By Eric J. Smith
My first introduction to Permaculture happened before I even knew there was such a system. As a teenager with a keen interest in horticulture, watching neighbours, friends and family removing trees from their property and loading them onto (often) several trailer loads and taking them to the tip. Then within days seeing a truck deliver a load of bark or woodchips to rejuvenate old or create new beds in the freshly trimmed landscape. Seeing these delivery trucks my thoughts went back to the loads of biomass that went to the tip only days earlier that could have easily been converted to woodchips.
Now, with an understanding of Permaculture and its ethics I recognise what I was observing to be the 3 ethics (Earth care, People Care and Return of Surplus / Fair Share) as well as several principles including – “Produce no waste”, “Catch and Store Energy”, “Obtain a Yield”, “Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services”, “Creatively use and Respond to Change”.
Sustainability through Permanent Landscapes and Food forests is a design process that copies the interaction and relationships found in nature. A systems approach to sustainability that can be utilised for all aspects of human survival from agriculture to ecological building, from utilising appropriate technology to economics, from education to energy production.
Permaculture takes the focus off us being consumers and puts the emphasis on us being producers. Its a system that can be applied to a property as small as a balcony garden through average quarter acre urban home sites to properties that are literally hundreds of acres.
Despite popular opinion among those who dabble in Permaculture it is not about Gardening – though gardening forms a large part of a productive system, it is not about Solar Panels and energy – though producing, storing and saving energy is a part of the system, It is not about Catching, storing and using water more efficiently – though the smart use, storage and flow of water forms part of the system. Rather it is a complete systems approach to sustainable thinking.
Although my first introduction to Permaculture was based on a similar mindset without knowing there was such a design system, I soon started to read about people like Bill Mollison – the Tasmanian who started the design system, David Holmgren who co-reated the system with Bill and other students of these originators – Geoff Lawton, Rosemary Morrow, et al.
It was a light globe moment discovering how all these people were thinking about the same methods, the same logic of sustainability that I was. I wasn’t going mad after all. My thoughts were already being put into practice by a group of awesome people – Permaculture was not only born – It was quietly in practice right around the globe.