International Perma-aura in Cuba

It is now the fourth day in Havana and I am just back from a long stroll at night asking Hotel after Hotel if I can get internet access.  I am trooping around the grimy roads framed with the crumbling colonial construction of Havana’s past a little after 8pm and no internet service was available. I believe this was the first time in maybe a decade that I have been this long away from the internet.  And to spend an hour trekking behind black clouds of toxic fumes puffing out of half a century year old classics gives it a distinct taste of “how cool and hell no” to my palate in this degraded city.


I was, however, blessed to spend my days living in a ‘casa particular’ with five other Permaculturists. Robin Clayfield, an accomplished social permaculture author and teacher from Crystal Waters ecovillage in Australia, says her visit to Cuba fifteen years ago was less petroleum dominant with 2 million bicycles zipping around the city and rural areas. Now remodeled chassis and engines of 1940’s and 50’s cars sputter by offering taxi service for a few pesos.  People are choking in there own fumes of perceived progress above foot and pedal power. Also, with imports steadily streaming in again, there has been a considerable reduction in urban agriculture. What is happening to the greenest city in the world?



This once rigid socialist country is now opening its gates to a private sector. The concept of people having more money then others is developing an agenda that goes beyond the universal healthcare, housing, education and food resources provided to all here. Although it is quite safe to walk the street in Havana, our roommate Barry was swathed by greedy hands diving into his pockets for his wallet.  Where is this desire to take from others coming from?  Maybe it is being antagonized on the hundreds of flats screen TV’s that have been sent down to Cuba by relatives in the US. There is now a society that is diversifying with the private sector or what I would consider the have’s and the have not’s. Cuba’s social system gives government stipends to citizens for the work that they do and everyone receives roughly the same amount per month (which equates to less then $30 a month).  With the private sector, currently 20% of the economy, in place, people are free to capitalize on non-governmentally regulated businesses.  Ok so they don’t have all the ‘things’ we do. There is no aura of electromagnetic fields expanding from smart phones, Ipads and laptops everywhere like it is in the US.  It was more of an aura of neighborly and family connection. Little block parties with live musical instruments fill the streets at night and by day those same streets are blocked off for little kids Physical Education as well as elderly Tai Chi. It is as if the socialist economy has them feeling like they are all on the same playing field and looking out for each other is a way of living. A way of being.


With that being said, I’m here to share with you a special occasion. This is my first international permaculture convergence and it is happening so close to home.  Since we have hundreds of thousands of Cubans in Miami, I felt this would be a great opportunity to connect to the roots of Cuban-Americans with the movement of permaculture.  Three hundred Permies engaged in quite an intellectually and inspirational conference of speakers from around the world.  There were several speakers from Cuba discussing the opportunities of regenerative design as it relates to their island.  Roberto Pérez Spoke well on Cuba’s bioregions, history and conditions of forestry. Cuba went from 95% forest cover to less then 20% within a few hundred years and now back above 30% and growing.  The first day also included other accounts of permaculture in the Islands such as Hunter Heavillin with Permaculture in Hawaii, Helder Valentine with Permaculture in Macaronisian Islands, Andy Goldring with Permaculture in the UK and Trish and Robinia with Permaculture in New Zealand. Interesting enough there was a heavy emphasis on developing social parameters amongst indigenous and impoverished people.  By the end of the first day I am having massive reflections on how I can incorporate this into what I am doing in Miami.



The second day of the conference was on Solutions to climate change or global weirding as Bill Mollison once put it.  Robyn Francis, Jerome Osentowski, Robin Clayfeild and others took the time to discuss viable solutions to this elephant in the room. Discussions included holistic management of animals, Bio-char development and low-energy greenhouse systems to diversify plants in temperate climates.  I was absolutely humbled by all the amazing projects and experience that was being presented at the conference. It was mind blowing.  At the end of the day they held panel discussions with all the presenters of the day answering any additional questions from the three hundred people in the audience.

