Permaculture in Action

As a follow-up to my previous post on permaculture, I seek here to provide an actual, hands-on example of a permacultural practice used in gardening (with photos aplenty, courtesy of Alice Olivero) which I had the chance to undertake in an introductory course on permaculture I recently attended near Oxford.

Conventional agricultural methods for reclaiming land often involve digging into the land to eradicate weeds and all other things which we may not want to be in our field with the crop we are bound to plant. This, while beneficial in some respects (e.g. for aerating the soil), is also very disruptive to the organisms living in the soil. Preserving soil food web, however, is very important to keep beneficial organic matter in the soil, which in turns increases the latter’s fertility over time. Hence, a permacultural approach to reclaiming a plot of land can take the form of the creation of a “mulch bed” which, in essence, tries to mimic natural patterns of soil stratification to eliminate underlying weeds for planting other seeds without upsetting the soil’s “underground” life. Read more

Permaculture: Revolution Dressed as Organic Gardening

Permaculture is a design framework which is based on three ethical maxims and a series of working principles, which seeks to develop low maintenance, highly productive ecosystems. It originated in Australia from the work of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.

The three ethical maxims are Earth Care, People/Species Care (i.e. avoiding the exploitation of people and valuing all other species) and Fair Shares (advocating for limits to consumption and the sharing of surpluses). The working principles, instead, are (a) to work with nature (permaculture is inspired by the productivity of rainforest ecosystems, which are naturally rich in yields); (b) to deploy the minimum effort for maximum effect, the corollary to which is to spend most of the time doing nothing and observing how things evolve by themselves; (c) to look to the problem as the solution (in the sense that no “problem” is ever only a problem, but also the result of underlying feedbacks and as such it offers one a way to understand those feedbacks); (d) that what counts as a “yield” is only limited by imagination (so, for instance, in a permaculture-based communal garden, “fun” and “community cohesion” also counts as yields and are accommodated in the design process); (e) everything gardens, i.e. all types of life interact and affect the world around them. Read more

Learning from an amateur

The word “amateur” often conjures up a range of negative connotations (e.g. sloppy, imprecise, naïf, unsophisticated), particularly in the context of binaries featuring various articulations of “professional” at the opposite end.

Yet, the word amateur – in Italian amatore – contains in it the root of amore, love. Following this lead, an amateur is someone who acts out of love for the trade/skill/activity which is being practiced in an “amateurial” way. Love and labour, love for labour, labour out of love are therefore the connections I have sought to tease out in the interview I recently conducted with my friend and IUC classmate Taras Povorozniuk. Read more