Permaculture Design 01
Rather than fighting nature, we ought to be working with nature, using the tools that nature uses, and assisting nature do what it does best—create natural ecosystems. If we learn to act out of thoughtful, conscious forethought, rather than manmade traditions of patterns which are designed only for aesthetics and rigid order, we’ll find that everything works together in a harmonious, cooperative society.
Once we recognize this, we can begin to see that the functions of any member of the system goes far beyond its “fruit yield.” Each member has multiple functions, limited only by our creative ability to recognize the patterns demonstrated by that member.
Then, as we use the patterns we find to coach the members of our system, we can guide the evolution of both those members and the whole system to bring about a greater, more abundant, more robust, and a more permanent yield for all.
There is no reason we can’t meet the needs of both society and the natural earth. In fact, if we’re doing things right, the needs of both align perfectly. We do ourselves a disservice when we consider ourselves as something separate from nature (other than in recognizing the fact that we of all creatures are in the best situation to assist in meeting the needs of the planet, its creatures, and its ecosystems). But we also undermine our potential if we assume that the best thing we can do for the earth is to leave it alone.
As the most creative species on the planet, we have both the opportunity and the function of designing earth system using the building blocks that nature has laid out for us. If we are not actively designing for abundance and the advancement of earth systems, we are likely bringing about the destruction of the systems that are already in place.
But before we can begin the design process, we need to understand those natural building blocks. We need to understand climate, soil, the carbon and hydrologic cycles, the effects of land shape and material, the basics of genetics, and the science and sociology of plants, animals, and human beings. Basically, we should be seeking to understand how our planet works. And every piece of knowledge we obtain can inform our design decisions. And while the thought of becoming an expert in every field may be both overwhelming and impossible, we can become at least proficient in our knowledge of those aspects surrounding us individually.
Once we start seeing the earth as whole system, with microsystems and micro-microsystems, we will likely begin to question why humans do things the way they do them. Often it is one or two factors that informed the formation and evolution of massive human systems that meet the needs of a few, but disregard the needs of the whole. Any system that benefits only one member of the system (even if that member is the human race) ought to be called into question—not because the need isn’t there, but because the needs of the other members may be neglected.
This can be clearly seen in current agricultural practices and traditional farming techniques, which are great for producing massive amounts of food fairly inexpensively, but absolutely shred the resources of the earth. It can also be seen in our western culture’s obsession with the green lawn—a crop of one thing that takes heavy inputs (weekly mowing and constant watering) serves little more purpose than providing soft ground and declaring status.
So much of what is done in modern society can’t be sustained indefinitely, so why not change now? Why not develop a system that can both support human populations and provide for the needs of the earth?
Monoculture is a term that means growing one crop in a designated area. It’s the basic approach of modern agriculture. It also meets the needs of only one member of the earth’s system—humans. As a result, much of the settled human lands have been depleted of their natural resources, and we’ve compensated for the loss of naturally cycling nutrients by using increasing amounts of chemical fertilizers. And because monoculture provides a massive warehouse of free goods to particular pests, pesticides must be used. That, combined with the many human pollutants to air, water, and soil, have only exacerbated the problems we already have. But we can do better.
We don’t have to waste energy. We don’t have to blindly follow society’s traditions, and we don’t have to put our trust in politics. Leaving our problems in the hands of politicians is just a way of ignoring those problems. We need to take responsibility for our lives. We need to take responsibility for our families. We need to take responsibility for ourselves. If we don’t work toward self-reliance, we’re opening the doors to self-destruction.
It is our opportunity to provide a better existence for our children and grandchildren. They don’t have to rely on the government if they know how to meet their own
needs. They don’t need to rely entirely on a corporate entity or the health of the economy if they have the knowledge and resources to care for themselves if they know how to provide those needs directly from the earth.
In fact, if our families know how to meet their own needs, then regardless of what happens around them, there will be a positive future for them—even a prosperous one.