Understanding Permaculture and its Importance
by Evan DeMarco on Dec 27, 2022
Humans have had a dramatic impact on the planet—and not necessarily in a good way. Although we benefit from millennia of scientific, artistic, literary and industrial contributions, our planet is in trouble.
In particular, the way we treat our land is contributing to climate change. Industrial farming and ranching has exploded over the past century. While an abundance of produce, meat and dairy benefits our food supply, the way we achieve that abundance has created major problems.
Enter permaculture. Permaculture is a practice which integrates the environment, land, resources and people in mutually beneficial ways. It emulates the “no waste” ideal seen in most untouched ecosystems, using a variety of methods.
Permaculture is increasingly important to our planet, especially as global crops dwindle and global warming worsens. Here’s an overview of what permaculture is, and why it’s so important to embrace the concept.
The word “permaculture” is a mash-up of “permanent culture” and “permanent agriculture.” It encompasses consciously designing and maintaining productive ecosystems to produce better harvests. With nearly seven billion people on the planet, there’s no getting around the fact that we need to provide food, drinking water and other resources. Permaculture attempts to find a way to do it that will protect the planet and its inhabitants.
Permaculture embraces multiple disciplines and methodologies. They include agricultural practices, energy conservation, forestry, animal systems and ranching, waste management, building, aquaculture and hydrology, technology and community development. The goal is to create a closed-loop, no-waste system that integrates the natural landscape and the people who live in it.
When permaculture methods are successful, they produce a sustainable and perhaps even regenerative ecosystem. Working with the land, rather than against it—like trying to force certain crops to grow in unfriendly climates—benefits everything from the soil microbiome to the animals we raise for food. The healthier our planet is, the healthier our human population will be, too.
There are over 1,000,000 people certified in permaculture, across over 140 countries and 4,000 different projects. Permaculture has been used to address food and resource scarcity all over the world.
Permaculture in action
The idea of permaculture is fairly easy to understand, but what does it look like in practice? These select products demonstrate different ways permaculture can be incorporated for a healthier planet and populace.
In the United Kingdom, the Findhorn Ecovillage is an experiment in education and conscious living. Located on the west coast of Scotland, the foundation seeks to be environmentally, socially, economically and even spiritually sustainable. They offer permaculture design courses to help others embrace these techniques in their own local environments.
Habiba Organic Farm is located in Nuweiba, Egypt, on a former desert Bedouin settlement. The Habiba farmers were able to take a piece of desert and turn it into fertile land, using farming techniques appropriate for that part of the Sinai Peninsula. Today, the farm has several different crops which can thrive, even in desert conditions.
In Nanning, China, the Happy Food Farm grows crops, flowers and breeds fish and chicken in an almost entirely self-sustainable environment. They also have a program to teach local children about the benefits of permaculture, to pass the knowledge on to the next generation.
El Salvador hosts the Institute of Permaculture El Salvador, an organization of sustainable farmers and three local permaculture associations. Their goal is to promote permaculture throughout El Salvador to create a healthier, sustainable society.
In Tulum, Mexico, Green Beat Farm offers education and demonstrations, plus a major volunteer program for people all over the world. They specialize in raising arugula, chard, mustard greens, microgreens, kale and broccoli for local restaurants, community members and hotels.
New Zealand’s Koanga Institute houses the country’s largest heritage organic seed collection, as well as the Permaculture Research Institute of Wairoa. This internationally-recognized organization educates individuals on how to live sustainably and promote change in their own local communities.
Incorporate permaculture’s ideals into your daily life
Of course, there are also plenty of permaculture associations closer to home. If you live in the United States, look up permaculture classes, associations and movements in your area. While advocating for change is important, remember that change starts with you. Eat sustainably as much as possible, and find out ways you can lessen your impact on the planet.
Not everyone has access to their own or community gardens, let alone robust farmers’ markets and regeneratively farmed meat. By joining existing permaculture associations, however, you can take the lessons you learn and educate others. Together, we can push for better ecosystems for everyone.