The full interview with Dutch trade journal “Tuin & Landschap” (Garden & Landscape)
Published September 2018
“The Green Guest,” an interview in response to a course I hosted this November together with The Plant by Daniel Halsey in the Netherlands.
The Green Guest
- Where was this picture taken?
It was made in the Renkum’s Beekdal, a stone’s throw from my house. A blessing of a place where you can see the seasons pass by and find peace and space. It always inspires, because a large part has been around for a long time and another part just about four years — a former industrial area, that has been given back to nature. It instills optimism to observe here and learn how nature recovers.
Mūla – Ecosystems by Design
- What kind of projects do you work on with your agency Mūla – Ecosystems by Design?
I only decided three years ago to venture down the regenerative path from a very different direction and to make it my work. And Mūla – Ecosystems by Design was officially launched in March of this year. For most of my life, I worked as an interior designer, specialized in large-scale project management, with a special emphasis on historic building materials and renovation. During that time I developed a keen eye for detail and an ability to think big. I also spent part of my childhood on my father’s farm, which explains my passion for both nature and good food – and my detour to the launch of a jazzy French brasserie in the center of Amsterdam. My combined interests in aesthetics, form, and health, coupled with my concern about our natural environment led me to the interest in permaculture.
The Ecosystem Restoration Camps
I am still standing with one foot in the school benches and with the other cautiously in more and more projects. I am currently qualified to assess and implement the so-called small system designs. There are too many to mention but think of applications for improving your water management, soil, biodiversity, and food production. Embed the energies and work circularly. I have since advised various house and landowners. I was honored to assist Giuseppe Tallarico and Rhamis Kent with the restoration process of the Ecosystem restoration Camps, founded by John D. Liu and based in Murcia, Spain. And am still a proud ambassador to this day. I have been working on an ongoing project in Sweden for two seasons. An off-grid farm that wants to become self-sufficient.
My Grand Project
My grand project to date, however, was in Australia last April. For a client, a large Ranch in the middle of the outback, I was asked to provide a fairly extensive design for the grounds around the house, including food forests, soil works, and integrated animal systems. Wonderful experience and the design is now being carried out.
- The course you’ve organized this fall will lead to a permaculture/ecosystem designer. What do you do as a permaculture/ecosystem designer?
A beloved child has many names, also within the world of regenerative practices. There are various education levels with the well-known PDCs — permaculture Design certificates. I have followed and completed three different ones, including practical experience, but then the real learning starts — the deepening to designer concerns not only the understanding of applications of hydrology, distribution systems, earthworks, polycultures, plant systems, weather extremes, climate, soil improvement, and more. But above all, it requires the insight to be able to extract and analyze various types of information on a large scale for the relevant location. And then, of course, to process that analysis professionally in the entire design and present it to the client in such a way that you can include it in the permaculture principles that underlie it. For me the highest achievable.
- Are you also a permaculture designer?
I advise and design regenerative processes within the philosophy of permaculture. But a designer like Daniel Halsey is, no, I’m nowhere near that level, yet. That is why I not only organized it together with Marieke Karssen from The Plant but also attended the course. My project in Australia, taught me more than ever how much there is to learn. Particularly when the customer in question asked me for a design proposal for her other 6000 hectares of indigenous forest, and I looked at that infinite surface with clammy hands and nodding knees. Large-scale Ecosystem recovery is of a different level and the skills with which you can make small system designs are often not sufficient or feasible for the larger systems. Hence my great desire to look for this deepening with Daniel’s course.
- Who is Daniel Halsey and why is the course given by him?
There are only a few people in the world of permaculture and ecosystem restoration, who have not only achieved name and fame but also actually carry out full-time large-scale ecosystem restoration projects on a wide scale. Daniel is one of them. There seem to be no limits on the surfaces of his projects. Sometimes they are entire provinces. But he has developed a knowledge and a methodology that blurs these boundaries and makes the impossible possible — the highest achievable when you want to make your passion your career in this field. We are very proud that he wanted to come to the Netherlands. At Southwoodscenter you can admire many of his projects.
- What did you learn as a participant during the course?
The course not only covered detailed knowledge with which you can make designs but combines the process in which you develop design insight and learn to translate solutions with the drawing skills needed to plan and communicate those ideas. It is a skills-oriented course where on one hand pencil and paper exercises are used for mapping and planning. And on the other hand, a module that emphasizes the practice and further development of skills towards making beautiful professional maps with the help of Adobe Illustrator. Every student learned to go through a professional design process and develop his or her presentation style. Also, all participants got online access to all documents and design elements during and after the course.
United Designers Database
The coveted United Designers database and one-year free access to the Natural Capital ™ -Plant database, full of information about plants and a whole range of design tools. Participants who followed both modules can become members of the United Designers, a community of designers working on ecological restoration projects all over the planet. We learned how to apply a well-developed step-by-step plan, with which you can tackle any design project, and that system works according to Daniel for every design and every designer. And of course, we received a certification accredited by the Permaculture Research Institute.
- Why is it important that more people learn to design in this way?
This should not be a question. Ecosystems have been seriously damaged worldwide. Also here in the Netherlands. The problem is almost incomprehensible, and climate and food safety are seriously at risk. Time is running out to let the work, knowledge, and skills of people like Daniel Halsey land as quickly as possible with as many new designers as possible. We need good ecological design and design expertise to be able to change things on this planet. This only works when as many people as possible can make this type of design. To be able to communicate to decision-makers and continue to work together and share knowledge and work according to a common vision, language, and process. Only then can scale arise.
I agree, Daniel Halsey is the missing link between learning permaculture principles through the PDC Course and becoming an effective designer capable of taking on projects of any scale. I am looking forward to finding the right opportunity to study with Halsey. I’ve taken two PDC Courses with Geoff Lawton & I still feel the need to get this skill set of design & presentation from Halsey.