Army Gets Permaculture Training before Deployment
I had an inspiring chat with a national guardswoman this morning at the farmers’ market. Specialist Kennedy was taking a permaculture class at Camino de Paz School and Farm (CPSF), and she would soon be deployed to Afghanistan for 11 or 12 months. Unlike the unfunny joke about the soldier who meets interesting people in far-out places and kills them, Kennedy was planning to do the opposite.
Today, she was helping out behind CPSF’s booth at the market. Tomorrow, she’ll be feeding chickens, weeding crops, spinning wool, making soap out of goat’s milk, and doing whatever it is women in dry, mountainous places do in order to survive. The plan is to send in Kennedy and her team of 14 agricultural specialists to rebuild communities that have been in a state of war for the better part of three decades.
I was no fan of President Obama’s decision to increase troop sizes in such a challenging theater, but our commander in chief’s choice of Kennedy and her team seems like the best one he could have made given the historic failures of foreign invaders in the area. It could have even been the first-ever example of military intelligence but for one small detail: We ought to be doing the same thing here in the United States, and we are nowhere near doing so.
Compared to the average Afghani, very few people in our modern culture have a clue as to how to grow our own food and produce our own energy. Fortunately, we are slowly pulling our heads out of the sand on the issue, but our situation is as precarious as they come, and most people are decades away from fully getting it.
The good news is that those of us doing sustainability-based work in the “civilized” world do not need an additional 50 people in our team to serve as security forces for our socioecological missions. On average, Kennedy said, her agricultural colleagues and she get four bodyguards a piece to keep the peace on the farm/battlefield.
I didn’t ask Kennedy her age, but my guess is that she is easily 20 years younger than I. I didn’t ask her weight, but she was easily 60 pounds lighter than I. She must be strong because including body armor, she’ll often be carrying about 70 pounds of gear. Me? Tomorrow when I hop into the garden to finish a drip irrigation project, I’ll be burdened by about five to seven pounds of tools, materials, and clothes (depending on if I choose shoes or work boots).
When the sun gets hot tomorrow around mid morning, and I think I’ve had enough time out in the backyard, I hope the thought of Kennedy—her worthy mission, her dangerous surroundings, and her 70 pounds of stuff—comes to mind. Maybe then I’ll be motivated to push even harder toward a more digestible backyard.