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Permaculture: Self-Sustaining Food Production For a Better Future

by | Mar 16, 2022 | Sustainability, Utopia




Last Updated on September 25, 2022

For thousands of years, humans have farmed the land for food. Usually, traditional agriculture goes like this, use big machinery, plow huge acres of land, fertilize the soil, plant only one variety of crops over large surfaces, use pesticides, waste lots of water, and harvest.

Traditional agriculture is very unsustainable as it emits huge amounts of carbon emissions, poisons the soil, pollutes and wastes a lot of water, and also degrades land. And with all the crises the world is facing, the agriculture sector is under enormous pressure.

With rising global population, increased standard of living, changing consumer behavior, climate change, and global warming, more foods need to be produced at affordable prices and in a sustainable manner.

Hence to offset some pressure on the planet, countless communities are addressing these rising problems through environmentally responsible actions. Among these nature-related communities lies the promising idea of permaculture. Hence what is permaculture?

What is permaculture?

The term permaculture is a mixture of permanent and agriculture that was first coined in 1978 by Australian authors Bill Mollison and his student David Holmgren. The idea is to create a food production system that is self-sustaining and circular.

Permaculture design system allows humans to live in harmony with nature. The goal of permaculture is to heal the earth while at the same time healing people, families, and communities both locally and globally.

It is a philosophy of design that helps us find a way to live with the environment, rather than exploiting it. Permaculture gardening is about making sure we don’t take more than we give within our lifetime.

The technique takes into account the well-being of lands, resources, peoples, and the environment throughout the agricultural process.  It is a multidisciplinary toolbox that combines agriculture, water, and waste management, forestry, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, and community development.

Permaculture provides many benefits as it is a design system that uses ecological principles to create sustainable human habitats. It can be used for many different purposes, such as urban farming, community development, and environmental conservation.

It creates a harmonious relationship between nature and humans while providing food, energy, and shelter. The idea is not new, it is inspired by indigenous traditions of self-sufficient farming, like living off small plots of land and planting multiple crops.  

Why do we need permaculture?

The agriculture industry is one of the most important industries on earth. It is one of the most important sectors of the global economy, as well as a major employer worldwide. The industry accounts for 4% of the global GDP and employs around 884 million people (27% of the global workforce).

While the agriculture sector is responsible for providing jobs to millions of people around the world, it also feeds billions more every year. In 2022 there are around 7.9 billion people living on the earth and the number is expected to reach 10 billion by the year 2050.

With the population growth, it is estimated that food production will have to double by 2050 to meet demand while also limiting agricultural impact on the environment. This is because the world is under immense pressure due to human activity and global warming.

Climate change is disrupting seasonal weather patterns and experts say that global warming should not exceed 1.5 degrees Celcius. The challenge of providing enough food for everyone in a sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective way is becoming difficult.

The effects of climate change affect farmers’ ability to grow crops and reduce productivity. We are already producing more than enough food to feed the entire population, but the problem is the way it is produced.

Agriculture account for 11% of the global greenhouse emission. And even if we produce enough food, approximately 30% of the world’s population lacked adequate access to food in 2020 due to inequality and an inefficient supply chain.

Moreover, soil erosion is affecting biodiversity and reducing the amount of land available for cultivation. The agriculture industry is massive and impacts much of the food that we eat as well as the planet we live on.

Many of us don’t realize it, but the way we produce our nourishment has a major impact on the environment. The industry uses a lot of lands, water, and energy. They also contribute a lot of greenhouse gas such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (NO).

These gases are released when farmers use fertilizer, pesticides, tractors, and other heavy machinery. The agriculture industry is a major contributor to climate change. In addition, the produce that we eat contains pesticides and fertilizers which pollute our water supply and soil.

The farming industry consumes lots of water. Most people don’t realize how much water it takes to produce food for animals and humans. The sector consumes around 70% of the global freshwater unsustainably.

The farming sector also plows large acres of land and uses heavy machinery that creates a lot of pollution. It is also responsible for 90% of deforestation worldwide due to clearing land for crops or livestock production.

The sector needs a large amount of arable land is needed to grow crops. Throughout human history, food consumption has always increased, and whenever demand increases, forests were cut down and the land was plowed to make room for more farms.

While exploiting land has enhanced production rates, today we are running out of arable space to cultivate. It is estimated that 11% of the world’s total land area is now used for crop production.

The industry produces food, fiber, fuel, and other necessities for human consumption. Farmers have been cultivating land for thousands of years, but now we’re facing new challenges that make growing crops more difficult than ever before.

