How Permaculture Changed My Life, by Ami Dehne
Welcome to “How Permaculture Changed My Life”, a new blog series featuring personal stories from past students speaking about how permaculture changed the direction of their outlooks and careers. The first in the series is by Ami Dehne over at Minga Skill Building Hub, which runs hands-on workshops where students learn crafts of daily living that may otherwise be lost:
“It’s true. Permaculture changed my life. Forever.
Let me explain.
I was 23 years old. I had just graduated from the University of Toronto in Forestry and Environmental Studies. I was passionate. I had energy. I wanted to change the world. I wanted to travel. I wanted the most amazing job ever (that’s what they promise you’ll receive when you get a degree, right?) So, we decided that we would go to Calgary to travel and make money for the summer and come back and pursue the list above. We went to Calgary during the height of the oil boom. It was nuts. I remember there being a lineup for everything. Traffic was crazy. The city’s infrastructure couldn’t handle the droves of people moving there for the same reason we were – the ease of making money.
I started working as an arborist and Patrick took a job in construction. I soon became very sad. I had no friends, I actually hated my job, and most of all, I couldn’t stand working and living in what I perceived as the ‘belly of the beast’. To me, Calgary represented the darkness of humanity and the headquarters for the ‘rape and pillage’ of our precious earth. It seemed that nobody cared. The money was so good that I believed people turned a blind eye to the fact that we were pulling an immense amount of oil out of the earth. There was so much consumption, so much urban sprawl, yet so little connection with others. It was go time there. I felt alone in my deep concern for the earth and the world. I felt so bloody helpless. There was no way that little I, with my proud Honours Bachelors of Science, could do a damn thing about it. And to top it off, my husband was just offered a 4-year electrical apprenticeship. We were going to stay for 4 long years. I was f’ed.
If I was going to live there and maintain my sanity, I needed to do something that would fill me up. I honed in on an organization called Green Calgary Association. I volunteered for every single thing I could with them. I taught workshops for them on how to prune trees. I took every course they offered (I’m a Master Composter, did you know?), and I applied for every job only to be, in my mind, consistently turned away.
Then one day a call came. They were offering me a job. In an instant, I was so. Insanely. happy. One of the job perks was I could take any course Green Calgary was offering for free. This oil-company-employed engineer by the name of Rob Avis, of the now famous Verge Permaculture, who was going through his own life transformation, approached us and said he wanted to teach an Introduction to Permaculture course through Green Calgary. I had no idea what permaculture was but I took it anyway. So did my husband. So did everyone else at the organization. And it forever changed my life.
What I took from Verge’s Intro to Permaculture Course was that I could take all the negative energy I have about the world and do something positive with it. I could actually change the world by making change in my own backyard. I learned about stacking functions, about the importance of edges, and how the waste of one is the fertility of the other. Think passive solar green houses, aquaponics, cob ovens, composting. But what really happened to me is I had a paradigm shift.
Something deep within changed. I no longer saw the world through the same lens. I started realizing that I didn’t need to depend on our governments and corporations to change in order to ‘save the world’ (although it would help) and I didn’t need to become an ‘end of the world’ prepper to save my life. I moved away from living in anger to a place of living in understanding and trusting of humanity. I let go of the fear that held me hostage. By shifting my lens of helpless disdain to one of possibility and empowerment, I finally felt at ease. Permaculture offered a different view and opportunity of how the world can operate. I felt powerful. I felt alive and well. I saw astounding potential. And it wasn’t just permaculture. It was Rob who consistently told me that who I was was powerful enough to create the change that I so longed for. And for that, I’m forever grateful. Because without the permission that Rob gave me, Minga never ever would have been born.
One of the things I realized is that permaculture could be applied socially. And if you know anything about me – I love people. Minga is social permaculture, which is taking the permaculture principles and moving them out of the backyards and private homes and into the public with the higher values of people care, earth care and return of surplus.”
Verge is proud to partner with Ami and Minga to offer a two-week Permaculture Design Course from September 30th to October 13th. To save your seat in this course, visit the PDC page here.