Due to giving a series of farm tours over the past serveral weeks I’ve been thinking about Permaculture more than usual lately. The farm where we have our market gardens is a 20 acre passive permaculture plot – nothing as intense as Robert Hart’s Food Forest, but certainly an intensely designed working farm focused primarily on perennial agriculture: orchards (peach, apple, pear, asian pear, cherries, plums, mulberry…), nut tree groves (pine, hazel, hickory and others), asparagus (.5 acres!), huge patches of chives, comfrey and horseradish, rhubarb, sunchokes; hundreds of feet of grape vines and brambles… you get the picture. In all there are hundreds of fruit/nut producing trees interplanted within several thousand native forest trees providing seemingly infinite niches in an attempt to maximize ecological output for both wildlife and humans. I’ve been an active participant in the property for 3 years now and I still learn a staggering amount about the property every time I take a tour led by the owner.
For a variety of reasons, I am becoming convinced that the Developed World is waking up to the possibilities of permaculture. We held a tour this past weekend specifically on permaculture (for the record I have not taken a permaculture certification course) and we had over 25 people from 4 counties in attendance. There are articles featuring permaculture techniques in the BBC and even being recommended for major carbon sequestration schemes (finally!). People are listening to smart Ethanol more than ever, and I was asked to come return to the MREA Energy Fair to give my workshop (3pm Sunday 6/21) on our Earth Victory Garden system – which is essentially a “trojan horse” to get people to listen to a 45 minute talk about permacultural systems thinking.
Perhaps most telling, these days when I talk about linked systems and turning wastes into resources (composting, the 3 sisters, biodiesel) at work people are now calling it Common Sense rather than refferring to me as Leftist Pink-o Commie. Between the economic crash and $4+ gas people are waking up to the fact that the status quo is Not OK. And I am convinced that Permaculture will provide the answers.
When Bill Mollison and David Holmgren first coined the theories back in the late 70’s, PErmaculture was primarily a homestead based gardening system for tropical areas with firm roots in the Back to Earth movements of the 60’s and 70’s with some very good ecology science mixed in. It was modeling agricultural systems on nature to ultimately reduce inputs and increase yeilds permanently. But as the decades have rolled on, Permaculture Thinking has shown its true depths and thanks to the updating in Holmgren’s incredible work Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. Thanks to Holmgren’s work, Permaculture has evolved out of the garden and into a true philosophy that can shed massively important insights on everything from civic planning, to energy production, to livestock management.
We are an incredibly wasteful society that is awash in enough problems to collapse our society. But the very tenants of Permaculture: turning wastes into resources and treating problems as the sources for solutions seem perfectly designed to provide us the answers to this mess.
Tomorrow can be better than today as long as we are Plan-ful and work towards a more Permanent Culture – a Perma-Culture. Society is waking up, but needs teachers, examples, and more than anything: Do-ers.
We know what to do, and time isn’t waiting around for us any longer… grab a shovel or a hammer; find a podium or keyboard and get to work. Its time to get busy living or stay busy dying.
Be the Change.