Putting "culture" back in Permaculture

August 2019
Written by Zachary Barton

We’re just getting into festival season here in Nepal at Almost Heaven Farms.  Dasain, in which we celebrate the defeat of evil by the Goddess Durga and Tihar, in which we invite the goddess of wealth Laxmi, into our homes and lives for the next year.  They are extremely intense festivals, both requiring a lot of time, energy and money be put into them.  It would be the equivalent of two Christmases coming right after each other. I always get sick by the end of the 4-5 week festivities and my liver usually tries to sleep off the hangover by shutting down my whole body for a couple of days.

But I love these times and especially the focus on Goddess Worship by Nepali people.  Their deep-rooted culture, which is usually a fantastic blend of Hindu, Buddhist and Shaman belief systems still embraces the sacred feminine.  And this matriarchal connection, so well preserved, wraps itself in nature and decorates itself with food, flowers, water, animals and family, the most sacred and important things in life.

In permaculture we always talk about a need for a cultural shift, a “great tuning” or “turning” which will help move our society back on track and lead us to a more regenerative and abundant future.  But this, my permie friends, is the biggest challenge that we face and something we are so horrible at doing.  The design skills needed to do this don’t exist in the western mindset nor do we have many examples left to observe and draw on.  We can all go along singing the sustainability tune and developing food forests around us, but we know deep down that unless the that greater mass of middle class society start to open their eyes and change their habits, we are all in for a nasty future no matter how we try to mitigate it for ourselves.

It is time that we start to look at Nepal as the Mecca of permaculture, not Australia, New Zealand or any other western country that just happens to have more cheap energy and US dollars to put into the promotion of it.  Nepal is a place where you can learn how to build your own house using earth materials, how to grow your own food and almost everything else you need, but most importantly it is an example of a healthy culture in which the people have stayed close to nature, the feminine and each other.  Come to Nepal and see what culture-perma looks like…

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