Extreme weather conditions due to the climate crisis like droughts and floods are making it harder for crops to grow. It is estimated that greenhouse gas emissions, polluted air and water, and land degradation due to industrialized agriculture cost the environment the equivalent of about USD 3 trillion every year.

Furthermore, industrial agriculture focuses mainly on commodity crops such as rice, maize, and wheat that can be used in a wide variety of cooking. Consequently, these inexpensive, calorie-dense and easily accessible cereal crops made up 60% of all dietary energy.

But even if these crop help to lower hunger across the globe, they fail to meet the nutritional recommendation needed compared to fruit, vegetables, and pulses. And with people consuming more processed and packaged products, obesity and many preventable diseases related to diets such as diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and some cancers are on the rise.

Moreover, it is estimated that small farms make up 72% of all farms and large farms account for only 1%. However, small farms only occupy 8% of the world’s agricultural land whereas large farms occupy 65%.

This disproportionate control affects small farmers in terms of incentives, innovation, and technology, especially in developing countries. Moreover, climate change is devastating the food supply around the world and affecting nutrients on its way.

Available food is energy-dense but nutrient-poor. This nutrient deficiency can impair cognitive development, lower resistance to diseases as well as affect economic productivity. Furthermore, transportation emissions account for 19% of food emissions.

There is a significant distance between farming land and the populations who consume the produce. The agriculture industry uses a lot of energy to transport crops from one place to another. The food that we eat travels long distances before it reaches our plates.

This is because more than 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and is expected to reach 80% by 2050. With the significant gaps between the point of consumption and the point of production, food has to travel long distances before reaching the end consumer.

Moreover, farmers also have to respect a lot of strict regulations for shipment so that food remains in good condition during transportation and meets standards for consumption. And most of the time when produce fails to meet regulations they are just thrown away. Hence, permaculture can provide some guidelines for some of these pressing problems.

Importance of permaculture

Permaculture is a design system for sustainable human habitation. It is the conscious process and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems.

It is a design approach that focuses on creating self-sustaining, resilient human communities in harmony with nature. At its core, a permaculture garden is a system of sustainable agriculture, forestry, land management, and construction that provide benefits to its community.

The philosophy behind this approach is to work with nature rather than against it. It is an innovative approach to a more self-sufficient way of living by thinking wisely about how resources such as food, energy, and shelter are used and produced.

Permaculture design is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs sustainably. It draws on several disciplines including organic gardening, agroforestry, sustainable development, applied ecology, and community organizing.

It is a design system for creating ecological human environments and communities. The term “permaculture” refers to an approach that focuses on achieving a system of interdependent relationships that is resilient and adaptive.

It is also about looking at things from a different perspective so we can make better choices, seeing beauty where others see waste, and making our lives richer by making them simpler. It is a land use and design approach that can be used to create self-sustaining communities and ecosystems.

The goal of a permaculture garden is to create self-sufficient human environments by mimicking patterns observed in nature. There are many benefits to this, including the ability to protect your land and create a sustainable home for yourself and your community.

This closed-loop system provides a set of principles that describe how natural patterns can be applied to different types of land, including urban lots, backyards, farms, ranches, and gardens. It is a design system for sustainable human settlements and crop production.

Many of its techniques have been tried and tested for millennia. Since the 80s, Permaculture gardening has grown to encompass more aspects. It is built on several principles and ethics. The ethics of permaculture are:

  • Care for the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
  • Care for People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Return of Surplus: The fair distribution of surplus goods and services to all people.
  • Fair Shares: Allocate resources in fair shares through deliberation or consensus among members of society.
  • Self-Responsibility: Take responsibility for one’s own needs first, before being able to meet the needs of others.

Permaculture design gives people a set of tools to rethink and redesign their communities so that they can live with nature. It also encourages people to work with the environment, rather than against it to grow food.

It provides a solid toolkit to tackle difficult environmental challenges but also to thrive in this rapidly changing world. It is a way to create a sustainable, self-sufficient, and productive habitat for humans, other species, and the earth itself.

It is based on observing natural ecosystems and using that knowledge to create perennial agricultural systems that can provide food, energy, and shelter for humans. Permaculture provides guiding principles that we need to ensure our survival as a species.

We have to care for the earth because it is our only home. We have to care for people because we are all interconnected, and without each other, we cannot survive. We must return any surplus that we generate back into the system to ensure the health of future generations.

