Professor Stuart Hill, agricultural and soil ecologist, and social-ecologist challenges us all to restore our inner landscape. Stuart reminds us of our formative years. At first, we live with open eyes and a passion to live from the ‘inside-out’. But with conditioning, we learn to live from the ‘outside-in’. He challenges us to regain our spontaneity, curiosity, and honesty. Then we become ourselves and get comfortable with being different. Peaceful diversity enriches us, our relationships, and the world.
We start life with spontaneity, and our curiosity enables us to appreciate context and environment. And so, we begin to conform. Bit by bit, we learn to live from the outside-in. Over time, our inner child learns to please other people and conform to society.
Cultural conditioning, however, prevents awareness. And it blocks our ability to be ‘present in the moment’, and gives away our power. Ultimately, we risk accepting compromises to our ethics and values. ‘Most people will be in denial of this’. states Stuart.
When we recover our spontaneity and curiousity, we are freed.
Prof Stuart B. Hill
Becoming Different Enriches the World
Children around the world are conditioned. They learn to conform. In earnest, the adults aim to keep them safe and well, and help them develop skills. But, it is damaging to their inner landscape. Slowly, the child’s inner landscape becomes patterned. Their responses become habitual. The child begins to seek to please the teacher rather than seek the truth. However, by restoring curiousity, we rediscover our passions.
Openness allows us to be different. And these differences create a robust tapestry of cultures, expertise, history, and knowledge.
Understanding and incorporating differences in people helps us to form better teams. Better still, this diversity of approaches and ideas enriches Permaculture design, teaching, and practice.
Power of Collaboration
Stuart urges the Permaculture designers to collaborate more. Designers, clients, and members of the community working together are more effective and their legacy endures. He encourages us to find out what is close to the client’s heart. By kindling the client’s passion, the permaculture design is nurtured and evolves. With joy, the users engage and build competence.
Focus On Your ‘Exceptional’
Stuart also explores the idea of systems thinking. He argues that anything that is happening in one place in the world is also happening all over. “You will find 20% nasty, evil stuff, 10% really good stuff and the rest is compensatory”. He challenges Permaculture to focus on the 10% really good stuff in order to keep thriving. “All of us have to be awake, attentive, thinking, reflective, and avoid being judgemental”. In fact, we need to forgive the errors of others and not let these turn you away from their gems of insights.
Why Not Worship Gurus
Furthermore, when we search for the top 10% of leaders, we may inadvertently elevate them to guru status. But the problem, according to Stuart, with worshiping ‘gurus’ is that people try to imitate the high level of competence of the guru. Instead, what we really need to uncover is the learning journey taken by the guru. Then, we might discover how they focused on their own 10%. And best of all, how they resisted compromising their values.
Learning about the stages of development of great thinkers, through listening to their background stories, leads us to develop our own story. Nurturing our curiosity, we discover what is interesting to us. We find our own ‘exceptional’.
“Work to your own agenda, not someone else’s”
About Stuart B. Hill
Professor Stuart B. Hill is Foundation Chair of Social Ecology at Western Sydney University. At WSU he taught units on Qualitative Research Methodology, Social Ecology Research, Transformative Learning, Leadership and Change, and Sustainability, Leadership and Change (he retired in 2009 and is now an Emeritus Professor in their School of Education).http://stuartbhill.com/
We have unprecedented fires raging across Australia. So, we are pioneering new methods of disaster preparation and re-discovering the wisdom of the elders.
Our first priority is to redesign communities and their gardens for safer shelter for all living creatures. Secondly, design to retard embers, absorb the radiation and protect water supplies. Thirdly, find ways to quickly restore food, water and habitat. Ultimately, we create a better design.
If you are planning to build a new home, stop everything now. Above all, design it to be disaster-proof. Set it well into the landscape, have a safe bunker and angle the roofline so embers can fly over and not get trapped.
Re-design your garden to withstand drought, repel heat and store water. Naturally hydrated soils are more resilient to disasters such as drought, flood and fire.
Past catastrophes have taught us some methods of preparedness, but not everything. Last year was the hottest year on record for many countries. We are playing by new rules. This is not the new normal, this is a rude start to a big climate shift.
