Profile feature: Punk Rock Permaculture

Last week I went into the garden to look for hidden Easter eggs, and while I was there, I decided to plant my own tomatoes. I’ve always wanted to grow my own vegetables, not just for economic and environmental, but also for culinary reasons. There is a movement, called permaculture, which not only plant vegetables, but it’s based on a wider, harmonious relationship with nature. I asked Evan Schoepke, the editor of punkrockpermaculture e-zine to tell us more:

resistance is fertileWhat does permaculture mean to you?
Your typical permaculture definition goes something like, “It’s an ethical design system based on natural principles for building regenerative human habitation”. That being said, permaculture encompasses many techniques and technologies related to agriculture, water management renewable energy, and natural building and then utilizes them in a holistic and synergistic way in order to make the most efficient and regenerative system. In some ways the permaculture design process is very similar to what nature does through evolution. I always emphasize the word regenerative vs sustainable because in a regenerative system you’re giving the surplus created back into the system, and in the case of permaculture design that surplus goes back to supporting people, plants, animals, soil, water, and the earth as a whole. In a philosophical sense permaculture belongs to the branch of wisdom called cybernetics which is the study of systems. I really appreciate that one can look at permaculture from multiple standpoints spiritual, philosophical, economic, and more, but to me the practical and applied standpoint is the place where you really see everything come together, by getting your hands dirty and doing it day after day.

How did you get involved to it?
I got into permaculture through studying eco-city development while attending the Evergreen State College and realizing that ecocities should be developed through the lens of permaculture principals and ethics, otherwise it’s all just bullshit green-washing. I’ve been doing permaculture work both locally and internationally ever since.

How does it look in your hometown, or more generally in America (the home of consumption)?
I reside in Olympia, WA USA which is a pretty progressive town so people are definitely diving into permaculture here. Each year I see more forest gardens, more guerrilla gardens, rainwater and grey-water systems, solar tech, and more. There is a great Olympia transition group that is promoting permaculture and ecocity solutions at the city level and we have strong sense of community here with a vibrant and art and cultural scene that often crosses over with environmental efforts. I like seeing the local punks in town involved in the community making seed banks, free herbal health care clinics, and community gardens, and I believe many changes like these are happening across the US and that’s really inspiring. People are learning to live with less and to care more and it’s about time.

permacultureWhat are your ways of “recruiting” more people?
I recruit through my local efforts and writing mostly. I also think art events are a great community building tool and locally I’m a part of the Raccoon Collective which organizes arts walks where the venues are people’s houses, as well as gardening workshops, skill shares, and bike polo tournaments. I do my best to reach out, invite participation, and connect whether it’s around projects or just finding work and opportunities for folks with in the permaculture world.

How is the e-zine going?
The e-zine is growing, and we’ve been getting great support through Flattr, lots of good feedback, and new contributors. I’m currently working on an article about the “permaculture of whales” and another e-zine on the seven precious medicinal mushrooms. We are looking to expand some projects into print via Mag Cloud and just build out the site more with graphics, music, video, and potentially live streaming soon. I encourage any people interested in radical permaculture media to get in touch.

What kind of vegetables do you grow in your garden?
This year I’m trying to grow more perennials and heirloom vegetables including Cascadia (our local bio-region) snap peas, garden sorrel, brussels sprouts, burdock, red russian kale, and my favorite salsa verde making ingredient tomatilloes. I’m also planting a couple of fruiting shrubs and trees this year so that’s exciting too.

Do you know any outstanding/smart examples from your environment, where people are keen and able to ‘apply’ permaculture even with poor sources?
Permaculture can absolutely be practiced with very little, never forget that waste is a resource! Waste woodchips and tree trimmings, waste cardboard, waste grass clippings, kitchen scraps, etc all of this biomass can be put to good use through permaculture techniques. Making worm compost from spent coffee grounds alone can be a great cottage industry. You can take old bike wheels and make trellises for grapes and figs, old tires for potato towers, an old bathtub can be an experimental wetland, the potentials are just a matter of imagination.

guerilla gardeningGuerrilla gardening?
Guerrilla gardening has been big here in Olympia and it doesn’t take much time to get some buddies together over beers and make a bunch of seed bombs (compost, clay, soil, water, seeds) and really do some positive damage. Sure, sometimes the city will literally bulldoze your hard work and I’ve seen that happen, but I’ve also seen a new guerrilla garden become a community garden almost every year I’ve lived here so you have to be persistent and remember to talk with the neighbours if you want it to last.

How permaculture and punk/rock cultures go together there?
There are many, many, crossovers between punk culture and permaculture and in fact there is an article in the works for permaculture magazine about this very topic.
But, part of the reason I named the e-zine punk rock permaculture is that I just wanted to state that permaculture is not just for hippies and folks with material resources anymore it’s for everyone with a DIY (do it yourself) and DIO (do it ourselves) attitude, and punks in particular have always embraced that attitude.

Some of your favourite bands…
The Hail Seizures, Blackbird Raum, RIVIVR, Mutoid Men, Sock and Sandles, The Pasties, SOIL, Chin Up Meriwether, Defiance Ohio, Crass, and so many more. I’m in the process of creating a music section for the e-zine that specifically features bands I like who have some sort of ecological bent. SOIL for instance, writes all their hardcore punks songs about gardening and some of the members are in a band called Ocean which you can guess what their songs may be about.

What other interests do you have?
I enjoy playing Go, studying evolutionary game theory, co-operative economics, going backpacking, rock climbing, doing street art, playing bike polo, learning the harmonica, organizing with the Washington State Pirate Party, reading good literature, learning languages, brewing, fermenting, cooking, and consuming food with friends.

Now the Flattr question – when/why did you join?
I was an early Flattr adopter who joined just before it left beta. I love Flattr with a passion and feel it’s a major part of the future of social capital. I joined because I knew the people behind it had integrity, I appreciated how they think about the web, and I recognized that this service would be a game changer for emerging creative folks like myself. I hope the whole world joins!

What have you learned from nature?
To respect and listen to it…

More about Evan (gaiapunk): Gaiapunk on Flattr

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