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Permaculture – A Sustainable Future Essay

2592 words - 11 pages

The term “permaculture” was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, with one of his students, David Holmgren. It is a contraction of “permanent agriculture” and also “permanent culture.” Permaculture is a relatively broad term subject to interpretation, but generally it is a design system for creating sustainable human environments. The aim is to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically feasible, which do not damage or pollute and are therefore sustainable in the long term. It is based on the careful observation of natural ecosystems, the value of traditional farming practices, and modern scientific and technological knowledge (Mollison, 1991). ...view middle of the document...

A correctly designed system should become more and more diverse and self-sustaining (Wasser, 1994).

The basic life ethic of permaculture is that each living thing has an intrinsic worth. A tree may not have commercial value, but it is of value in itself, because it is playing a part in nature. From this life ethic stems the threefold ethic of permaculture: care of the earth, care of people, and reinvestment of all surplus to support the first two ethics. Care of the earth means care of all living and nonliving things: soils, species, atmosphere, habitats of all forms and sizes, waters, and so on. Care of the earth also encompasses care of people, so that our basic needs are taken care of. People have a significant impact on the living systems of the world, but if we can provide for our basic needs, we don’t need to engage in far-reaching destructive practices against the environment. The third component of the care of the earth ethic is the dispersal of surplus materials, specifically time, money and energy, to achieve the aims of earth and people care (Mollison, 1991).

Successful implementation of permaculture design is based on vital guiding principles. First, each element of the system performs multiple functions. Second, each desired function of the system is supported by multiple elements. Finally, crucially, everything in the system is interconnected to everything else (Wasser, 1994).
 
Water, Energy and Permaculture

On a site designed based on the principles of permaculture, land is divided into five zones to promote the most efficient use of energy possible. These five zones are not designated in tidy circles, but are designated, instead, on how easily accessible they are. The first zone, 0, is the house, the center of human life. Around the house lies zone 1, which includes the garden, and any greenhouses or workshops that might be on the site. This is also where small animals and wood would be stored. Zone 2 contains ponds, forest gardens, and chicken runs. Outside this lies zone 3, which might contain pastures, large trees, or orchards. Finally, zone 4 describes a semi-wild area used for timber, and wildlife habitat. The aspects that require the most attention and are most used are placed closest to the house. For example the kitchen garden and compost would be located nearest the home. (Harland, 2002)

Permaculture concentrates on creating energy cycles that are cyclical, conserving as much energy as possible by recycling it through the system. For example, heat from hot water generated in the house can be harvested by channeling it into a holding tank, and used to heat houses and greenhouses. Then, the cold water could be used for irrigation. Another example is disposing of sewage in a wetland, where it will be naturally filtered, and then using the wetland plants as fertilizer.

There are many ways in which a permaculture house can be designed in...

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