The Path to Permaculture
Taken from a 2014 interview on resilience.org:
“Growing up as a teenager in Houston, Texas, my family, friends, and I would go camping a lot. My mom and I would go tubing down the Guadalupe River every 4th of July from the time that I was eleven through my college years, and my friends and I would go camping and rock climbing every holiday at Enchanted Rock State Park, Hueco Tanks State Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Big Bend National Park. When I graduated high school my mom sent me to the Wind River Wilderness Area in Wyoming to take a month-long course with the National Outdoor Leadership School. There came a point during all of this camping and climbing that I realized my love for nature translated into more than just wanting to recreate in it, I now wanted to make a difference during my life and do something to protect it.
So I chose to study Natural Resource Conservation at Texas A & M University and try to make a career out of managing natural resources. At that time I was pretty sure I would end up working in the public sector. When I graduated university in 1989 I signed up for the US Peace Corps and was assigned to work in agro-forestry in Guatemala. The first time I ever heard of permaculture was from a couple of co-workers when I was working for Clean Water Action in Austin, Texas, waiting to ship out to Guatemala. My co-workers suggested I attend a talk about permaculture given by Patricia Michael at the University of Texas during Earth Day. It was an interesting presentation but I wasn’t quite hooked yet.
Upon returning from the Peace Corps I was full of new hopes and dreams, but a bit less interested in working for governments after seeing how “the sausage was made” in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps put its volunteers into narrow disciplines – agro-forestry, aquaculture, appropriate technology, community health, wildlife conservation, etc.- and spread its volunteers out all over the country, rarely ever taking a holistic approach. I would have loved to stay in the village I worked in for many more years implementing more projects, but just as I was really getting established in Guatemala my time was up and I was headed home, full of dreams and ideas but also pretty broke and looking for some fast cash.
To make some quick money, many Peace Corps volunteers end up working as observers or low level marine biologists for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on crab fishing boats in the Bering Sea. I spent nine months over two winters working on crab fishing boats for about $150 per day. While out at sea during my first fishing season, I learned about the Earth Summit / Global Forum being held by the United Nations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and knew I had to go. When that first fishing season was over I was off to Brazil, and while on the road traveling from Washington state to Texas a friend in California gave me a few Pacifica Radio interviews of Bill Rolley, Nadir Khalili, and Bill Mollison. I listened to these interviews over and over while on the road, and after hearing Bill Mollison describe what he meant by permaculture and sustainable design, I was completely sold and now had a much clearer picture of what I wanted to do with my life.
I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in May of 1992 for the Global Forum. It was an amazing experience, but once again I was an outsider, speaking a second language, with a visa about to expire after living there for six months. It was time to go home, work within my community, and settle down closer to family where I could help take care of my father and grandmother who were ill.
Only a few months after getting back to Houston in 1993, a friend working with Treesearch Farms handed me a flyer announcing that Bill Mollison himself was coming to Texas to teach a permaculture design course at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas. I ended up living and working at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center for over three years, taking three design courses with Bill, an earthworks course, and an advanced teacher’s course. I’ve been teaching permaculture and implementing sustainable design ever since.”
Kirby founded Earth Repair Corps in 2015 as a means to expand his passion and mission further, casting a wider net in the promotion of permaculture design and implementation.
Join us for an upcoming permablitz, workshop or permaculture design course!