They’ll just go on. I don’t even know where to stop. So very clear step by step. And that goes against a lot of what I sort of think about, you know, needs to be this, um, you know, rather than being sort of just prescriptive of what people need to do. But I think through, through, you know, the decades of focusing on this, there is the capacity to go, okay, well, this is the essence. This is what we need to do. And then wrapped around that we can make local sense of that and that that’s going to change as well. And then that will continue to change as well.

Rosemary Morrow: I am to start my permaculture teacher training with all the students in groups together.. The picture of the permaculture, greater coming up with a certain number of competencies that they’ve listed right at the beginning, and then how to teach them there’s different topics, different methods, different styles, and teacher behavior and everything. But the thing is they’re having their minds should have these things to be reasonably competent. And overall, I would say they need to look at a landscape, understand where it is in terms of damage and repair and be able to restore regenerate, renew, whatever the need is to make it more abundant, hold water source by diversity. You know, that would be the overall theme and then how to get there would be that person leaving your course. Now, obviously they don’t leave the course like that, but, and I only use the drawings as a means for them to concrete what they know and what they’d like to do and a feeling of it, not as an end in themselves to be able to design. It’s much more that, Oh, that’s not what that thought. And I’ll go back and look and check and it’s making it real, but it’s not in itself an absolute thing. So you’re working with people. They want to be teachers, I would mess and do 12 designs. I’d ask them to go and apprentice themselves to someone and go and work with three or four courses. And then cut that and say what you learned in something much more focused to what the outcomes are..

Morag Gamble: I think we probably need to wrap up because both of us need to be on another meeting very soon. We need a cup of tea between this, but just the very last thing, you know, I know you’ve probably been asked this a million times, but how would you define permaculture?

Rosemary Morrow: Well, I think it’s that permaculture is definitely a design system, but it’s an analytic and a design system. So in your observing and noting that trees blocking the sun and you know, she’s saying that that is going very heavy crop and you’re noticing a slope. So a lot of noticing going on. Um, so see it on some good definitions at times but I’ve forgotten one, I use, it’s not an approach either because you actually have a number of things you’ve learned in permaculture that you bring to be able to be part of restoration of earth. So I guess it’s to do with, um, working with the social and the prosperity and the environment to achieve positive outcomes through a series of, um, skills and knowledge that you build for the rest of your life. That’s a bit vague. I used to say, it’s applied science. I still think it is, but I’ve run away from that. Um, I find it because it’s so big to start a course and someone says, what’s permaculture. I don’t do that circle on the board. Right? Permaculture has to get a pin and say what they think it is. And then circle the things that it is. I asked them to link them to the course or something. So I don’t do it slightly different. So I don’t have anything. I have prepared them for big talks and things that at the moment are really people understanding the scope of it is a really important thing that..

Morag Gamble: You know, I mean, I love, I see that you’ve got no pre-prepared script to come out because the thing is that it does, you know, again, it’s the definition of the description of it is always different depending on where you are, who you’re working with, what the landscape is, you know, I’ve tried to pull out sort of an essential definition to describe, I say something very simple, like it’s designed for one planet living, something like that. Then you can take off in any different angle. Like if I have to say like a three second description of it that, you know, it is about, you know, and then you can go into the regeneration and that, you know, it’s about social justice and you can describe it in so many different ways from that. So that’s kind of the simplest essence…

Rosemary Morrow: I think it can be applied globally that’s critical. I think that it comes from ethics and principles, absolutely fundamental to understanding. It equips people to be part of things like reversing global warming land, destruction, flooring, all of these.

Morag Gamble: Thank you. These permaculture conversations. Lovely.

Morag Gamble: 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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