The mindset of sustainability – an emerging education for the collective

My outlook will be different now, there’s no turning back.

I’ve been doing work trade on a permaculture farm for almost a week … and I’m hooked. Perhaps it’s the delicious food I pull right out of the earth, or the abundance of wildlife outside my doorstep, or the fact that the matrix is currently nowhere near my reality. Where I’m at, has something very important to teach me.

Aprovecho, a sustainable learning center, sits on a modest 40 acres in the hills of west central Oregon, outside Cottage Grove. Here, people from all backgrounds come to learn a variety of sustainable practices such as aquaculture, proper water harvesting, practical building design, and even pedal powered technology – ever grind your own wheat with a bicycle?

Before I came, I had only once before experienced permaculture while traveling in Ethiopia. I was staying at a small hostel which had transformed dead earth into a thriving oasis by mimicking nature through sustainable land use design. I watched as the owners took awe-struck villagers through the property, showing them innovative yet simple practices that obviously worked.  It was an incredible experience to witness the children process this new information like thirsty sponges. The term sustainable education sprang to mind.

On the other side of the planet, outside Cottage Grove, OR, Aprovecho has been working as a permaculture education center for over ten years. Ironically, many people who read this article have probably never even heard of permaculture before. But soon, they will. The concept and philosophies of permaculture are catching on fast, and the movement, is becoming a revolution.

The foundation of permaculture relies on the observation of patterns and systems and an understanding that nothing is independent.


This is useful wisdom for an expanding planet. More and more people are beginning to understand that their everyday actions are having great impact on other people halfway across the planet. For those seeking true sustainability, daily micro-management becomes essential. The processes that make up our day must be done consciously if we are to create a healthy future for the individual and the collective, which these days are one and the same.

Sustainable is a tricky word to define, especially in today’s green-market driven economy. Linguistically appealing terms such as all natural or self-sufficient have all but stigmatized historically traditional methods of conservation and practical science. The push for low-impact practices like car-pooling and water conservation have been obvious for years, but today have become synonymous with emotionally charged advertisements for hybrid cars and the monopolization of utility companies. A new earth conscious mind-set from society has been needed for decades, but only recently has our government seen the economic opportunity  to implement/sell these eco-friendly technologies to the public.

Hippies on the other hand have been screaming sustainable practices and “community mentality” since the 1960’s yet have been demonized as out-of-touch, impractical, and idealistic misfits in a consumer driven society. This same consumer driven society has brought us to where we are today, completely out of touch with our natural environment. The majority of us no longer grown our own food or even understand how it gets to our dinner table. The complexity of natural systems and cycles evades the general public. This results in a poor understanding of the earth we were once a part of.

In Oregon, over 90% of old growth forest has been clear cut. This has resulted in a huge explosion of blackberry bushes which grow best in areas with disturbed soil – another reason they are seen so frequently in ditches and vacant lots in towns and cities in the Pacific Northwest. One of my main duties as a work trader at Aprovecho is blackberry maintenance. Long tedious days of clipping, pruning, and de-rooting yield piles upon piles of blackberry vines.

Today, blackberries are considered an invasive species, much like scotch broom, a large yellow-flowered bush that grows throughout the country next to roads and highways. Both plants are soil rejuvenators, providing much needed nitrogen into the damaged soil for re-growth. Yet because of their invasive nature, toxic chemicals are being used to eradicate them, furthering damage to the soil.

Blackberries are but one example of the many problems we face and the impractical solutions we have created for solving them.

Sustainability is a mind-set, an evolving practice that encompasses all aspects of one’s lifestyle. External observation is paramount to understanding what actions we must take and why we must take them.  It’s not simply buying locally, it’s understanding a neighbor’s needs and lending support when possible. Going green isn’t just recycling, it’s rethinking.

Solutions are rarely arrived at before the problem becomes too big. Suddenly, the problem is much too big.

A ballooning global population is no longer upon us, it is us. We now find ourselves looking squarely in the face of some pretty disturbing realities: diminishing food chains, the end of oil as we know it, global drought, and an ever-broadening of the social classes.  As  time and globalization march ever forward, no longer  can we elude responsibility. There are no islands to escape to, save mars.

