oak seedlings - CC0 via Pixabay
Earth Care, Future Care, People Care

What is permaculture?

Defining "permaculture"

There are hundreds of definitions of permaculture. Here's the one I use: Permaculture is an ethical system of design that integrates humans with the natural world. 

Let's break that down. 

Permaculture = "permanent agriculture" and "permanent culture"

Ethical = Care of the Earth (primary); Care of People; Care of the Future

System = working with an awareness of the interconnectedness of elements of any system we focus on. 

of Design = We are co-creating with the Earth and with other people in a way that is intentional and careful

Integrates Humans with the Natural World = we developed a civilization/society that has disconnected us from the Earth we depend upon. (This one if full of tricky implications if you think about it.) Further, we tend to be deeply disconnected from each other. 

We can do better, and we can keep improving. 

The Problem

I begin almost all of my permaculture design courses with the question: 

What is going on in the world? What's the news? 

It doesn't take long for the board to fill with "events" that, when we look at them, are systematically connected.  Just as the problems are interconnected, so are the solutions. 


The Solution

It is time to reintegrate our way of life so that we can heal the Earth, heal ourselves, and tend to the best possible future. We can return to a life which is deeply connected--one that allows us to express the best of the human journey on the planet. What can that look like? 

  • Growing more of our own food in order to have more nutrition, fewer costs, more food security, and a sense of accomplishment and connection. People mostly think of permaculture in relation to horticultural and agricultural techniques. 
  • Increasing the efficiency of our home -- providing for more of its energy, water, and material needs in order to cut costs, increase resilience, and be more productive. 
  • Participating in community-wide initiatives in a way that brings people together. Maybe you love time banks, or food pantries, or developing new products for your area that support the regional economy. 
  • Developing a neighborhood community or an eco village. Permaculture can thrive in these environments. 
  • Learning the plants, birds, insects, and mammals of your area so that you can help to tend and repair the landscape you all share. 

Most of all, this is about limiting our impact on the Earth and tipping the balance toward a way of life that will allow future generations to thrive. We can imagine, design, and enact that right now. 

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GERC
Earth Care

What if?

It is late January. While walking around a consulting client’s property yesterday, I saw the early bulbs just beginning to peek up above the soil. In my own garden, spring herbs are already beginning to conservatively creep across the ground in the warmer, protected spots. Spring seeding is beginning to happen, and I know that the buds on the trees are beginning to change in the warmer periods. 

snow drops

Nature doesn’t have an on/off switch like our mechanical systems. There is resilience built in to the constant use of energy. Just so, I believe that most people have in the back of their minds and the depths of their heart a desire and a commitment to a beautiful, healthy, just world. The rush and stress are there—but beneath them is the courage and imagination to see a better world. 

At the Global Earth Repair Conference in Port Townsend, Washington last May, Precious Phiri gave a powerful keynote. Behind her, on a large screen was a hand-drawn image of an adult sharing with a child—and noting that in 2019, the world woke up and it all changed for the better. The sign said, “And then in 2019 everyone came together and fixed the climate even though it was hard. That was our finest hour.”  Until that moment, I was sensitive to the collective grief and worry and persistence of the 500 people gathered. That simple drawing raised the question: how did the world get better? How did we come together and heal the Earth? Each other? 

GERC

Seven months later, with Rob Hopkins’ book From What Is…to What If? in front of me, I recognize the same question and the same feeling of possibility. What if? 

What if?

I am exploring this question for myself…and I am very curious to hear what you are imagining, too. I look forward to the changes possible in the year ahead.

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