International Permaculture Convergence 8—Brazil report

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...by Robyn Francis

The 8th International Permaculture Convergence in Brazil in May 2007was a resounding success, with permaculture practitioners and representatives from 42 countries attending to share their work and experience.

Following is a brief report.

The 3-day public IPC8 conference was symbolically held in the green heart of Sao Paulo, the world’s third largest city. The conference theme of Greening Economics brought together bankers, financiers and grassroots economists with the permaculture movement.

Presentation topics included ethical banking, the economic challenges of climate change, potential and pitfalls of carbon trading and taxing strategies, corporate social responsibility, local and complementary currencies and inspiring first-hand accounts of community responses to economic crisis from Argentina and Cuba. Highlights included Brock ‘s (USA) inspiring and thought provoking presentation on water and Paul Stamets relevations about the cutting edge of fungi research brought the entire 400-strong audience to its feet with a standing ovation.

Roberto Perez presentation on the Cuba experience balanced humour and probing insights into the potential for community response to crisis and the ongoing challenges facing Cuba.

Delegates from Australia, Argentina, NZ & Cuba at the Convergence

In acknowledgement of the multilingual nature of conference participants and presenters, all delegates were issued with headphones for simultaneous translation of proceedings into English, Spanish and Portugese.

The venue included a permaculture tradefair of mainly Latin American permaculture groups, institutes and projects, beautiful bamboo installations functioned as spacial screens and display boards for international delegates to present visual poster displays.

The sheer number of young Brazilians attending the conference was in itself inspiring, as was their concern and enthusiasm to embrace permaculture strategies for sustainability. It was an exceptional honour for me to be invited to give a keynote presentation on the opening day of the conference on Permaculture Solutions and provide a local to global perspective on the range of activities permaculture is involved in.

It was also privileged to close the conference with a premier performance of Supplication to Gaia from my new music CD. The entire conference was professionally filmed and edited footage will be available soon for those who could not attend to tap into the sheer wealth of information and inspiration shared during the event. From Sau Paulo we made our way north to Pirenoupolis, near the capital of Brasilia for the 4-day Permaculture Designers Convergence hosted by IPEC.

The convergence is the professional in-house event of our national conferencing and here we enjoyed a balance of plenary sessions, presentations on permaculture project work and discussions exploring permaculture responses and strategies for a changing world.

The IPEC site was in itself an inspiring example of permaculture in practice with extensive gardens, educational displays and innovative examples of alternative architecture and natural buildings infused with creativity and every structure a work of art in its own right. A large brick dome auditorium for the plenaries amply seated the 150-plus delegates, and workshop stations included 2 large temporary geodesic domes erected for the occasion.

It was quite a dilemma trying to choose between 4 stations of concurrent workshop presentations. Some of the most powerful presenters were of the amazing dedication and work of permaculturists in places such as Uganda, central India, Nepal and the struggles of rebuilding war-torn Cambodia. Central and South American projects were well represented and the three Cuban delegates gave an inspiring presentation on urban food production and update on organic farming and environmental issues facing Cuba.

The Cubans expressed sincere thanks to the support of Australian permaculture trainers who brought permaculture concepts to Cuba in the early 1990’s and have requested support for advanced training and workshops with urban planners on integrated urban design for Havana and other Cuban population centres. Australian delegates included Rosemary Morrow (Blue Mountains), Faith (Sydney), Stewart Wilson (Tasmania), Bood (Far Nth Qld), David Holmgren and Sue (Victoria) and myself. The plenary session on education commenced with an overview of the Accredited Permaculture Training™ in Australia, which generated keen interest from educators in other countries regarding this form of vocational education and training.

A short article cannot do justice to the wealth of information and experience shared during this exceptional and truly international event. The number of young permaculturists present represented a major generational shift in the movement and encouragement for the future of permaculture as an effective means of instigating effective change and responses to a planet in crisis through mobilising communities and developing partnerships with government and non-government organizations around the world. The next IPC will be held in South Africa and Malawi in April 2009.


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