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Looby Macnamara on the use of permaculture principles for social and cultural emergence


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Over the last decade I’ve begun to see a subcategory of permaculture learning start to gain attention. As more and more people encounter the principles of this ecological design framework and experiment with different ways of applying it in their lives there’s been an emergence of social permaculture to integrate the patterns of nature to tackle inner challenges. 

The wonderful book Human Permaculture: Life Design for Resilient Living by Bernard Alonso and Cécile Guiochon was my first introduction into this realm and since then I’ve wanted to bring an insight into some of the ways that the concepts of Permaculture, which were so influential in my learning almost a decade ago, could be used outside the garden.

So on a kind recommendation from David Holmgren, I reached out to Looby Macnamara, a pioneer of personal and social permaculture in the UK.

Looby is an author, facilitator, designer, gardener, and mother who has written 4 books; Cultural Emergence, People & Permaculture, 7 Ways to Think Differently and Strands of Infinity.

She first came across permaculture in 1999, and was deeply inspired by the collaborative learning environment and the focus on emerging solutions through collective wisdom.

Since then she’s been deeply immersed in the permaculture movement, and has been a trustee and chair of the Permaculture Association and senior diploma tutor. Looby has been teaching since 2002 and has run many courses including a dozen teacher trainings.

In 2016 she set up the Applewood Permaculture Centre with her family, where they run courses and grow food.
In this interview, Looby walks me through her journey of learning and development of permaculture principles in the social space and how it can be applied to community dynamics and the concept of cultural emergence. We also explore how we learn from the patterns of the natural world to inform healthy personal development and much more.

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