In this article, I'm focussing on the Permablitz, which I'm losing sleep over because I can't stop thinking about it!
So here's how they work in a nutshell: Community members come together to install a project designed through permaculture principles in a single day. The word "Blitz" is German for "lightning" - a brief but intense transfer of energy, so a Permablitz is essentially a lightning strike of positive and constructive energy!
The longer version: There are hosts, and there are participants. Hosts typically are those with some kind of stable land access (so not exclusively land ownership) in which to install a garden, food forest, so some other project that functions in a permaculture way. The host is the one who "receives" the project and the work of the day, which in a typical urban setting, is like receiving $10,000 to $15,000 of labour. In order to be eligible to receive a Permablitz crew, the host must participate and volunteer in at least 3 other Permablitz projects. The philosophy is that of provide help, and then be helped. The host is also responsible for the general well-being of the group, including ensuring a hospitable environment, provide lunch, snacks and refreshments.
Participants can be anyone! At Permablitz's there have always been a diversity of people, but the common thing between them has always been an interest in learning new skills and seeing how a permaculture landscape works and is installed. At a permablitz, there is usually a permaculture designer there, who helps facilitate the event, and provides instruction about the principles and concepts of permaculture as they relate to the site. After a participant has volunteered their time on no less than three permabliz projects, then they are eligible to host a permablitz of their own!
The design that is installed has to be a permaculture design. Either the host has taken a permaculture course his or herself, or the host must have a permaculture designer help produce the design. The reason for this is because permaculture embraces certain principles and ethics that will ensure that the design enhances community, ecology, and will be a permanent system that will ultimately produce more resources and energy in its lifetime than that is needed to maintain it.
The Permablitz concept got started in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia when Dan Palmer, a newly graduated student in permaculture, was itching to get started in permaculture design somewhere. He lived near Codemo, an active South American community group who invited Palmer over for a drink. There, many ideas were exchanged about the permaculture concept, and this really neat idea of doing a backyard or frontyard makeovers into organic food producing gardens where people on the block come together to pick new skills and meet new friends. The first Permablitz then took place at one of Codemo's members houses.
Today, the Permablitz network is really strong with about 80 Blitz's happening every year in Melbourne. This year, it started in Calgary, under the Calgary Permaculture Community Guild, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to furthering permaculture, community building, and resilient community design in Calgary and beyond (www.permaculturecalgary.org). This winter, the Guild will officially be launching the Calgary Permablitz Network. I will be writing a separate article about it when it launches.
Here's one of the things I cannot get to sleep over because I'm so excited: On Saturday November 6, Calgary's last Permablitz of the year was in full swing. Julia Jungwirth, a past student on mine, excitedly initiated her own permablitz after coming up with her own design herself, using the practical design skills she picked up in the Introduction to Permaculture course she attended earlier in June. This was so important for me as a teacher, because I felt I was able to help inspire someone enough to take on earth repair by the horns. Julia not only designed her garden herself (I looked over the design and basically suggested almost zero changes, the design was excellent), but she also took complete charge of the organization of her permablitz! In other words, after only 12 hours of permaculture instruction in an introductory course, a permaculture system got designed and installed independently, which will likely store about 60,000 litres of rainwater into the landscape for passive irrigation, will produce 30% to 40% of Julia's food needs, and will cause the whole block to get to know each other over the next couple of years, likely leading to more permablitzes. So, as I see it, this is the best expression of positive change I can possibly think of, and as a result, I will be concentrating a large portion of my time into strengthening the Calgary Permablitz Network.
To close, here are some pictures of Julia's permablitz provided by Rosanne Visser: