Saturday, March 1, 2014

Permaculture: Are We Ready for this Revolution?

By Anthony Vigna

Outspoken permaculture enthusiast Andrew Faust told Ramapo College students recently about an interesting initiative for the world to take on: he wants us to fill our cities and buildings with plants. Granted, I say that in an overly simplistic manner, but that’s essentially what it does. After all, permaculture as a term basically means permanent agriculture. While it sounds a little ridiculous at first, Faust’s ideals do have a purpose. They have the potential to revolutionize our way of living and offer a positive effect on world sustainability.

Faust argues that we should take on an urban permaculture movement because the way we currently live is unsustainable, and I have to agree with that. We live in a society that is very linear in nature. We extract materials from the Earth, create something in a producible form, distribute it around the world, consume the end product, and then dispose of it when we are done. In this model, we are producing things that cannot be reused, as the disposal portion is the end of the line. By following this model, we are being wasteful and harming our world’s sustainability. The only way to fix this model would be to make it so that it is cyclical. So, once we remove disposing and limit extraction, you’ll have a cyclical model that produces, distributes, consumes, and produces once more.

Of course, doing something like this is easier said than done. But, one of the most viable options to support the cyclical model is the urban permaculture movement. As I stated previously, permaculture is about planting around our buildings in order to sustain human life. Not only that, but it’s also about placing it in the right spots, as you have to keep in mind where the sun will be and where the wind will blow. By planting things in a specific way, any garden could transform in such a way that produces more than it consumes. For example, by adding permaculture to the roof of a building that houses solar panels, those panels will be a lot more effective at what they do thanks to the plants around it. This is an example of how permaculture could give energy to a building in a practical setting.

While I love this idea, I have one major criticism of this initiative: it’s way too drastic. Sure, it’s very practical and will help sustain the world in a better way, but it will be hard to convince cities around the world that we should start adding plants to all of their buildings. During the conference, Faust said that implementation of the urban permaculture movement will be applied one step at a time. He believes that if important areas of major cities start doing it, then others will follow suit. If it is that easy, then I’ll fully embrace Faust’s ideals. Yet, for now, it seems that the permaculture movement has barely dented our current way of living, so I shall remain skeptical of its implementation for the time being.

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