This low-impact agricultural system can help improve the quality of life for people and wildlife, create sustainable and environmentally friendly systems, and reduce the need for costly inputs. It is a holistic process that creates low-impact human habitats.

The design approach is based on the observation of nature, and the recognition that humans are part of nature. A key principle of permaculture gardening is to keep everything as simple as possible and avoid complex systems.

Permaculture communities essentially grow and sustain their crops and livestock in a way that simulates the natural ecosystem. As opposed to large-scale farming where there are a lot of wastage and pesticides and other chemicals are used.

These communities also encourage people to be resourceful and self-reliant through ecological design systems which help find solutions to the many problems we are facing. The system draws inspiration from natural ecosystems to cater to human needs.

The goals and principles of permaculture farming somehow align with the core requirements for sustainability as it tackles the problems of growing food, building houses, and creating communities while at the same time limiting the environmental impact.

Impact of permaculture

Permaculture, an increasingly popular approach to growing food in the 21st century, is based on the simple idea that is working with nature instead of against it. It is a method of designing human habitats and agroecosystems, based on the relationship between plants, animals, soil, and climate in a way that mimics natural ecosystems.

This indigenous farming method seeks to ensure human societies are sustainable. It involves using resources from nature for food production, water harvesting, energy generation, and material recycling.

It encourages people to harmonize with natural systems through appropriate technology to reduce environmental impact as well as develop systems that support them. The ethic of permaculture isn’t just about respecting nature but also caring for each other.

For instance, this can be seen in the work of Bill Mollison, who created Permaculture when he was living in Tasmania. Bill Mollison was sharing his land with others who needed space to grow crops and made sure that everyone had enough food to eat through shared labor and sharing resources.

Also, the excess resources are reinvested in the community. The ethic of reinvesting surplus is applied to money as well. This means that any time you earn more money than you need to live on, you put some of it back into your business or into your community.

The idea is that if everyone does this, then there will always be enough money for everyone to live on what they need. This creates an equitable community and ensures that everybody is healthy. Permaculture ethics are important because they help us think about how we can best care for the earth and its inhabitants.

Furthermore, cleaner air and water, and highly nutritional foods grown organically can improve physical health. The community that a permaculture farm develops can create a sense of belonging to something greater and improve self-esteem which can be positive for mental health.

People living in biodynamic communities are more spiritual as they find a higher meaning in what they are doing and understand the world in which they live. And it can be considered sustainable since it limits waste and uses everything as efficiently as possible.

For example, rather than buying fertilizer, the system is designed to provide for its own fertilizer needs from other sources like livestock manure. Permaculture communities turn their waste into resources and problems into solutions.

And every component of this farming structure or landscape caters to more than one function. For example, if you need a fence to contain animals, you might design it in a way that it functions as a windbreak and a reflective surface to direct extra heat and light for other utilities.

A rain barrel can be used to raise edible aquatic plants and fish, and also provide water for irrigation. Water conservation is the most important aspect of a permaculture garden as every drop of rain is redirected toward useful purposes.

This approach has been used around the world to create sustainable systems that have been shown to yield food while using less water and labor than other farming systems. The application of permaculture principles has also been shown to improve soil fertility, reduce erosion, increase biodiversity, sequester carbon, and improve water quality.

Is permaculture sustainable?

Permaculture is an ecological approach that seeks to create feasible human habitats. It is based on the premise that humans can create habitats that are both productive and ecologically sustainable.

It is a low-impact agricultural process designed to mimic the patterns of natural ecosystems. This means that it incorporates a variety of different elements, including natural materials, micro-climates, and rhythms.

Permaculture is a sustainable design method that aims to create livable ecosystems. Through the application of techniques such as crop rotation and composting, it seeks to provide food, shelter, and resources for humans in a way that is both practical and renewable.

This biodynamic gardening has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many homes now incorporating some form of sustainability into their gardens. It can provide for all human needs, maintain a healthy ecosystem, and be resilient to shocks.

It creates an indigenous-like system in which humans live in harmony with nature, and where those practices are passed on from one generation to the next. It is based on the understanding that we are part of a complex web of life – a web that sustains us but also has limits.

By using an integrated approach to designing, building, and maintaining our systems, we can build resilience and balance within our environment. We can become more resourceful and mindful of how we use what we have.

And by working together with other people and species, we can create places where everyone can thrive. Permaculture is also considered to be sustainable in the long run, because it is designed to be self-reliant, using only renewable resources and sustainable practices.

