Forest Gardening: Creating Microclimates for Peace
by Shantree Kacera, D.N., Ph.D.
“Gardens will be the peaceful haven we all need.”
“Gardens are not created or made, they unfold, spiraling open like the silk petals of an evening primrose flower to reveal the ground plot of the mind and heart of the gardener and the good earth.”
Imagine living in a world where is no war, no crime, no pollution, no animal cruelty, no hunger. Imagine a culture where people share talents, land, and live with passion toward the benefit and goodness of all. Imagine that everyone you know has livelihood they love, a home and lush organic forest garden that they are delighted with, a community they cherish, and bodies that are resilient, vibrant, healthy, and filled with energy.
Is this vision of worldwide peace and splendor a far out make-‐believe fantasy? How can we create a wholesome, nourishing, regenerative life for ourselves and for our present day culture? Is it achievable? It has been said if you dream it you can make it so.
A Forest Garden: Dream It, Then Do It
There are millions of individuals who want to make their dreams come true – they want to change the world, change their lives, change how we interact with nature and change the future for their children. The majority of us have occupations doing things we would not be doing, if it were not for the money. There are a few individuals who are blessed enough to make a livelihood at what we truly love, but are still deficient in time, energy, and/or resources to design the ideal world/ecosphere we would prefer to engage in. Myriad others lack either jobs or resources, and struggle with daily just to continue and survive in impoverished, corrupt, and/or abusive situations. Hopelessness is a feeling we can all relate to, and disempowerment is the arena we live in.
Another Path Towards a Regenerative Future
However, even in these worst of times, I believe that peace is achievable, not just for humans but all life that wildlife, and I believe it is inherently connected with individual choices, environmental stewardship, and intentional, proactive change. Ultimately the big question we need to ask ourselves is, “how can we live, together, on this planet, indefinitely?” It has been said that the knowledge of how to thrive sustainably can be free and accessible to anybody who would put his or her hands into the earth. This means that each and every one of us has inside us the natural instincts to flourish as a species, within the life-‐web on earth. However, in this modern age of fast paced electronic consumerism and dominant global violence, many people have lost touch with their natural instincts. Fortunately, there is an alternative path: Forest Gardening.
Forest Gardening -‐ What is it?
It’s a garden that is deliberately planted to mimic a natural forest ecosystem, except that the species chosen are mainly edible rather than (or as well as) decorative. Some will be chosen for other reasons though – for example firewood, nitrogen fixing or medicines.
“Imagine a garden that needs no weeding, watering, digging or feeding and can be left to look after itself for weeks, even months, on end.”
~excerpt from Jill Tunstall’s article the Garden of the Future? ~The Guardian, 2007
What is Peace?
Before we go deeper into how forest garden provides an action plan for peace, we should define peace itself. The word, peace, originates from the Latin root, pacisi, which means, “to agree.” Webster’s Dictionary defines peace as follows:
1: A state of tranquility or quiet: as a) freedom from civil disturbance, b) a state of security or order within a community, provided for by law or custom.
2: Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.
The ultimate goal of forest gardening is not only the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of new ways of seeing, thinking, and acting in the world. How do we design forest gardens, and how does this affect who we think we are?
“Those who are concerned with the full implications of the ecological crisis which we now face generally agree that urgent steps should be taken to plant many millions of trees. There is no reason why many of the desperately needed new trees should not be fruit trees planted in peoples gardens and public green spaces comprising of fruit and nut trees, fruiting bushes and climbers as well as herbs and perennial vegetables.”
3: Harmony in personal relations
4: a) a state or period of mutual concord between nations b) a pact or agreement to end hostility between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity.
5: Used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm, or as a greeting or farewell.
Extended Definition: Peace
The dictionary definitions say little about the deep personal transformation that peace requires. If we want to live in a peaceful culture, we must be peaceful people. We must create lives and communities that embrace this peaceful ethic with all living beings. In order to do this, we must be able to meet our own needs without exploiting others and animal life.
Environmental Resources & Peace
The majority of disagreements are the outcome of a supposed need for additional resources; most violence is the result of an individual’s personal despair over their own situation. Beyond meeting basic needs such as food, shelter and health care, what are the other essentials of peace? What do we, as individuals need to live peacefully, and how does the world need to change in order to embrace a global policy of impervious peace? Because we lack tangible examples, we need to create a vision of peace from our own aspirations and intuition. Let’s go back to the make-‐ believe fantasy. Security, purity, relaxation, trust, health, sharing, abundance, and creativity: these are some of the essentials of a peaceful world/biosphere. Since the prevalent essentials in our existing society are just the opposite of the above, (danger, pollution, stress, corruption, illness, insufficiency, and oppression), it is quite clear that we require to summon major changes, if we are to attain peace.
The extensive environmental destruction produced by over consumptive, initiated by international trade practices significantly adds to the deterioration of our possibilities for a peaceful future. Repeatedly there is a huge estrangement of thinking between political peace studies and ecological concerns, but they are unquestionably connected: We need to conserve and regenerate the ecological biosphere where we live if we are to survive. We need to go local – live in our bioregion. Deepen our roots to place.
