What is Permaculture?
PERMACULTURE, from PERMAment agriCULTURE, is a practical system of ecological design. By learning to mirror the patterns found in healthy natural environments, you can build profitable, productive, sustainable, cultivated ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.
Permaculture designs range from households to major agricultural enterprises and even whole bio-regions. It integrates disciplines relating to food, shelter, energy, water, waste mangement, economics and social sciences to create whole systems capable of recgenerating devastated lands and building sound social/economic systems.
The Ethics of Permaculture
The difference is in the ethic: Most design systems are defined by a "market driven" ethic in which most considerations are subservient to the conclusions of a short term cost/benefit analysis, discounting or ignoring such factors as environmental degradation or destruction of human community. Permaculture departs from any other design system in that it is guided by a common sense ethical system which forms the criteria for design decisions. The ethic is
• Care of the Earth
• Care of the People of the Earth
• Conscious Frugality
• System surpluses distributed to accomplish these aims
Briefly stated, if a design component isn't ecologically sound, community-building and careful in its use of resources, then it seems pretty unlikely that it will work out in the long run. This ethic also make excellent long-term business sense.
Permaculture is unique among farming systems in that it works with a set of ethics that suggest we think and act responsibly in relation to each other and the earth. The ethics of permaculture provide a sense of place in the larger scheme of things, and serve as a guidepost to right livelihood in concert with the global community and the environment, rather than individualism and indifference.
1 Care of the Earth: includes all living and non-living things and plants, animals, land, water and air
2 Care of People: promotes self-reliance and community responsibilityÇaccess to resources necessary for existence
3 Conscious Frugality
4 Setting Limits to Population & Consumption: gives surplus (time, labor, money, information, energy) to achieve the aims of earth and people care
Permaculture also acknowledges a basic life ethic, which recognizes intrinsic worth of every living thing. A tree has value in itself, even if it presents no commercial value to humans. That the tree is alive and functioning is worthwhile. It is doing its part in nature: recycling litter, producing sequestering carbon dioxide, sheltering animals, building soils, and so on.
The Practical Applications of Permaculture
There are many practical applications of permaculture. These range from agriculture and animal husbandry to energy efficient housing and community planning. Whether you're a farmer, rancher, environmentalist, landscape architect or builder, permaculture can help you move towards a productive, ethical, creative sustainability. Permaculture can also be adapted to any site, urban or rural, and can be used for many different needs, from a single home to an entire village/town, and from an urban park to a large production farm.
If you are a farmer, rancher, or landscape designer/architect:
As a farmer or rancher: Permaculture is used for much more than structuring your land for sustainable, profitable production of crops/animals and the building of soil fertility while fully developing your water resources. You can learn a host of techniques for eliminating the cost of most energy and material inputs for your operation as well as ways to avoid hidden costs, reduce waste in your systems, reduce your workload, and make good use of whatever "waste" you produce.
As a landscape designer/architect: Permaculture will give you a major creative boost. Designing earthforms, water, and plant assemblies with both aesthetic AND functional considerations in mind will give your designs a new vitality as well as being environmentally sound.
If you are an environmentalist, educator, or student:
• Educating yourself and others so as to better heal the planet?
• Running a community garden?
• Advising others on land use, farming, or pest control?
• Teaching youth about science and the environment?
• Want to work in sustainable development abroad?
Permaculture can give you a framework to incorporate all your study and experience as well as techniques for teaching others. Permaculture is also extremely effective as a tool for education and change. It has been designed from the ground up to be easily understood by people in many different fields of extpertise--from a farm worker in a developing country to regional planners in the industrial world. Many international opportunites are open to graduates of this course.
If you are a regional planner, architect, or builder:
Land/town planners use permaculture's cutting edge design strategies for managing water in the landscape, watershed enhancement, ecological town design, dramatic reduction in infrastructure costs, recharge of the groundwater, ecological entrepeneurship on public lands, wind management, biological sewage treatment, multipurpose road design, community food security, homeless transitional housing, urban farm initiatives, and regional energy management. Permaculture might just be what you need for your area's pressing problems.
Architects and builders use permaculture to create a smooth transition of structures into the environment. Learn how to evaluate a site's intrinsic characteristics to create heating/cooling, water, sewage and other systems which harmoniously root the structure into the landscape.
How is Permaculture Used?
How permaculture is used varies widely depending upon the site, its intended use, and what resources are available. The one thing that all permaculture sites will have in common is moving in tandem with the ethics of permaculture. Amidst that container, there are many different techniques and techologies:
• Gardening and recycling: edible landscaping, keyhole gardening, companion planting, trellising, sheet mulching, chicken tractors, solar greenhouses, spiral herb gardens, swales, and vermicomposting
• Water collection, management, and re-use systems: Keyline, greywater, rain catchment, constructed wetlands, aquaponics (the integra-tion of hydroponics with recirculating aquaculture), and solar aquatic ponds (also known as Living Machines)
• Energy saving (appropriate) technologies: Solar and wind power, solar greenhouses, composting toilets, energy efficient housing, and solar food cooking and drying
• Farming systems and techniques: agroforestry, swales, contour plantings, Keyline agriculture (soil water management), hedgerows and windbreaks, integrated farming systems such as pond-dike aquaculture, aquaponics, intercropping, and polyculture
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