Designing a Sustainable Future with Permaculture Expert Penny Livingston

Permaculture plays a critical role in promoting a sustainable future by offering an innovative approach to food production, land management, and community building that focuses on regenerative practices, ecological health, and social equity. In this Q&A with permaculture expert Penny Livingston, we explore the principles of permaculture, regenerative design, and earth repair for the Great Turning — a shift toward a life-sustaining society. Sign up for the Permaculture, Regenerative Design and Earth Repair for the Great Turning Bioneers Learning course to learn more from Penny Livingston about natural systems, designing for resilience, and how to create regenerative systems.

Bioneers: Why are permaculture and regenerative design so important for people to learn about right now?

Penny Livingston

PL: This course is important because it offers a holistic approach to addressing the multiple challenges facing our world today. By learning about permaculture, regenerative design, and earth repair, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the interconnected systems that make up our world and how we can work with them to create sustainable and resilient communities. This course provides practical tools and strategies for creating regenerative systems that restore the health of the Earth and nourish both people and the planet. By taking this course, you’ll be joining a community of like-minded individuals who are committed to creating a more just and sustainable world. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to be part of the Great Turning towards a brighter future!

Bioneers: How did your career in permaculture begin?

PL: It began with me as a young landscape garden designer, contractor and farmer being confused with the way we were being taught about how things should be done. For example, using pesticides and herbicides to poison the beneficial insects and pollinators in addition to some of our most potent medicinal herbs (aka “weeds”) made no sense to me. Also shunting water away from the land and draining the earth of her most life-giving element seemed very unwise. Especially the way civil engineers were doing it by shunting water downhill as quickly as possible in pipes and ditches moving it “away” was creating a lot of erosion and topsoil loss. That also seemed like the wrong way to go about things. Learning permaculture design helped me understand ways of moving water on the landscape that addresses multiple advantages, preserving soil and replenishing the aquifers. I decided to commit my life to helping others understand how our ecosystems function and how we can be a keystone beneficial species on this planet and take a humble and beneficial role in the ecosystems of the world. The good news is we have the solutions, we just need to have the knowledge and skill as a global community to apply them. 

Bioneers: What is one piece of research that you find particularly fascinating about permaculture?

PL: The IAASTD Report (International Assessment of Agriculture Science and Technology) is an important document that highlights the need for more sustainable and equitable approaches to agriculture. The report was commissioned by the United Nations and the World bank to assess the state of agriculture globally. The report was developed by over 400 scientists and provides a comprehensive analysis of global agriculture. One of the key findings is that industrial agriculture is contributing to environmental degradation. Bill Mollison, one of the co-founders of permaculture deeped global agriculture is one of the most destructive human activities on the planet. 

The assessment called for bioregional, multifunctional, integrated agriculture that promotes biodiversity, supports small-scale regional farmers, conserves natural resources and supports communities (aka permaculture). This is an important document because it is evidence-based and offers a roadmap for transitioning to a more equitable and ecologically sound food system. 

Bioneers: Tell us one great reason why people reading this should sign up for your course?

PL: This course offers a unique opportunity to gain knowledge and skills to create resilient communities. Course participants will be exposed to ideas, methods and techniques to repair ecosystems, conserve water, replenish aquifers, build soil and understand how regenerative agriculture works in addition to steps they can take to create more resiliency in their lives and their communities. They will also join like-minded people who share similar values. This course is designed to help people understand the principles and practices of permaculture and regenerative design and how they can create sustainable solutions to the challenges we face. They will gain a deeper understanding of the interconnected systems that make up our world and how we can work with them to create regenerative solutions.

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