Recent wildfires have set new design rules. These wildfires didn’t come from one direction like a wave of flames. They behaved more like storm clouds: tilting trees, turning them into flame throwers hotter than 1200k. Moreover, fire tornadoes known as Pyrocumulonimbus, shot live embers more than 30km ahead.
Combination of Threats
Ember attack, strong winds, thick smoke, severe heat and deafening noise combine to limit responses during a catastrophic wildfire. Burning roads and fallen trees trap people as they try to leave. In past years, some people have saved their homes by staying to put out the embers after the fire has passed. The intensity of recent fires has shown this to be dangerous unless you have a fire-proof bunker that meets the standard. In addition to the bunker you need enough oxygen, water, masks, food and the nerve to stay.
In fact, you will need food and water for days. The power will be down and you will probably have wildlife to tend and feed on your limited supplies. Best of all, be ready to share your limited resources with that neighbour who rarely talked to you.
Pebbles, a family cat in Buchan Victoria, sheltered in the outdoor pizza oven. His whiskers burnt, but he survived.
Prepare Then Go
The traditional firebreak is not enough. At a minimum, we need to seal the building completely so no embers can get in. Firstly, the weakest points of a building are the roof and cavities underneath, especially under a wooden verandah. Secondly, shield the house from the intense radiation of the fire using either dense materials (big standing stones), rock walls or reflective shields (foil).
Fireproof materials include simple materials such as earth. Fire proof homes fit the landscape to hide from the fire.
Putting this knowledge together, we see a recurring theme: design with knowledge of the landscape.
There is design link between passive housing, earthship technology and permaculture design practice. Passive housing insulates the home completely. Earthships connect with the dependable underground earth temperature.
Smart design looks different. It is possible to have a safe home. Fire safe homes fit the landscape, and positioned for good natural insulation and winter warmth.
Re-Design or Retrofit Your Shelter
There are excellent designs by architects to reduce or deflect threats . These designs create homes with a smaller impact on the environment, and lower costs to build and use. Above all, they are durable and resilient.
But during extreme fire threats, many people think if we remove the forests, we remove the threat. The common reaction is to increase back-burning, pull out shrubs and clear land with machinery.
But the truth is, the forest is one of the most important
tools we have to fight heat, hold water in the landscape and fight climate
change. Getting rid of the garden is not going to help keep the temperature
down or maintain moisture. People who had only grass around their homes had it
burst into flames. A home surrounded only by rock may be more fire-proof but it
will also be extremely hot, devoid of wildlife. Jane Goodall warns about the
dangers of humanity being
divorced from nature.
Australian aboriginal people have specialised fire management techniques called cool burning where the fire extinguishes itself, and the grasses and trees are not structurally damaged. Not all the area is burned at once, it is burnt in small strips at a time. Even insects can escape the burn.
What Plant is Truly Fire-Retardant?
For years people have talked of ‘fire-retardant’ plants. But, anything that was once alive, will burn in extreme temperatures. As the fire intensity rises we need to re-design food gardens, add radiant heat blocks (these can be mud-brick or cobb walls). We also need more areas for wetlands. Surprisingly, wetlands and boggy soils sequester greater amounts of carbon than forests.
Can succulents and living ground covers help extinguish embers? Lets explore further how deciduous trees with low oil content absorb radiant heat at these unprecedented temperatures.
Involve Your Community
Members of your community doesn’t have to understand the likeliness of a catastrophe for you to help to prepare for them. Consultation builds better preparation. Help your community to find ways to prepare that are simple and effective. For some people, this means trailing ideas, for others it means facilitating conversation. For researchers, it means building the body of knowledge for survival.
Coordinate a working group to help prepare homes helps the elderly and less-abled. Prepare to act when others are busy elsewhere. Some preparatory works, when booked by a neighbourhood, cost less than for individual home call-outs. Furthermore, community consultation enables us to develop strategies for local adaptation
During a disaster, a resilient community is able to:
reduce the negative effects of hazards on people, ecosystems and property
Establish coping mechanisms in stages (safe zones, evacuation centers, temporary accommodation and long term recovery support
After a disaster, a resilient community is able to:
recover from the hazard with minimal disturbance to the health (including mental health) of the people and animals
rebuild a functioning community system, including power, water, food, fuel, health and education provisions
develop from experience
design with experts and in consultation with community
Design builds security for a community and the natural world that supports them.