Aprovecho is the first stop of many. For the next 6 months, my partner and I will be visiting multiple alternative education centers and sustainability  programs in the United States – the end product, a documentary about sustainable education.

As a former educator, I believe that holistic education, above all else, is the foundation for a sustainable society and planet. As we collectively move into a new understanding of humanity’s role on Gaia, we must be certain that our youth are not only understanding this change, but are also spearheading it. New insights in education are being made every day. Teachers are coming forward with innovative new ideas and for a healthy planet to grow, these ideas must be shared. Students must be encouraged to think outside the conventional, because our future will be anything but.

New Reality Consumption

It is no mystery that what we place in our body has a great and profound relationship with our external world.  Just like all living beings, our physical bodies require air, food, and water; it is the quality of these staples that determine our state of health and vitality, as well of course, as our mental state of well-being.

Over time, our thoughts and feelings become affected by the toxins that we indirectly and regularly consume. As our collective consciousness expands, we are beginning to understand that the planet’s state of well-being is in direct relationship with our own. Many of us are retreating back into nature to renew what is inherently ours: a profound connection between the macro and the micro/ a communication between Man and his Cells – a communion between Human and Gaia.

Yesterday was my final day of a week-long raw foods diet. This diet was culminated with a vision quest with the aid of San Pedro Cactus deep in the forests of Washington state. San Pedro grows predominantly in the Andes mountains of South America and just like its North American cousin peyote, it is rich with mescaline and other healing properties. It has been used by shaman for thousands of years. Recently, western doctors, under the guidance of shamanic discipline and technique, have used san pedro to remedy diseases ranging from arthritis to cancer.

On a mental level, san pedro helps us to formulate a more sophisticated perception of reality. Like many true hallucinogens (magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine) it guides the user into deeper states of consciousness. As one shaman describes: “San Pedro heals by fundamentally changing our perception of reality – our belief in what is real and possible for us – so we understand our true power and the healing abilities we have. “It shows us reality as it actually is, not how we think it is.”

“It changes what we think of as real so we see the power we humans have: we can manifest whatever we choose – if we believe we can.”

http://finalizations.com/san-pedro-the-miracle-healer.html

There is much taking place of which we are not aware.

Altered states of consciousness (taking san pedro, jumping out of an airplane, meditation, traveling) expand our filters of reality; altered states allow us to take in more information about the world at once. Most of us live under the law of expectation – we go into our day expecting to go to work, expecting to see people in the city, expecting things to happen as they’ve always happened.

Other people however are on their own “expectational adventures” and they use their own reality filters. Their reality is dependent on their beliefs about their own day-to-day life. All of our expectations come from a deeply imbedded idea of who we think we are and how we think we fit in with the rest of the world.

Collective expectations are what we are now currently agreed upon. We agree that our particular culture speaks this particular language, that money is of this value, and that gravity does what gravity is supposed to do. We expect certain things to exist. We expect certain things do not exist.

When we enter into an altered state of consciousness, we begin seeing more than we expect to see.

Multiple realities are happening all around us and they are all taking place at once. Every reality has its own certain truth and validity for the particular person who is experiencing it and believes it to be true. With that in mind, the collective reality isn’t necessarily true or necessarily good, but that still doesn’t not make it a reality for many people.

Becoming conscious is witnessing what we don’t expect to see. It is empowering one’s self to choose to be the creator rather than the created…not the garden but the gardener. Imagine your mind as a garden and imagine everything else as a potential seed that is constantly bombarding your mind. Everything you focus your attention on becomes planted in your garden and begins to grow. It is the gardener’s job to cultivate the seeds which enter his garden, it is his job to pull the weeds and that which does not serve him. We have the power to manage our gardens as diligently as we choose. The more carefully we process the external world, the more creative we can become with our filters. We can choose any reality we desire, but that desire must be made conscious, and then, it must be put into action.

I came away from this san pedro experience feeling fresh and revitalized. Synchronicities have already begun to stack up. The future looks hopeful.

I challenge the individual to maintain and cultivate how we choose to see the world. Place yourself out of your expectations, breath consciously and with intent. The more I do this, the more I find that certain things really start to stand out. Individuals make eye contact and a conversation leads to synchronicity. Reality expands on many levels…