Skip to main content

Permaculture: nature is still smarter than us


In the year 2010, there are many aspects of humans' daily life that would lead us to believe that we have dominated nature. Unlike the thousands of other species that have gone extinct, we have settled and thrived in almost every environment and every continent on this planet, aside from Antarctica. We have eradicated diseases like smallbox and subdued other diseases which previously decimated our populations on a massive scale (see The Black Death in the 1300s and Columbus' “discovery of the Americas in 1492). We have created chemicals that allow us to blast weeds and insects into submission and thereby cultivate thousands of acres of the same species on farmland; an environment that would be impossible in nature.

But nature is still smarter than us. A lot smarter. And we still have much to learn from its processes. Permaculture is the idea of mimicking the ways that ecosystems work in the context of essential human activities: house and settlement design, farming, and waste management. I just finished reading Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison, which provides a fantastic introduction to the concepts of permaculture.

Why should I care? You may ask. I don't live on a farm. Whether you live in a rural, suburban, or urban area, this book will help you identify specific ways that you can be much more efficient and save yourself money while decreasing your adverse impact on the environment.

Some examples:

1) Composting your kitchen scraps and other organic waste, and using the compost to fertilize your garden.

      - Benefit to the environment: organic waste is efficiently recycled on a local scale instead of 1) ending up in a landfill or 2) being trucked several miles to a compost center

      - Benefit to you: no need to pay for fertilizers for your garden

      2) Growing vines on the outer walls of your house for insulation

        - Benefit to the environment: your house uses less energy to maintain a comfortable temperature
          - Benefit to you: lowers your heating and air conditioning bill; makes your house look cooler (no pun intended)

          But by far the most powerful knowledge in this book is how to grow your own food easily and efficiently. I'm going to delve into this in another post specifically on urban and suburban agriculture.

          Popular posts from this blog

          Sustainable Living: One man's trash...

          Since Earth Week is starting tomorrow, I wanted share with you some concrete ways of how individuals like you and me can make an impact on a wider scale. I then also wanted to use this example to challenge everyone to think creatively about the larger context.

          So you know how the saying goes: "One man's trash is another one's treasure." Today, I want to talk to you about garbage. Plastic garbage specifically. Plastic is quite a wondrous material. Made from oil by man with just a few additives can turn this polymer into so many different sorts of plastics with so many different properties from thin and flimsy plastic bags, to the carpet on which I am standing, to this plastic bottle from which I am drinking.

          Focus on Algae - Part I: Bioremediation

          After spending the last few blog posts on different aspects of dissimilatory bacteria, I want to switch the focus to a different class of organisms I have been interested in for a long time now. These are the algae. Algae comprise a large diversity of "sea weeds" and an even larger variety of single-celled organisms that mostly are capable of doing photosynthesis. They include the ordinary sea-weed, and make up a portion of the green slime found around the edges and the bottom of a pond. More exotic types of algae can live symbiotically - that is together with another organism in a mutually beneficial way. Lichens are an example of symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi. More information about the evolution and lineage of algae can be found in this wiki article.
          Image via Wikipedia
          Typically, these organisms are either not mentioned at all or only in conjunction with toxic algal blooms. But lately, algae, of course, have been in the news recently because of the promi…