With the advent of Covid 19 and climate change, many people are beginning to question the way we live our lives in this modern world. Since the lockdown many cities in the world have, after just a few weeks, clear skies from significantly less pollution from industry and vehicles flowing into our atmosphere. This clarity has had a profound effect on many people. Wow what would the earth be like if the sky really was clear all the time? How can we live another way and still have clear skies? Clarity of air is somehow bringing clarity of thought. Like actually we are all in this together. So how can we create a different world?
Permaculture is a design methodology birthed out of Australia in the seventies by David Holmgren and the late Bill Mollison. By observing natural systems, these guys realized we aught to just mimic what nature does in how we plan, design and build our human environments.
My simple definition of permaculture is ‘commonsense land use design to meet the needs of humans and the environment’. Its core ethos is centred around care of the people, care of the earth and shared resources.
What If We Related Permaculture To True Economics?
The word 'economics' comes from two Greek words, 'eco' meaning home and 'nomos' meaning accounts or in other words ‘household management’. In permaculture we design our system to aim to meet as many of our own needs first, then if applied to community what can we get from our local region and so forth. Unfortunately we have moved away form this view to a more worldview of trading goods and services form much further afield. As a consequence we now rely on trading much of our food, materials, energy and equipment from all over the world for our sustenance and even survival. In times of crisis we quickly learn that this model of operating has many flaws. Currently with Covid 19, our freight pathways haven’t been that obstructed so we can still go to the supermarket and get most of what we need to eat and run our household. However if we had a huge earthquake or cyclone, we are left to the mercy of receiving aid from others outside of our area or country. But it need not be this way.
How To Build Resilient Community
A resilient community aims to cover as many bases as possible like the Transition Towns. Here communities identified what they currently had to support themselves, and in teams worked towards creating their own systems of local food production, power generation, building materials, equipment necessary to make or fix anything, even new forms of trade and exchange like LETS (local economic trade system) or time banking.
These solutions are what permaculture looks to design into each of our living situations as much as possible. For example living in a flat in a city, the keen permaculturist grows food on their balcony in pots, or establishes roof top gardens or grows food in the local community garden down the street. A solar panel is fixed to the roof supplying power to run lights and charge the phone and play music.
Someone in a shared house down the street still in suburbia grows food as a group with neighbouring homes. Rainwater is collected from the rooves for watering the garden and drinking. The area has an alternative exchange system encouraging sharing of skills and excess resources like food, clothes and technology. While the intentional eco-village on the edge of a neighbouring town has members owning their own unit title while collectively owning the commons which is managed as a collective with democratic decision making systems in place. Food is grown on the commons and there are areas and buildings available for small business and creative pursuits. Buildings are built from natural materials sourced locally because that is one of the core ethos of the village charter. Waste is reticulated through a clever system, which produces biogas to fuel the common kitchen and later is turned into valuable compost to be used on the common orchard and coppiced woodlot that is used to heat many of the homes. In New Zealand we have many examples of local resilience in action. Earthsong Eco-Neighbourhood is an innovative urban cohousing development in west Auckland that has been modelling socially and environmentally sustainable urban living for 15 years now In the north of Sjaelland, one of the oldest eco-villages in Denmark has since the early nineties, transformed a potato field into a vibrant community where residents live and work, focusing on social interaction, tolerance, respect, sustainability, and ecology. But what can YOU do in your own local situation that will bring about more resiliency and future proof yourself when crisis happens?
Compost your food scraps and used paper through a worm farm or compost bin. Humanure systems like the simple bucket toilet enable you to recycle the leftover nutrients back into your garden, particularly the fruit garden.
Grow as much of your own food as possible. Even in a city, container gardening can yield cocktail, tomatoes, herbs, salads and cucumbers with relative ease. With some land an intensive garden can be created simply by sheet mulching the lawn with cardboard, manure, green weeds, hay, grass clippings and seaweed if you have access to it.
Orchards integrating many different fruits and beneficial perennials form a food forest that can even supply firewood, greenery to shred as mulch to feed the system again and again along with ongoing seasonal fruits and nuts.
Grow with others. Sharing land and skills and resources to grow food with other people like at community gardens is not only a fun experience but also rewarding on a social level as well.
Buy local. This means the rest of the food you can't grow at home from local growers and processors. As a result this will encourage more local producers building a stronger local food economy. The same goes for skilled labour like plumbers, builders and mechanics from your local town rather than from further afield.
Purchase healthy products. Employ local people who use renewable resources will further encourage more of the same like an earth builder or natural woodworker instead of buying treated timber that ends up poisoning the environment. These crafts people will in turn seek local plantations to meet their needs thus encouraging mixed forestry operations to develop. This in turn helps prevent erosion on hills if they are covered in trees even at different stages of growth, especially important with more frequent rain events.
Join or create a local trade and exchange scheme. This maybe normal money like FB Buy, Sell & Swap pages or maybe it's a different system that encourages people to share skills and products that are not their normal activity but more of an interest. It’s amazing how many skills and cool things a community can share when the opportunity is there.
Get involved with local Makers Spaces or Mens Sheds (many are open to women too) where people of all ages share their skills and equipment to make and recycle materials into needed products. This can also keep alive old crafts that could die out as generations pass away. There are many more activities that you can be involved with that build a resilient community and a well-resourced household. Seek out local permaculture groups to learn and share knowledge and energy. Probably the most important thing is to ASK for what you want. This is the power we have to create our reality. So keep questioning what you want in your life and go for it. If you want it bad enough it’ll happen. And in these times its never been more important to learn more about resiliency through locals, books, videos and courses. Seek and you shall find.
At the Golden Bay Sustainable Living Centre, we offer the Golden Bay Sustainable Living Course twice a year in September and March. This course is a world class comprehensive ten week journey teaching students how to live a sustainable life in accordance with the permaculture principles. We teach organic growing, sustainable eating, sustainable business, permaculture design, natural building, community resilience & personal wellbeing, and guide you in a personal project to help you reach your sustainable living lifestyle. COVID19 has certainy taught us there is no better time than now to become more resilient and sustainability is the way to do it. Consider joining us on the next course.