Terra Alta is
– a land and forest garden, nestled in a green valley among the hills of Sintra, Portugal, close to the Atlantic Ocean (when the wind is quiet, you can hear the waves roaring gently…)
– a school of ecological design and sustainable living skills, blending the teachings of permaculture (based on the work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and many others since), natural building, and those of many other traditions, from anthroposophy (and the work of Rudolph Steiner) to indigenous knowledge, formulated in partnership with Treeyo Permaculture
– a group of people, a family and international community – educators, gardeners, musicians, craftspeople, friends, organisers, helping hands, diggers and dreamers – sharing a commitment to ecological regeneration, and an intention to manifest this through the development of healthy social relations, and the co-creation of a permanent culture – including music, art, food, health, celebration, love, shamanism and spirituality. We live “Principle Zero” at Terra Alta, which means “All is Good” – a simple philosophy based on intention with love, and turning problems into solutions!
Under a moonlit sky, many of us have marvelled at the universe – how it reaches to infinity, bustling with billions of stars and trillions of planets. In this great tapestry, as Carl Sagan observed, Earth is just a tiny speck, seemingly insignificant in the great expanse of the cosmos. But to us as humans, Earth is our vessel in the cosmos, our life-supporting spaceship, our home and mother.
So much can be said about the destruction and consumption that have dominated our relationship with this beautiful planet until now… we won’t go into it here. But it is clear to us that the culture and society we grew up in, wasn’t designed to last: in less than 300 years we’ve brought almost every major ecological system to the brink of collapse, even bringing our own continuation as a species into question.
Sure, we know the universe is full of cycles – birth, life, death and decay; they are part and parcel of the natural expression or flowering of the cosmos of which we are part. And yet! We feel an immense creative energy gripping our hearts! We’ve studied nature and learned that nature is abundant, that nature provides, that there are solutions everywhere if we learn to see them, if we tune into the patterns of nature, and trust in their life-supportive and creative properties.[1
This creative energy we feel – that maybe you feel also – is powered by love: love for our earth, for all it’s creatures, for humanity and for ourselves; it is a humble kind of love, a sense of awe, delight, excitement and trust; it is a light that grows bigger every time another soul steps of the path of fear and chooses a pattern that is new.
Inspired by the patterns of nature, especially the flower of life (or seed of life, see left), we’re searching, striving to create culture that is sustainable in an ecological, social and spiritual sense; culture made to last, culture that is permanent.
However new culture blossoms, in its diversity of forms from one locale to the next, we believe it must be based on the harmonious co-habitation and co-creation of humans and the planet. Because of this, we teach the design and practice of constructing human settlements that are fully integrated with their environment, including waste recycling with grey water systems, composting and vermiculture, as well as food production, energy generation and other essential functions.
An important aspect of our teaching also focuses on ecosystem restoration – because centuries of degradation and deforestation has reduced the quality of our soils, water and the amount of biodiversity – trends of decline that need urgently to be reversed, towards regeneration and ecosystem health.
The development of healthy ecosystems and sustainable settlements are one aspect of the transition; we believe that to enable human communities to maintain their knowledge and practices of co-habitation and co-creation with earth into the indefinite future, a lively, celebratory, artistic and spiritual culture is also needed; to nourish our individual and collective souls; to fill our everday lives with fun and excitement!
As a nursery for permanent human culture that can flourish in harmony with nature, we bring together the practical aspects of Permaculture Design education with the development of healthy social relations and individual well-being, nourished by good food, music, art, celebration and spirituality.