Permaculture: a presentation

(This text was written by Pinja as an English language portfolio exercise which she presented orally to her class in Espoo Steiner School high school. Erkki has corrected some spelling mistakes.)


The purpose of this portfolio

My purpose in this portofolio is to present the ethics and priciples of permaculture. I have concentrated on its cultural and social dimensions. I will tell how it affects society and lifestyle. As an example I will introduce my family’s permaculture project Iso-orvokkiniitty. (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Explanation of key words

Enviromental threats: threats by human influence which cause permament damage to the balance of nature.
Biodiversity: diversity in nature at different levels, for example genetical, populational and ecosystems levels.

Ecologial succession: change process of species in ecological communities.
Fossil fuels: millions years ago in the ground stored dead plants and animals which can be used as a fuel. Example oil and coal.
Renewable energy and resources: energy and resourses from nature which renew in reasonable time. Example of renewable energy are solar and wind power and examples of renewable resoursec are wood and water.
Feedback: feedback is a process where outputs are fed back as inputs. Thus forming a circle or loop.
Elements: individual parts that make up a system when connections exist between them.
Pattern: self repeating model in space and time.
Natural capital: stock of ecosystems yield and services which humans can use.
Energy descent: decreasing availability of cheap energy.
Self-reliant: means being able to provide for own basic needs indepentedly.
Monoculture: a specific area that grows only one species.
Polyculture: a specific area that grows many species.
Function: the goal we want to achieve by using the system.
Edge: place where two elements meet. Example shoreline and forest edge.
Marginal: means elements which have less apparent importance to the system.

Why permaculture?

Permaculture is trying to answer some of present-day’s problems. The main idea is to do things for making this world better – not only complaining about problems. It could be called positive criticism because the main focus is on what we can do, not on what we can’t. In permaculture ideas, skills and lifestyle which make possible to take our life in our own hands are united.

The founders of permaculture are Bill Mollison and Daivid Holmgren. David Holmgren is author of the book which I used for preparing this portfolio. Permaculture is quite a large consept. It can be ethical, practical and philosophical. The word permaculture is from permanent culture but first it was permanent argiculture but the concept now includes culture in a broader sense.

Key problem to which permaculture attempts to find a solution is energy descent. Our high living standard is based on fossils fuels and cheap energy in general. Availability of cheap energy is decreasing and because of climant change we should stop using fossil fuels anyway. Today’s industrial societies impact is going to be huge compared to the last couple hundred years. The result of the energy descent world is that we must diminish our energy consumption.
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Permaculture principles

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Permaculture ethics

Permaculture is a human centric environmental movement because we have power and intelligence to influence our life. Ethics enables human kind’s biological and cultural survival. Evolution has proved that if we mess up the planet’s life support systems, we’ll destroy our possibilities to live on this planet. Practical ecological thinking places a key role in developing wise energy use and production. The main ethical principles of permaculture are

  • care of earth
  • care of people
  • fair share.

Permaculture is inspired by traditional societies because they have lived in balance with nature longer than any modern society. We must take responsibility of our actions and life.

Basic principles

Work with nature not against it: We should learn from nature and cooperate with it. Example: If I have snails in my garden and they eat all our vegetables it is not a problem, we only need some ducks. Seasonal eating is also a good example.

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Minimum effort for maximum effect: Think how we can do less work and still gain good yield. Example: perennial plants. Once planted they will produce many years. Instead of making a big effort to collect food for the animals let them go out to the fields and feed themselves.

Everything gardens: All what we can find in the garden can be usefull. Example: birds are eating pests. Also example pigs love to do the tillage for you.

The yield is unlimited: We should use our imagination in our production. Example: birch can be used in many different ways: wood, whisk used in sauna, sap, bark for tinder or handcraft.

The problem is the solution: We should think of problems as a opportunity. Example: weed can also be good food and city horses produced manure can be used as a fertiliser in city gardens.

Design principles
Principle 1: Observe and interact

”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”

Good designing need’s observation and interaction as a source of inspiration and action’s models. They are used to reduce physical work, non-renewable energy use, high technology. They are tools for desiging.

Principle 2: Catch and store energy

”Make hay while the sun shines”

We have to save natural resources for future generations by using renewable energy resources and energy saving tecnology and energy saving lifestyle. For example of energy saving lifestyle is seosanal eating.

Principle 3: Obtain a yield

”You can’t work on a empty stomach”

New ways of production is important when we decrease the use of material. We need to have yield now even though we plan long term. In order to make better choices for our wellbeing we should know were our resources come from. We must adapt to change of yields and crops (seasonal food). Resources should be used carefully but so that efficiency doesn’t suffer too much.

Principle 4: Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

”The sins of the fathers are visted on the children unto the seventh generation”

The world is a self-regulating system. In permaculture we try to develope self-regulation and self-sustaining systems becouse they sustain disturbances better.

Principle 5: Use and value renewable resources & services

”Let nature take its course”

For example a tree can be used in several ways like for fire wood, building material or mushroom growing as well as using its services like shade.

Principle 6: Produce no waste

”Waste not, want not” ”A stitch in time saves nine”

Someone’s waste is food for someone else. We design systems so that all waste is used as a resource and we should not produce any pollutions.

Principle 7: Desing from patterns to details
”Can’t see the forest for the trees”

By observing we can find the most useful patterns. Zones and sectors are key tools for permaculture design. Zones are defined by how often you need to visit it. Sectors are defined by environmental conditions.

Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate

”May hands make light work”

In nature we can observe that connections between elements are as important as the elements itself. In permaculture we should design so that elements benfit each other.Näyttökuva 2014-12-22 kello 22.08.42

Principle 9: Use small and slow solutions

”The bigger they are, the harder they fall” ”Slow and steady wins the race”

Large scale systems are based on cheap energy. That’s why small systems are more efficent. The human scale of understanding and control should be the yardstick for a sustainable society.

Principle 10: Use and value diversity

”Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

Polyculture is not as vulnerable as monoculture and that is why permaculture prefers it more. Not only nature’s biodiversity is important but also diversity of cultures and languages.

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal

”Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well- beaten path”

Edges have higher diversity and therefor have higher porductivity. When the focus is on prime aghricultural lands and main crops for example the needs of the poor in the developing countries and the destruction of wild species and marginal areas are ignored. Future innovations come from places where the problems are encountered today. This fact is ignored when the focus is on big business and afluent urban centers.

Näyttökuva 2014-12-22 kello 22.08.50Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

”Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”

Constant change on micro level enables the makro level to remain stable. There are changes to which we have to adapt and there are changes which we can make use of. For example we can accelerate sucession. Innovations spread in society often happens similarly to ecological succession in nature.

The permaculture project of my family

My parents bought a piece of land from Karjalohja called Iso-orvokkiniitty. It consists of a site with building rights, field and forest. My elder brother who studies architecture is designing a natural ecological house for the site. My parents are planing to produce most of their food. They already have raised beds (for vegedables), bee hives and mushroom cultivation. We have built already a dry toilet from old logs. They have installed a solar panel and they are planing to build a wind mill. In the forest there is a hazelnut grove.

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)