What is Permaculture?

I believe that PERMACULTURE is an essential part of the type of thinking we need to do collectively to evolve out of our current state of accelerating climate crisis. I DREAM of a world where food systems are inherent to the places we live and are part of our daily rhythms. Where our connection to food enables us to overcome the challenges of our times, reconnecting us to the natural world we are responsible to steward- from the city to the country.

PERMACULTURE is a term coined by Bill Mollison, founder of the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia (PRI). The PRI is dedicated to spreading permaculture through education programs and projects around the world. The basic idea is to design and install ecologically resilient environments. The work of Geoff and Nadia Lawton (PRI) to green the Jordan Dessert with Jordanians is an inspiring example of the potential of permaculture to enable people to grow food and manage water in challenging drought-like environmental conditions, beyond what agricultural sciences believed was possible- through intelligent applications of organic matter.

Permaculture offers us the possibility that people around the world can sustain themselves in an abundant way, with clean water, local, safe and freshly grown food. And yet on the other end of the scale tipping the balance is the impact of human driven climate change. In North America, many are still disconnected from what it means to be in climate impacted places, with the exception of places like post-hurricane New Orleans or the Arctic where the ice is disappearing annually at an increasingly alarming rate- or if you are Indigenous or a farmer and dependent on the seasons and impacted by the shifts in weather patterns. It is undeniable that the very ecosystems that we are dependent upon are changing because of poor human management of waste streams resulting in escalating carbon emissions.

I am perpetually perplexed by the Industrial Revolution paradigm, which upholds ironically that we are smarter than the natural world because we have things like high tech computers, military technology, fancy, overbuilt and inefficient cars, and various convenience-focused lifestyle appliances and products, which at this point in time look like they will outlive human beings in terms of their presence on the earth. It is true, human beings have been damaging the natural world for hundreds of years. The difference now, is that we are totally off-the mark in our supposed evolutionary trajectory is terms of waste creation and management. Not only do we produce non-organic waste streams that are very harmful to ourselves and the planet but we also don’t know how to manage our organic matter properly. If you look at mother nature, she wastes nothing, recycles everything and provides the seeds of her own future creation. How do we know that the birds and the bees aren’t doing quantum physics to figure out where the best food and pollen lives in the garden? Why do we position our way of life over the natural world when there is so much to be learned from how nature works, that can then be positively applied and designed into human systems?

Okay back to what permaculture is:

Permaculture is a design philosophy based on observing nature’s patterns and putting these observations into practice by designing ecological food systems that support both humans and non-humans alike. Based on a zones and sectors land-mapping process, a permaculture designer will assess energy patterns to figure out where food systems, houses, water catchment systems, edible forests, animals, and grey and black water systems should go to mutually benefit each part of the system. In the end there is a well-functioning naturally recycling living system of food production and human settlement in harmony with the surrounding ecology. The idea is that over-all a site will become more efficient and fertile over time, with more work in the beginning to install the systems, and less work over time to maintain them as natural synergies grow between plants, animals and inhabitants into self-regulating ecologies. Permaculture offers the possiblility to create low-input and perennial food systems that don’t require external and often unnecessary inputs, such as fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, plants that come in plastic containers and soil trucked in from somewhere else. Permaculture techniques also offer excellent remediation solutions for building soil and food in areas with little water and access to external inputs- thus making it important for areas that are dealing with drought and the adverse affects of climate change that is resulting in more and more environmental refugees each year.

BIO-REMEDIATION: Wikipedia is a great resource for learning more about bio-remediation. Nature provides numerous ecological solutions to clean up contaminated sites such as brown fields, oil spills and nuclear disaster sites like Chernobyl using plants and fungus. This is also another way for mining and oil companies to clean up the contaminated sites they have created and the homes of peoples around the world that they have destroyed for decades.

MYCO-REMEDIATION is incredible! Paul Stametz is leading the way in myco-remediation efforts (using fungus to detoxify water, break down pollutants, clean up contaminated soils, etc.), and has demonstrated that oil spills can be cleaned with hair mats that efficiently take up oil, which can then be broken down into fungal sugars using oyster mushroom spores.

For more information check out:


Greening The Jordan Dessert

Paul Stametz on Ted Talks




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