Permaculture is a word that a lot of environmentally conscious people have heard of some time or another. Sometimes permaculture means different things to different people.
Permaculture can be described as a way of life or almost a kind of “culture” or simply a reference to gardening methods.
The basic breakdown of principles is a design solution blossomed from the ideas of how the natural world and its elements sustain life, animals and the land. Picture the meander of a winding river translated into a cobblestone pathway. Or the flow of winds interpreted into the design of a home. The way that nature communicates with us is through patterns and with that we can use it to work with renewable materials and sources to create solutions for our needs. Using concepts found in rain, sunlight, air and water as our guide, those same ideas are transferrable in how we can design our own systems of housing, farming, gardening, and community structures etc. Quite simply, it’s just smart practical ecological living. Below I will cover some ideas of how permaculture is being used now and how it can also be used in the future.
There are many components to Permaculture. An example of a permaculture concept in urban areas would be the vertical farm. This is becoming more and more of a popular idea. Vertical farming may be crucial and necessary in our advancements towards alternative farming methods which include hydroponics and aeroponics. With population growing at an increasingly rapid pace the amount of farmland is thought to become less available. It is estimated that by the year 2050, about 80% of the world’s population will live in urban areas and the total population of the world will increase by 3 billion people. Imagine how much more land would be required to yield such massive quantities of food. With these vertical farms being located within the urban community, food would then not have to travel miles on a freight truck, sit around in crates waiting to be stocked and finally be put out for sale. This could be appealing to many because one can imagine how much fresher the produce would be. Another great benefit to vertical farming is that farmlands will be able to restore to their natural state thus resulting in the preservation of precious land. In addition, vertical farming would be all indoor and would not be susceptible to Mother Nature, a big plus if “climate change” starts wreaking havoc on traditional outdoor crops. I think it could definitely be a part of the answer in alternative farming now and in the future.
Rainwater harvesting is in great connection in the approach to permaculture. The wonderful thing about rainwater is it’s something that belongs to all of us, much like the rays of the sun and other ingredients that nature shares. These rain water harvesting systems can range from simple household units to complex industrial types. The system is designed to collect rainwater to fulfill your water supply needs both potable and non potable. Some of the many benefits of this type of system are to minimize topsoil loss, flood flows, improve on plant growth, cleaner water, increased independence and water security, and the ability to build and farm in areas with no water supply.
Building the natural way
Let’s face it, building a home is a pretty labor intensive process and everything it entails is hardly considered green. It’s actually quite the opposite. It requires large amounts of materials, energy, and resources. Usually construction involves a team of people that each have a specific job task from initial design down to the plumbing and electrical. With permaculture in mind the process of building a house or infrastructure is quite different than the traditional way. It all starts with design. The laws in nature are often the model in applying permaculture methods to a building. For example: taking into account ideas of climate and site conditions, natural ventilation, energy sources, and types of materials to utilize. The ideal materials to use would be local “green materials” opposed to non-renewables. The idea in building a home from resources that is in your immediate surroundings aims to use what works in nature. A design much like the eco systems of the desert, where nature is self-sustaining and there is no need for human involvement for it to work, is a model that we should live by. When attempting to build a natural ecologically sound home, that is what you would strive for and that’s what permaculture is all about.
To me permaculture is a way of designing your life and how you interact with the natural world around you.
It’s how you interact with people, how your food, water, heating and resources all interact in these symbiotic relationships that are good for the earth and good for you. For many, permaculture is a way of life. Learning to function with the earth not only creates a healthy environment, it also satisfies the people who live in it and is the solution to many environmental issues. Over time I think more and more people will realize how sustainable living is achievable through this idea of permaculture.
Angie Tarantino is a contributor and part founder of The Environmental Blog. She covers animal rights, green tips and general green news topics She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.