Fertile Ground: Want to Fix the World? Practice Permaculture.
With everything from mindless consumerism to car emissions wreaking havoc on the earth, we know full well that humans do more harm to the environment than good. In fact, it seems that human existence sucks the life out of the planet. (Some existences are more damaging than others, of course). So what is an ecofeminist-minded activist with a penchant for guilt and a need to heal to do? The answer can be permaculture.
Permaculture, a term coined by Bill Mollison in Australia, is an ecological approach to healing the earth by working with nature rather than against it. It does more than just help to stop destruction of earthly goods; it actually helps to heal the Earth and reverse devastating human-inflicted effects. It works to mimic natural systems that appear in the wild, but does more than just encourage us to plant trees for food forests and harvest rainwater; social permaculture between humans is every bit as important, and in fact is a crucial element that a permaculture-strung society needs to thrive.
The permaculture ethics are, in no particular order:
*Care for the Earth
*Care for People
*Redistribute surplus to one’s needs (seeds, money, land, etc.)
Permaculture is about making systems work not only for us, but for everything around us. Simple ideas in permaculture include planting perennial vegetables and fruits, planting food-bearing trees (fruit and nut) with natural plants around them, doing container gardening if you do not have land, and creating function and stability in everything you make, do, and save, including water (de-paving a driveway, for instance, would allow rainwater to permeate the earth and recharge an aquifer). It is a holistic approach to nurturing the natural world and wildlife, creating good instead of perpetuating the bad.
Helping to nurture environmental systems can reveal what healthy, well-functioning human relationships should look like as well, which is known as “social permaculture.” A basic part of social permaculture includes web-like communication strategies, as opposed to other top-down models of human communication, like hierarchies. Since the holistic, organic growing of food is part of permaculture, we can look at it and apply it to social interaction; the idea of spraying chemicals and killing all bugs, including beneficial ones, to decrease bite marks on arugula plants shows how we treat conflict and tough, uncomfortable situations. Basic human instinct is to obliterate the problem and oppress the situation; it’s easier that way. But a holistic, permacultural approach means accepting conflict, and treating it rationally without personal, violent attacks. The bigger picture then becomes more clear. Social permaculture says it is not just about you, the solitary human, it is about the web of human life, wildlife, and nature. Ethics underpin permaculture’s principles. If ethics come before profit, or someone’s job, problems can be solved and balanced and live harmoniously in a just way. For instance, would poisonous DDT have been allowed on the market as a plant spray, which resulted in health problems, if the scientists who created it had put their ethics first?
Like ecofeminism, permaculture shows us a model where everything works harmoniously. We must start from the ground and build up from there.
If you're interested in learning more about permaculture, there are design certificates you can get from programs all over the country (and world). Most programs last about two weeks and are expensive, coming in at about $2,000; luckily, there are many great books, online sources, and YouTube videos you can get a great education from and simply teach yourself with. Share any resources you have to recommend in the comments!
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