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After a short break to wrap up graduate school, today’s interview is with Steve Whitman, a permaculture designer and planner from New Hampshire. In addition to all of his work on various planning boards he also runs Resilience Planning & Design, LLC.
During our conversation today Steve and I talk about engaging in government and community planning in order to inject more permaculture into the process. This is the beginning of an examination of how to make permaculture a part of the mainstream discussion by including holistic design into city and community development. To change the laws, codes, and ordinances in ways that allow us to have a more active role in what happens where we live. As the population continues to grow and more people live in towns and cities we can bring permaculture to the forefront and get involvement at all levels.
Government and planning are some really big picture issues and I know that they can be intimidating, but speaking with Steve we kept things very straight forward. There’s plenty of discussion about how planning works, the various ways we can become part of the decision making, and how to bring about change, but this isn’t a technical conversation. It’s not full of jargon, but, honestly, is probably the most approachable conversation we could have on this complicated subject. I enjoyed talking to Steve and between the two of us we broke this down into something you can get started using today just by making a couple of phone calls.
Find out more about Steve and his work at resilienceplanning.net. His door is open if you want to get in touch with him to talk about planning and getting involved in the process so that you can begin having a direct effect on the policies that impact your life, so feel free to reach out to him through his website.
If there is anything I can do to help you on your path, let me know.
Of write if you would prefer:
The Permaculture Podcast
P.O. Box 16
Dauphin, PA 17018
If you want to get started in changing policies there are a few steps I recommend from my own work in doing this. Throughout this next section I’m going to refer to the government body for a specific region as a municipality. In saying that it is a placeholder for anything from a town, to a city, county, state, province, or even national government.
First, contact the municipality you want to work with and ask where you can find copies of the local ordinances. More and more, as part of open records and documentation projects, these are available online, or you may need to request a hard copy. Those are usually at a reasonable price. I think I paid $20 for the most up-to-date version from my township, a fair price given the large page count of this book. It’s comparable to Mollison’s Designers’ Manual in page count.
Once you’ve got this, begin reading through it and get an understanding for what is on record. Check the dates of when certain things were put on the books, that might give you some insight into, as Steve suggested, how and where things changed in your area. Yes the language can seem rather specific and shrouded in legalese sometimes, depending on how things are written, but I’ve yet to find something that is completely incomprehensible, but if you do have questions feel free to call and ask for assistance in understanding what something means. It’s a great way to get to know a code enforcement officer on a first name basis.
Next up foster a relationship with the administrative assistant for the municipality, if there is one. I’ve repeatedly found that people in this position are the gatekeepers to power. Having a good relationship with them can get your passed directly to various officers, or provide insight into where to go next.
Finally, start attending board and planning meetings. Use the principle of observation to understand what is happening. Look for places where you can add your voice to the discussion and ask pointed questions. Listen to the responses and consider your suggestions. Weigh in on areas you have expertise and push the edge towards more holistic design.
One of my friends is often asked, “How did you get that done?” Their response?
“I showed up.”
Being present makes all the difference in the world.
From here, an update on me and where things are to wrap things up.
As of the release of this show I will graduate from grad school with my Master of Science in Park and Resource Management. If all my numbers are right, I will complete this two and a half year process with a 4.0 overall. It’s been a long hard road, particularly while raising a family and continuing to produce the show, but the results are worth it. I’ve learned a plenty that can be applied to the podcast in particular and permaculture education in general. There is lots and lots to do, and my next step is to continue my education and pursue a doctoral program. I’m still researching where to go and what exactly to study, but now is the time if I’m ever going to breath life into The Plan and see it spring forth into the world.
Doing so brings me to another crossroads, though not quite like the one last year. I know I’m on the right road for myself, but I am in a place where I need to find a place to live and take care of my children and, as much as I want it to, the podcast as a sole pursuit isn’t enough at the moment to do so. The show is financially self sufficient at this point and pays for itself, but I am looking for a full time job to keep myself going while I keep this show and everything else in the air. The website, the podcast, all of that is going to stay on the air, but there will be changes coming in the future, I just don’t know what yet. Once things start to settle out, I’ll let you know more as I do.
Beyond that there are other fun things coming up. June 4 I’m scheduled to record a round table discussion with Charles Eisenstein, Dave Jacke, and Ben Weiss which will come out a few weeks later as a two part (or more) episode. There is also another round table recording scheduled for September, and another road trip to Virginia is in the works to do a one year follow-up with the guests from that event and to add some new interviews to that journey. Plus, in August, I get to go to Canada and be the best man at a dear friend’s wedding. I won’t be recording anything there, but it will be some good fun.
Whatever the future holds, wherever my path leads, I will remain here as a resource for you however I am able. You are not alone on your permaculture journey so contact me, however you would like, if I can help you.
Until the next time, take care of earth, yourself, and each other.
Resilience Planning and Design, LLC.