My Blog

To Build a Village

Civil unrest. Political upheaval. Fuel shortages. Oppression and tyranny. War.

These are the headlines I see when when I check my email, and they are enough to cause one to turn away from reading the news at all. I have read that there are actually many people today suffering from depression and despondency and even turning to substance abuse because of a feeling of hopelessness at the state of the world today. I am thankful to say, though, that I am not one of these, for a myriad of reasons.

Some Reasons for Hope

First, and most important, I am Muslim, and that gives me a foundation and baseline by which to see and experience everything around me. I know everything happens for a reason, and that there will be tests and trials, and I must simply trust in Allaah and do the best I can in any given situation.

Secondly, I am a student of Permaculture. This is a whole system of design for sustainable living which originated with Bill Mollison and David Holmgren which is based upon patterns of nature. A lot of things about this system resonate with me, and don’t contradict the principles of our religion. One is simply that it is based on the design of the Best of Planners, Allaah, and you can’t get any better than that. Another is the stress on the three principles of care of earth, care of people, and share the abundance- three principles also confirmed within Islaam, and which I already practice with my herbalism. The more I read about this system, the more I am impressed with its versatility the possible impact of many aspects of it on self and society. Geoff Lawton, (who, by the way is a Muslim convert) along with his wife, Nadia, have even used these principles to bring lushness to the arid desert in Jordan– so it clearly has widespread application possibilities for the world.

Thirdly, along with this I have an interest in alternative housing methodologies, such as the earthbag systems developed by Nader Khalili and others, as well as straw bale and building with cob. Building with local materials makes housing more affordable for everyone- it has even been used in Palestine, where the Palestinians had to find ways to build houses and shelters using what they had on hand- lots and lots of dirt- due to the restrictions on imports of building materials placed upon them by the Israelis. They are building beautiful, energy efficient structures- an amazing demonstration of the versatility of these methods.

Design a Village

This is an abbreviated list, but it makes the point that we do not have to despair or panic about the future. In an effort to help my children understand this, and to give them some more tools to prepare for their own futures, I came up with a project for them- to design a village that is environmentally and culturally appropriate- which in our case means Muslim, and which is largely self-sustaining. They had to do this from scratch, choosing a site, evaluating it, seeing what resources existed and what the climate was like, determining needs and wants for the community, planning housing, looking at livelihood possibilities for the occupants, and even crops, livestock, and energy planning. In the end they will build two model homes using two different alternative systems, and will have an extensive portfolio of designs and ideas that they can apply in real situations throughout their lives.

The project has just begun- check in often for updates on how it is progressing. Even better, share your ideas and experiences with us, enriching the project with your comments and insights!

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