Robyn Francis reports from teaching a PDC in Shenzhen, China, October 2014

Robyn Francis and Hui-i Chiang teaching in Shenzhen

Robyn Francis and Hui-i Chiang teaching in Shenzhen

It’s a concrete jungle here in Shenzhen, development on steroids, endless high rise towers at all stages of construction and occupation. Freeways, the persistent hum and honking of traffic and a haze that shrinks the horizon to a few blocks are all pervading. I’m here teaching a PDC (Permaculture Design Course) with my permaculture friends and colleagues from Taiwan, Hui-i Chiang and Peter Morehead. This is the 6th PDC we’ve collaborated on, four in Taiwan and the second in China. Hui-i manages an environmental education NGO in Taiwan called Earth Passengers, and has translated my course materials into Mandarin. She’s also had Rosemary Morrow’s book “Earth Users Guide to Permaculture’ translated and is in the process of getting David Holmgren’s “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability’ translated.

This is the 5th PDC to be conducted in China in the last 2 years, with 45 participants from around China. The interest is growing in a wide range of sectors: professionals, farmers, NGOs and green developers. The sheer scale of the issues faced by China is quite overwhelming, yet there are a lot of people trying to make a difference. It’s heart-warming to hear their personal stories of what they’re doing, what they hope to do and their excitement about how permaculture is opening new ways to tackle the problems they face.

The course is being hosted by TaiHua, a development company working at the cutting edge of sustainable development in Shenzhen. The course venue is in a new development still under construction but the developer, Ronald, is frustrated by the limited vision of his design consulting firms and is looking for ways to bring more permaculture strategies into the landscape and ongoing management of waste and resources. The course design teams are developing permaculture ideas for edible landscapes, vertical and roof top gardens.

Following this course our host is convening a meeting of PDC graduates to create support networks and communication systems for permaculturists to share information and experience, develop strategies for the roll-out and growth of permaculture in China, and ways the integrity of permaculture can be protected against misuse. It’s early days for permaculture here, and there’s so much potential, need, and a strong sense of urgency.