The world we live in today is presented with many unprecedented problems and challenges; not least among these are: climate change, the environmental degradation inherent in the lifestyle typified by western civilization, and the lack of food sovereignty (i.e. “The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” – Wikipidia}
We are part of a culture that advocates limitless economic growth, regardless of the environmental degradation caused in the process. We have come up against the limits of growth as our demand for material goods has mined and stripped “Mother Nature”, leaving her unable to protect and provide for us, in order to fulfill our ever- expanding desires.
Oil and more importantly cheap oil is the key resource that underpins western civilization’s expansions; without it the modern food system could not exist. Oil is a finite resource subject to escalating prices when supply is threatened, resulting in increasing food and living costs.
Our unsustainable use of finite resources coupled with environmental pollution from our western way of living along with unsustainable farming practices has resulted in changes to our ecosystems and contributed to changing weather patterns, with more and more unpredictable and extreme weather conditions being the norm. This further threatens the supply of food and water for an ever-increasing population.
In seeking a way for us as individuals, and collectively in our communities, to address these problems we find that Permaculture (Permanent agriculture) offers a framework through which we can direct our efforts.
Bill Mollison, developer of permaculture, defined it as, “ the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food. Energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no hope of a stable social order.”
Permaculture is based on taking responsibility for our actions; its first ethical basis for action is Care of the Earth; for, without a healthy earth it is recognized we cannot have healthy people.
The second Ethic is Care for People; for, to live sustainably in a low energy future will require a co-operative approach that places the orientation on the collective as opposed to the individual.
The third ethic is Fair Share; this ethic emphasizes the need to reduce our footprint on the earth in terms of our consumption of materials and reducing the number of children we may intend to have. It also advocates for the return of surplus profits/yields to the foregoing ethics.
Permacultures’ importance lies not only in the holistic view it offers us of a sustainable world but in the very practical design principles, methods and tools it provides for making this vision a reality. Permaculture design systems are based on observations of natural eco-systems; therefore they have the diversity of species and the form of naturally occurring patterns in nature, resulting in the resilience typical of productive natural systems such as climax forests. This resilience, which is based in good design, is at the heart of why Permaculture is of such great importance to a World in Need of Healing.
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