Beverley Paine, 2011
I can't believe humanity can't solve the serious problems we face each day... We have access to materials, labour, technology, intelligence, and imagination we need, so what's holding us up?
All too often people are overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. I've found that permaculture offers me a practical and successful path to effective change, at both the personal and community level. If enough people began to live according to permaculture ethics and principles the ripples of change would begin to make a difference globally.
Since 1986 my goal has been to live simply... This means adopting an ecologically sane lifestyle that takes responsibility for every aspect of how I live - what I eat, the building I live in, how I get around, my relationship with other people, the creatures and plants of the Earth, the planet, what I use, my health and safety and that of others.
Living simply means questioning the cultural imperatives for my actions: perhaps my cultural conditioning drives my actions, instead of a sound analysis of the intrinsic characteristics and needs of each and every situation? I need to constantly test my thoughts and actions to see if I'm using the most least energy requiring solution, or applying appropriate technology - taking the sane, logical (not necessarily linear!) route. Permaculture ethics - care for Earth, care for people, share surplus - guide me.
To live simply I find my decisions require me to examine my needs and desires. Not the superficial ones we tend to talk about, but the basic needs and wants. Those that lie beneath. It can be hard to pin them down, largely because we have covered them with so much complexity we've forgotten what they look like! Rediscovering them defines me, tells me about the person I am, and what I want and need to survive, thrive and feel fulfilled in life.
I find that by limiting the scale and intensity of my activities to those which are actually necessary always guides me to a simple life. The more I become in tune with my own needs and wants the easier it is to apply the permaculture principles to all the various elements at play in any given situation in my life. From there it is a matter of making decisions from a holistic perspective as well as giving consideration to the present and future consequences of my actions.
As part of this process I need to constantly seek and implement solutions that reduce the disturbance to the ecological balance. I've found that in many cases the solution is to do nothing. A close examination of my needs sometimes reveals that they are actually cleverly disguised wants, not at all necessary for my well-being with little permanent value. Sometimes they don't even reflect who I am, but are who I should be or on assumptions of what I think others expect from me.
Permaculture also reminds me that all tools must be matched to the task at hand. Excesses imbalance systems. Deficiencies stunt growth. Aiming for bare sufficiency produces optimal growth. This is perhaps the hardest and most enduring permaculture lesson for me to learn! At the moment I'm learning to keep my volunteering and writing endeavours small and manageable, in scale with the rest of my life. It's too easy to get carried away and suddenly find that I don't have time to relax and enjoy the wonderful environment in which I live!
I've learned to recognise that each dollar I spend is a vote for the way I want others to shape the world. We can reclaim power from corporations and corrupt governments by spending our dollars ethically and wisely - or by reducing our spending and thus our need to earn. Many times I walk away from a purchase. Sometime it is because I suddenly realise I don't need it, even if I want it; other times it is because I already have enough resources at home to create something that will work just as well. We've adopted the habit of creative recycling and using onsite materials wherever possible. In many instances this has meant changing my expectations, especially regarding comfort or longevity. I'm slowly learning not to hoard: learning how to let go, to share with others the increasing abundance I find in my life, and to let things decay, celebrate the cycles of nature, rather than work against them.
I find that if I don't make time each day to enjoy life I quickly lose the will to live simply and fall into my old consumer patterns of behaviour. Without spending time outside each day I soon forget how to live simply. My children have taught me the value of simply sitting and allowing my senses and thoughts to gently rest on a natural object or scene and daydream. When life becomes too hectic I walk upon the earth barefoot and hug a tree! That helps me attain the state of mindfulness I feel I need, and it's easy to remember to be thankful, to celebrate each and every moment, regardless of what they bring. This is a powerful way to keep my awareness on living simply.
Finally, I find it's important to do those things that I believe in and feel passionate about - this makes living meaningful and worthwhile. Making sure my actions while I am pursuing my interests promote bio-diversity and ecological balance requires constant vigilance.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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