Sunday, March 2, 2014

Permaculture: "Ecological Common Sense"

By Joseph Farley

Permaculture and bioregionalism are something you don’t hear much about in the mainstream media. It’s treated as a bunch of tree huggers or hippies in the woods, a utopian society that isn’t at all achievable. However, after listening to Andrew Faust speak on the subject, it became so clear and seemed incredibly logical. It makes you think why haven’t we been doing this already for years. Building things in areas that are already suited for what it being built, what a concept! Faust is a compelling public speaker, and he himself stresses the simplicity of the vision, saying “it’s not rocket science,” he calls it ecological common sense. It focuses on self maintained agriculture and sustainable architecture for a brighter future.
Faust, who spoke at Ramapo College recently, teaches at the Center for Bioregional Living in Brooklyn, New York. He also teaches courses and workshops on permaculture and sustainable living. Bill Mollison, who coined the term permaculture, said, “permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” Basically, we shouldn’t be building or throwing up structures without taking into account if the land it’s being built on can sustain such a stress.
However, there are things we can do to improve the infrastructure we already have, especially in our major urban areas. Faust talks about using permaculture principles to make upgrades to the urban landscape and help it move towards self-sufficiency. He argues that these goals are all reachable and sustainable, but we must choose to act and strive forward. The more we get the message out there the more likely it is that these objectives will be achieved. There are obstacles, mainly big businesses that focus more on profit margins than the impact they are making on the environment. Money and greed is the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of bioregionalism and sustainable living.
The first permaculture principle is probably the most important, in addition to being the most obvious. It is observe and interact, by taking the time to get to know the land we can design solutions that best fit a given situation. Collecting and storing energy is also essential, but the first principle is the most important to understand the system. As Faust says, “by balancing human needs with ecological integrity, we can heal ourselves while also healing the land.”

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