On a warm weekend in October, the Solar Living Center opened its gates to the 2017 Permaculture Convergence, an annual gathering of sustainability enthusiasts, permaculture designers, social activists, musicians, and makers. Together or one long weekend, we listened to wise elders, learned new skills, danced in the moonlight, and slept under the stars.
This year’s theme was on “Building Resilient Communities,” and featured prominent speakers such as revolutionary author Starhawk, educator Wanda Stewart, and East Bay beekeeper Yasir Cross. Captivating panels also featured inspiring youth activists with tales from the frontlines of Indigenous-lead movements such as Water is Life, Run4Salmon, and Protect Mauna Kea. Other workshops discussed topics such as urban foraging, grey water reclamation, fermentation, and healing with herbs.
The grounds of the Solar Living Center are a living and breathing example of permaculture and were therefore an ideal setting for the Convergence. The center is open year-round as an educational hub and campground, and the 12 acres of land include a permaculture garden, an aquaponics farm, solar panels, art installations, and cob structures. The center regularly hosts Hipcampers, and so was ready to accommodate campers with solar showers, bathrooms, an outdoor communal kitchen, convenient access to running water, and a plethora of sites in which to pitch our tents. The wonderful Solar Living Store sells snacks, books, tools, and gifts relating to permaculture, making the center a very convenient camping destination, and favorite pit-stop on the 101 North.
As accommodating as the Solar Living Center is to visitors and campers, a few extra vendors were called in to provide much needed services for the hundreds of attendees of the Permaculture Convergence. Solar power for the event, complete with charging stations for personal devices, was provided by Sol Solutions, a leading expert in providing solar power to events.
And, as many of you may be aware, one of the challenges to hosting people on your land (and in throwing large events in general), is the need to provide sufficient “facilities.”
This year, the event provided high-tech composting toilets fit for kings and queens. The toilets, made by Ecozoic Resources are non-permanent and self-contained structures. A fan, which can be powered by a solar panel, speeds up the process of turning waste into compost by removing liquid waste more quickly. Turns out, this toilet can turn poop into compost in just 24 hours! In comparison to conventional alternatives such as sewage plumbing, septic tanks, or porta potties, composting toilets are the only toilets that require you to deal with your sh*t on site rather than send it off to waste treatment plants that too often pollute our rivers and oceans. From a permaculture perspective, this is also important because it allows you to return valuable nutrients to the soil in the form of compost- nutrients that would otherwise be thrown down the drain.
With all our human needs well provided for, we spent our days learning, growing, and laughing. As the sky grew dark and the night turned cold, we huddled around fires, stages, and steaming pots of stone soup. Under the familiar light of the stars, we more easily made new friends, giving voice to our collective hopes and dreams before crawling back into our tents for a night of sound slumber.
Photos from the Solar Living Center (Stephanie A)
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