[blockquote cite=”Larry Santoyo” type=”center”]”Instead of trying to support 1000’s of people, let’s get really good at supporting 150 people and we’ll duplicate it.” [/blockquote]
Permaculture. What is permaculture?
“Permaculture is: Design protocols for critical thinking, decision making and problem solving – all based on the patterns of nature.”
That’s one of the best definitions of permaculture that I have heard and that’s how my guest Larry Santoyo defines permaculture. Keep that definition in mind as we go through this episode talking about applying permaculture design to the urban environment.
When you think urban permaculture, what are your first thoughts? For most people it is probably something to do with greywater, front yard gardens, or that book that Toby Hemenway wrote (which is great by the way). But there is so much more to urban permaculture, and therefore this isn’t just a discussion about growing food in urban areas. This is a much more broad discussion about using permaculture design in a variety of ways to make cities more sustainable.
When you think about permaculture as a design science, just like architecture, then suddenly those design protocols make a lot of sense in urban planning; there is a lot of potential to use the protocols based on the patterns of nature to shape the concrete jungle into more sustainable human habitats.
And when it comes to sprawling concrete jungles, there is one king Los Angeles, California. Home to The Dodgers, Zellos Pizza, and Larry Santoyo, the greater LA area has around 13M people in it. At 13M people there are only 4 STATES with higher populations than Los Angeles. That’s a lot of people in a relatively small area, and it is the single most densely populated area in the US. So if you want to make a big impact in a big urban area, then this is the big one to take on.
But how do we get more permaculture into the hands of urban planners, the ear of the Mayor Eric Garcetti, and potentially the ink of government policy?
Like Winston Churchill said, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” And here in California, we have a water crisis. A crisis that is statewide and creating problems both agriculturally and on an urban level.
For example, in Los Angeles only 11% of water used in Los Angeles is local and “the biggest single use of electrical energy in the state is pumping water over the Tehachapis to Southern California.” Those are just two of the statistics in an article in the LA Times by Emily Alpert Reyes that discusses the costly important water being pumped into LA.
The article goes on to say,
“Los Angeles is lagging when it comes to water recycling and recapturing its stormwater, two strategies that could help reduce the need for imported water.
The city also needs to find the money — possibly aided by a state water bond now being debated in Sacramento — to ensure the San Fernando Basin can continue to provide clean groundwater as a toxic plume threatens its wells, advocates say. […]
…residents could do their part by reusing water from their showers and washing machines to water plants, remaking their yards so that water is funneled into groundwater instead of the gutter, replacing thirsty lawns with native plants and using permeable paving.” via the LA Times
I am certainly not an advocate of government intervention or handouts, but when 13M people start screaming about water rates, written policy will come alive to quite the cries, wanted or not. The writing is on the wall. Policy change is coming.
And for permies that may possibly make a lot of what we currently want to do a lot easier when it comes to water harvesting. After all, in a water shortage, why not make more use of the water that you are already using, keeping it on site and using it multiple times.
Of course within permaculture we all know that, but it isn’t as simple when the government is involved. Water harvesting and reuse is just one way that permaculture design can be applied in urban areas. And as Larry will talk about, water crisis or not, there are a lot more ways that each of us can contribute to making the city more sustainable.
Wait. Just more sustainable?
How do you make it sustainable?
As Larry says, “You don’t. The whole city will never be sustainable, but ironically everyone in the city could live sustainably.”
But how do you get everyone to start living sustainably in a city that has 13M people in it?
Start small. Start by affecting a small number of people.
“Instead of trying to support 1000’s of people, let’s get really good at supporting 150 people and we’ll duplicate it.”
Once we do that we will have models that we can refer back to; models that can be used to train people to go start other small impact zones. Then we start getting more and more impact zones and the picture looks a lot brighter.
But that will take time, and it’s early in the journey, but the conditions are ripe for change. We just need to kick start it by incubating innovation. Creating the conditions for success and sustainability to happen – something that I learned from Larry.
In fact it’s just one of the many things that I have learned from Larry over the years. Larry has a wealth of knowledge and the experience to back it up. He’s a permaculture pioneer having involved with permaculture since the 80’s. He has travelled with Bill Mollison. He’s worked on countless projects in the country, the city, and other countries. He has taught hundreds of PDCs and thousands of students. He gets it. And in Southern California when you mention permaculture, there is one name that comes to mind.
- Look at what skills are in your area and what you can provide. That creates local skills banks.
- What land is available in your city for food production? Access and water and proximity to market should be easy compared to more rural locations.
- “Putting things together instead of just taking it apart.” Businesses that might not survive on their own have better odds of surviving if they banded together. And the sum total of all of those businesses might be great than the sum of the parts.
- “Find a spot, pick your place on the wheel, and contribute something.”
- “Instead of trying to support 1000’s of people, let’s get really good at supporting 15o people and we’ll duplicate it.”
- “It can only help us for people to be successful.”
- “What is it that we are doing that will create the bi-product for what we need and can harvest continually.”
- “What is it that we need to do to create what we are after?”
Some of Larry’s work…
[blockquote cite=”Larry Santoyo” type=”center”]”Permaculture is: Design protocols for critical thinking,decision making and problem solving – all based on the patterns of nature.“[/blockquote]
Larry Santoyo – Permaculture for Humanity: Beyond Buildings and Food
Permaculture Heroes with Larry Santoyo
Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden is one of the guest instructors for Larry’s PDC.
More information on Larry Santoyo:
You can contact Larry via info @ cityofangelspermaculture.com email@example.com@cityofangelspermaculture.com
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