Ten thousand years of agriculture has devastated every ecosystem it has come in contact with. Horticultural societies point toward a solution, and permaculture can help us design a way to overcome agriculture’s deficiencies, preserve many of the best features of our culture, and create a horticultural society that has a good chance of proving sustainable. This lecture shows how we got into this mess, and offers a route out of it.
Presented live at PV1 in March 2014.
- Wild people can’t be co-op-ed or controlled.
- We are the largest domesticated species on the planet. When we adopted agriculture we domesticated ourselves.
- Horticultural people versus agricultural people. A little domestication and wild harvesting. Midway between.
- Plant tending versus field tending.
- Gardening versus farming.
- Consequences of agriculture for civilization.
- Nature becomes the enemy, ecosystems go away.
- Grounded in scarcity and fear.
- Built in hierarchies.
- Triggers population growth.
- More degenerative diseases.
- Population more sensitive and dependent on food supply. Famine more common.
- Agriculture requires a lot of land.
- Four acres of support crops to support one acre of production.
- Population tied to the land.
- Farming essentially turns ecosystems into people.
- Permaculture is how do we put a plan together using our techniques?
- Tackling a problem? What are the perceived obstacles? Have ways to overcome those up front.
- Start with the easy wins.
Books by Toby Hemenway:
The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with Nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.
Many people mistakenly think that ecological gardening—which involves growing a wide range of edible and other useful plants—can take place only on a large, multiacre scale. As Hemenway demonstrates, it’s fun and easy to create a “backyard ecosystem” by assembling communities of plants that can work cooperatively and perform a variety of functions, including:
- Building and maintaining soil fertility and structure
- Catching and conserving water in the landscape
- Providing habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and animals
- Growing an edible “forest” that yields seasonal fruits, nuts, and other foods
This revised and updated edition also features a new chapter on urban permaculture, designed especially for people in cities and suburbs who have very limited growing space. Whatever size yard or garden you have to work with, you can apply basic permaculture principles to make it more diverse, more natural, more productive, and more beautiful. Best of all, once it’s established, an ecological garden will reduce or eliminate most of the backbreaking work that’s needed to maintain the typical lawn and garden.
Permaculture is more than just the latest buzzword; it offers positive solutions for many of the environmental and social challenges confronting us. And nowhere are those remedies more needed and desired than in our cities. The Permaculture City provides a new way of thinking about urban living, with practical examples for creating abundant food, energy security, close-knit communities, local and meaningful livelihoods, and sustainable policies in our cities and towns. The same nature-based approach that works so beautifully for growing food—connecting the pieces of the landscape together in harmonious ways—applies perfectly to many of our other needs. Toby Hemenway, one of the leading practitioners and teachers of permaculture design, illuminates a new way forward through examples of edge-pushing innovations, along with a deeply holistic conceptual framework for our cities, towns, and suburbs.
The Permaculture City begins in the garden but takes what we have learned there and applies it to a much broader range of human experience; we’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures. Hemenway lays out how permaculture design can help towndwellers solve the challenges of meeting our needs for food, water, shelter, energy, community, and livelihood in sustainable, resilient ways. Readers will find new information on designing the urban home garden and strategies for gardening in community, rethinking our water and energy systems, learning the difference between a “job” and a “livelihood,” and the importance of placemaking and an empowered community.
This important book documents the rise of a new sophistication, depth, and diversity in the approaches and thinking of permaculture designers and practitioners. Understanding nature can do more than improve how we grow, make, or consume things; it can also teach us how to cooperate, make decisions, and arrive at good solutions.
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