Sowing the Seeds of Sustainability

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Students in Backyard Abundance classes work together on a project. Photo: Courtesy of Backyard Abundance

Economics. Environment. Equity. Though the word “sustainability” means various things to different people, it can be pared down to just these three words. True sustainability must take into account all three concepts. The reason most of humanity does not understand this is because we cannot grasp how all three can work at the same time.

Students in the Seeds of Sustainability class consider the factors involved in achieving a sustainable future. Photo: Courtesy Backyard Abundance

Humanity is good at the economic portion. Capitalism focuses on economics and often neglects environmental and social issues; in many cases, economic success comes at the expense of the environment and social equity. Even capitalism does not always work: When our banks fail and need federal bailouts, we end up in a recession. Our economy is based upon the consumption of dwindling and non-renewed natural resources — how long can this last?

Environmentalism generally is concerned about the natural world and often touches on social equity. Environmentalists understand the need to be economically viable but struggle to compete in a capitalist society, where natural resources are seen only as goods to be bought and sold.

Social equity calls for the fair treatment and valuation of all people. In the US, where all are “created equal,” not all are treated as such based on any number of factors: race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status. The result is a growing number of disenfranchised members of society who see the world differently from the status quo and are looking for alternative ways to live.

Nature Provides the Answer

Using various criteria provided on cards, class members do an exercise in permaculture. Photo: Courtesy Backyard Abundance

Individually, these issues are daunting; braiding the three together and trying to solve the issue of true sustainability seems an impossible task. We do not have a successful working model or even a decent example… or do we?

Locally and across the country, people are whispering the potential answer around dinner tables, in garden patches, at meetings in local libraries, and in homes. As more people discuss the potential answer, voices are getting louder and more insistent that there is an answer. The answer is, in one word, nature.

Healthy ecosystems are based on interdependence and mutually beneficial connections. By following the time-tested principles and patterns rooted in nature, we can heal landscapes, communities, the planet, and humanity. Now is the time to learn new ways to improve local environmental, social, and economic health.

Backyard Abundance Offers Classes

Members of a Backyard Abundance class design a community area for sustainability. Photo: Courtesy Backyard Abundance

Backyard Abundance is one of many environmental groups in Iowa that is contributing to the solution. The group, which began in 2006 with a series of “abundant yard tours,” understands the importance of nature as a model for individuals, communities, and the planet.

To help others learn this inspirational model, Backyard Abundance is offering a series of fun and experiential two-day classes entitled “Create Abundant Landscapes.” Dave Jacke, a renowned ecological designer, author, and presenter, kicked off the series by leading a mid-March presentation and class entitled “Principles and Practices of Regenerative Design.” Mr. Jacke encouraged participants to re-frame our problems, looking at them through the lens of ecology to discover hope, empowerment, and innate skills.

If this sounds intriguing, you are not alone. The class and presentation drew more than 200 people. If you were unable to attend, you have another chance in June.

Envision a Sustainable Community

The “Seeds of Sustainability” class will provide a solid base of a holistic, ecological worldview, while simultaneously offering practical solutions that demonstrate how to create a sustainable, abundant community. Ecological principles form the foundation of this way of seeing, and offer concrete directions for finding solutions to multiple problems with maximum effect for least effort. These principles apply at all scales, from garden beds, to neighborhoods, to cities, to whole regions, and in every realm of human endeavor.

Designing a permaculture community takes input from all the members of the group. Photo: Courtesy Backyard Abundance

By the end of the class, you will be able to envision a sustainable and thriving community, apply nature’s ethics and principles to a wide range of issues, and understand your role in nature and in your community. In addition, you will connect with a group of like-minded people looking to forge ahead on the same road.

The class forms the foundation for other classes in the “Create Abundant Landscape” series. Upon completion of all classes in the series, you will earn a Permaculture Design Certificate. This internationally recognized certificate indicates that you have learned the skills needed to create vibrant, resilient landscapes and communities that model healthy ecosystems.

“Seeds of Sustainability” will be held in Iowa City at Willowwind School on June 12-13 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pre-registration is required, and the class is limited to 30 participants. The cost of the class is $125 per person; group discounts are available. For more information about the class or to register, visit, email or call 319-325-6810.

Jen Jordan, Iowa City Recycling Coordinator

Backyard Abundance

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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