Permaculture Teacher, Permaculture Designer, Conservationist
Currently based in Iquitos, Peru – See his Pro Planet People Profile
Pro Planet People:
Who are you and what do you do, where do you do it, how do you do it?
My name is Justin Henson. In Spanish speaking countries, I go by “Justino” (pronounced Hoostino). I am a native Texan who has been living in Latin America for the last 6 years, which for the last four years have been living in Peru. In 2012, I was brought to Guatemala with Earthship Biotecture to build an Earthship for an indigenous Mayan family and the experience impacted me so greatly that I decided to stay in Guatemala and continue working in Latin America for the betterment of the people in these communities. Later I worked in Mexico working on an eco village on a permaculture orchard, and later got my permaculture design certification in Costa Rica at Punta Mona with Stephen Brooks, Itai Dolev Hauben and Sarah Marie Wu.
I am now based in Iquitos, Peru in the heart of the Amazon jungle. I do many things and wear many hats as an entrepreneur who runs and operates a Peruvian company called Eco-Héroes De La Tierra, which is focused on conservation, agroforestry/permaculture practices, environmental education, and community engagement by helping communities create a higher quality of life by cultivating high value, local super food crops. I also work with and collaborate with other NGO’s and conservation organizations here in the Peruvian Amazon.
PPP: What would you like people to know about in terms of sustainability, permaculture, conservation, energy or whatever topic you would like to show/teach?
Justin: I think it is important for people to know and understand when humans should intervene into an ecosystem. What we are only now beginning to understand, in so many cases, is that if we just let nature do her work, and not intervene, these ecosystems can recover on their own, without the intervention of humans. Of course the time scales may vary greatly, but studies show in some cases deforested land can recover on its own much faster without the intervention of humans. I think we still have great deal to learn from nature.
Of course when we are talking about areas of human habitation, the conversation changes (and so does the debate) on how exactly we go about organizing ourselves in that process. What is the level of natural areas that we should preserve? What areas will we dedicate towards agriculture and human habitation? Etc, etc, etc. Personally, I think the answer lies in history. What history tells us is that after every civilization of the past has collapsed (usually due to crop failure due to intensification of agriculture), the people of these civilizations abandoned their cities to return to the forest because it was the only place they could hunt and forage for food.
Moving forward into the future I believe it will be a necessity to know how to grow your own food, hunt and gather, build your own shelter, harvest and filter your own water, and form your own community.
PPP: What is your favorite project that you want to share that you had a hand in?
Justin: At this moment, constructing an Earthship for a Mayan Indigenous family in San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala is still a project I am very honored and proud to have taken part in. Together with 90 volunteers, we constructed an Earthship in only 18 days, when normally these houses can take up to 6 months to build with a well-trained crew. It was absolutely incredible to see what is possible when people work together for a common cause.
PPP: What is your philosophy on life with reference to the interconnectedness of nature, humans and the creatures?
Justin: My personal philosophy is that we are nature, and because we have such an incredible power to affect our environment, we have a responsibility and duty to be good stewards of this planet by taking care of the plants, animals and all species of the biosphere.
I believe there is a balance in everything in this Universe and it is important to understand that balance.
PPP: The Future! Can you paint a picture of the future if we all worked together using permaculture, sustainability, regenerative practices, etc.?
Justin: I live by the philosophy that anything and everything is possible. So many people are talking about manned-missions to Mars as if to give up the fight for a healthy Earth. If we can terraform Mars, we can make Earth “Earth” again. It’s really down to a simple action of doing it. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t restore and regenerate damaged ecosystems. Our world view and perception of how we live and cohabitate on this planet must change. You must be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat healthy food before you can begin to think about making money, and our economic and governmental systems must reflect that. So, my personal challenge is to re-vegetate 50% of the Earth – and I’m certain many will say that is an unrealistic goal and a crazy idea, but so is trying to live on Mars.
Thich Nhat Hanh said that we must fall in love with the Earth again, and he’s right. Because falling in love with the Earth is really falling in love with ourselves again. What we do to the Earth we do to ourselves, as Chief Seattle said. We are the Earth and once we begin to re-realize this truth again, we will begin to love the Earth again, and begin to love ourselves again.
PPP: Give some advice for people on how to get started, why you got started, reflect on how your personal experiences got you where you are today.
Justin: Geoff Lawton was famous for saying that “All the World’s Problems Can Be Solved in a Garden.”
I think that’s the best of any place to start – A Garden. This could also be rephrased by the famous quote
Like a permaculture exercise, analyze your situation and what resources you have now, and decide how you can make the best of those resources to affect change. Much of what comes out of these exercises produces practical and useful solutions. However, wanting to go further than helping yourself and your own family I believe requires a much deeper personal reflection and a personal conservation with your heart as to why you want to help and serve others on this planet. Going beyond your own self-serving needs means that you will and must make sacrifices to help and support others, and this can be incredibly challenging and can push you towards exceeding your own personal limits.
Although we may begin with a certain degree of idealism in our minds, we often don’t fully understand what exactly that means and what is required of us for executing our idealistic plans. In my personal experiences, living in Latin America, where the economy is not as good as the United States, and there is a complete lack of basic services in some cases, I have dealt with situations where I did not have enough money to pay my bills, or have enough money to pay my rent, or even enough money to eat. I have even been on the verge of homelessness several times only to be rescued by very special friends. These experiences pushed me to my absolute limits and made me question everything in my life and why I was doing what I was doing.
