What is Permaculture?

What is Permaculture?
Contributor
Contributor
External Guest Writer
June 6, 2022

The effects of climate change are in dire need of reversal. Climate change has threatened the quality of life for the majority of the population, and it continues to contribute to the downfall of natural ecosystems.

NASA recommends a two-tier approach to living with the current climate change effects, integrating systems that would minimize the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere: Adaptation and Mitigation, respectively.

The permaculture approach is a sustainable way of living that continues the essential systems humans need to survive: such as food cultivation, gardening techniques, and advancements in sustainable agriculture, while keeping the environmental effects of these systems to a minimum.

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture, short for Permanent Culture, is the study and lifestyle of which humans integrate naturally-occurring systems into their lives. By working with nature, and not against it, those who practice permaculture are able to create a self-sufficient ecosystem that does not contribute to the detriment of the environment. 

Permaculture is a philosophy, agricultural technology, and sustainable architecture design that takes inspiration from natural systems such as waterways, wind power generation, permaculture farming, and even vermiculture. Through protracted and thoughtful observation, permaculture practices look to natural systems as a basis for the systems used in everyday life.

With the threat of environmental degradation and climate change, ecosystems are in danger of extinction. Permaculture is a way to go back to natural roots, and reverse the effects of resource exploitation while keeping up with the advancements in technology and agriculture used to sustain modern society.

How Does It Work?

The goal of permaculture is to create productive systems to create a sustainable way of living. Permaculture is all about optimizing resources, land, and people to create an ecosystem that benefits all inhabitants while minimizing wastage. There are several ways to achieve permaculture through natural systems, such as the Closed Loop System and Eco Earthworks.

Closed Loop System

There are several different ideologies in permaculture design that make use of recycled, repurposed, or reused waste products in manufacturing new resources, one being the closed loop system. The idea of the closed loop system is to recirculate wastes into the ecosystem, thereby minimizing waste production by turning waste into energy.

Biofuel, organic fertilizer, and turning kitchen waste into animal feed are examples of closed loop systems. The closed loop system is a popular form of sustainable living, and is the most common practice in permaculture.

Permaculture farms that use a closed loop system create agriculturally productive ecosystems with as minimal waste as possible. A permaculture farm takes ideas from primitive methods of farming, making sure each waste byproduct can be utilized in the ecosystem continuously in zero-waste farming.

Eco Earthworks in Natural Ecosystems

Eco earthworks is another permaculture system commonly used in agriculture to decrease the negative effects of farming on the environment. Eco earthworks in permanent agriculture may materialize in the form of terrace farming, canal systems, or irrigation systems that ensure the conservation of water.

The idea of eco earthworks is that every drop of water must not be wasted, and practices under this category take measures to ensure every milliliter of water is put into good use either for crops, livestock, or other use.

Hydroponics, which recycles and conserves water, also falls under eco earthworks. The conscious design system purposely ensures water wastage is kept at a minimum, while nurturing a technique that can grow food and perennial crops in limited space and agricultural lands.

The Different Applications of Permaculture

Agroforestry system hands picking limes on a plantation

Agroforestry

Agroforestry, as defined by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), deals with the combination of permanent agriculture practices and forestry to integrate trees, shrubs, and bushes in raising livestock or growing perennial and cover crops sustainably.

This type of permanent agriculture creates a productive ecosystem that is diverse, profitable, and sustainable in its practices as agroforestry mirrors naturally-forming forests to grow food and domesticate livestock. 

Agroforestry farms mimic the natural ecosystem as closely as possible to cultivate a healthy, self-reliant, and thriving ecosystem without the need of human intervention. It encourages community development within natural flora and fauna, studying the undisturbed interactions between symbiotic organisms doing their fair share of ecosystem conservation.

Hands holding worms with soil a farmer showing group of earthworms in his hands production of vermicompost from household food waste

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a simple yet effective practice of agriculturally productive ecosystems that utilize naturally-occurring soil systems to process compost through the use of earthworms. 

In the wild, earthworms are part of the natural compost system, where worms are responsible for consuming green and brown wastes, as well as aerating the soil, and providing plants with essential nutrients through their castings. 

Worms have also proven to be ideal to integrate in growing food, particularly organic crops, as the worms only eat rotting organic matter, not the healthy plant. A community of worms multiplies rapidly under the right conditions, and their worm castings, called vermicast, is a popular fertilizer for organic and urban farming for its ability to decrease the heavy metals in the soil, and improve soil condition. 

The use of worms in vermicomposting stems from the observation that plants have been successfully grown and cultivated by a healthy population of worms, as compared to plants grown with conventional compost and chemical fertilizers. 

Medium shot woman in garden

Urban Permaculture - Urban Farming

Urban farming is a gardening technique and a practice in permaculture that has been a popular trend among gardeners, horticulturalists, and organic farmers living in urban and suburban areas where land is limited. Urban farmers often grow culinary and medicinal herbs organically using permaculture principles.

Categorized under permaculture farming, urban farming combines the process of growing consumable or medicinal plants in a metropolitan setting - adapting to differences in weather, light, humidity and water that would otherwise occur naturally in countryside farming. Rainwater harvesting for use in urban gardens is also commonplace.

Urban farming finds its roots in the demand for organic produce without the added artificial and chemical pesticides and fertilizer. However, organic urban farming is not devoid of plant-essential additives. Instead, urban farmers turn to naturally-occuring fertilizers and pesticides safe for organic crops, such as vermicast, neem oil, and diatomaceous earth.

Permaculture Design and Architecture

Permaculture architecture can be seen in modern buildings where green building is widely encouraged in countries like Singapore, Australia, and parts of Scandinavia. Permaculture in construction makes use of renewable resources in building, as well as permaculture design courses to build environmentally-sustainable structures.

Natural building is not limited to the integration of foliage into the design of a structure, but natural systems are also considered in water, energy, and air circulation systems operating around the building in harmonious integration. 

Simply put, permaculture in buildings aim to improve the quality of life within the structure at no cost to the environment. The design system updates environmental psychology in relation to architecture through protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor.

Earth Care

With the constant threat of extinction and environmental degradation, going back to the roots of nature not only poses an alternative to the conventional processes done today, but provides a solution to the world’s ever-changing landscape.