Forest gardening best described as a design system for sustainable living, but it is far beyond that. Forest gardening is a personal transformation that results in the creation of safe, beautiful, non-‐polluting living systems that concurrently provide for our needs and regenerate the ecological resources from which we take to survive. This transformation has exponential effects on the land, the wildlife and the people, and has the prospective to lead to a worldwide culture of conscious, sensible, peaceful communities.
Forest Gardening Emerges from a Code of Ethics
First ethic is, Care for the Earth, because the Earth supports our lives. Second, Care for the People, because we are people, and because the people are the key cause of destruction to the Earth. Third, Care for the Future, to reinvest all resources regarding the first two ethics, because surplus means pollution and recycling means survival. This third ethic I believe also needs to hold the value of Care of the Animals/All Life. The overextending ethical choice is to take responsibility for ourselves and for future generations. If you inspect your most precious personal ethics, you may find that they can effortlessly fit into those mentioned above. If your present ethical position does not embrace these ideals, then forest gardening asks you to change. Personal change is a disturbing thing to most individuals, but if we want to transform the world, we have to transform ourselves. Forest gardening is not about being picture-‐perfect; it is about striving for balance. It is easy to get disheartened and become dispirited, but if we are to decrease our impact, increase our well-‐being and reverse our ecological situation, then we need create some fundamental modifications in how we existent. We may not have to change everything, nonetheless if we change nothing, well, nothing changes!
The purpose of these ethical choices is made easier by the forest gardening looking at how to integrate the five elements into our microclimate, to ensure the intentionality and ecological integrity of a system. Based on scientific research, trial and error, and natural law, these five elements have been creating vitality and abundance from the beginning of life on this planet. The intent of this article is to provide a brief interpretation of each element. As you ponder them, try to envision how each can be applied toward the improvement of a more peaceful, truly regenerative culture.
Why Forest Garden?
Forest gardens are the core of human life, sustaining and nourishing us with organic, healthy fruits, berries, nuts and vegetables and protecting the diversity of all wildlife. I believe humans are happiest and healthiest when gardening is part of our lives. A garden is a place to cultivate stillness.
Creating a Microclimate
A microclimate is any climatic condition in a relatively small area, specific place within an area as contrasted with the climate of the entire area. You feel the temperature, climate and the elements being gentler. In a northern temperate climate we are usually creating microclimate that is warmer and is sheltered by the harshness of the elements. This is the place where plants and wildlife can grow and thrive better. This is where you feel protected, held and nourished. Creating a safe and nourishing microclimate is a way of achieving a space that holds tranquility. The elements are nourishing and kinder.
What are Your Microclimates?
Do you have a microclimate of peace in your life? Do you have places where seeing, hearing and feeling that sense of peace and tranquility is just so much easier than other places? There is a Celtic tradition that refers to these microclimates as “thin places”. I believe the Celts specifically were referring to locations, like a certain natural healthy ecosystem, this may near a flowing stream or a grove of trees. These locations can also be created in your own backyard to support life.
We have quite a few locations where I seem to just walk into tranquility and a sense of peacefulness presence. My outdoor ‘sit spots’, which I also call my ‘tree time’ a place that can serve as my very own sanctuary, where I can go and get recharged and re-‐inspired. A climate though is a set of conditions that come together. A microclimate of peace may be rooted in a place. Some people find themselves close to source when they garden, or when they are in a creative state. What are your microclimates of peace?
I believe we can create and manage and even control our “microclimates” more when we go out into our forest garden and have an amazing feeling of peace, tranquility and fulfillment.
~Shantree Kacera, Forest Gardener
Meet Shantree Kacera, R.H., D.N., Ph.D.
Shantree is a Nutritionist, Therapeutic, and Visionary Herbalist, Permaculture Teacher, Regenerative Designer, Deep Ecologist and Forest Garden Educator with 35 years experience in the Natural Healing Arts. He is the founder and co-director of The Living Centre (1983), and Living Arts Institute.
Shantree received his doctorate in Nutritional Medicine and Herbalism in the 70′s. Since then his passion and study has
lead him to explore the benefits of a high-energy bioregional approach to organic nutrition. He has had the honor to teach, counsel and empower thousands of individuals on their health and educational journey.
A past Vice-President of the Ontario Herbalists’ Association, Shantree served on the OHA board for 10 years and a member for over 25 years.
Shantree’s deep connection to the Earth has drawn him into the teachings of shamanic and earth wisdom practices as well as Carolinian Canada native plant preservation and studies. He is a passionate edible forest gardener, permaculture teacher and well known for his unique circular medicinal-wheel garden.
Shantree is the author of numerous books and courses, which are offered through The Living Centre and are used through various schools and institutes in North America. Shantree is an internationally celebrated visionary, author, educator, nutritional researcher and world peace worker.
Tags: forest gardening, Permaculture, Shantree Kacera, The Living Centre
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