Dreaming the £25,000 Permaculture Magazine Prize into Reality

Maddy Harland
Friday, 8th June 2018

Maddy Harland tells the story of how the Permaculture Magazine Prize, now £25,000, was born and describes the kind of projects from all over the world that can win.

I am dreaming ... I am dreaming that I am in a rainforest. I can feel the tropical warmth on my skin and hear the rich soundscape of the jungle. My sight is filled with wonderful, vibrant growth where every niche is inhabited, from the highest canopy of flowering trees in which hummingbirds flit and drink to the darker lush recesses of the jungle floor. My senses are enlivened by exotic flowering plants like crab claw and hibiscus, and climbing vines like vanilla and Chilean jasmine. I am alert in a visceral way as I walk a path knowing I am sharing it with snakes, scorpions and fire ants. I see the tracks of puma and tapir in the damp earth. I feel incredibly alive, transported out of the rainy dullness of our lackluster English spring, grateful for the warmth and intensity of this land. I am walking in a magical, liminal world. I become aware of a large butterfly the size of my head. Its downy wings are vivid blues, from night dark and purples to an almost translucent turquoise. The butterfly lands on the back of my head. I am acutely aware that it is an insect with insect body and insect limbs touching me, and I feel an instinctual revulsion, but I hold still, my mind knowing I am safe. The butterfly is bestowing a gift, the possibility of transformation and a deep understanding and sense of gratitude. I feel the possibility of deep healing, not only of me, but of all of my kind, and I am held for a moment in this landscape with this large awakening presence.

Reluctantly, I slide away from the rainforest into a subliminal world before waking. Into my mind enters an image of a dishevelled British bulldog yapping at the feet of a large bear. My memory takes me back into childhood sitting in the drab kitchen of the house where I grew up. The radio is on. A plummy BBC announcer reports that Soviet tanks have entered Prague. I feel a culturally induced dread of an ‘iron curtain’, akin in my childish mind to the claustrophobic imprisonment of an iron lung. The words flicker across my mind: “British scientists unable to prove Salisbury nerve agent came from Russia...” Do we ever learn?

Other images flicker across the screen of my pre-waking mind ... child poverty, disintegrating health care, derelict high streets, an assumption that wealth gained by tooth and claw is not only acceptable but expected. This is a detailed dystopian vision worthy of a novel, one that I never imagined I would experience in the course of my life. Genetically predisposed to optimism by a father who survived warfare, illness and hunger (but thankfully not captivity) in the jungles of Asia, I thought we had learned...

Permaculture Magazine £25,000 Prize

I enter the day and the waking world of the Permaculture Magazine Prize, a fund of £25,000, an entirely unexpected gift. It has been expanded by our collaboration with Abundant Earth Foundation who have added a Youth category. The whole story of the Prize is almost as strange as the arrival of a giant butterfly, bestowed on us to share and encourage permaculture design projects all around the world. This is the other side of duality, so different to that dystopian nightmare, a world of generosity and hard work where people do remarkable things quietly, often unacknowledged and usually without adequate resources.

I have in my mind images of derelict glass houses, community gardens and allotments coming back to life; of rich soils being restored to damaged land; of whole landscapes being consciously rehydrated by changing land management practices and tree planting; of innovative ideas being put to the test; of people being nurtured; of ecosystems being understood and valued; a body of knowledge, experience and proven techniques being freely shared. I see people coming together, learning new ways of co-operating, leaving behind the learned behaviours of survival at any cost, each a strand that weaves a more civilised and intelligent vision of a society that seeks to heal rather than destroy.

I am hearing the call, a steady drum beat across the world: “Tell us your stories. Tell us how you heal your land, yourself and your community. Tell us your permaculture secrets! Share your story and encourage others to benefit from your wisdom, your lessons. Help us in our small way readjust the destructive lens on which our world seems intent on focussing. Imagine that each story is a drop that can become an ocean of transformation.”

I know that you are out there. We have made it as simple as possible for you to tell your story. Please go to:
www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/permaculture-prize-2018 and bestow your gift of experience and good practice. Hurry! You have until the end of June to apply. We have gathered together a distinguished panel of judges with experience of permaculture from all over the world. We are all the ones we have been waiting for.

Maddy Harland is the editor of Permaculture Magazine International and the author of Fertile Edges: Regenerating Land, Culture & Hope