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 garden2) Growing vines on the outer walls of your house for insulation
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.