Permaculture Principles: An Introduction

I want to get back in to blogging and writing more regularly, but it’s been so long it’s hard to get started. One way that has been easy for me is the Food in the Bible series which I hope to revive. In that series I look at religious texts with the lens of food, agriculture and ecology, interpreting texts of faith using some of the ideas and sciences of “the world.”

This year I’ve been working on reading and learning more about permaculture. I’m hoping to eventually get my design certificate and work on some projects around Waco using permaculture. For those not familiar with the concept here’s the Wikipedia definition.

Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, environmental design, construction and integrated water resources management that develops sustainable architecture, regenerative and self-maintained habitat and agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Bill Mollison defines it like this,

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.

I’m also interested in using the lenses of faith and theology to interpret and make connections with disciplines, ideas and sciences outside of religious/theological circles. Ched Myers and the Bartimaeus Institute this year held a Permaculture Design Course with a component/emphasis on connecting Christian theology to permaculture. From their flyer: “Join us for the internationally recognized permaculture design certification course, explored through the lens of radical theology and praxis.”

A mentor of mine once asked me about permaculture before I knew anything about it. He observed that it seems to be a catch-all term that includes a lot of things and ideas that may or may not be loosely connected and have legitimate applications to sustainable agriculture. As I’ve learned more about permaculture, I realize his observation is both highly accurate and very misleading.

There are things about permaculture that tend to attract certain types of people, sometimes anti-authority, hippie, new age, neo-pagan, homeopathic, biodynamic, etc. So, I’ve observed that some of these ideas that are not necessarily inherent in permaculture are sort of lumped in together with permaculture as an overarching philosophy for some people. This clearly happens, but it isn’t fair to say that therefore permaculture is just an amalgamation of disparate beliefs that don’t really cohere and are some sort of new earthy spirituality/philosophy.

To really understand permaculture and sort out the wheat from the chaff it helps to go back and read Bill Mollison’s Designer’s Manual and get to the roots of what he and Dave Holmgren were really up to. It needs to be re-emphasized again and again that permaculture is a design system. There are elements of agriculture, ecology and even philosophy, but the purpose is to create a system that gives us principles from which to design systems that work with nature rather than against it.

So, in order to get myself going again, I am going to work through the Twelve Principles of Permaculture as well as the Food in the Bible series. I’ll be very happy if I’m able to post once a week, but I’ll do my best. My first permaculture post will be on the principle “observe and interact.”

0 comments on “Permaculture Principles: An Introduction

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: