Permaculture is the practice of cultivating multiple crops in a given area with care and attention paid to the natural ecosystem, crop rotation, and the maximum longevity of the land.
Permaculture’s Core Tenants are: Care of the Land- No healthy land, no healthy humans; Care of the People- All people get access to the resources of the community; Return of Surplus- Reinvesting the derived goods into land and people while recycling all waste products in an intact sustainable system.
What it’s not: Monoculture
Monoculture is the opposite of permaculture. A single cash crop is grown on vast amounts of land. Through expensive water infrastructure, pesticides, and other technologies, cost is cut to a minimum.
But the efficiency of monoculture is not due to higher yields, but cuts in labor costs.
Monoculture doesn’t produce higher yields than permaculture. In fact, yields have been shown to be lower.
Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, says in the article linked above, “Conventional agriculture doesn’t seek to maximize yield per acre; it seeks to maximize yield per unit of labor.”
Eisenstein cites the work of David Blume who achieved organic yields eight times what the Department of Agriculture said was possible.
In a time when unemployment is a global issue should we be encouraging technologies that are inefficient, detrimental to ecosystems, and also kill jobs?
Here in America, a shift to permaculture would mean a significant “Back to the Land” movement, as only 10% of the population is actively growing food. But in other countries people are just now being forced out of traditionally agricultural lifestyles
Part of the global unemployment crisis is related to global trade, exportation of cash-crops, and the influence of new agricultural technologies. Large corporations buy up land and push out smaller farmers who use traditional methods. People are forced into cities where they compete with each other for limited jobs. The result are large slums we see surrounding all “developing” global cities, the home of those who can’t compete and adjust to city life.
The Downside is an Upside
The fact that permaculture necessitates more labor is actually a positive in a time when millions of people are out of work. Permaculture work programs would invigorate the economy and strengthen communities.
Follow-up studies of Chinese areas that have implemented permaculture tactics to reinvigorate decimated land, confirm that incomes increase three fold as a result.
Imagine new rural developments, with housing surrounding farms that feed both local and nearby urban populations.
The communities might be so environmentally and socially efficient that they actually encourage migration out of overcrowded cities.
But a few industries are bound to be disrupted.
One can assume these industries have a stake in keeping permaculture from catching on. Energy companies, the oil industry in particular, the makers of pesticides and herbicides, and of course big agriculture companies all benefit from the “efficient” labor-free systems now in place.
Profits are up, but so is unemployment, while growth is down. We need to put two and two together, then make the shift to a system with higher yields and positive economic and social impact.
If we want to lasting place on this planet, permaculture offers a solution.
- Restoration of ecosystems, effectively reversing the causes of global warming.
- Increased yields.
- Soil longevity.
- Independence from chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
- Averting the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) both for human health and compromising of heirloom genetic strains.