It is easy to get down about the way things are going in the big, wide world out there - ever growing levels of pollution as world population grows and everybody is clambering for ‘a better living’, which seems to be achieved by accumulatingever more 'stuff' designed for the landfill. Resources are dwindling and fierce wars are fought over rare metals in far off places. Those on the frontlines of these wars will likely never benefit directly from the riches of their land, but are paid just pennies for risking their lives.
Even supposedly democratic governments seem to have forgotten that they are meant to be serving the people, not rule them as subjects of a plutocracy.
It is easy to lose hope and resign oneself to ‘that’s just the way it is’ and get on with life. One person alone can’t do much anyway, so why bother worrying about anything, right? Might as well just enjoy the ride, play the game and try to keep a jolly face.
Wrong! It doesn’t have to be that way. Things are changing, quietly and persistently. A movement is growing, resilient, strong and healing, sprouting at the grass-roots level, from one community to the another.
It has been said that the next revolution will be fought in our gardens, and I am beginning to see it that way, too. This non-violent, quiet revolution is called ‘Permaculture’, and it is slowly, but surely spreading, not just across the country, but across the entire globe.
Some of you may have heard of it. Sometimes referred to as the ‘no-dig’ system of gardening, conventional growers, even organic growers, tend to dismiss it as a naive and impractical way to feed the millions of hungry mouths around the world. Perhaps that would be true if the aim was to merely replace industrial farms with permaculture farms and continue with the same economic system that we have been locked into for centuries. But clearly, that is not the answer. It has gotten us into the mess we are currently sitting in.
Industrial farming is on the brink of collapse. Soils are depleted, ecosystems are badly degraded and the ‘working paradigm’ is based on war against nature, war against insects and other ‘competitors’, to get maximum yield for maximum profit. Nutritional value, tasteor diversity don’t seem to come into the equation. Instead of using heirloom varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases and adaptable to different climate conditions, agro-industrialists merely produce ‘biomass’.
To that end seeds are engineered to withstand spraying with toxic pesticides and herbicides - with the predictable result of also breeding resistant ‘competitors’ - weeds and insects that can no longer be kept in check with the conventional chemical weapons that agricultural industry has been relying on in the past. Stronger poisons are needed - but where will they come from? And how will they affect wildlife, and how will they affect our own health and nutrition? Well - I’ll leave you to imagine that.
The paradigms of permaculture are not based on maximum yield for maximum profit, but on abundance, and on co-operation and sharing. It is based on restoring, rather than exploiting ecosystems. The emphasis is on ‘thinking globally and acting locally’ - If excessive yields are produced, these can be sold on the national or international markets, but first, lets produce local food for local people.
Presently the market is based on exploitative cash crop economies in ‘developing’ countries: communities are disenfranchised, their land is ‘grabbed’ by multi-nationals and turned into cash crop monocultures - like palm oil, or coffee, or bananas and a host of other items. Peasants are left with no land, or even the time to grow enough food to feed themselves. Instead they depend on the pennies they earn for their labour in this ‘feudal’ system that has its roots in colonial times.
We can’t change the whole world at once, but we can start in our own back yards. We can create cooperative permaculture farms and yards, sharing yields with neighbors and friends and thus reduce our reliance on industrial agriculture that brings us products flown half-way around the world to fill our supermarket shelves with the same stuff all year round. Think globally - grow locally.
Permaculture design is fundamentally different from any conventional agricultural, even organic farming, in that it seeks to imitate and cooperate with nature. Bill Mollison, regarded as one of the fathers of Permaculture, summerised its philosophy in three ethical paradigms and 12 principles.
The ethical paradigms speak for themselves: care for the earth, care for people and fair share.
The 12 principle of permaculture need a little bit more of an explanation:
The 12 principles of permaculture apply to small or large scale horticultural projects and even to large scale ecosystem restoration. But permaculture is not only about food. It is ultimately about ecology, which includes human ecology - in other words, human/nature interactions. It is about restoring the integrity of the web of life of which we are, but one strand among many.
How Permaculture can save Humanity and the earth, but not civilization
Green Gold - John D. Liu
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