Matthew Prosser is an experienced permaculture designer and ecological scholar who works on building and assisting sustainable communities through a more humane and holistic way. He works on our relation with nature and alternative methods leading to abundance.
How did you get involved in the ecological movement? How did this path begin for you?
In 2007 when I was partly travelling in India following a realization I had, I wanted to actively be a part of the solution bringing positive change. So I completed a three year diploma in Applied Permaculture Design with the British Permaculture Association. I was blessed to have talented mentors and worked on a long-term basis with several private projects, education centers in Europe and Asia that use permaculture as a part of their framework to develop sustainable and abundant landscapes.
After realizing that you could bring value to this field of work, how did you approach the environment, how did it all evolve?
Through a consultancy company called Holistic Progression Designs, I run my certified courses & work on consultancies. It’s mainly focused on designing landscapes, based on observations of the property, an inclusive process to understand my client’s needs. For ten years I have been organizing, facilitating Permaculture courses and workshops. My teaching philosophy is a balance of the head, heart and hands. I have observed this holistic approach leads to long lasting meaningful change. I am currently working on several landscape designs, a dome home design and geometric art series that include a stained glass collaboration.
Why do you think sustainability is becoming the central topic of everything?
It’s been building for a long time and input coming in from so many angles, the challenges humanity faces collectively are obvious. It’s coming to a point where a sustainable approach is the only logical way forward. From my perspective it seems that even people who have chosen to ignore it are now reflecting because the pandemic has forced them to stay inside and look at things from a different perspective. To me it is clear that humans need to work with nature, to observe and mimic the strength and beauty, to respect and work within her limits. This requires creativity, also thinking out of the box.
How do you approach the current disarray in the climate debate?
I used to engage but I removed myself from the debate a number of years ago because I find it draining. For me it’s important to have balanced talk with action. I prefer to focus on what people are doing that is inspiring and makes real change, I find this is much more empowering.
How does our diet and practices around food shape our relation with nature? What are some practices you consider that lead us to a more mindful relation with food?
We are a part of nature; I think our disconnection from it is one of the fundamental problems of modern society. Growing some of our own food, even if it’s just some herbs and salad entwines us with nature. If we are in some way engaged in the simple act of growing food then by default we are outside observing nature. We build a relationship with the soil, with the plants and in turn a deeper relationship with ourselves, with our own nature. When we prepare & eat nutrient dense food we grow, there is a direct feedback loop that is satisfying & uplifting.
Supporting, interacting with local growers connects the consumer to the grower, thus the food is fresher. Both parties get a better price. This can be done through farmers’ markets & community supported agriculture.
I think reducing meat consumption is important in developing a mindful relationship with food. There is a lot to be learnt from the vegetarian and vegan movement in terms of preparing nutritious, tasty, ethical food.
How can we enhance agriculture and food consumption through changing climate conditions?
It’s complex with many influencing factors; a holistic approach makes the most sense. From an agricultural point of view, marrying traditional knowledge and appropriate modern techniques and tools with an ethical design process has been proven successful. Farms that are using this approach do not use big machinery and are often relatively small scale. They are designed to be ecologically sound, robust and highly productive with diverse systems.
From a food consumption point of view, it requires educating people around eating a balanced healthy diet. Encouraging a deeper understanding of the systems they choose to support through their spending. About the benefits of eating locally grown seasonal food as well as being mindful about the over consumption of meat that require a lot of energy to produce.
Where we grow food is also a big contributing factor, I believe it would be beneficial if more food were grown in the cities, on rooftops & in vertical farms. There is a lot of potential for this and many great examples that can be learnt from and applied.
It could be challenging for many to relate to building with natural materials. How do you think it applies to our daily modern lives?
The more we can use natural materials the better. For me design is key because it allows the materials to be used in the most appropriate and beneficial way. I think the most interesting edge is to prefer traditional low impact building methods combined with design that listens to and respects the landscape. I think it’s more relevant now because of the obvious need to take a sustainable approach. Also because many people are working from home, spending more time in and around their house, I think that is a thread that will continue to grow.
Are there any alternative methods we can apply to challenge the housing crisis in metropolitan cities and vulnerable landscapes?
In cities there are plenty of unused buildings that can be retrofitted; redesigned internally to be comfortable apartments using sustainable materials. There are many examples of this happening around the world; private spaces can be smaller and multifunctional, with shared spaces for facilitating human connection, shared common needs. Vulnerable landscapes with good observation and design can be regenerated. This can often be used for human leisure with walking trails and parks, which contributes to the local communities’ well-being.