Thursday, 27 December 2007

Permaculture in Trinidad

I blog to make myself see the world differently.

To look for the beauty in the detail and to turn my face from the rolling-ball negativity that pervades so much of modern life.
Johnny Stollmeyer devotes his time to making the world a more sustainable place.
Why do I want to blog about him?
Because I think of Johnny every time I run across an article or note documenting the discovery of a new species. Just a few weeks ago, I read that a new species of Cobra was discovered in Kenya. The medicinal potential of a discovery like this is profound.
I had the same feeling when I learned that the vine that I love so much, odontadenia macrantha, was showing promise in Ovarian Cancer.
Traditional religion may provide abstract comfort but, increasingly, I feel the need to hold onto to something more tangible. Something practical that will ensure the preservation of our planet.
In this curious season of Advent, I wanted to highlight permaculture because the spirit of rebirth is not far away; it is right below our feet, every day.
For 2008, let's all try and respect it a bit more.
This is my first on-line blog interview so here goes:

Johnny, where do we start?
How do I begin to describe what you do?

I am a conceptual artist/deep ecologist working on issues of sustainability.

My practice includes painting, sculpture, installation, performance and craft. I run a small cottage industry that produces a line of ecological jewelery using mostly calabash and coconut shell called Turtle Island Children.
I have not been in the studio for the past year as I have been working on introducing Permaculture to T&T. This has meant spending more time in the kitchen garden and planting fruit trees on the land behind my parents house.

Permaculture is a term that I keep hearing. What does it mean exactly?

PC is a land use, community building movement that started in the 70’s in response to the energy crisis brought on when the US reached peak oil.

The father of PC, Bill Mollison a Tasmanian forester, came up with the concept (along with David Holmgren, one of his students) from experiences gleaned while working with indigenous subsistence forest gardeners.

PC is a set of Ethics and Principles used to design landscapes that produce a continuous yield of food and material for human needs that conserve energy and that have the biodiversity and stability of/and harmonise with natural ecosystems by mimicking them.
It is applicable to all environments, urban, suburban, rural village or hamlet at all scales from individual homes to large farmsteads.

We seem to be going in the opposite direction so it's reassuring to learn that Permaculture is picking up momentum. Why now in Trinidad?

Peaking oil (the end of cheap energy), climate change (the coming ice age) and the human population explosion.
PC addresses all these issues by:
  • Promoting decentralization, shortening supply lines and import substitution to improve local community self reliance and, thereby, reduce global trade.
  • Using renewable biological resources that contribute to the cycling of nutrients;
  • Creating edible landscapes using locally adapted, open pollinated heirloom annuals, perennial leafy green vegetables and planting food forests that are more resilient in the face of changing weather patterns, restore habitat for wildlife, rebuild topsoil, control flooding and sequester carbon.
  • Calling for self directed limits to population and consumption.

How much corporate support are you receiving now?

Atlantic LNG has hired us to design their buffer zone and to plant shade and fruit trees in the recreational area of the relocated residents.

How can the public find out more about what they can do?

At the moment there are several courses being offered. Recently there was the 2 week intensive, certificate Design Course taught by Peter Bane, editor of the PC Activist.
The next one runs from 4th – 19th Jan. 2008 led by Erle Rahaman-Noronha and myself.
See our website at
We have also been offering one day introductory seminars to generate interest in the certificate course. T Also we are thinking of offering a certificate course to run over consecutive weekends.

What has the response been like?

The first course attracted 25 participants. The seminars had good early turnouts (12-15).

How did you end up doing this?

I am inspired by that part of the back to the land, intentional community movement of the 60’s which has now come together under the term Bioregionalism (life-place).
I was introduced to the Bioregional Movement in 1988 and have attended all the Continental Congresses (-1) since then.

We have been referred to as the “Ghost Dancers” of the environmental movement as many of us embrace native spirituality.

Bioregionalism is about learning to live in balance with the place we call home.
Becoming personally accountable to all the other beings we share our watershed with: trees, birds, rocks, rivers... Re-inhabitation, becoming indigenous, building human community from the neighbourhood up.
The new term is Localisation.
Permaculture is an integral aspect of Bioregionalism.
Me: I know there is a relationship between your respect for the land and your expertise in the kitchen. Can you give me two easy recipes for a quick dip to serve with some crix?


I don’t do measurements, but.......
  • Black bean dip:
  • soak and boil beans till soft,
  • fry garlic, onion and ginger in a little coconut oil until they begin to caramelise,
  • add beans with freshly chopped shadon bene, chives and fine leaf thyme.
  • Add salt, pepper sauce, olive oil and a squeeze of lime to taste,
  • mash with a potato masher.
  • Serve with corn chips.

  • Choka Melongene/bene butter (tahini) dip:
  • burn skin over an open flame, turning until completely charred,
  • let cool,
  • remove skin.
  • Whisk together with raw garlic, bene butter (Tahini), salt, olive oil and lime juice.
  • Garnish with sliced stuffed olives
  • serve with multigrain crix.

Thank you Johnny.

2nd Annual Permaculture Design Course:
Friday 4th - Sunday 6th - tackle climate change, peak oil and escalating
food prices as we build sustainable communities that have the diversity
and resilience of natural ecosystems and generate continuous yields for
human needs. Learn how to create an edible landscape and food forests that
encourage wildlife, conserve energy and trap greenhouse gases at Wa Samaki
Ecosystems, cor. La Cuesa/Freeport Todds Road, Freeport.

Permaculture Principles can be applied to urban, suburban or rural
environments on the scale of households, neighbourhoods, villages or cities
Contact: John @ 624-1341, Erle @ 373-2890 for details:


Jen Miller said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you.

Cynthia said...

I have learnt a lot from this post. Thank you Sharon and Johnny!