‘Permaculture? What’s that?’ For those who hear of permaculture for the first time, the term itself can seem like some sort of obscure scientific jargon. But the name is the biggest giveaway to what permaculture actually is. Permaculture comes from the composite of ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’. It is the practice of creating natural systems that are meant to endure.
Permaculture was introduced by Bill Mollison in the 1970s as an ecological design science. It is founded on several principles derived from the way natural systems operate. It offers a unique and holistic perspective to viewing modern industrial civilizations and the vast environmental problems that we are currently engulfed in.
Permaculture in Malaysia as a movement has grown in the past decades with several grassroots projects taking root, no pun intended. But there is still a long way for it to go.
When I first completed my Permaculture Design Certificate course in 2014, I along with other graduates were hungry for a site where we could put our newfound perspective into practice. That was what led to the birth of Urban Hijau.
One of the goals of Urban Hijau is to be a leading showcase of the practice of permaculture in Malaysia. We hope to be a catalyst to inspire others in this country to look into this fantastic science for Malaysia’s long term future. With the mainstreaming of permaculture Malaysia can hopefully accelerate its approach to dealing with climate change and food security. To this end, for those hearing this funky word for the first time, I would like to point out a few compelling reasons to get up off of youour seats, put our designer hat on and become a fellow ‘permie’.
1. It changes the way you view the world.
Permaculture fundamentally alters the way you view society and nature. Learning permaculture can be almost like a ‘Matrix’ moment when we take the red pill and see a new reality for the first time. You begin to think like a designer and notice the gaps and systemic flaws in our modern industrial fossil-fuel based way of life. On a more practical level, you begin to notice your own level of consumption and the ways in which you can make small improvements to reduce your carbon impact. Learning concepts such as energy flow and storage, zoning, edges and other permaculture principles will give you a set of easily recognizable reference points when you look at existing systems. It substantially expands your worldview.
2. It forces you to make a difference.
Permaculture is built along a solid ethical foundation. The three pillars of permaculture ethics are Earth care (regard for your impact on the ecosystem), people care (regard for your impact on your personal circles and society) and fair share (returning your surplus to the system). So to consider yourself a permaculturist, you must be committed on some level to positively contributing to the system you manage, whether it be an ecological site or your community. More than just an idle hobby, permaculture practice is an intentional giving back in terms of time and energy.
3. It connects you to a special community.
Admittedly, this is a somewhat subjective point, but permaculture practice tends to attract some of the more interesting personalities out there. Many practitioners are former bankers, lawyers or those in the oil and gas sector who have decided to exit their corporate careers to pursue the green life. Permaculturists share a similar passion and have an eagerness for linking up to do hands-on activities together. A great example is a permablitz, which is an event in which permies volunteer their physical effort to assist in developing an edible plant space on the site of a fellow permie.
4. You become ready for the future.
Permaculture can be a very important method for future-proofing your living and growing systems. You will learn how the current monoculture-based agricultural systems are progressively degrading the top soil over the next few decades, essentially endangering human being’s life support. Soil, and not oil, will soon become Earth’s most precious resource. If there is not a dramatic shift to regenerative agricultural systems soon, we may all witness scenes similar to those giant midwestern dustbowls that were shown in the movie Interstellar.
5. You become connected to nature.
Principle number one in permaculture is to observe and interact with the ecological sites under you care. This is not just an aesthetic appreciation, but a deeper level of understanding over the natural patterns that emerge without human intervention. You will gain a respect for the resiliency of nature and how it can create systems of abundance over time, such as food forests . By working with the system rather than opposed to it, you will be motivated to spend more time with the soil and notice how different elements of your site connect with each other to make the entire ecosystem work.
If you are interested to learn more about permaculture, please visit our living showcase at Urban Hijau, or tune in next time when I go deeper into the principles of permaculture and the revolutionary impact it can have on our world.