For a complete list of our Podcasts, click here.
is one, and only one, solution and we have almost no time to try it. We must turn all our resources to repairing the natural world,and train
all our young people to help. They want to. We need to give them this
last chance to create forests, soils, clean waters, clean energies, secure communities, stable regions and to know how to do it from
Bill Mollison, co-founder of Permaculture
Larry Santoyo (LS)- Coined in the early 1970s by Australian ecologists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, Permaculture is a contraction of the words “permanent” and “culture.” Permaculture is a highly developed Art, Science, and a Philosophy- all in one. Permaculture Design is a Community Planning and Land Use Planning system that mimics nature. It offers a natural, practical and inherently economical way to model the way we build and operate our homes and communities.
Many people think Permaculture is an organic gardening method.
LS- Contrary to popular belief, Permaculture Design is not about gardening. It is however, based on the observation of nature and therefore very easily adapted to gardens, but Permaculture goes way beyond organic gardening. Permaculture designers learn to observe and research naturally occurring plant and animal assemblies, where total resource efficiency is accomplished by managing waste for productivity. This type of information can be directly translated for use in among other things, regenerative farming practices. Perennial fruit trees, shrubs, and vines, together with livestock and commercial crops are selected to mimic natural assemblies; where each plant and animal benefits the other providing a permanent and maintenance free resource system.
What are the best uses for Permaculture? Can its principles be applied to all sectors; building, transport, energy, livelihood?
LS- Creating community development plans is probably Permaculture Design’s best application. Eco-Urbanism, getting cities and suburbia more sustainable is my biggest interest and I believe is how we will succeed in preserving wilderness and reduce the wasting of our natural resources. People and business need to be made aware of alternatives and taught to adopt a more “conserver” society approach to living and doing business.
The permaculture designer treats the built environment and the natural environment as a whole. Houses are designed not only for optimum solar advantage, but are carefully sited away from sensitive areas. Prime agricultural land and wild lands are preserves.
For economic development, Nature’s model of resource efficiency is used again. In this process an inventory is meticulously prepared, examining a community’s basic needs and cross referenced with its renewable resources. Needs that are not met by local resources are considered job opportunities for the community. Only those resources surplus to local needs are made available as sustainable commodities for sale and trade, thus creating a sustainable ecology based on real need and renewable resources. Mixed use zoning mimics natural systems and is highly recommended for community land use plans. Designing residential and commercial zones into clusters, allows large areas of open and wild space to remain intact. This creates an “access by proximity design” allowing people to live, shop, work, and recreate in the same area. Transportation and traffic problems are greatly reduced. Suburban and urban consumers can also help conserve natural resources and link directly with nearby farms and other rural enterprise.
Reading the landscape and observation seem to play a large role in PC Design.
LS- We teach workshops on “Reading the Patterns of the Landscape” where students and designers learn new observation skills. When you learn to read the landscape you learn that every plant, every animal, every place, and every earth element has intrinsic characteristics and dynamic qualities. As you learn to read the landscape, you see these characteristics and qualities have very specific functions. You learn to recognize that each of these functions contribute to the sustainability, the health and vigor of the total landscape.
We learn that in the geometry of nature predictable patterns do emerge, patterns, orders of streams, branching of trees, the scales of fish, even the cracks in the mud and the blowing wind are filled with lessons. All to teach us the highest and most efficient use of energy and the best use of resources.
Within the flow of earth’s elements lies the critical energies that shape the landscape. We learn to read the landscape and to work within the dynamic principals of any landscape. Earth’s elements; fire, water, earth, air become our teachers, our managers, and our architects!
That’s beautiful. Nature as architect and teacher... Are you in the mood to talk about thistles?
LS- When you learn to read the landscape you come to realize that even the cursed thistle is a powerful and integral part of the total ecosystem, with an important message for those who take the time to read it.
Let’s look at the intrinsic characteristics of the thistle. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a thistle? Most of us would think of thistles as very sharp, prickly, and spiny leaves and any gardener who’s ever tried to pull out thistles would remind us that it, indeed, has long, deep tap roots. This definitely has a message for us, a function. But, in order to tell you the story of the thistle, let me back up a little, to a time before the thistles emerge. Let’s think of a lush grassland, think of the grass itself and its intrinsic characteristics. When you look closely, you discover that grass is meant actually designed to be grazed. That is it grows from the its base, not from its tips. It grows from ground level. Its lush growth is stimulated by being eaten. In the balance of nature, the energy converted to create grass is then designed to be stored and converted into grazing animals. But what happens when the grass is over grazed? What happens when its roots are crushed, when the soil is compacted hard by the constant trampling of heavy animals? And what happens when the balance of nutrients is depleted so much that it no longer renews the health and vigor of the soil? What happens is that nature responds. When you learn to read the landscape, you will see that nature responds to heal itself with thistles! The thistles are designed to repel grazing animals. It’s nature’s way of saying enough! Enough grazing, it’s time now to heal. So, it sends up its thistles with its spiny leaves, no longer inviting the animals to feed on the lush green grass. Now it repels these grazers form tramping and compacting and with its long tap roots, thistles mine the soil to bring up and replace the now needed nutrients. The long tap roots penetrate deep to break up and loosen the hard soil compacted by too many animals. The thistle is telling us to stay away until the soil is rebuilt, until the earth is healed. It sets the stage for the disturbance to end, health to return and the next level of succession to begin.
When you learn to recognize intrinsic characteristics of places, plants, and animals in the landscape, you can then learn how to use them, wisely and appropriately. You will learn how to have the greatest effect using the least amount of energy. You can learn to be more creative, to see beyond the ordinary, to save money and resources.
Give us some examples of Permaculture Design or of PC solving a problem...
Julious Piti is a Permaculture teacher and designer, organic farmer, and conflict facilitator based in Zimbabwe, Africa. Julious is the co-founder of the Chikukwa Ecological Land Trust and director of PORET- an organization formed to assist farmers in dry-land areas. In his work, Julious restores degraded land and builds community.
Every two years, permaculturists from around the globe gather together
at the International Permaculture Conference and Convergence (IPC).
This year, the IPC takes place in Jordan and its theme is "Plan Jordan-
Water For Life. Water For Nature." Margie Bushman and Wes Roe,
volunteer coordinators for the IPC Support Group, clue us in on what
happens at the Conference, why they believe that travel is the best
teacher, and how, for the first time ever, you can watch the IPC10
Conference live-streamed through the internet.
Warren Brush talks about his work in Africa, the power of storytelling, and
why children need us to be part of the solution. Brush, co-founder of
Quail Springs Learning Oasis and Permaculture Farm, has mentored youth
and educated adults around the world teaching them Permaculture and
other practical life skills.