Executive Director’s Report — Contest awards, new projects and film
Peter Bane – Feb 24 and March 20, 2020

PINA is evaluating constraints and opportunities during this historic period of economic contraction and pandemic illness. Paradigms are shifting as the mystique, power, and inevitability of capitalism crumble more with each news bulletin. 

While we are deeply unsettled by the pace of change, and saddened for the loss of so many lives so quickly, we are glad that more people are waking from denial or paralysis to realize that the purpose of the economy, a word with its Greek roots in “the household,” is to meet real human needs, something the market is showing itself incapable of doing without strong government direction. 

Crisis makes this evident; it is no less true in calmer times. The failure to regulate markets, the adulation of business, the intolerable theft of wealth by elites all gained a foothold in society during much less dangerous years. They grew like cancer over decades, garnering legitimacy and powerful adherents within the political system.

It is not news to permaculture designers that systemic crisis has been brewing over the past four decades, with its roots even further back in the Industrial and Agricultural eras. Overshoot, deepening since 1989, and the globally interconnected trading economy, expanding rapidly since 1994, have together ensured that the consequences of system failure would be widespread and severe. The 2008 financial collapse was a harbinger of more intense shocks to follow. We are now hearing the second stanza of a bitter catechism. If we do not act quickly to correct past mistakes—and there is no sign that we have yet learned from our failures—the next blows may topple all semblance of social order. The Greeks, who gave us so much of our language and our ideals of the human world, called this disease hubris, and we in the rich western countries have a near terminal case.

The more pressures brought to bear on human societies by geologic and biophysical realities (fear, flood, drought, pandemic, storm, fire, migration, and sea-level rise), the more people will turn toward government and away from the distractions of the consumer marketplace. They are right to seek collective action; we are concerned that governments—as acting lately in Washington, London, and other capitals—may have little understanding of how to serve the regeneration of life.

PINA is resolved to mobilize information resources for the benefit of society and to make these available widely through media. The results of our recent contest are giving us a sense of what is possible.

Contest awards, new projects and films

PINA’s 2019 Design Contest in Community Development and Media concluded March 1 with the awarding of five prizes. 

Salina Duncan applying for the Garden of Hope team in Jocotenango, Guatemala, won the award in Community Development. Four finalists chosen from nine entries were presented to the PINA membership Feb. 1, representing communities in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota, on the Island of Maui, and in the Guatemala Highlands. We were pleased to see the range of creative endeavors on offer, and congratulate the prize winning team. More details can be found in the lead feature of this newsletter.

PINA has also awarded four prizes in Media to two film-makers. Salina Duncan, a diploma candidate in Community Development, has won the 2nd and 3rd prizes to make two films introducing permaculture in local languages where she works, Kaqcikel and Guatemala Sign Language. Delvin Solkinson, a Canadian designer now living in New York, has been awarded the 1st and 4th prizes to make a series of shorts on permaculture subjects based on film interviews of prominent teachers and designers. These will be released this year when completed. PINA is pleased to support the work of our members and to increase the outreach of permaculture to new populations.

As with our 2018 Contest, PINA is showcasing both the skills and the ethics of our members. What we offer here is but a small window into the vast world of permaculture action across North America. Bringing that world into clearer view, broadcasting its accomplishments, and amplifying its impact inform all our efforts.

North America Leadership Summit, broadcasts, and research

For some months now, in collaboration with our Rocky Mountain hub, the Colorado Permaculture Guild, PINA has been planning for a large gathering this summer to help animate and integrate the continental community. Though the pandemic concerns us, we are proceeding with our plans in the hope and expectation that summer will see a sharp decline in rates of infection, dangers to the public, and disruptions to the economy. We have fixed on August 20-23 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado to host the North American Leadership Summit (NALS), and are now sending out the first round of invitations.

We intend NALS to be the culmination of months of research and discussion into activist strategies for the coming decade—led by the best talent we can recruit, and also a kickoff for that campaign of action. We know that climate change threatens everything we hold dear. Pandemic has laid bare the interconnectedness of all humanity and the urgent need for system change. It has also created some of the conditions to enable that change. More work is now urgently required to shape public awareness of the possible. 