You must develop an incredible amount of strength if you plan to follow your heart, and you must be willing to manage and handle any issue that is presented you. You must be willing to put your whole life into what you believe in passionately. Otherwise, why are you doing it?
What is the purpose of life if you are not following your dreams and your heart?
List your top people worldwide that have inspired you. Share some books and/or websites you think people should check out and why they should.
In no particular order:
My Dad, My Grandfather Henson, My Grandfather Jacinto, Bill Mollison, David Holmgren, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jimi Hendrix, Nikola Tesla, The Buddha, Jesus Christ, John Muir, Masanobu Fukuoka, Michael Reynolds, Henry David Thoreau, Lao Tzu, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Geoff Lawton, John Dennis Liu, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Lynn Margulis, Toby Hemenway, Jules C. Dervaes, Jr., Ron Finley, Paul Stamets, John VanDeusen Edwards, Terence McKenna, Alan Watts, Vandana Shiva, Jadav Payeng, Will Allen, P. A. Yeomans, Darren Doherty, Mark Shepard, Albert Einstein, Stefan Sobkowiak, Tony Rinaudo
Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren
Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, David Holmgren
Introduction to Permaculture, Bill Mollison and Reny Mia
Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway
Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, Rosemary Morrow
One Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka
A Coming of Wizards, Michael Reynolds
The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God, Rupert Sheldrake
Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-It-Ourselves Guide, Scott Kellogg
Permaculture Design Course Handbook, Robyn Francis
Rainwater Harvesting Vol. 1 & 2, Brad Lancaster
Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, Paul Stamets
Water For Every Farm: Yeomans Keyline Plan, P.A. Yeomans
Small is Beautiful, EF Schumacher
Agroforestry in Sustainable Agricultural Systems, Buck, Lassoie, Fernandes
PPP: Where are you now and what resources locally would you like to share with others?
I am in Iquitos, Peru. Some great projects in Iquitos are:
PPP: Thank you so much for your time Justin!
Justin Henson’s Bio:
Originally from Texas, Justin grew up helping his grandparents working in their garden and living off the land. He has an extensive path of certifications and experiences from around the world, including
Guatemala, Peru and Taiwan. From his first steps started when he was awarded a scholarship for a Master’s Degree in Organic Agriculture but instead abandon his scholarship to learn the mastery of Bill
Mollison and David Holmgren (the co-founders of Permaculture). Until now, he has never stopped working in permaculture and visionary architecture. He loves exotic fruits, yoga, music, meditation, and traveling. He is a Permaculture Designer and instructor, and founder and director of Eco-Héroes De La Tierra.
How many years have you been involved in sustainability?
List some skills you have in sustainability:
Permaculture Design Consultant, Systems Designer/Creator, Sustainability Consultant, Landscape Designer/Developer, Mid to Large Scale Land Designer/Developer, Gardener, Project Manager / Planner, Event Organizer, Grower/Cultivator, PDC Teacher, Teacher in multiple Sustainable Classes,
Aid Worker, Green Builder, Waste Management Professional, Biologist / Mycologist, Water Conservation and Protection Professional, Bio-Remediation Professional, Conservationist (Land Use/Survey), Forestry Professional, Restoration – Environmental Scientist, Bioconstruction, Earthships, Super Adobe Homes, Design implementation, Swale implementation, Rainwater harvest systems, Cisterns, Gravity-assisted solar hot water showers, vermiculture, compost toilets.
PDC, Stephen Brooks, Itai Dolev Hauben, Sarah Marie Wu, Ponta Mona Center for Regenerative Design and Botanical Studies, Costa Rica
Are you are teacher?
Yes, I am a Permaculture teacher.
The course outline includes the following:
Day 1: Overview of Permaculture, Ethics, Energy and Cycling
Day 2: Zone, Sector, Elevation, Function, and Scale, Zone 1 Garden Design
Day 3: Soils and Water Flow Management
Day 4: Diversity, Working with Nature, Space and time, Zone 2 Food Forest Design
Day 5: Resources, Zone 3 Broad-Scale and Animal Systems
Day 6: Trees and Energy Transactions; Zone 4: Wind-breaks and Harvest Forest
Day 7: Situational Analysis, Site Assessment, Design Exercise
Day 8: Climate Zones, Temperate, Tropical and Dryland Permaculture
Day 9: Examination of successful of well-established Permaculture sites and what makes them successful
Day 10: Main Design Group Project
Day 11: Designing and Building a Wood-Saving stove
Day 12: Group Project Presentations and Certification Ceremony
We currently have a course available at the Yacumaman Sanctuary of Integral Shamanism in the High
Mountain Jungle of the Peruvian Amazon in Tarapoto, Peru.
More information can be found here: https://goo.gl/dRu2V5
Give details about any companies you are involved in:
My Peruvian Company: Eco-Héroes De La Tierra
Permaculture Teacher, Permaculture Designer, Conservationist
Check out his Pro Planet People Profile
Videos from the Earthship Build in Guatemala: