Developing the physical infrastructure of our campus gets me up every morning. I don't need coffee nor an alarm clock; I'm just excited to keep building. Building the orchards and earthworks, furniture for my home, a better feeder for our chickens; these are the projects that rev my permaculture engine. They are concrete, you can see the results of your physical labor immediately, and they are often the first projects of burgeoning permaculture sites. It requires little effort to dedicate the time, space, resources and money to these projects. Yet their impact on the success of a project, despite all this dedication, pales in comparison to another type of infrastructure; the invisible infrastructure.
"Everyone is looking at my feet," I say to my dad.
"No they're not," he scoffs back. Sure enough, he glances sideways at a group of teenage girls eying my dirty toes clad in Chacos.
We are not in the jungle any more. It's December in New York City, I am traveling on the subway with a large backpack, and five layers of sweatshirts, never having worn more than one at a time in the tropics. Fresh off the airplane, here I am with my exposed feet and disheveled appearance-- "Is she homeless?" the girls snicker.
Workshops, one of many forms of education, are expensive to organize, risky to run, and an immense amount of work to pull off and host well. They can also be transformational and inspirational for the participants and provide them with an amazing educational experience. We have been offering life-changing courses and classes in a vast array of areas related to sustainability for over 15 years
My hands are grappling the rumbling, rusty wheelbarrow handles, and as we walk half a mile through the village, everyone can hear the five Rancho apprentices clunk on through. In a village of 120 people, your whereabouts are everybody's business. Don't worry, I want to say, this will all make sense soon. They'll be having a chuckle by the end of the day. For now, we are five warriors defending alternative energy. We are making the best use of our woman power (and Dan power) when the white pickup truck is out of commission. We are going to pick up poop.
Good food takes time. I've heard this phrase many times before, but after nine months at the Ranch, I've truly come to understand what it means to me. The local Costa Ricans are called the Ticos. The Ticos live by the mantra "Pura Vida", which directly translates to pure life. This is indefinitely how they choose to live. "Tico time" is another phrase I've heard and come to understand here. Ticos work at their own pace, never feeling the need to hurry or stress at time. They are the happiest people I've ever met. The western way of life has much to learn from this, no more so than in the world of food. I have three stories to tell that I think shed perfect light on this matter.
Modern, conventional education systems do not work for everyone. They cater well enough to many of today’s students but not to a significant portion of the population that might be better served by alternative pedagogical approaches. In most countries, at the age of 4 or 5, or even younger, kids are shuffled into busy classrooms to learn subjects that will reportedly prepare them for a successful future. As our economies become less predictable, politics less appealing, and the environment ever more damaged, current educational models are losing traction with increasing numbers of people who recognize that the one-size-fits all approach to education is not working for our society.