A hand-painted sign marks the entrance to a brand new festival in a town you’ve probably never heard of. Instead of lager there are lectures, and instead of music there are man-made machines. Welcome to Iceland’s very first Nordic Permaculture Festival, a weekend designed to jumpstart a new eco-community with environmental solutions at its core.
“The festival was designed to inspire people on how to help the world, and how to become sustainable and independent,” says Mörður Gunnarsson Ottensen, the brains behind the festival. It kicked off a pilot project to create Permavillage in Þorláḱśhöfn, 45 km south of the capital.
Mörður explains the meaning behind the movement. “Permaculture is a method of preserving the environment whilst becoming self-sufficient,” he says. “A movement of people trying to live in peace with their consciousness.”
Formidable Vegetable Sound System
“In 2013 I was travelling in Norway promoting a permaculture solution and heard of some eco festival and needed a break,” Mörður recalls. “I saw people dressed in natural clothing, dancing and singing. I was convinced they must have been on drugs. But then I noticed I was the only one who was miserable, so I decided I wanted to live that life in Iceland.”
Mörður got in contact with a permaculture teacher—“and talented people”—to organise Iceland’s first permaculture design course. “Last weekend, I saw my dream come to life,” he says, “as Icelanders danced like wild children to the Formidable Vegetable Sound System, turning permaculture into an art form.”
Mörður is making waves in the movement, and now helps head the Permavillage project. “No one lives at Permavillage quite yet,” he says. “We have leased the land and we’re building an eco centre where we will promote respect and connection with nature.”
In just a few weeks, with help from environmentally conscious locals and even school kids, volunteers helped to transform the land at the site. “We have built an outdoor kitchen, set up a yurt, built two tool sheds, and set up micro-climates to grow plants over the next few years,” Mörður adds.
Shoes are for the weak
Around the grounds of the festival, community spirit spreads like wildfire. International visitors share with each other permaculture solutions to manage environmental problems, while huddled around a list of communal tasks. One guy sleeps in the grass, another meditates, and I estimate around 70% of the people here aren’t wearing any shoes.
As well as developing the village, Mörður and others aim to share learning so more people can live closer to nature. “We will have formal and informal education,” he says. “We welcome all approaches that are respectful, with our current members ranging from shamans to academic scholars. Our approach to is to create conditions that allow nature to do what she does best—create life, and heal wounds. It’s beyond my wildest dreams how well the locals have taken to our work, they have helped us tremendously to make lasting change in this area.”
Want to be part of the movement? Visit www.permavillage.net.