Permaculture preacher

A FEW years back, this guy lived off coconut juice with fiber for 40 days—solely and straight. It was the apex then of a personal health and wellness revival and cleansing for him.

“I consistently promote permaculture but I was sickly. So I underwent this cleansing program with the Ananda Marga Wellness Center and I was on a juicing diet,” shared Joel Lee who compared the process similar to that of an automobile overhaul.

To flush himself of all toxins in his body, the cleansing plan included him eating vegetables only for a few weeks beforehand, and then drinking some apple juice, and then olive oil. True enough, Joel described the sensation after expelling all the toxins in his body, as if there was “a hole in him.”

According to a definition online, permaculture “is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, and environmental design that develops sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.”

“Accessing the gifts of nature,” as Joel would simply define it. “I’m into the propagation promoting the permaculture lifestyle,” he added, while having a background of permaculture studies in the United States and Australia.

Joel used to be hands-on with the family business in the hospitality industry. The business includes operating the West Gorordo Hotel, the Mayflower Inn and Elicon House all located in Cebu City. But currently, he focuses himself as being a projects consultant with regard to sustainability under his company Urrgen-C (Urban Resilience and Regeneration Consulting).

The man’s conversion from leading a casual consumerist mindset to a lifestyle of permaculture started back in 2008, when he came across a study about “peak oil.”

According to the Financial Times Lexicon, “peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline.”

It’s a projected time in the future when hell on earth breaks loose when the latter can no longer supply its inhabitants with enough oil. Majority of the companies and operations here in the Philippines according to Joel is dependent on foreign oil from the Middle East. From this school of thought, Joel shifted from being an individual hopelessly dependent on society, to practicing an off-the-grid way of living.

Off-the-grid refers to a lifestyle that is self-sufficient without reliance on one or more public utilities.

“Our society today is fueled by consumerism. People are living under a false sense of security. We are actually poisoning ourselves with the so-called progress,” Joel shared a few thoughts, including the absurdity of how could food from cans be beneficial to people when it’s processed to last for months—that, among many other things.

Although Joel understands the importance of this all, he isn’t one under the “radical, self-righteous” label. He is quick to claim that he doesn’t know everything, but tries to do a little bit of everything for now instead.

“The first step to living a life inspired by permaculture is the transition phase; shifting from a wasteful consumerist way of life to permaculture. But then that isn’t enough. Next you need to create an environment for yourself,” Joel stressed the importance of giving one’s self the chance to mature and grow into his new lifestyle.

“I don’t claim to be fully there. It’s a continuous effort. Because you’ll end up in the prevalent system if you don’t come up with your own.”

For instance, for a person who has decided to eat organic food instead of fast food, chances are that there wouldn’t be a food stall or store that’s ready to give him the food he prefers. The solution? Maybe having a garden at home and bringing your own food would be the step to addressing the need for a mid-day meal in the middle of a mall.

Walk the talk.

Joel has been on a mission ever since then to practice what he preaches, and vice versa. So here are five quick things that are interesting to take note about his lifestyle.

Vegetable vehicle. Well, not exactly. But the man is currently setting up his 4x4 SUV that will run on vegetable oil and not gasoline. And besides that, he is currently driving a smart car, an automobile brand that’s reportedly eco-friendly compared to the higher-gas guzzling sedan counterparts.

Sharp on hygiene. One of the few things Joel changed when it comes to this aspect was investing on a simple electric razor instead of using blades for shaving. He thinks that blades are a waste since these are just thrown away after use.

Every drop counts. Joel has a tank set up to collect and store rain water. The rain water then is used for bathing; and the bath water is then used for watering the plants. This is good, according to Joel, provided that biodegradable soap was used for bathing.

More about water. To counter flooding in his lots, Joel digs a huge hole in the ground and then places heaps of rocks and stones in it. That said, excess water just goes back to the ground. As for hot water during a cold morning shower? Joel runs a hose just under the roof and the sun takes care of the rest. By the time the water hits your face, you’re not being poured with ice-cold water.

Let there be (natural) light. Joel’s home and hotels try to incorporate natural lighting and ventilation. Some solutions are as simple as raising the ceiling level higher, since hot air always “goes up.” Or just simple architecture that allows air to go through the house and out.

Living a healthier lifestyle shouldn’t be that hard. As Joel believes, “if the person is simply consistent with his actions, the advocacy just follows.”
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