Saturday, May 15, 2010
Permaculture design workshop
We had our friend Tracie Seedhouse (of Earthchild Designs) come to lead an "intro to permaculture design" workshop this weekend. Tracie has offered this inspiring introduction to permaculture here at Little City Farm four times, and with each session I still learn so much. In particular, having participants each work on their own designs for their home property (or community garden plot, etc) using the permaculture ideas just learned, puts these ideas into real practice and generates beautiful sketches, visionary designs, and hopefully successful outcomes!
Permaculture (from "permanent culture" and "permanent agriculture") is a whole lifestyle and way of thinking, on more than just the level of garden design or agriculture, but can also be applied to architectural design, social relationships, community based initiatives, even financial institutions (I have read about credit unions based on permaculture principles). Permaculture in many ways is not a new way of thinking, but getting back to older more traditional methods - observing nature, learning to minimize waste, creating systems that are self-reliant, using small and slow solutions to problems, etc. The term permaculture, and system of thinking developed under this banner, originated in Australia in the 1970s with Bill Mollison and later, David Holmgren. Now there are countless permaculture institutes, schools, courses, books, resources, and initiatives happening around the globe, each with their own take on the idea based on their own situation, climate, and other variables. It's an exciting way of thinking, and tries to keep in mind the principles of "fair share", "earth care" and "people care".
David Holmgren's 12 design principles
These restatements of the principles of permaculture appear in Holmgren's Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability; also see permacultureprinciples.com;
1. Observe and interact - By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
2. Catch and store energy - By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
3. Obtain a yield - Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback - We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
5. Use and value renewable resources and services - Make the best use of nature's abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.
6. Produce no waste - By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
7. Design from patterns to details - By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
8. Integrate rather than segregate - By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
9. Use small and slow solutions - Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
10. Use and value diversity - Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
11. Use edges and value the marginal - The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
12. Creatively use and respond to change - We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.