What is Permaculture? The simple answer is “the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.” To tell the truth, I probably never would have heard the term except for this article by John Mosby. I don’t agree with all of his ideas, but if he writes about something it’s definitely worth checking out. So I decided to see if I could find an answer to this: Does Permaculture Have Anything to Offer the Backyardsman? It turned out to be easier than I thought. There is a Permaculture Meetup group right here in my town that meets twice a month. So I joined the group and went to my first Meetup with them last night.
So what is Permaculture?
The definition above is just a little oversimplified, so here is something a little more descriptive from Bill Mollison (one of the founders of the movement):
“The aim is to create systems that are ecologically-sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term.”
“Permaculture uses the inherent qualities of plants and animals combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures to produce a life-supporting system for city and country, using the smallest practical area.”
OK, that sounds simple enough but how do you practice Permaculture? By following and practicing the Three Ethics and Twelve Principles of Permaculture as defined by David Holmgren (the other founder of the movement).
Permaculture – First Impressions
The people at the Meetup were friendly and helpful. The problem I have is that they all advocate applying Permaculture principles to all areas of life and society. To them, gardening is just one aspect of Permaculture, and not even the most important one. Definitely far left leaning, in the 60’s hippy sort of way. I’ve found this to be a common thread in the online works on Permaculture too. Politics aside, does Permaculture have anything to offer the Backyardsman? Yes and no…
The 12 Principles of Permaculture
- Observe and Interact
- Catch and Store Energy
- Obtain a Yield
- Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services
- 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
Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 12 have obvious application to the Backyardsman. Observing and interacting is what we do. Catching and storing energy is how we cook and avoid freezing to death. Obtain a Yield? Thank you Capt Obvious… Same for applying self regulation (self discipline) and using renewable resources when possible. And of course responding to change is something that should be second nature to a Backyardsman…
Principle 6 is something worth working towards but is impossible in the real world. Principles 7, 9, and 11 are useful too, but I need more time to think about how to apply them.
That leaves Principles 8 and 10, the only two I have a problem with. They are also the two which make it easy for the left to want to apply Permaculture to society as a whole instead of just to gardening.
Permaculture for the Backyardsman
I think Permaculture does have some valuable things to offer the Backyardsman. Learning how to observe and operate in your environment are valuable life skills. Creativity and being able to respond to change are valuable too. I’m not so sure about diversity just for the sake of diversity. Well, I am sure but I don’t want to rant… Also keep in mind that many of the people you’ll be dealing with in the Permaculture community have a leftist world view. A lot of them don’t like guns. A lot of them probably think Trump voters are knuckle dragging reprobates.