In the past 10 years, it has become “cool” and “hip” to care about our planet. Almost every store has at least a dozen items promoting their sustainability or earth-friendly packaging model. Many generations before us cared deeply about the health of our planet, and once again, we are seeing a resurgence in the importance of sustainability and mindful stewardship of natural resources.
Even the students here at Cal Poly have proudly pronounced that sustainability is the most important issue to address (according to a recent poll in the Cal Poly Portal, 28 percent of students said it is the most important issue to them personally). This attitude is well represented by classes taught throughout campus — many with sustainability in the name.
The growing importance of sustainability has given rise to many movements, including the Permaculture movement. This movement began with the thought of “permanent agriculture,” and was later condensed by Franklin Kiram King into the coined term “Permaculture.”
This movement is just beginning to make headlines within our generation; although the philosophies and goals of the movement are not earth-shockingly new and the implementations aren’t that advanced. If we take a look at many cultures that rely solely on the land for their survival, the idea of taking good care of the earth isn’t foreign. It is when we look at the industrial food system that this concept becomes a true breath of fresh air.
Permaculture is a system of design in which individuals and groups seek to design and implement systems of living that are ecologically sound and mindful. Agriculture is one of the largest areas of concern, but Permaculture is not limited solely to agriculture; it also entails transportation, shelter, energy and all other aspects of human living. The three primary goals of Permaculture design are: No. 1, care of the earth; No. 2, care of people; and No. 3, setting limits to population and consumption.
Many design elements of Permaculture are drawn from ecological theory and nature itself. Designers observe patterns seen universally throughout nature and then model these throughout the garden in home to achieve greater yield with less waste and effort. Synergy — the sum of two parts being greater than their individual aspects (1+1=3) — is a vital component of the design system.
Permaculture offers the American ideal “more for less.” The design system builds in complexity over time and as each element builds upon itself, the work load becomes less while the food production becomes more.
Initially, there is a little extra work because much more is observed than just the garden.
In Permaculture design, the first few steps bring us back to the core goals listed above. Not only do you look at the space of the garden, land plot, etc., but you also take into consideration the house/buildings as well as the needs of the people and animals present before planting a single seed.
The design element of Permaculture also boasts in the fact that it is versatile. It is not limited to large farms with much land, but the benefits can actually be seen even more vividly in smaller areas where many claim things just won’t grow.
At first glance, this may seem like a few over-glorified gardening techniques, but to many, this is a step toward change. As time continues, more and more people are questioning the industrial food level’s questionable practices in using tremendous amounts of resources and producing excessive amounts of waste in order to obtain our food supply; Permaculture relooks at the grand design and offers a fresh look.
Cal Poly is full of progressive minds and, according to its students, a sense of need for sustainability in numerous areas of life.