Permaculture is a design method and set of techniques for creating a sustainable and resilient human habitat within a larger ecosystem. It utilizes Nature's Wisdom in the development and maintenance of a sustainable and equitable food supply and a resilient human habitat upon a thriving planet.
The core tenets of permaculture are:
* Take Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
- Take Care of the People : Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
- Share the Surplus : Healthy natural systems use outputs from each element to nourish others. We humans can do the same. By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.
"Permaculture is applied common sense;" according to Lisa Fernandez, who is the organizer of the Portland Maine Permaculture Meetup. She believes that the observation and imitation of nature's own patterns for providing for all creatures that permaculture teaches makes good sense. She sees the growing interest in permaculture as a positive response to peak oil and climate change. Permaculture has evolved from being a contraction of permanent agriculture to permanent culture beyond gardening and farming to allow humanity to continue as an ongoing species within the larger whole of this earth.
Lisa feels that one resource we have in unlimited quantity is human creativity which we can unleash in service to the earth. She also emphasizes that we need fortitude to overcome the fear of the future and the current struggle simply to feed our families and keep a roof over our heads that can hold us back. We need to "change our story" about need for unlimited economic growth. We also need to recreate a story that involves being in transactional relationship with our neighbors. We need to redefine abundance from stores full of stuff to communities within which neighbors can provide for one another.
Challenged to envision a future in which permaculture principles and practices would be deeply embedded, life would be at a village scale. Lisa envisions food embedded in the landscape everywhere, people working together, more appropriate scaled technology like power generation, a healthier human and ecological environment, a sense of belonging to our community and our place, and a culture more worthy of our handing along to our descendents.
Lisa suggests that we need to develop a whole new language and paradigm that is based on the thesis that "We are nature and nature is us." We need to see humanity as a "keystone species" embedded within a whole ecosystem of creatures and elements. Clearly humanity has attributes that enable us to have a disproportionately large impact on the world around us, so it is up to us to make that impact positive rather than negative.
Author Michael Pollen in his Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals rates four ways of eating food in relation to their health benefits. The least healthy according to Pollen is corporate farming. These are the farms where food is raised in standardized conditions in which animals, such as dairy cows, are housed in tight quarters and lined up for ease of getting to and processing milk. These are also the farms that raise one crop (e.g., corn) and which often use genetic engineering to produce standardized versions of the corn while using a lot of chemicals to control bugs. To further control their produce, these corporate farms engage in activities such as genetic engineering, which again limits variability in the produce.
The next in Pollen's lineup is the corporate organic farming. According to corporate watch:
While the environmental benefits of mass conversion of land cannot be denied -- millions of hectares of land that were once sprayed with pesticides and chemical fertilizers are now being farmed in a more ecological way -- profound changes have accompanied this rapid expansion. The most important of these changes is the incorporation of organic food production into the conventional industrialized food system and the involvement of big food corporations and supermarkets throughout the production, processing and distribution of organic food.
Is the mainstreaming of organic food and its co-option by corporate interests damaging the wider interests the organic movement set out to defend: the environment, animal welfare, the livelihoods of small organic farmers and farmworkers, and the production of food for local communities?
As organic becomes incorporated into the conventional food system, it becomes more processed, packaged and transported -- and therefore much less sustainable. The organic sector is looking more and more like the conventional food sector not only in inputs (use of off-farm compost and fertilisers) and production methods (feedlots and monocultures), but particularly at the processing and distribution end of the supply chain. There is a growing convergence between the supply networks of the organic and conventional food sectors. The geographic reach of the sector is greater - no longer is it 'local food for local markets'. Now organic produce is distributed through supermarket 'just in time' delivery systems to all parts of the country, and relies on imports of exotic and out of season organic produce.
Concentration and monopolization in the conventional food industry has created a handful of giant corporations with such enormous buying power that they are able to set prices, and control market access. They have also accelerated loss of genetic diversity, increased packaging and food miles and damage to local economies. Similar effects can be seen as the organic market becomes more concentrated .