To understand any subject that’s new to us, it helps to dig into its key concepts. Understanding permaculture at its basic sense will help people to perhaps see how some of its elements can be applied in their own life.
Specifically, we will deal with, sustainability, minimal disruption of soil conditions, and interdependence with our neighbors. Let’s begin by talking about how permaculture contributes to sustainability of the earth’s ecosystems.
It isn’t by accident that permanent is part of the term permaculture. Here we have a way to work with the way nature works not in a forced, mechanized way of modern times. When you use hand tools and human labor, you don’t need to depend on the fossil fuels.
Naturally built up soils don’t support disease and pests so you don’t need petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers. When you don’t remove the unused part of the plant but just lay it back down on the soil to mulch you reduce labor and eliminate the need to amend the soil. Mulching aids water retention and thus reduces need to water.
The ultimate in sustainability is when end of year harvest comes, you allow several plants to go to seed. Then you can cut down the dying foliage and seed heads and lay this on the ground with the mulch which will go on to seed for next year’s crops. This like the other core concepts is the hallmark of permaculture – giving back to the land everything but the fruits you consume.
Another core concept of permaculture is the idea of soil conservation and minimally disturbing the soils in which we plant. Permaculturists will use hand tools rather than tillers and tractors, which does several things to harm the soil. Heavier equipment compacts the soil, which makes the ground more difficult to use.
It is a fact that intensive gardening increases crop production 10 fold when soil is not compacted and soil is left loose and friable. This way we can get 10 times more production out of the same amount of land – which translates to 10 times more food available to feed the population of the world. No more food shortages. It may be hard to believe that we can get more production out of less land by eliminating machinery, but permaculture has proved this time and again.
A final key concept of permaculture is rebuilding community. Because of our industrialized society we have become detached from each other not just as family but also as community.
This causes us to turn to government and corporations to fill our needs, which causes lower quality food because of the need for mass production, as well as diminishing the local job base, and creating more of a need for outside energy input.
If you buy raw milk from the diary down the road, beef from your neighbor and vegetables from the local organic farmer, you not only provide work for them, you also get higher quality food, with less fossil fuel input. This creates a sustainable loop of profitable work, quality products that we actually need, and utilizes local sources.
In an increasing global economy suffering from constant disruptions in the job market and food chain, this is the future we must work toward for our children and grandchildren. To create a “permanent” culture, we must strive for sustainability, minimal disruption of the soil, and interdependence and shared resources.