Exploring ideas for affordable, sustainable, enjoyable living.

Permaculture Principles and Home Economics, Part I

For a long time now I’ve been obsessed with permaculture (from permanent + agriculture).  In a nutshell, permaculture is a way to radically change humans’ relationship to the environment so that we can survive and thrive without destroying our fellow earthlings or the planet.  In other words, it’s about sustainability.  It demands simple yet profound changes in the ways we produce our food.

A brief survey of history and archaeology makes it glaringly obvious that agriculture has not been an unmitigated blessing to humanity–in recent times we have been confronted with dilemmas (in some cases catastrophes) directly resultant from our food production systems, including but not limited to:  contaminated meat, massive bee die-off, pesticide toxicity, herbicide-resistant super-weeds, greenhouse gases, boys growing breasts, the demise of the family farm, and soil erosion.  And there are moral quandaries, such as the marginalization of hunter-gatherers, unequal access to food and the means to make it, and shockingly inhumane treatment of animals.  We (should) have also learned that humans don’t always make the best decisions when it comes to the way we consume food–even where it is abundant we end up malnourished and obese at the same time.

Permaculture offers solutions to these problems.  Its methods are guided by a three-fold ethical foundation–earth care, people care, fair share–and 12 design principles.

You don’t have to be a farmer or go back to a Stone Age lifestyle to benefit from the principles of permaculture.  They are guidelines for sutainability in most, if not all, aspects of our lives.  So call me a dirty hippy, but I have this crazy dream of putting them to use in my home and saving money too.

I admit I still haven’t figured out exactly how this is going to work.  But stick with me for Parts II and III, where I will look at each principle in detail and see how we can work with it in the home environment.

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