Permaculture

Oh life is beautiful.

Right now I’m sitting in the middle of a large veggie patch on a farm in Western Australia’s gorgeous south west Margaret River region, with the sound of chooks, geese and native birds filling the cool evening air.

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be living on the ‘Fair Harvest’ Permaculture Farm, learning lots as part of a Permaculture Design Certificate course. I’ve pitched a little tent (thank you Bill!) and, whilst it’s rather chilly and sometimes rainy, I’m loving the simple lifestyle so close to nature. The food (yes of course I talk about food) is amazing! All home-made fresh produce, most of it grown locally right here, within 50m of where I’m sitting right now.

I am part of a group of 19 people, keen on learning how to live more sustainable and earth-friendly lives. It’s only our first day and yet everyone is so warm and friendly already and so genuine; it’s really happy stuff here!

Permaculture – you may have heard the word somewhere, you may know a bit about it, or you may have no idea what the heck I’m on about – is … Geez… How do I put it in a short descriptive sentence? Maybe if I throw in a few keywords you might get an idea:

  • It’s an environmentally friendly way of living
  • It’s designing the land to work together with nature’s forces (sun, wind, elevation, slope, climate etc) to create a healthy and productive landscape
  • Its principles are based on ‘care for the earth, care for people, fair share’

It’s a positive way of living that can provide us with what we really need:

  • Clean air
  • Clean water
  • Clean food
  • Sensible housing
  • Community

Today, whilst listening to one of our teachers I for a moment gazed out of the window into this lush, beautiful, sustaining landscape which is filled with these beautiful people and was thinking to myself “This is exactly what I’m striving for; exactly what I need and want and what I feel is so very important for us humans and for the planet.”

A lot of what we touched on today really resonates with me and is what I’ve always ‘known’ or had a gut feeling for, for example that we cannot continue to grow grow grow and never expect to fall. Everything in this world has ups and downs and goes within cycles, be it ups and downs in relationships, happy and not so happy days in our life, the coming and going of seasons, the birth and death of living things, the tide rising and falling, peaking of strength or success and then falling away again, the creation and extinction of species, the cycle of tectonic movements on the earth’s crust, ice ages coming and going, stars being born and exploding… From the tiniest part of our lives to the biggest scale of the universe – everything comes and goes and is ever evolving and changing. Nothing is linear and nothing stays forever. Some things, by the sheer scale of things (i.e. the birth and death of our sun) are on such a time scale that they appear linear and constant to creatures such as the human who inhabit only such a tiny minute incy wincy mini portion of that time, but even that is just another cycle. Fortunately we have the ability for abstract thinking and understand the scaling up and down of ideas.

We talked about humanity’s population on this planet and how we have absolutely boomed in the last hundred or two hundred years, from roughly a million people (which it has been for a long long time), to the 7 billion people we are today. With that, of course, comes an increased need for resources, food, fuel, materials, water and space. Like all populations though this cannot go on forever.

The population boom is very visible on this graph - source: Wikipedia

The population boom is very visible on this graph – source: Wikipedia

This, too, totally resonates with my thoughts and I have been meaning to write about this for a while but never knew how to put it into words.

In our modern world and sheltered and secure lives we may feel like we are disconnected from nature and the natural forces that shape and control the planet. Every now and again we turn on the telly and get reminded about the sheer force of mother nature, when a poor low lying community gets wiped out by a tsunami or when a cyclone devastates pacific islands. But let’s face it – that would never happen to me personally. I mean those things only happen on TV, right? And even people who may have weathered a severe storm and got reminded of nature’s strength, we just learn to build stronger houses and are therefore safe.

Who remembers biology classes, around about grade 7? Ecology, population control… Do those words still ring a bell? I remember talking about a population of sea gulls somewhere on an island and how they all happily bred and lived and increased their numbers until at some stage food and room on the island was running low. The seagulls therefore couldn’t all survive and started to decline again in numbers. Due to the population density a virus also got hold and wiped out a fair few of them. Easy. A population needs enough space and food to grow and survive. When it gets too tight or resources such as food run low we cannot sustain us and our offspring.

We also heard other easy to understand examples today, like the yeast in a wine barrel, fermenting the wine by consuming all the grapes’ sugar and excreting alcohol and CO2. They breed and grow and happily digest the sugar until it runs out or until they die in their waste and then the population decreases again.

The same is happening for humans. We may be a lot more complex and have a lot of resilient systems built into our society and population that will sustain us longer and help us through tough times, but ultimately we are bound by the same rules that apply to everyone and are limited by the earth’s finite resources. A finite system cannot sustain our wishes for infinite growth, it’s as simple as that.

To avoid a dramatic ending like the yeast in the wine barrel starving of sugar and drowning in alcohol (though some people might like that idea) or the sea gulls on the island getting all aggro with each other due to lack of food and space (think maybe part cause of war zones like Syria?) it appears a good idea to me to explore other ways of living. Maybe our consumerism driven culture is not the best after all.

I’m in search of a better way of living, and I think the next couple of weeks are very much going to help me with this!

Photos of this gorgeous place that might be the way to go in humanity’s future will follow soon!


Me again! A couple of weeks have gone by and I’ve taken many hundreds photos. The ‘best of’ are here for you to discover. Enjoy!

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