Heaven on Earth: Permaculture with Rick Zook BY CATHERINE MEYER

Atop the Himalayan Mountains, where the earth meets the sky, a vision of paradise can be seen: the city known to the rest of the world as Gangtok, India. Filmmaker Bruce Weaver connects with permaculturist Rico Zook for a two-month adventure to learn about permaculture and its advantages for mankind and the planet in the film Heaven on Earth.

Permaculture might be unfamiliar to viewers. The term is short for permanent agriculture, and the relatively new science can be understood simply as a means of sustainable agriculture that supports sustainable lifestyles. Zook is the leader for several projects that are building sustainable communities in India and Nepal. He has been teaching permaculture to people in developing countries for the past four years and looks to find alternatives to eco-tourism and agriculture.

The film opens with clouds, chanting and a quotation scrolling across the screen. It reads: “The principle of man that is of human beings and human life joins heaven and earth together.” Chanting continues until the viewer has descended completely from sky to earth.

With this beautiful short film, Weaver strives to find out if Heaven could ever be attainable on Earth and where such a place could be located, as well as identify permaculture’s relationship to the future of the planet and mankind. Following Buddhist ideologies, Weaver understands that both beauty and suffering exist in the world. Suffering is constant, and he cautions against trying to prevent it, but advocates raising awareness in the divine and staying engaged in the beauty. Once mankind realizes that both suffering and beauty are present, he believes that suffering can be alleviated.

Weaver recognizes beauty in the simplest of things, such as crisp weather that lasts for three days or being present at a moment in paradise. He explains that beauty is all around us and the world itself is Heaven. Without proper stewardship of the land, however, this paradise can turn into a Hell.

The viewer learns that permaculture is the tool that creates a bond and an ecological cycle between the planet and mankind. The film explains that permaculture can help people recognize suffering, accept its presence and work toward solving the problems through practical solutions. Thus, through an understanding of permaculture, heaven can be attained.

Permaculture is not a science that you have to study,” Zook said. Instead, it is an awareness of the Earth and its ecological cycles that can make any person conscious of what happens in the world. It joins man and place in a symbiotic relationship, maintaining culture within communities.

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