A course on Sustainability and System Design: PDC course in Greece

An article by Sofia Matsi – Member of the Cyprus volunteer team Movement of Life Cyprus
These past two weeks I had the unique opportunity to spend 11 days at Re-Green’s scenic farm, up on the panoramic mountains of Ahaia.

Who would have thought, that in the tiny village of Seliana, something as big and promising, as Christos’ and Flery’s permaculture eco-green center, would be taking place and thriving.

The reason for my visit there, was the Permaculture Design Course, PDC, that the hosts were organizing with special guests, two exceptional teachers from the UK, Dr. Rod Everett and Mill Millichap, and assistant teachers, Marios Desyllas from Greece and Caspar from South Africa.

Re-Green EcoCulture Center

Picture 1 – Re-Green EcoCulture Center

This intense seminar, took us through 80 hours of Permaculture theory, as well as hands-on assignments. The PDC course gives its graduates the skills to design later on their land and living spaces with sustainability. Central part of all teaching that takes place during this workshop, is to learn how to design and think ahead with respect to all ecosystems that surround us.

Instructor Mill Millichap demonstrating how the Rocket Stove works

Picture 2 – Instructor Mill Millichap demonstrating how the Rocket Stove works

Constructing a Solar Drier

Picture 3 – Constructing a Solar Drier

Though it is exceptionally hard to try and encapsulate everything that was taught these last 11 days, among the most important things was to familiarize ourselves with the Permaculture Principles and how they can be applied, in order to achieve successful and sustainable systems. We also had the opportunity to build simple and functional structures such as a greenhouse, solar ovens, a solar drier and got to experience and work with the process of composting. Through this course, and as the days advanced, we realized the importance of collaboration and functioning as a community, always trying to redistribute our surplus to people and parts of the system that needed it.

Instructor Rod Everett assisting us with the Greenhouse construction

Picture 5 – Instructor Rod Everett assisting us with the Greenhouse construction

During class

Picture 4 – During class

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What though truly left me speechless were the words of one of our teachers when he mentioned the word NATURE and insisted on how this term, should be banned from all dictionaries! How is it possible to distinguish ourselves from the rest ecosystem, and as humans, function arbitrarily and unconsciously, supposing that our actions have no consequences to the systems that surround us? Aren’t we also a part of that NATURE that we insist seeing as something alien and which is distantly located outside our back door, our neighborhood or city? It is alarming therefore to realize with how much ease we construct multi-storage metal skyscrapers, without ever considering how that action would affect all the organisms and ecosystems in the area. Or perhaps ponder on any electronic device we buy today, which is laboriously packed in an insane amount of plastic bags, and which packaging of course will wastefully end up to landfills.

Today, more than ever, we need to pause before we act and reconsider the consequences of even our smallest step. Our next move should not merely be determined by our financial aspirations and greediness for sovereignty. It only takes a moment to realize how, for millions of years now, all of our surroundings have learnt to live in co-existence and collaboration. Then we, the “superior” beings, arrive in vein and arrogance, these last hundreds of years, and assume we are able to function beyond these well-structured balances, without causing any serious consequences to our surrounding ecosystems.

Lake-Water reservoir constructed by Flery and Christos at Re-Green farm

Picture 6 – Lake-Water reservoir constructed by Flery and Christos at Re-Green farm

We also expanded on how we should creatively use resources and respond to change (one of Holmgren’s principles). We soon realized that vision, is not seeing things as they are, but as they can be. This brought us to the crisis many of us are experiencing today, and how CRISIS is necessary to get ourselves out of the slug. Besides, it is not random that in Mandarin, the word CRISIS consists of two parts: the 1st one meaning DANGER and the 2nd one which represents the word OPPORTUNITY. It makes sense therefore, to feel gratitude for the difficult days we are going through today in Cyprus, since without that pressure, I would most probably never have felt the need to learn more about the synergistic world of Permaculture.

Recognizing structures and patterns in the garden

Picture 7 – Recognizing structures and patterns in the garden

Beyond the abundance of information we acquired these last few days, we were eventually exposed, to a plethora of possibilities with which we are now able to design with wisdom and sustainability, our family farm, urban garden, house and later on expand to the creation of sustainable communities and cities.

The most rewarding part by far though, was the chance to meet and interact continuously with such wonderful and knowledgeable people. People who attended the workshop came from a vast variety of backgrounds; with knowledge that expanded from agriculture, engineering, music, natural pattern recognition and survival techniques, biology, herbal medicine, chemistry, conflict mediation and many more. It was truly impressive to see how all these “distinct” fields and personalities were able to collaborate and interact creatively producing a powerful synergistic outcome that, NEVER would a “monoculture” be able to generate.

Part of the program, beyond theoretical and practical training,  was to cultivate an awareness of “Working within a community”

Picture 8 – Part of the program, beyond theoretical and practical training, was to cultivate an awareness of “Working within a community”

Without wanting to expand further, the only thing I wanted to focus on before closing, was the gratitude I feel coming back to my island. A gratitude for everything I experienced, everything I learnt and all the gifted people I met. This experience has for sure marked me and has supplied me with strength and optimism to want to «Become the change I want to See», as Gandhi once wonderfully stated it.

More information on Re-Green eco-culture Center can be found here.

To find out more regarding Permaculture you can visit the following pages: