Permaculture

Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability

1. Observe & Interact
• • • • • • • The landscape is the textbook Failure is useful so long as we learn Elegant solutions are simple, even invisible Make the smallest intervention necessary Avoid too much of a good thing The problem is the solution Recognize and break out of design cul-de-sacs

• “It is as if we are wandering about a landscape littered with the pieces of many different jigsaw puzzles. Our task is to pick up as many pieces as seem possibly useful, limited in the end by how many we can recognize, and carry them to a place we don’t yet know, where we must construct a new jigsaw puzzle from what we have.” • “…unless we get out there, and open our eyes and use our hands and our hearts, all the ideas in the world will not save us.”

2. Catch & Store Energy
• Robbing Peter to Pay Paul • Poorly used sources of energy include:
– Solar: drying, water heating, passive solar – Wind: pumping water – Biomass: sustainable management of trees and forests for fuel and building materials – Runoff Water: irrigation, aquaculture

• “Maintenance of a seed line by regularly growing and saving seed is one of the most important examples of catching and storing energy.” • “Increasing the humus content of agricultural soil has always been a principal of organic agriculture. Changing the management of farmland to use organic and permaculture strategies and techniques can rebuild this storage of soil carbon fertility and water close to those of natural grasslands and forests. It is arguably the greatest single contribution we could make to ensure the future survival of humanity.”

3. Obtain a Yield
• Yields from vegetables can vary as much as two orders of magnitude depending on fertility • “If we expose very young children to the delight of foraging food in a garden, they are more likely to grow up with a deep and intuitive understanding of our dependence on nature and its abundance.” • Many permaculture strategies and techniques generalist in nature with more flexibility and less emphasis on efficiency

• Numeracy and accounting give measures of yield • “Money may not be an adequate measure of value in accounting, but this should not detract from the value of accounting itself. An accountant friend once suggested that accountants were not really enemies of sustainability, they just needed to be given appropriate numbers to add up.”

4. Apply Self Regulation & Accept Feedback
• Self maintaining and regulating systems Holy Grail of permaculture • Traditional social and ethical constraints • Market and law are main mechanisms for providing negative feedback • Personal responsibility

• “…self controlling aspects of human culture, rather than the expansion of technology for resource exploitation and growth, represent the highest evolutionary development achieved by Homo sapiens. The ways in which we apply these abilities to controlling the excesses of growth and expansion over the next century will the greatest test of our evolutionary sophistication.”

5. Use & Value Renewable Resources & Services
• Environmental technology • Chook tractor • Trees as renewable energy source:
– Provide wood for wood gas or methanol – Structural timber products – Forests produce honey and other products and services – Can grow sustainably on poor land

• “The image of clean green technology where we do not need to mess with nature or kill anything to provide for our needs is, in the final analysis, an illusion. That illusion appears to have substance only because generations of the world’s more affluent urbanites have been disconnected from nature.”

6. Produce no Waste
• • • • “Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle” Recycling most generally overemphasized Maintenance Pest plants and animals as wasted resources

• “Governments do not generally support major social changes away from addictive consumption, even though the social and environmental benefits would be great, because the growth economy is inextricably tied to dysfunctional overconsumption.” • “The prevailing response of land managers, environmentalists and society is to regard proliferating species as new forms of biological pollution when they are in reality, unused resources. Working out more creative and effective ways to use wild resources is a constant theme in permaculture design.”

7. Design from Patterns to Details
• Permaculture zones • Forests as models for agriculture:
– Dominated by large trees – Include understory species – Have diverse habitats for small and large animals – Are effective at holding soil

• “Complex systems that work tend to evolve from simple ones that work, so finding the appropriate pattern for that design is more important than understanding all the details of the elements in the system.” • “The permaculture strategy of tree crops and food forests is not about creating massive biomass forests; instead, it focuses on trees that have the maximum potential to feed people and livestock.”

8. Integrate Rather than Segregate
• Each element performs many functions; each important function is supported by many elements • Rebuilding community

• “Permaculture can be seen as part of a long tradition of concepts that emphasize mutualistic and symbiotic relationships over competitive and predatory ones. Declining energy availability will shift the general perception of these concepts from romantic idealism to practical necessity.”

9. Use Small & Slow Solutions
• Small scale, minimal movement alternatives:
– Stacking of plants to make use of soil, water, and light in small areas – Multipurpose buildings/integrated land uses – Production of perishable foods from household gardens – Local economic systems – Bicycle transportation

• “In simple energetic terms, a given energy supply can support a large mass moving slowly, or a small mass moving fast, but not both. If energy availability rises, systems can grow in size and increase in speed of movement. If energy availability diminishes, systems must shrink, or slow down, or do both.”

10. Use & Value Diversity
• Number of functional connections, not species • We proceed without knowledge when designing more self-reliant systems:
– No or few local examples – Inherent complexity and individuality – Novel factors (new species, knowledge, technology) – Natural co-evolutionary forces

• “Nature is equally concerned with diversity and with power and productivity. Teaching of environmental science and popular environmental culture tends to ignore this aspect of nature in an effort to counter the obsession with the prevailing economic measures of productivity and power.”

11. Use Edges & Value the Marginal
• • • • Edge in cultivated landscapes Wild foods as marginal systems Rundown neighborhoods City and hinterland (center and margin)

• “Within every terrestrial ecosystem the living soil – which may only be a few centimeters deep – is an edge or interface between non-living material earth and the atmosphere. For all terrestrial life, including humanity, this is the most important edge of all. Deep, well-drained and aerated soil is like a sponge, a great interface that supports productive and healthy plant life.”

12. Creatively Use & Respond to Change
• Ecological models of succession:
– Pulsing models:
• Agricultural: Cell grazing, rotational cropping, slash and burn

– Four-phase model of change:
• • • • Conservation Release Reorganization Exploitation

• Ecosynthesis:
– Evolution of new ecosystems of native and exotic species responding to novel conditions

• “In developing a post-affluent society it is not necessary to denigrate what our parents, grandparents or ancestors did as ignorant, shortsighted, or anti-nature. Instead, we recognize that the ground on which we stand has been prepared for us by those who have gone before.”

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