Rosemary Morrow Reflecting on Four Decades of International Permaculture Work (e52)

Such a deep honour to have my dear friend and very first ever podcast guest Rosemary (‘Rowe’) Morrow from the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute back on the show (after being my very first ever guest!) sharing her permaculture journey over four decades this week.

Some of the topics you’ll hear in this truly wonderful chat are Rowe’s:

  • new in-progress book
  • thoughts on the adequacies and inadequacies of permaculture
  • issue with most permaculture being taught to middle class westerners
  • work in refugee camps and other largely invisible margins which are rapidly growing
  • thoughts on designing yourself into your place vs designing yourself out of overseas places you work
  • chapter on a permaculture approach to the oceans
  • thoughts on decolonisation and re-indigenising
  • thoughts on the essence of permaculture

Please note after our chat Rowe asked if I would please share this link about supporting a permaculture project addressing the Humanitarian Crisis after the burning of the Moria Camp on the island of Lesbos.

Rowe also mentioned Milkwood’s Permaculture Living Skills course which you can check out here.

Photo from a project in Lesvos Rowe was part of


  1. Dan, curious if you asked Rowe what she thinks the “plot” is for permaculture? Her line of “we’ve lost the plot” has been a recurring thought. Just curious what Rowe’s version of the “originating impulse” is.

  2. Thanks Dan, an empassioned episode! I really felt like Rowe was speaking her truth, especially powerfully in the first section of the conversation; it was wonderful to hear such a gentle educator and force for good speak out with such raw frustration.

    Listening to this, I strongly feel pulled in lots of directions out of a compulsion to do more good in the world, which I’m trying to stay sensitive to and consciously remind myself of where I am now and why I am where I am. From returning to my Arabic degree to working with homeless and refugee shelters, heaps of ideas come flooding to mind of ‘things’ to do…lots of checking in needed with my context, and investigating the difference between what is and what could have been…

    Like Meg, I too have huge gratitude to Rowe. I first heard about her at the IPC in London, 2015. She gave the closing plenary at the conference and, to be honest, I was feeling a bit ‘meh’ after two days of keynote speakers who I felt were either a bit out of touch with reality or just telling a converted audience the same old, same old. Rowe stepped on stage and brought a huge energy and light into the room, and her one simple statement – ‘Anyone, anywhere, who knows anything about permaculture should be sharing it with the world!’ – compelled me to start planning my first education project the second I got home (it’s still running to this day, even though I stepped away some years ago). Her speech completely turned around my view of permaculture at a pretty critical juncture on my path!!

    Thanks for a great listen, and I’m glad the mythical David Holmgren mini-series will be appearing in my headphones in the not too distant future at long last!!!

  3. Thank you SO much Dan.
    How I love her.
    Rowe introduced me to permaculture in my 20’s but I didn’t get to meet her until my 50’s and she continues to be my guiding light.
    Inspired by her example we developed our teaching model so that those without income could access it.
    We have also now connected with two permaculture teachers in Uganda and Kenya that are local and teaching on the ground. I think providing them with direct support is consistent with the principle of putting energy to its highest use. It is so much more efficient for us to provide these wonderful people with support than to travel there and to attempt to teach them permaculture without the local knowledge or connections. This goes beyond financial support and includes sharing teaching ideas and resources. Both speak excellent English but also speak other languages and dialect. Another efficiency because no translators are needed.
    What really strikes me is how both of them have adapted the permaculture design model to their own circumstances, and that resonated with your comments about people designing themselves into places rather than out of them.
    It was Rowe that inspired all of this with her call to all of us to support people that aren’t ‘wealthy middle class’ and who most needed permaculture.
    Here’s one of them
    I appreciate that there are millions of people that do not have access to an English-speaking local with access to the internet, but there are many that do, and that for those of us can’t travel to these places or choose not to there is still much we can do.
    If each of us in the wealthy parts of the world connect with one or two fellow permaculture practitioners in these parts of the world, just imagine….

  4. This is an amazing conversation, Dan. Thanks for bringing Rowe on. She remains a true inspiration through and through. Most of the subjects that came up are what has been on my mind for years and still consumes my mind. “We’ve lost the plot!” I enjoy her take on the value that permaculture still has too. The wisdom shared in the last 5 minutes of this recording are most important for all of us to be contemplating, designing, and building.

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