Asia West Pacific 

Making Peace with the Earth at Peace Place

by Kins Aparece

Paula and Ian Paananen visited Peace Place June 17-27, 2019. Building on the permaculture site plan outlined in January 2019, they designed approaches to the property and identified first steps. Nanik and the Joglo Preschool teachers had just completed the school year and this was their vacation before the new school year started. 

Paula and Ian live in Australia. They have helped communities all over the world by introducing permaculture and sustainable living. During their visit, I had the opportunity to support the team and witness the unfolding of the site planning, design and staging. During their visit, I kept asking, “What is the intersect of permaculture and peace? How exactly do they meet together?”

Friendship and Affirmation

Permaculture design is very compatible with the existing peace practices at Peace Place. Since January 2019, we have been getting to know the site. Who uses the area? Where do they come from? Why do they come to Peace Place? In June, we continued to observe the site looking at the pests that lived off its plants. We noted that the trees were stressed. Some need pruning and some need more garden soil for nutrients.

The involvement of the teachers was beneficial. We consulted the teachers on the plan and the use of the site. Petrus and Nanik had time to share about the place and its connection to the community. 

Students come to Peace Place during the school-day, but many children also come during their free time to play. The school building is used as a polling center during elections. Peace Place also hosts village meetings. Some organizations regularly meet there, aside from the school, parents and pupils. Given the breadth of reach of users to Peace Place, we all agreed that it is an ideal demonstration site for peace and sustainability.

In all of these processes, I also felt that the team grew stronger in friendship. We developed a deeper appreciation of the place and the people. We also appreciated Pati and understood the community more. We went to many shops around Pati looking at resources and truly felt the people’s curiosity and warm accommodation.

Communication

While observing the site, the team held conversations and listened to each other. In those conversations, everyone attentively listened and articulated observations, questions and concerns. Terms were unlocked, simplified and translated.

The site plan underwent many revisions. When Paula and Ian left, the design became Version 3. To ensure steadiness in the implementation of the project, we drew Peace Place’s Commitment to the Earth. As language is essential, we took some time to reflect and share it with the teachers. We also explored ways to communicate this to the pre-school children by integrating permaculture principles into the curriculum.

To communicate the dream of Peace Place as a permaculture demonstration site, we need to utilize labels and write orientation kits. Orienting visitors about our practices in caring for the Earth invite others to do their part. We need persistent and patient conversations with Peace Place users.

To look for alternative solutions, we need to ask. We seek help from the community for available resources. When Petrus and Nanik decided to stop using palm oil for cooking, Petrus asked the community for people who know how to extract coconut oil and explained why. Two groups came up to offer their products. It was an excellent chance to hold conversations with them, offer them hospitality, and explain why the house will shift to the use of coconut oil. 

There are many things to notice in caring for the Earth. We cannot assume that everybody knows. Why should we eliminate single-use plastics, and if not at least reduce their use? What is all the fuss about if it’s so convenient? We spent time sharing and looking at videos that spoke about the problem behind plastic wastes. We also had an exercise on waste-segregation to the point of looking at what is organic and what is not. We introduced this to the Interfaith Youth workshop participants in July, and the participants gladly participated in segregating the waste and taking care of the compost.

In communicating our commitment, I learned that we should also be open to receive feedback and be willing and able to listen to others’ ideas and alternatives. We also need to be reminded that we cannot reach our goals alone in a single step.

Cooperation

A highlight in the June permaculture work was working and learning together. We built the aquaponics demonstration site, the compost pit, replanted outdoor and indoor plants, and finalized the site plan together. I felt so much synergy and learning along the way. 

Together with the teachers, we did an energy and synthetic/chemical use inventory of Peace Place. We asked one another if we could find accessible alternatives for synthetic cleansers and prepared detergent powder together using available local products.

“To make peace with each other, we must make peace with the Earth.” Let us support Peace Place in this transition. Some practices are new to them and will take time to learn and practice. Some steps involve financial support and will take time to save or fundraise. With their enthusiasm and curiosity, however, I can genuinely see the dedication and engagement. They are not only willing, however, they are able. They are ready for this shift. Petrus was introduced to the Alternatives to Violence Project training in 2005. It took seven years to bring it home to Pati, Central Java, get the AVP Training for Facilitators, develop a few trainers who committed to peaceful, nonviolence education for their children and established the school. 

It took another seven years to train the parents and teachers in human development, for them to get the idea, and to practice sensori-motor, social, construction and literacy skills such as classification, object permanence, and sequencing. Seven years is like a lifetime since all the cells in your body change in seven years, you are a new person. Paula and Ian offered the perfect inspiration and support to launch Peace Place into its third lifetime to focus on multivariate systems thinking, taking steps over time, and integrating parts into a coherent whole.

Misael, one of the pupils at Joglo Preschool helping Ian replanting, One of the early skills that the team learned from Ian and Paula is  replanting. Peace Place, Central Java, July 2019. Photo: Kins Aparece

Getting to know the land, Day 1.  After reflecting on the use of Peace Place, the team  went around the area. Profiting from the horticulture expertise of Ian, they looked into the health of the plants in Peace Place.  L to R: Ian, Petrus, Paula at Peace Place, Central Java, July 2019. Photo: Kins Aparece

Ian and Paula Paananen introducing waste segregation to the Joglo Preschool teachers. This is important to ensure that the compost will have a regular fill and that waste taken out of Peace Place is reduced. L to R: Kins, Ernie, Evi, Paula, Ian at Peace Place, Central Java, July 2019. Photo: Ninok Sasmito