Permaculture is a system of ecological design as well as a global movement of practitioners, educators, researchers and organizers, bound by three core ethics: care for the earth, care for the people and care for the future. Permaculture integrates knowledge and practices that draw from many disciplines and links them into solutions to meet human needs while ensuring a resilient future. With little funding or institutional support, this movement has spread over the past forty years and now represents projects on every inhabited continent.
The permaculture movement offers vital perspectives and tools to address catastrophic climate change.
Human-caused climate change is a crisis of systems — ecosystems and social system — and must be addressed systemically. No single new technology or blanket solution will solve the problem. Permaculture employs systems thinking, looking at patterns, relationships and flows, linking solutions together into synergistic strategies that work with nature and fit local conditions, terrain, and cultures.
Efforts to address the climate crisis must be rooted in social, economic, and ecological justice. The barriers to solutions are political and social, not technical, and the impacts of climate change fall most heavily on frontline communities, who have done the least to cause it. Indigenous communities hold worldviews and perspectives that are vitally needed to help us come back into balance with the natural world. We must build and repair relationships across cultures and communities on a basis of respect, and the voices, leadership and needs of frontline and indigenous communities must be given prominence in all efforts to address the problem.
Permaculture ethics direct us to create abundance, share it fairly, and limit overconsumption in order to benefit the whole. Healthy, just, truly democratic communities are a potent antidote to climate change.
Both the use of fossil fuels and the mismanagement of land and resources are driving the climate crisis. We must shift from fire to flow: from burning oil, gas, coal and uranium to capturing flows of energy from sun, wind, and water in safe and renewable ways.
Soil is the key to sequestering excess carbon. By restoring the world’s degraded soils, we can store carbon as soil fertility, heal degraded land, improve water cycles and quality, and produce healthy food and true abundance. Protection, restoration and regeneration of ecosystems and communities are the keys to both mitigation and adaptation.
Permaculture integrates knowledge, experience, research and practices from many disciplines to restore landscapes and communities on a large scale. These strategies include:
• A spectrum of safe, renewable energy technologies.
• Scientific research and exchange of knowledge, information and innovations.
• Water harvesting, retention and restoration of functional water systems.
• Forest conservation, reforestation and sustainable forestry.
• Regenerative agricultural practices—organic, no-till and low-till, polycultures, small-scale intensive systems and agroecology.
• Planned rotational grazing, grasslands restoration, and silvopasture systems.
• Agroforestry, food forests and perennial systems.
• Bioremediation and mycoremediation.
• Increasing soil organic carbon using biological methods: compost, compost teas, mulch, fungi, worms and beneficial micro-organisms.
• Sustainably produced biochar for carbon capture and soil-building.
• Protection and restoration of oceanic ecosystems.
• Community-based economic models, incorporating strategies such as co-operatives, local currencies, gift economies, and horizontal economic networks.
• Relocalization of food systems and economic enterprises to serve communities.
• Conservation, energy efficiency, re-use, recycling and full cost accounting.
• A shift to healthier, climate-friendly diets.
• Demonstration sites, model systems, ecovillages and intentional communities.
• Conflict transformation, trauma counseling and personal and spiritual healing.
• Transition Towns and other local movements to create community resilience.
• And many more!
None of these tools function alone. Each unique place on earth will require its own mosaic of techniques and practices to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
To deepen our knowledge of these approaches and refine our ability to apply and combine them, we need to fund and support unbiased, independent scientific research.
Each one of us has a unique and vital role to play in meeting this greatest of global challenges. The crisis is grave, but if together we meet it with hope and action, we have the tools we need to create a world that is healthy, balanced, vibrant, just, abundant and beautiful.