50 Thoughts #2: Because it’s the environment, stupid. Why we need a permaculture world.

Oh that sounds crotchety. I apologize on behalf of the 10,000 species (or more) that went extinct last year  (and, oh, why not the 22 percent of all species that may be extinct by 2022 if no action is taken).

Is there an angst gene that suddenly turns on as we approach 50? I haven’t felt this way since I was a kid, worrying every time I turned on the TV (everything in black & white back then), that this might be the moment, regular programming of The Partridge Family interrupted by a newsflash of the big flash: Nuclear war has broken out. 

Now the world around me in this wet whimper of a winter seems not just ill, but carooming toward some bad end. So-called free markets enslaving the poor. People starving when there is more than enough food to feed everyone. A handful of corporations controlling food, drugs & education and therefore our very minds and bodies. Democracies throwing citizens under the corporate bus. And the economy just keeps unravelling at its plastic seams.

But there is one word that keeps me from despairing.

It captures one of those ideas that seems so obvious and and true and right when you hear it explained.

Permaculture — as in permanent human culture. It’s about designing human systems that work in harmony with nature rather than against nature because, obviously, we are a part of it. Screw nature and we screw ourselves, eventually.

Permaculture has been catching on with food growers since Aussies Bill Mollison and David Holmgren developed the idea in the mid 1970s. They said, before designing a food system, study the master, as in the most productive innovative, self-renewing designer of all time, nature. Then mimic nature, which is complex, rather than design in our own image, which tends to the self serving and simplistic.

So what do we get with permaculture?

*Good healthy organic crops, obviously, because nature offers her bounty without the crutch of chemical pesticides or genetically modified seeds (and 99 studies say organic agriculture can feed the world versus 0 studies that say industrial chemical agriculture can).

*Crops that mimic what would grow naturally in a region (for example, a complex mix of perennial grains in the prairies versus monocultures of annuals).

*Local sustainable food systems and new care and respect for every inch of land we stand on and the human stewards who care for it.

*A waste-free system that sustains itself, by recycling waste and using available energy.

*A go-slow approach that values creativity, diversity, human and natural traditions and careful scientific observation.

And that’s just poking at the fecund edges of what permaculture means.

Permaculture is catching on in urban design and architecture (LEED-certified buildings being an example). It’s central in transition-times thinking, as in how to survive peak oil, peak food, peak economic meltdown.

But how do we “permaculture” the areas we work in — energy, natural resources, business, banking, online, retail, heath-care, education, travel, entertainment?

How do we think in permaculture?

Who do we create and live permaculture lives?

For more, check out this video.


One Response to 50 Thoughts #2: Because it’s the environment, stupid. Why we need a permaculture world.

  1. Marni January 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    I feel so much happeir now I understand all this. Thanks!

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