Permaculture Design - Articles and Essays
What is BioRegional Design?
Permaculture is a design discipline that is the ultimate in deep ecology and holistic healing of the earth human relationship. It is finding ways to synergize human and planetary dynamics and processes. Permaculture as a term is a contraction for permanent agriculture which is seen by the chaps who coined it Bill Mollison and David Holmgren to be the foundation of civilization. Permaculture started in the early 70’s in part Mollison wanted to see earth repair work on damaged sites be part of what the hippies would learn to do through his books and classes with their back to the land movement in Australia. It has a diversity of sources for it’s principles which are the real tool kit of permaculture, they are cybernetics and systems theory from Howard and Eugene Odum, Holmgren’s ecological studies and systems experience and Mollison’s life with aborigines helping to establish their right to have their land granted back to them by helping to prove their genealogy as aboriginal.
Other influences are Masanobu Fukuoka a Japanese microbiologist whose seminal text is the One Straw Revolution illustrates the Tao of how permaculture cooperates with nature and capitalizes on natures inherent direction with a human need in mind. Permaculture looks to the long term potential of trees and what it calls forest gardens to provide a significant increase in the long term sustainability of, not just how we feed ourselves but also how we house ourselves, clothe ourselves medicate ourselves, permaculture wants to regionalize and naturalize all this.
Andrew Faust has been studying permaculture since 1996 when he took a permaculture design certification course which is a 72 hour class, usually a 12 day intensive format, based on Bill Mollison’s books and vision which is expansive and world changing to say the least. I took my course in 96’ at The Farm in TN and with Peter Bane and Chuck Marsh.
The Center for Bioregional Living then incorporated what Andrew learned into a high school curriculum at a free school where he taught in PA. called Upattinas
Faust homesteaded of the grid in West Virginia for a total of 10 years to build a 1400 square foot straw bale home there and drink water from a pure spring while growing much of my own food and raising chickens for meat and for eggs and grazing a young dairy cow. This was his permaculture immersion learning that i brought my knowledge from back out into the ruckus of the northeastern corridor. Andrew has been in NYC for the past 7 years really taking this permaculture worldview and applying it to this city and to the entire region and our national health and economic problems.
Permaculture is a holistic healing modality that works with might be called the dharma work of rebuilding our relationship as a species and as society with our mother earth and the life matrix. Recognizimg the intrinsic inseparability of human health and ecological health. Permaculture takes on real work as Gary Snyder calls it, of creating through a design and observation process a well thought out and experience based whole site and ultimately whole regional design. This regional scale of applying permaculture is where Faust's interest lies most strongly.
Permaculture in cities means specifically that we bring in as much biodiversity as possible to heal and absorb pollutants and rain fall to improve human health by cooling the city with plants and bringing plants into our buildings to clean air and growing them on the sides and roofs to absorb air pollutants and alleviate the urban heat island effect.
You see plants are ingenious as soon as we begin to tap into the potential positive synergy of natures innovations and incorporating them in thoughtful ways to retrofit the highly petroleum based largely toxic hardscape of most cities and soften it and heal it with the softscape of vegetation and less cars, more trains, more human scale infrastructure as we repair and adapt the damage of a poorly designed infrastructure to be healthy and more regional and less global in where the goods and services are being provided.
The Permaculture principle; catch hold and store energy high in the system. Now in terms of defining our system, it is a landscape or a uplifted surface like a mountain or a high rise building. The energy coming into it, from a whole systems perspective is sunlight, rainfall,human nutrients and waste streams.If we catch hold and store as much sunlight as we can by sequestering and accruing it in plants that we have planted specifically for medicine or food or fiber or fuel crops or to provide habitat for biodiversity and if we make as many of those plants as possible to be perennials so we do not have to replant them and get more productive every year, then we have paid attention to the potential yields.We will do the same for all the energy, use the rain to water the plants and store it in big tanks high up to use gravity for moving it. Nutrients like black water and grey water from toilets and showers etc. can be turned into fuel for gas stoves in biogas digestors on-site.
From our permaculture worldview we see a city of missed yields and missed opportunities just ripe for those of us who are inspired to tap into dynamic dance of the energetics and materials that are flowing all around us and begin to catch hold and store and create yields and see that this really works!