“Permaculture engenders hope in me. For me, it is a community of practice, a mindset and scientific process, and a ‘toolbox’ of guiding principles and ethics. It helps me to create the life that I want.” - Paul Wartman
For Paul Wartman, permaculture is more than just a super effective way to design a robust, diverse, and productive garden. It is a design process and a set of ethics and principles that can be applied to any project at any scale. It is a set of tools that changes the way we humans approach a problem and that produces fundamentally different outcomes. Yes permaculture will help you design and continually improve a rocking, productive, thriving vegetable garden. AND it can shift your perspective on how to approach challenges at any scale; from household roles and responsibilities, all the way up to global climate change.
We sat down with Paul to talk about some of what blows his mind about permaculture and why the workshop that he teaches is called “Introduction to Permaculture for Gardens and Social Change.” Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Q: What are some of the most common misunderstandings about what permaculture is and how it can be used?
A: The number one most common misunderstanding permaculture is that it is just about gardening. Yes it is about gardening. It’s a great way to design a garden at any scale. But it is actually a design system that is about so much more! Permaculture, or Permanent Culture, was actually designed to be a solution to the radically destructive trajectory of some of the strongest forces at work on our planet. It gives a set of universal values and principles that can guide everything from how we design our gardens to how we approach designing solutions to climate change. It is a vastly powerful, transformational, magical, and deeply humbling system to plug into.
Q: What do you see as the biggest potential impact that permaculture can have in someone’s life?
A: When you actually start to recognize what you need to survive and then thrive as your own unique version of a human being, and what you generate when you survive and thrive… you might just start to ask for what you need. And that might change everything. THAT’S what permaculture can do! Just one simple tool like the Needs and Yields Analysis can shift your approach to any number of areas of your life: school, work, family, community, wherever you are in relationship and exchanging things you have for things you need. Imagine going through your day, attuned to the intricate interconnections between you and all the systems that you interact with: food, human, animal, government, the list is endless when you start to practice this way of seeing and designing your life.
Q: What is the biggest gift or shift that you have seen in your own life as a result of your ongoing learning and practice of permaculture?
A: In university I was taught that it was up to me think really hard and work really hard and to come up with or invent solutions to the big scary problems that we are facing in our world. I was not trained to build relationship with the marginalized people who are being most dramatically and directly affected by those big scary problems. The biggest gift that permaculture has given to me has been to fundamentally shift my approach to understanding and solving problems: imagine valuing the marginal! Imagine getting that when do not care for the planet, or the most vulnerable among us, we are actually not caring for ourselves! That’s the lens that I get through applying permaculture's principles and ethics to my life. Not to mention the wonders it has done for my farm!!
Here are some of Paul’s favourite Permaculture resources where you can start your own learning.
- The Living Centre (London area)
- Transition Towns (e.g., Transition Guelph, Transition KW)
- Ontario Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRGs) often have free libraries for permaculture materials
- Wild Permaculture (London)
- Garden Jane (Toronto)
- Permaculture GTA
- Minga Skill Building
- Many Rivers Permaculture
- Youtube: search permaculture
- Google: search permaculture
- The Permaculture Handbook
- Permaculture: A designers manual