Educative, engaging, productive, sustainable and fun are but just a few words that attendees at this years’ permaculture convergence described this year’s Building Resilient Communities Permaculture Convergence. 

Held at the Solar Living Center in Hopland California October 5-8, this annual gathering supported hundreds of citizen activists, permaculture designers, activists and community organizers from North California and beyond to design and share extraordinary solutions aimed at harnessing the power of permaculture in to build more resilient and sustainable homes, neighborhoods and communities. Over 70 workshops took place, happening off seven stages spread around the sprawling yard of the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, itself a model for sustainable living. Attendees who travelled from far locations and camped on one side of the SLI.

This comes at a moment of resounding ecological challenges and the evidences of climate change becoming more unquestionable. The Convergence ended as fires in the North Bay threatened the region both north and south of Convergence location in Hopland, turning the Solar Living Center into a refuge for fire victims – ironically showing the urgent need to build more resilient communities and adapt to climate change.

Led by some of the prolific practitioners in modern day urban-resilience building, workshops included water harvesting, bee keeping, harnessing the power of solar energy, hip-hop for wellness, yoga, social justice and racial justice among others. Other sessions were focused on soil regeneration and the art of composting.

Some of my favorite workshops included Rey Stubblefield-Tave and Michael Flynn from Common Vision, who discussed racial justice, removing cultural barriers and building collaborations among communities.

Chaz Peling presented at length about the power of solar energy replacing fossil fuels for sustainable living.

Nils Palsson and Lesley Moore engaged at another stage on getting prepared for disasters.

Ly Da, a youth mobilizer from Santa Rosa who was attending on her first time said the conference is a relief from everyday business. “I am originally from Puerto Rico and with everything taking place there, this is the best place to come and feel at home with nature and to learn new ideas away from the routine events in the towns” she said.

Da also took part in raising awareness on the current situation in Puerto Rico which was recently hit by hurricane Maria, underscored the importance of disaster preparedness for communities. She outlined that most communities may not have access to food as they are located up in the mountains and access roads have been swept away – which dramatically affect their recovery process.

Melissa Gayle, an attendee from Marin County, noted that the time is essence that communities arise and take a lead in building more climate resistant communities.

The Convergence was organized by a collaboration of organizations and individuals, including the NorCal Resilience Network and Living Mandala. “There’s nothing quite like it,” noted NorCal Resilience founder Susan Silber, who has helped to organize the Convergence for the past four years. “It’s a combination festival and conference. Where else can you learn about permaculture, listen to Starhawk and other legendary changemakers, make a cob bench, and groove on the dance floor until 1 in the morning?”