Last week I did a two day Introduction to Permaculture course, and like everyone else I’ve met so far, LOVED IT! The wholesome and positive ideas that permaculture presents are a great way to build a stronger happier future and as you hear them, you find yourself going “well of course… yes that’s obvious… why didn’t I think that before!”. Permaculture comes from permanent agriculture and is a way of thinking and designing to live in a sustainable way and regenerate land and people.
Hannah Thorogood has been teaching permaculture for 10 years and for the last three years has been creating her home on land in Lincolnshire. The Inkpot was originally a conventionally pesticide sprayed rapeseed field which was then sown with one type of grass. In the years since Hannah and her family bought the land it has been transformed with a variety of grasses, wildflowers, new trees and vegetables. Building up the health of the land is a gradual process and it’s not finished yet.
We are working on a 20 year vision for the land and our decisions need to follow 7 generational thinking – it needs to be a ‘good’ decision for the next 7 generations.
When most governments only think a few years ahead permaculture is a radically different perspective. So what are the ethics of permaculture?
- Care for the Earth
- Care of people
- Setting limits to population and consumption – fair share
All sounds good so far, so what are the principles from which to work?
- Work with nature not against it
- The problem is the solution – those dandelions? Eat them.
- Make the least change for the greatest possible effect
- The yield of a system is limited by your imagination
- Everything gardens, every species has an effect on it’s environment. Need to weed and till the land? Chickens can do that.
Bringing a system back to balance requires slow small changes so sometimes you might just be observing and doing nothing. There is a hierarchy of intervention that permaculture describes, so you only move down the list if the first options do not work.
- Do nothing and observe
- Biological intervention using plants and animals
- Mechanical or physical intervention
- Chemical as a last resort
In permaculture everything comes back to soil, that’s the real wealth. Your account can be in the black as much as you like but everything come back to the soil.
When designing a system there are 12 design principles to help guide you, and each can be applied to a human system as well as a land one. Have a think through the implications for a community if they started to live their lives with these principles in mind, it’s a nice image.
- Use edges and value the marginal
- Observe and interact
- Use and value renewable resources and services
- Design from patterns to details (e.g. use the patterns of nature for guidance)
- Catch and store energy (I love the idea of how could we store the positive energy of people)
- Obtain a yeild
- Creatively use and respond to change
- Integrate rather than segregate
- Produce no waste
- Apply self regulation and accept feedback
- Use and value diversity
- Use small and slow solutions
As with any overall principles when you start to see them applied things get really interesting. A two day course has given me a taster, but the positive message of permaculture is one that I delight in seeing put into practice. It’s a journey not a destination and I look forward to meeting more people on this beautiful journey.