We know that permaculture design has tools to address short-term threats and mitigate long-term damage. Moreover, we know what it will take to achieve real climate stability, environmental justice, and prosperity that doesn’t cost the Earth. Our voices, however, are seldom at the table when decisions are made. The Summit is the first step in our response. We will lay the basis for a continent-wide design charrette—a Plan North America—if you will, to repair landscapes, heal communities, reform agriculture, and cool the climate. When cities, counties, state agencies, and yes, the new federal administration come looking for answers to make a Green New Deal work, we will be ready.

If you are called to support this work, we welcome your help. Invitations are going out to identified leaders, veterans, and allies, and through them to their most promising community members, students, and next-generation leaders. If you have not heard from us soon, and feel that you have gifts to bring to the Summit, please contact me by email: ed@pina.in. We are sure that more invitations will be sent. Places at Sunrise Ranch are limited to 200 because we could not organize a larger event so soon or in this otherwise excellent location, but we will create working groups in seven areas to begin meeting in April by video conference, with facilitation and staff support, to identify problems, resources, and pathways to action. 

The documents created by the working groups will inform the Summit, and allow its on-site participants to craft policies, designs, and action plans. Whether or not you can attend in person, you may be able to join a working group and shape the findings of the Summit. Contact NALSResearch@pina.in

The Summit will also be partly simulcast, recorded, and rebroadcast to satellite groups from coast to coast. If you can’t attend, you can organize a local watch party, permablitz, or work bee to put your own stamp of action on the proceedings. Write NALSNetwork@pina.in for templates and connections. And finally, but not least, you can support the Summit financially by contributing to our GoFundMe campaign. Proceeds will help bring delegates from regions with fewer financial resources, youth, indigenous leaders, and promising practitioners from disadvantaged communities to share their stories and wisdom.

Working groups will form around these core concepts:

  • Mutual Aid, Regional Hubs, and Economies of Resilience
  • Water Harvesting and Climate Cooling
  • A Permaculture Green New Deal
  • The Million Tree Challenge: a learning experiment for reforesting Earth
  • Regenerative Agriculture and Local Food Sovereignty
  • Mainstream Action, Funding, and Outreach to Institutions
  • Trauma Response and Deep Adaptation

Mark your calendars now if you hope to attend or collaborate. Let us hear from you with suggestions and proposals. Guide us toward promising funding. Contribute as you are able. This is the most important campaign of PINA’s young life.

Web resources gathering

Still in preparation, and coming soon, is the Professional Membership and accompanying Business Directory of Goods and Services. Keep an eye on our website, and on your email. You’ll get an invitation to join or upgrade your membership.

Administration to expand

Some of you have had occasion to interact with Melanie Mindlin, our Administrator of the past seven years. A backstop to everything, and chief fixer, Melanie is planning to shift from her primary responsibilities with PINA to a set of new outreach projects. She’ll continue reviewing diploma applications as well. Since January, we have been training Elizabeth Lynch, a permaculture teacher and market farmer living near Pittsburgh, to take over many of the administrative tasks Melanie has carried. You may not have heard directly from Elizabeth yet, but she is moving behind the scenes to make contest voting work, untangle financial statements, and take meeting notes, all essential tasks that keep PINA running smoothly. This transition will be ongoing through 2020, but should not impact the level of service you are accustomed to getting from us. Elizabeth will step into the limelight more, and some of our office functions will move to Pennsylvania. That means we’ll get a new phone number and a new mailing address. But that’s a few months away. Please wish Elizabeth well as we continue to load new tasks onto her plate.

We keep growing

Welcome to all our new members! Cool weather has seen an uptick in joining. We passed the 300 mark in the middle of last year, and hope to top 500 by the end of 2020. This would still be only 1% of the PDC graduates in North America, but it would be an important milestone for PINA’s growth. With more members, we have greater strength to achieve our common purposes. Please urge your colleagues to join.