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Permaculture

The use of ecology as the basis for designing integrated systems of food production, housing, appropriate technology, and community development.

Permaculture is built upon an ethic of caring for the earth and interacting with the environment in mutually beneficial ways. Permaculture advocates designing human systems based on natural ecosystems. But, there are many other definitions of permaculture, just as there are many definitions of sustainable living.

Although the original focus of permaculture was sustainable food production, the philosophy of permaculture has expanded over time to encompass economic and social systems. It is a dynamic movement that is still evolving. For example, some practitioners are integrating spirituality and personal growth work into the framework of permaculture.

A word coined by Bill Mollison in 1974 and means both permanent agriculture and permanent culture. It is a design system and a system of techniques. The techniques have been borrowed from tribal, traditional and scientific cultures from around the world. Permaculture is now a growing movement with 2 internationally distributed magazines and about 15 books published in many countries in over 9 languages.

Permaculture is the practice of designing sustainable human habitats that are sync nature's patterns. It is based on the observation of natural systems and uses ecological principles to increase diversity and productivity of local human ecosystems. Permaculture designs incorporate food, energy, and shelter for people and animals while linking the needs and outputs of each element of the system. The result is a dynamic yet stable system that sustains itself.

What is the origin of permaculture?
Permaculture was created in the 1970's by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist and University of Tasmania professor. He had spent many years out in nature as a wildlife biologist observing how natural systems work and became very distressed at the destruction that he saw going on around him. He decided that instead of being angry about what was happening and reacting against the destruction he wanted to work on creating a positive solution and he thought the solution would be living based on the patterns he had observed in nature.

By observing nature, Mollison came up with several important insights. He observed that natural systems, such as forests and wetlands, are sustainable. They provide for their own energy needs and recycle their own wastes. He also observed that all the different parts of a natural ecosystem work together. Each component of the system performs important tasks. For example, bees help to pollinate, birds provide pest control, certain plants pull nitrogen out of the air and fix it into a form that other plants can use. So everything does useful work. He applied these and other insights to design and create sustainable agricultural systems.

In the 1970's he and his student David Holmgren wrote and published some books explaining his ideas. In the 1980s he published his design manual and started teaching permaculture design courses to spread his ideas around the world. By the 1990s permaculture had started spreading throughout the US, although it's more well-known in other countries around the world. To this day, it's continuing to grow as a global grassroots movement and people primarily learn about it through permaculture design courses and workshops that generally happen outside of academia.

Who is practicing permaculture?
Besides permaculture practitioners who study and learn about permaculture and consciously use permaculture to live in a more sustainable way, there are many people who practice permaculture without realizing it – concerned environmentalists, organic gardeners, conservationists, land use planners, urban activists, recyclers, indigenous peoples and anyone working toward creating a sustainable human civilization. The reason for this is that the philosophy of permaculture draws on a lot of ideas and practices that have been around for a long time.

Have you heard the terms ecological design, sustainable design, applied ecology or green design? These are other terms that describe the basic philosophy of using nature as a model to foster sustainability. The difference between these approaches and permaculture is their scope and focus. Permaculture draws on these systems and incorporates them into a broader framework. Permaculture is a comprehensive system that can be applied to all aspects of one's life although food production remains an important focus. As mentioned earlier, it is a dynamic, living philosophy which is continuing to evolve.

How can you practice permaculture?
Because permaculture is a comprehensive, dynamic system it can be practiced in different ways and at different levels.

At Earthwalk we are developing a permaculture edible forest demonstration garden where we integrate several varieties of apples as well as pears, plumbs and choke cherries with raspberry and blackberry canes, blue berries, elderberries, goose berries, black currents, service berries, high bush cranberries. along with a wide variety of symbiotic vegetable and herb plantings. We are currently are establishing butter nut, and ginkgo and will be adding pine nuts, almonds and hazel nuts to the mix.

In our experimental garden we are exploring crops that are not commonly grown in zone 5 climates like Paw Paw (papaya) and Kiwi, and we are also experimenting with techniques for growing high anti oxidant fruits like Gogi Berries and Sea Buck Thorn Berries , and Rugosa Rosa.

We do offer courses in permaculture at the Earthwalk Sustainable Living Center.

However to help you begin to use permaculture in your life, we can offer you an online course that was developed by Heathcote member Karen that will present
(1) the ethics - the philosophical core of permaculture,
(2) some principles - guidelines for applying permaculture,
(3) strategies - goals to help you focus as you apply permaculture, and
(4) techniques - concrete ways that you can apply permaculture.

You, too, can become a permaculture practitioner!
Just send us an email asking for our "Online Permaculture Course" and we will send you the link to this self guided introduction to permiculture.

 

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