It creates systems that provide for both human needs and ecosystem health at the same time, so there are no trade-offs between the two. This means that as well as being productive, they are also sustainable and can be used by future generations without compromising their ability to meet their needs.

Permaculture is about sustainability for future generations, so it makes sense that we should focus on living simply and sustainably now, especially considering how much damage our wasteful habits have caused the planet and its people.

Future of permaculture

The future of permaculture is bright. It is only just the beginning of a global movement to reclaim food systems, landscapes, and communities from the destructive patterns of industrial agriculture. It will be about making a difference through personal action and commitment.

The future of permaculture will be about learning how to live in harmony with nature so that we can continue to thrive as a species and not just survive. We are on the cusp of an era of change, and the world is hungry for sustainable solutions to our current problems.

This approach was developed as a design system for home gardens but it is starting to adapt for use in other contexts such as residential housing, urban design, industrial development, and architecture since most people live in urban areas where there is little space.

The permaculture movement is growing rapidly, with many people taking part in courses worldwide. As a result, it has become increasingly professionalized and commercialized.

It is a philosophy that seeks to create sustainable human environments by mimicking the patterns observed in natural ecosystems in the hope to fight the climate crisis we are facing due to human activity. If the movement gains more momentum, this can ensure a more sustainable future for humanity.

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature, with protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor and by looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.

This low-impact food production process is not a set of techniques and strategies for solving the problems we face, it’s a way to approach the world from a different perspective. In many ways, the design can be seen as a response to the ills of modern farming methods and the consumeristic society we are living in.

The monocultures where plants are grown in rows by intensive farming practices that require artificial fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides as well as overuse of fossil fuels for machinery must be reduced if we want to have a chance of reducing the effects of climate change.

Our lives are built on foundations that are crumbling beneath us. Our attempts to solve problems have been ineffective because they have been based on false assumptions. Permaculture’s principles and ethics can be the solution available to us for our current paradigm.

The current climate change is showing us our systems are failing. Our economic systems are failing too, with increasing levels of poverty and inequality across the globe. These issues are not going away any time soon and they may even get worse as time passes by.

Hence, we need to make sure that we are building on our existing successes and continuing to actively engage with people in all sectors of society to raise awareness of permaculture as a viable solution to many of the world’s problems.

This agricultural approach was created by human beings for human beings. We need to help develop a “culture of sustainability” and a global mindset shift where people understand that they can live well with less and without degrading the environment.

It will take time for this shift in consciousness to occur, but it is happening now as more people are becoming aware that our current lifestyle is unsustainable and must change.

Permaculture is not an abstract ideal or a way for us to feel good about ourselves for being “green” or environmentally conscious, but it is about meeting our needs while creating abundance in our lives and communities.

The thing about this close-loop agricultural process is that it represents an approach to life, rather than a set of techniques or practices to use. This means that it’s not limited to one geographical region, one culture, or one set of beliefs. Instead, it’s a way of looking at the world that can be applied anywhere and everywhere.

In the future, some people will use permaculture design as a foundation for developing their ideas about how to live and grow food sustainably, while others will choose to adopt elements of it into their lives without fully committing to the principles behind it.

And with the current climate crisis, we may well see this low-impact farming system spread around the world in many different ways. In the future, we’ll see more people growing their food at home because they want to be self-sufficient or have no choice.

Final word

Hence, permaculture offers a promising solution to the problems modern society faces. It emphasizes the importance of working in the harmful favor of nature and makes a case for people to be in an intimate relationship with each other and their environment.

It is based on the concept of creating productive ecosystems that are self-sufficient and can provide goods and services for people. While it’s not a difficult concept, permaculture is something that requires a great amount of attention if you want to learn it well.

If permaculture systems are implemented properly and become self-sustaining, little input is needed to produce different varieties of food without impacting the environment. Or even better, it can heal the environment.

It is an extremely valuable subject that can be used to green our life, provide for nearly everyone’s needs and prevent environmental disasters. Therefore, learning about it should become a top priority for us.

Its insights, ethics, and principles on soil health, nutrient analysis, and systems analysis not only reinforce the importance of permaculture farming as a philosophy for sustainable living but also help shed light on some perennial questions about sustainability in general.

We should give it the time, effort, and resources needed so it can be taught to us properly. The future is a complex and uncertain place. The world is changing faster than ever before, and it’s hard to know what the future holds.

We can’t plan for everything that might happen, but we can plan for what we want our future to look like. We can choose how we want to live, how we want to grow, and how we want to care for each other and our planet.