Saturday, September 8, 2012

what is permaculture? why make this video viral?

Our goal is for this (Part 3) video to reach 50,000 views by September 15, 2012. If we reach that milestone, UMass will help fund, design and install a permaculture garden at three local Amherst Elementary Schools starting this October. Please watch and share the link widely if you feel moved this cause! -- Ryan Harb, UMass

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren at the University of Tasmania in the 1970’s collaborated to write a text called Permaculture One. It was followed up by Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual in 1988. Mollison coined the term Permaculture to refer to a nature-inspired design philosophy for sustainable agriculture. One of motivations for this philosophy was his observation of the unsustainable nature of our fossil fuel economy. An as a forester, he was impressed with the stability and productivity of mature forests. He envisioned how humans can mimic nature through observation and application in gardens and towns and structures.  Permaculture is formally described as "an ecological, holistic and sustainable design system and philosophy for human living spaces. It has been successfully used around the world to maximize food production, regenerate springs, cool homes without air conditioning, revive deserts, transform lives, reorganize towns and neighborhoods, reduce pollution, according to permaculture advocates. The essence of permaculture is summed up by these tenets:

    •    Take Care of the Earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
    •    Take Care of the People: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
    •    Share the Surplus: Healthy natural systems use outputs from each element to nourish others. We humans can do the same. By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

A Food Forest mimics the architecture and beneficial relationships between plants and animals found in a natural forest or other natural ecosystem. Food forests are not ‘natural’, but are designed and managed ecosystems (typically complex perennial polyculture plantings) that are very rich in biodiversity and productivity. For example, a permaculture garden in western mass would include ground cover instead of a lawn, a body of water, food consisting of fruit trees and vegetables and flowers all planted for best use principles where animals, plants and humans live in harmony.  The result is minimal human intervention. Some plants are wintered over, others could be grown in hoop house for extended season growing. So no gas for lawn mowers, no chemicals whatsoever for pesticides or fertilization. Western Ma permaculture gardens include certain banana plants, kiwi plants, strawberries, mushrooms, kale, and other plants.

Locally there are a number of permaculture initatives. There are courses taught at GCC, there is a permaculture effort at UMass in the form of two gardens planted over parking lots at dining commons that provide food for students. That program is headed up by Ryan Harb and provides an opportunity for people to volunteer their services. That group can be found on Facebook and on the UMass website. Permaculture is best understood by doing and the UMass program is a good way to start learning about the practice. There is also a Permaculture Design Certification Course given by Lisa DiPiano called Permaculture for Social & Ecological Transformation ( and finally there is a permaculture list serve that can be joined at from: