Permaculture is a holistic design philosophy and methodology for creating sustainable systems. Permaculture principles may be applied anywhere; in a modest home or on a thousand acres of land. Permaculture works in the tropics, the deserts and temperate climates alike.
Have you heard this word lately?
Sustainability is the capacity to endure.
Many people believe that the systems that we currently depend on for food and energy are not sustainable. If you stop and take a moment and think about it, that may be why we are hearing the word a lot these days.
So if the current systems are not sustainable, then what does that really mean for you?
It might mean that you lose your job and can’t get another one, ever.
It might mean that one day you will wake up and find that gas will cost $10.00 a gallon.
It might mean that one day your local supermarket will have no food.
It might mean that the wars, starvation, natural disasters that are all happening right now to other people will be affecting you directly.
My intent is not to alarm you, but simply to urge you to be informed and prepared. We just can not continue to keep our heads in the sand.
Sustainability is not the only issue, however. There are many problems with the current systems, ranging from health issues to social issues. I make the claim that Permaculture provides practical and technical solutions for many, if not all of these problems.
Solving Problems with Gardens
Permaculture is a combination of the words permanent and agriculture. Permaculture seems to be and has been primarily concerned with food production, but its design principles can be and are applied to all types of systems. But since we need to eat healthy and wholesome food before we can do other things, it makes sense to focus on food first.
Much of the food today is grown in dead or dying soil and must be fed with petroleum-based fertilizers and kept alive with pesticides. This food is not nutritious and much of it is probably toxic. This is what we eat. How did this happen?
Food wasn’t always grown this way. Traditionally, food was grown locally and was mostly nutritious and of course it was pesticide and chemical-free. But traditional agriculture is very labor intensive. Due to capacity constraints of traditional agriculture and advances in technology, agriculture moved in a different direction in what is called the “green revolution.” While the green revolution created previously unheard of yields and allowed for greater scale in food production, it also created many problems and many costs were externalized. (Although we could not externalize the costs so far as beyond the borders of the planet) This sort of agriculture is technology or energy intensive. It is also completely dependent on the continued existence of cheap energy inputs such as petroleum and coal. That is why many consider the current system to be unsustainable. This may pose a real problem as much of the world population is dependent on this system to get their food.
Permaculture is not simply a return to traditional agriculture although it borrows many practical ideas, techniques and strategies from traditional systems all over the world. Permaculture is an information or design intensive method of food production. If one goes into a natural jungle or forest, no one is watering, giving fertilizers or spraying pesticides and yet the system is teeming with vibrant and diverse life and energy. Permaculturalists work with nature, not against it and observe nature in order to develop designs. Permaculture, then, is a science and art of designing man-made systems by using nature as a guide.
What I have come to notice is that Permaculture is particularly suitable for people who might be known as polymaths, jack-of-all trades, those who follow interdisciplinary approaches etc.
This excerpt from Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison is illustrative:
“The core of Permaculture is design. Design is a connection between things. It’s not water, or a chicken or the tree. It is how the water, and the chicken and the tree are connected. . .Permaculture makes the connection, because as soon as you’ve got the connection you can feed the chicken from the tree.”
Permaculture is very broad and deep, and takes some time to appreciate. I invite you to ask me any questions and I hope you will continue to follow this blog and contribute.
Here is another helpful link to learn more: