Permaculture

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= a design science for developing sustainable human habitats through seeking synergy with natures own processes and cycles.


Description

"Permaculture is a set of principles and practices that draw upon patterns found in healthy ecosystems to design more sustainable human and natural systems. These principles can be applied to any endeavor but are most commonly used in gardening, organic agriculture, landscape design, natural building techniques and environmental protection initiatives.

The movement traces its origins to the Australian island of Tasmania in the 1970s when naturalists Billl Mollison and David Holmgren grew concerned about problems associated with industrial agriculture. Mollison wrote several books outlining what a more ecological approach to growing food, protecting landscapes and managing economies would look like, and lectured in more than 80 countries. It is now being practiced by households and communities around the world." (http://onthecommons.org/magazine/permaculture-revolution-takes-root-cities)

Principles

From the Wikipedia:

"What sets permaculture apart from other developmental approaches is that it is not just a model, it is a comprehensive design process. Each site, whether a household, school, clinic, business, farm, or village, has a unique set of elements and design considerations. But while each site is viewed as unique, in permaculture design and practice, economic benefit does not contradict, or even benefit to, three core values or ethics:

  1. Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
  2. Care of People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  3. Setting Limits to Population and Consumption: By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture#Core_values)


From URL = http://www.heathcote.org/PCIntro/4Principles.htm

   * conservation
   * stacking functions
   * repeating functions
   * reciprocity
   * appropriate scale
   * diversity
   * give away the surplus


Permaculture Design Principles

URL = http://permacultureprinciples.com/principles.php

   * observe and interact
   * catch and store energy
   * obtain a yield
   * apply self-regulation and accept feedback
   * use and value renewable resources and sources
   * produce no waste
   * design from patterns to details
   * integrate rather than segregate
   * use small and slow solutions
   * use and value diversity
   * use edges and value the marginal
   * creatively use and respond to change


Discussion

The link between Permaculture and a Regenerative Society and Economy

From an interview of John D. Liu by Riccardo Tucci & Rhamis Kent:

* Riccardo Tucci & Rhamis Kent: In the multidisciplinary world of ecological restoration, what role do you attribute to Permaculture?

John D. Liu: Permaculture is a movement that began when individuals began to learn the same things that I have learned by studying ecosystems. They saw that water, plants, microbial communities and biodiversity, were all inter-related and were part of functioning ecosystems. They also saw that modern agriculture was simply wrong-headed and really was just Neolithic agriculture with tractors and chemicals. They saw that it was possible to collaborate with nature rather than simply mine the soil extracting what they wanted and laying waste to the Earth.

This is the knowledge that must be understood by all people on the Earth as quickly as possible. Once you begin to understand, you cannot go back – just like you can’t believe that the Earth is flat. When you understand that moisture is infiltrated into the ground dependent on the percentages and total amounts of organic material in the soil you, cannot believe that plowing is a good idea. There is a great unhappiness now in human civilization because everyone knows in their heart that overconsumption, waste, and pollution are wrong. Yet the existing society and economy demands that we need more and more growth even if it kills us.

We are experiencing the end of an era. We cannot burn the remaining petroleum in the Earth, we cannot burn the remaining coal. We cannot mass-produce everything to enrich a few and let billions of people starve in poverty or be serfs to serve the wealthy. We need to know that not only all people but all living things have inalienable rights. We need to live more simply. We need to know how to care for the soil, the water, the plants and the animals on the Earth. We need to use our lives to ensure that human civilization will survive. Permaculture is a way for people who understand this to share their knowledge with those who are seeking to learn more." (http://permaculturenews.org/2016/06/29/john-d-liu-interview-possible-rehabilitate-large-scale-damaged-ecosystems/)


A Cultural Critique of the Primitivist Wing of Permaculture

Eric Hunting:

"Permaculture is a valuable and practical technology whose inspiration probably has its roots (pun intended...) in Taoist gardening and cultures like that of the Chagga tribes of the south-eastern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro where, until recent times, the purposeful concerted co- cultivation of nearly a thousand plant species was employed to create one of the most remarkable agrarian cultures ever seen. Communities that look like natural jungle but host 100,000 people in comfort. Permaculture is, essentially, the _engineering_ of artificial ecosystems for the purpose of maximizing productivity for a diversity of food crops. It's one of those brilliant 'lazy like an engineer' concepts where one is trying to create a self-perpetuating system for one's own benefit that you need put the least amount of human effort into maintaining. It has its counterpart in polyspecies mariculture which is, again, an attempt to cultivate a self-perpetuating ecosystem that maximizes the production of a number of marine crops starting with algea at the bottom of the food chain -in this way eliminating the economic overhead of feedstocks. It's particularly important to maximizing the economic and carbon replacement potential of the use of OTEC power, exploiting the nutrient-rich upwelling discharge from these systems as the base feedstock. And it's efficient. Polyspecies mariculture can potentially yield about 5 times the protein per hectare of any conventional form of land farming.

The thing with Mollison and other later members of the permaculture movement is that they came out of the 1970s era split in the original environmentalism movement between EcoTech and Soft Tech that resulted from the emergence of an environmental fundamentalism with its origins in 18th century Romanticism and with much influence from neopaganism. Part of this has been the drafting of an arbitrary distinction between 'technology' and other kinds of artifice in the manner of the distinction between the secular and the religious, the former being characterized as profane, the latter virtuous. This relates to the Romanticists rejection of the rationalism of the Enlightenment in favor of the spiritual, emotional, and presumably more 'human' and 'natural'. And so it becomes 'blasphemous' to consider permaculture or other forms of Soft Tech (a term environmentalists won't even use anymore) a technology with both constructive and destructive potential like any other technology because if its non-electric/electronic, non- mechanical, primitive-seeming, and involves getting your hands dirty and being in intimate contact with trees and plants then it somehow means its more in-tune with the Gaian Logos.


There's no reason to this. There's no reason why biophysics should somehow be more virtuous than any other aspect of physics. But this isn't about reason. It's religion. Progress in permaculture has generally been slowed by this. To be effective at permaculture means to be a scientist and engineer with a deep comprehension of biology and the ecological relationships between organisms. But this cultural rejection of science and 'naughty technology' among so many of the proponents of permaculture -this nonsense that it represents a moral rather than practical alternative to agriculture- results in it not getting the benefit of serious scientific research and thus never being refined as a technique to be broadly implemented. This may be changing with the emergence of the new Bright Green movement -a resurgence of the EcoTech side of environmentalism coming in reaction to the increasing plain deterioration of environmental fundamentalism into a Malthusianist doomsday cult." (http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/browse_thread/thread/aca9bbb8734cb34a/db289de4a5b35a59?show_docid=db289de4a5b35a59)


Summary of the Criticisms

From the Wikipedia:

"Some critics have questioned on which scientific data is based the claim of "higher productivity of more mature ecosystems" promoted by permaculture advocates. These claims are based on Odum extensive work on ecosystem productivity, and ecological succession theory. Some critics also claim that woods can not be more highly productive than farmland, as ecological succession states that net productivity declines when forests mature. Proponents of permaculture respond that this is true only if one compares data from between woodland forest and climax vegetation, but not when comparing farmland vegetation with woodland forest. Ecological succession more precisely states that land productivity first rises with forest establishment until reaching the woodland state, with 66% of tree cover, before declining until full maturity. Primary production concept explore this aspect in details.

Although permaculture basic concepts ground in traditional scientific knowledge of ecology, critics found it is often difficult to find scientifically tested data that validate certain claims promoted by permaculture advocates, and conclude that they neglect the scientific approach. Proponents of permaculture respond that supporting its basic concepts, permaculture design applies and combines scientific findings from organic gardening, agroforestery and ecology research, such as plant companionship, composting or mycorhizhal benefits. Such classic scientific data demonstrates the benefit on productivity of growing mutual beneficial plants together compared to growing them separately.[citation needed] But for more elaborate concepts, such as raised bed design and efficiency, extensive scientific data is still lacking.

Proponents of permaculture admit that historically permaculture developed first as a collection of farming practices rather than a scientific theory, and as such did not yet developed a large corpus of scientifically validated data. But they argue that complexity in permaculture, as in applied ecology, make it inherently difficult to validate scientifically. Permaculture design take advantage of multiple relationship to build non-linear systems, known to be to difficult to predict, isolate and test in the lab with traditional methods. This inadequacy of science with living system complexity is largely described by an early permaculture inspirer, Fukuoka, and attested by his career radical conversion from pathological botanics research to philosophical natural farming. More recently, Owen Hablutzel made a step forward, and associated permaculture design with chaos mathematics and ecology concepts, such as ecological succession and attractors, to apply permaculture in a field study on draught and salinity remediation with impressive empirical scientific results of pH, salinity and compaction reduction, and water infiltration rise.

Some other critics and practitioners, identify permaculture to a set of spiritual, ethic and moral rules, and claim that permaculture is a system of belief and behavior that has or need no scientific justification. Permaculture conceptual proximity with biodynamics can lead to similar confusions. As an example, companion plants determination from chromatography in biodynamics, is highly disregarded from most permaculture practitioners.

Finally, permaculture critics also focused on the lack of clarity and scientific inexactitude of certain authors and teachers, especially when expressing outside of their domain of expertise. In his books “Sustainable Freshwater Aquaculture” and "Farming in ponds and dams", Nick Romanowki expresses the view that the presentation of aquaculture in Bill Mollison's books is unrealistic and misleading. Linda Chalker-Scott claims that Toby Hemenway's views regarding invasive species in the permaculture book "Gaia's Garden" are pseudo-science." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture#)

More Information

  1. Description on wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture
  2. Permaculture design wiki http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Permaculture_design
  3. Permaculture Blog with lots of interesting articles http://permaculture.org.au/

See also: Open Source Permaculture