Participant Forum: Permaculture?

Reflections on Permaculture

Picture of Deb Winther
Reflections on Permaculture
by Deb Winther - Thursday, October 29, 2020, 10:04 AM

"Do no harm". That has been my gardening philosophy since reading Rachel Carson's seminal work Silent Spring, when I was in high school. One of her guiding principles is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our environment, not only for ourselves, but for future generations. 

However, in hindsight, I've implemented this philosophy in a very passive, limited way. Once I moved to Cape Cod, I quickly learned how fragile our local ecosystem is and began a journey to learn how I could "do better". I recently read two books by entomologist, Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home, How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants,and Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard. In his books, the author not only makes the case that we can make a difference as individuals, but also leaves the reader with a profound sense of why we should care.

What does this all have to do with Permaculture? Based on the articles and other materials we've covered this week, my understanding of how interconnected we are with the natural world has been strongly reinforced. While the case can be made that as humans, we are destroying everything in our path, I also found hope in the idea that we can still learn how to live in harmony with nature. I think Permaculture offers us a cohesive design system to achieve that objective.

The defining characteristic, or ethic, that is really resonating with me at this point in the course is Earth Care: Protecting healthy ecosystems and regenerating degraded ones. In my view, this is the foundation that People Care and Fair Share will build upon. I don't think this hierarchical view diminishes the objective of a "consciously designed whole", as described in Steve Gabriel's article, What Makes a Site "Permaculture". I'm not making the case that Earth Care is more important than either People Care, or Fair Share, just that we need to learn how to be good stewards of the land to make any progress. I'll be interested to see how my opinion changes throughout the course.

As you may have sensed, I think the other philosophy that Permaculture is similar to is the Environmental, or Ecology Movement. The similarities include the Environmental Movement's philosophy that humanity is recognized as a participant, not an enemy, of ecosystems (People Care), and its call for the sustainable management of resources, and stewardship of the environment (Earth Care). While the Environmental Movement varies country by country, and is not always united in its goals, its ethics are centered on ecology, health, and human rights - not unlike the ethics at the center of the Permaculture philosophy.

I'm truly looking forward to learning more about how I can make a difference.


Peggy Berk
Re: Reflections on Permaculture
by Peggy Berk - Friday, October 30, 2020, 12:11 AM

 Deb, I really related to your comments.  I was still in elementary school when my father introduced us to Silent Spring, and recently have become interested in  Doug Tallamy's work after watching his presentation about his book, Nature's Best Hope, just a few weeks ago.

His presentation made me realize that as a master gardener my entire orientation toward the landscape and gardening has been - silly as it sounds - from the perspective of a plant.  Tallamy opened my eyes to new ideas and certainly nuances I had not considered by taking me on the same type of journey from the perspective of insects and birds.  It was really an aha moment for me when I realized that while I thought I was observing the full picture, I had only been seeing one side of the story.  I am going to read the two books you mentioned.

[Tallamy's presentation was sponsored by the  Woodstock, NY  Pollinator Pathway and is now archived online where you can view it for free if you are interested.  ]


Picture of Deb Winther
Re: Reflections on Permaculture
by Deb Winther - Friday, October 30, 2020, 9:38 AM

Thanks for the link, Peggy. I will definitely check it out. My back ground is in business and finance, so my gardening exposure has been passed down from my paternal grandfather, an Applied Botany course in college, and a lot of trial and error. As a result, I knew nothing about the interrelationship of insects, birds, etc. Doug Tallamy's books were a valuable eye-opener for me and I definitely have a lot more to learn.