What exactly is permaculture?
It suddenly struck me that if I am to write a blog about our journey to a sustainable lifestyle, I should at least explain what ‘permaculture’ is. A few months ago, I had never even heard of the word so presumably there are lots of other people out there who don’t know what it means either. It was Pete that introduced me to permaculture and its principles, which I have to say are quite frankly ‘genius’. It is an eco-philosophy that could quite easily be adopted in every household, in an attempt to secure a sustainable future for everyone. I’m not even a keen gardener, but that is what makes permaculture so attractive…it is nature that does the hard work, leaving you with a self-sufficient garden with minimum required effort. It is a way of using every bit of land you have, be it a large, sloping field in the countryside or a small back yard in a busy town, to recreate and imitate nature’s design processes.
Think of a forest. It is the most perfect example of nature working at its best: an eco-system that requires no maintenance or human intervention, yet produces and reproduces for thousands and thousands of years. When the leaves fall in the autumn, there is nobody there to rake them and pick them up. Instead they remain on the ground where they will decompose over time, thus creating the fertile, nutrient-rich soil the tree and shrubs thrive on.
The idea of mulching your land is a way of speeding up this process so you can get the most fertile soil in a short space of time, with absolutely no ploughing (practically a swear word for anybody adopting permaculture principles).
This is just one technique, but there are so many to try. One of Pete’s favourite’s is the chicken tractor – simple, but innovative!
What the experts say
Its co-developer, Bill Mollison describes permaculture as “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature”. He states “the overall aim of permaculture design is to produce an efficient low-maintenance productive integration of plants, animals, structures & man; with the ultimate result of on-site stability & food self-sufficiency in the smallest practical area.”
Alison Peck, who teaches high-altitude Permaculture in Colorado, puts it in quite simple terms:
“Permaculture gains its name from the dream of a permanent, sustainable agriculture & culture. Permaculture works with natural forces to create productive landscapes rather than forcing production with inputs of energy & chemicals. The elements, the earth, plants & animals, are woven into a complex, balanced landscape providing good shelter, energy & more…Permaculture is the use of ecology as the basis for designing integrated systems of food production, housing appropriate technology and community development. It offers a practical, creative approach to the problems of diminishing resources and threatened life support systems now facing the world.”
At a time when everyone is becoming more aware of the effects of global warming, climate change and the draining supply of fossil fuels, it makes you wonder why there isn’t a government campaign to make permaculture more recognized…but then if everybody aimed to become self-sufficient and start producing their own food, it would surely have massive repercussions on the economy. Permaculture might therefore be considered a non-profitable enterprise in the eyes of the government. But for me, permaculture can only be seen as a huge and positive step forward, and if I can make people more aware of its advantages on our journey to self sufficiency, then it can only be a good thing.
Here are some links which have helped me understand more about how permaculture can be applied in practice and why now is the time do it:
The best Permaculture manual out there: http://www.patternliteracy.com/books/gaias-garden
Permaculture explained in simple terms: http://permacultureprinciples.com/
An entertaining BBC TV series to help encourage you to be greener: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It’s_Not_Easy_Being_Green
A some-what shocking short film intended to make you want to change your lifestyle: http://youtu.be/VOMWzjrRiBg