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Permaculture is the integration of land, resources, people, and the environment. It seeks to imitate the zero waste and closed loop systems we observe in natural ecosystems. Permaculture refers to us being able to sustain our lifestyle without harming the environment. It means being self-sufficient. It is multidisciplinary and includes the fields of hydrology, water harvesting, agriculture, building, waste management, livestock management, energy, technology, economics, and community development.
The term ‘permaculture’ combines the words permanent and agriculture. It refers to consciously designing and maintaining agriculture to have a natural ecosystem’s diversity, resilience, and stability. During its initial days, people often used the term to refer to a sustainable means of agriculture or gardening techniques. But today, the term is used to describe a sustainable way of living, a way of living that simulates a natural ecosystem. Many people use permaculture as a design philosophy for life. The central theme of permaculture is creating human systems that meet human needs using many natural elements and drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems. It means sustainably obtaining food, energy, shelter, and other non-material and material needs.
Permaculture means we have to work with rather than against nature. It advocates thoughtful observations of natural processes rather than thoughtless actions of exploiting those processes.
The ecosystem we humans currently live in is a ‘designed’ one. In our designed ecosystem, we cultivate a majority of species and biomass for our use, for our benefit. We select every plant, every animal, and every resource to provide for or support us and our wants. Our ecosystem is human-centered i.e. anthropocentric.
Permaculture requires that our ecosystem simulates a natural one, wherein species do not depend on the exploitation of another species or resource to survive. In permaculture, we create a harmonious way of living with nature. It means developing efficient, productive, and self-sufficient systems that anyone can use anywhere. An example is rainwater harvesting and growing a wide variety of plants rather than just the ones that are useful to humans.
We can get more out of life by using less. Permaculture is the design of an ecologically sound way of living. It involves developing processes in our homes, gardens, businesses, and communities that cooperate with nature and care for the Earth and all its species.
By thinking carefully about the way and the number of resources we use, we can make a big difference in our lives, a good one. For example, we can easily harvest rainwater to maintain our gardens. But instead, we depend on clouds and evapotranspiration of trees to keep rivers running to supply our water needs.
The permaculture way of living requires us to place our needs before our wants. Do you need that fruit that had to be transported halfway across the globe to reach your nearest grocery store? No. But do you want it? Yes. We cannot hope for a better world, one free from pollution, climate change, conflicts, etc., if we do nothing to govern our greed. We need to meet our needs with elements already present in nature. By progressively withdrawing from our current ways of agriculture and business, we allow natural systems to flourish.
Even composting is an excellent example of permaculture. Through composting, we’re returning waste and nutrients back to the soil. Thus, we simulate a natural environment in which organisms create soil and nutrients.
For thousands of years, we’ve abused the Earth’s lands. We have laid waste to ecosystems that didn’t need to be disturbed had we looked closely at how we can make our existing settlements more productive, efficient, and in sync with natural processes.
The principles of permaculture are not exclusive to one place or one particular type of dwelling. Anyone can integrate permaculture anywhere, including:
1. City flats
2. House yards
4. Community spaces
5. Educational institutions
6. Conservation areas
7. Industrial and commercial premises
8. Waste grounds like landfills
Permaculture encourages a resourceful and self-reliant way of living. The goals and priorities of permaculture coincide with the core requirements of sustainability. The principles of permaculture tell us how to build houses, create communities, grow food, and minimize environmental impact simultaneously. Let’s look at some of those principles:
1. Observe and interact
Our world today is fast-paced. But slowing down and observing seasons change, understanding how weather affects plant growth, and watching the microclimate change over a patch of land will help us learn the deeper aspects of caring for our Earth. It also helps us make responsible, sustainable, and wide decisions about planning our houses, gardens, and farms.
2. Capture and store energy
Designing a system to capture natural energy minimizes the need to seek energy resources from outside. This simply translates to using renewable energy to eliminate the need for fossil fuels. In a garden, this can mean building a greenhouse on the southern side to maximize solar gain. It also includes installing solar panels on your roof to power your essential household activities.
3. Accept responsibility
We must accept responsibility for releasing CO2, trapping heat, and causing glaciers to melt, which further traps more heat due to the loss of a reflective surface.
4. Use and value resources
Permaculture only uses resources that the Earth can renew at the same rate we consume them.
5. No waste
First, reuse. Then recycle everything you can, from glass bottles to cardboard and textiles. Finally, all kitchen waste, organic material, and paper go into the compost bin or pit. The compost will further provide a growing medium for your plants, closing the loop.
6. Integrate, don’t segregate
We have a tendency to separate our flower gardens from our vegetable gardens. But, the more integrated the food crops are with wildflowers, the more beneficial insects will visit, and the fewer pests will prevail.
With permaculture, we allow ourselves to develop a powerful relationship with the Earth. Permaculture means accepting nature as our wisest teacher. Permaculture can help us play a part in creating an ecologically balanced and equitable world for all of Earth’s species. Let us go forward with this as our challenge.