Day three and many are getting antsy from having to sit and listen to lectures all day indoors and unable to enjoy outside since there is so much smog. Imagine hundreds of homesteaders who are constantly moving and working outside sitting for eight hours three days in a row!  Yet, the third day brought loads of inspirational speeches on Urban Permaculture and all the amazing projects that have been developed. Pandora from the Black Permaculture Network boldly spoke about the need to increase diversity of color and creed in the permaculture community while discussing her programs she has developed for men in prison.  Bill Mollison’s grandson, Stuart Muir Wilson gave a daring speech about grand mistakes Permaculturist have made destroying the livelihood of impoverished Mexican people. You could see he wears his heart on his sleeves through his thick skin from working side by side with those making only $1.50 a day.  Marisha Auerbach lectured on the outstanding living examples of urban transformation in Portland, Oregon and how we can help put into law changes for creating sustainable cities.


I could sense in the ethers a kind of buzz of enrichment amongst everyone here. There is a feeling of greatness! How great it is that Permaculturist come together representing over 45 countries with one common cause; to make this world a better place to inhabit for all earthly beings everywhere.   Each day I meet many new faces and what follows are big smiles and a warm embrace. Gratitude gifts the bliss of this moment!


The next day is a field trip to see urban permaculture based projects in Havana.  I am filled with a heart warming glow seeing the passion and drive from the local Permaculturist here. “Yo Hago Permacultura” reads their t-shirts as they show us around in their keyhole gardens backed by compost banana circles, vermiculture tubs and outhouses. Lots of little niches, recycled bottles, tires and other waste materials are filling in the spaces with lots of signs for education and community outreach.  We even saw a permaculture carwash and large-scale land cooperatives where over 100 people tend to the land to reap the rewards of economic and social benefit. I’m starting to consider why did we not directly support these local initiatives with our own resources.  We could have allocated some time to having our group provide our expertise or even a helping hand while at the same time consuming foods they directly supply. I am sure the massive presence of so many Permies was inspiring enough. However, we could certainly use the grounding of the earth as much as we can contribute to it.  Maybe they will have this worked out when we get to the convergence.

The day we arrived in the Los Cocos resort our group grew to over 425 people waiting to get a shared villa that sleeps 6. A storm from the north brought in a wild wind chill with speckles of rain pattering on hundreds of people outside patiently waiting to be checked in.   Once settled into our humble abode we waited in the hour-long lunch line for our glamorous meal of rice, potatoes and a few small rations of lettuce and cabbage with an option of some spam like meat.  What followed was an introduction of the IPC during a torrential down poor.  We squeezed in under a large open-air tent with many on the edge soaked with smiles and laughter.  The rains blasted through the remainder of the afternoon throwing off most of the planned workshops for that day.  However,it gave rise to opportunities for people to get close, meet each other and begin what became an international bond for Permies worldwide.  The cold gusty winds in the night brought a very familiar feeling to me. I can tell that the next day will be a very beautiful sunny day.  I can actually feel it.  I can almost sense it in the air.  Even though people where telling me there will be rain for the next few days. And with only a light rain here and there the next day brought brilliant blue skies to which I walked over to the beach and enjoyed its vibrancy.  I feel as if the rain and winds was cleansing our auras to enable the proceeding days that where filled with wonderful workshops and delightful connections, old and new.

Staying on this isolated camp out in the country nestled between the ocean and the hillside provided for a perma-microcosm of the world that I could energetically tap into and develop a sense of what this world is all about. Particularly, Im interested in seeing this through the eyes of permaculturists. It was like we formed the most ideal intentional community for 5 days. Well, it was drastically missing the ecological design element. However, walking the beach by day and dancing into the night fueled the fires of fun and friendship.


There was something in the field of energy I could not shake off though. There seems to be this plaguing theme of having a sense of identity within the field and being worthy of teaching or contributing to the movement. Many workshops where formed to discuss teaching standards, to have a regulating body over certification, whether there should be capitalization within the work we do and a strong focus on social development within our invisible structures.  I was bewildered by all the decades of knowledge and comprehension between the workshop leaders and attendees.  There were classes that dealt with working with and honoring indigenous people, strategies for minorities in poverty-stricken areas, pattern language of human interaction and organizational development to making permaculture a peer reviewed study in the main stream.

I acknowledged that I had a role in this IPC beyond deep literacy of the vast concepts pertaining to permaculture; so I sang a song – “I’m going to take my time, slow down and design.”  It was a hit!  They translated it in Spanish and we sung it again in Spanish. Everyone smiled in delight to my over simplified singsong of what Permies do.  I have been ridiculed before for over simplifying the teachings of permaculture design.  Yet in this magical moment everyone, whether they have been at it for 30 years or 30 days, sang together whole-heartedly, free from ego driven perspectives to feel the integrated function of music. I am a musician and this is my greatest contribution.  To bring everyone out of there minds and back into their bodies; back into their heart and soul.  A few days in, I held an open space workshop for permaculture music and quickly learned that many others like Penny Livingston and Stephen Brooks felt the same way and have developed their own beautiful and simplified form of relaying the message of permaculture.  Strumming guitars, shaking shakers and tapping drums speak a universal language to all the worldly participants here.


After a few days of frogs leaping on and off my face while trying to sleep on creaky/hard bunk beds, the daily rations of over simplified starches cranking up my indigestion and doing balancing acts over toilets with no seats, I am internalizing my own energetic disposition.  Can I embody the aura of love, compassion; deep heartfelt passion and wisdom emanating from this international union of Permaculturists?  Within that energetic field there is a pulse… a heartbeat. I can feel it. I can feel that every one of us on this earth can center ourselves and connect with this resonance of healing energy. So I chant to vibrate within every cell of every earthly being the healing essence that is provided and that we provide. No matter where we are or what we are exposed to, that healing journey resides inside…



Cause there’s a heartbeat here in the center of the earth. Can you feel it?

I can feel it!

Let your heart beat sink with the waves, that’s the way that you heal it

I can heal it!

There’s a heart beat here in the center of the earth, Can you feel it?

I can feel it!

Let your heart beat sink with the waves, that’s the way that you heal it

I can heal it!

There’s a heartbeat here,

Revealed and revered by the tribe

A testament to why they are clear

Nothing interferes with the center of the sphere

To their heart beat, rippling beyond the biosphere.

Down into the soil, grime in their feet

The sole of the foot seeps deep in the peat

They know that the loam is the myelin sheath

Where the heart beat travels like the current in the creek

Real deep talk…. Walk the talk

Little did they know, no shoes make a mark

Plant the roots of the truth you embark

The symbiotic proof lets you know you’re apart

of the heart beat here in the center of the earth. Can you feel it?

I can feel it!

Let your heart beat sink with the waves that the way that you heal it!

I can heal it!

There’s a heartbeat here in the center of the earth. Can you feel it?

I can feel it!

Let your heart beat sink with the waves, that’s the way that you heal it!

I can heal it!

From the start, there’s a stepping-stone to step above the rest

Steady moving to conclusions multitudinous at best

Best believe baby steps were given in adoles(cence)

Add it up to see there’s more or less something to address

I suggest that the metronome in life is not the quest

Just a guide to the vision and rhythm we manifest!

Heart beat rhythm. Divine intervention.

To spark the ascension and align the intention

Rhyme over reason, you ‘paying’ enough attention

Are you meant to be apart of this complex system?

Let the septic of thoughts get clear

And move into your chest let the mind rest

Feel it in the heartbeat here, in the center of the earth. Can you FEEL IT?


Let your heartbeat sink with the waves that’s the way that you HEAL IT!


There’s a heartbeat here in the center of the earth. Can you FEET IT?


Let your heart beat sink with the waves that’s the way that you HEAL IT!




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