Permaculture: Going back to the roots

By stevea68 | SteveA | 11 Nov 2020

Permaculture is a term combining PERMAnent and agriCULTURE together and it refers to using more sustainable ways of living.


Geoff Lawton did some amazing work in the Middle East turning practically barren desert areas of land into areas that allowed quite sustainable growth.  Here's a documentary on some of these efforts:

In general, much of the ideas revolve around primarily around recycling much of the organic materials in an area as well as retaining mineral content in the soil, retaining rainwater in the ground and limiting erosion.


Many improvements appear to be made by using limitedly intrusive activities in an area and maintaining native flora and fauna.  A video I saw with a similar theme was by a man who did farming not so much by trying to transplant an area with some organized form of crops but instead by working in an area that already had a large number of useful plants and primarily removing or limiting the growth of more undesirable species.  He was able to maintain a rather large growing area with limited work using primarily a "chop and drop" technique (basically pulling up or cutting down and allowing to compost undesired species of plants the area).


A related issue for agriculture could be over a continual depletion of minerals in the soil if crops are continually shipped elsewhere without having those mineral resources replaced in the area.  This could partially be why some heavily farmed areas tend to lose viability over and why crop rotations help to some extent.


Soluble forms of minerals will likely ultimately end up the ocean though and there have also been interesting efforts in using sea water for agricultural purposes:

... and you don't even need to salt your fries! ;)


I've heard barley and tomatoes can be grown in salty water and I'm certain there are many others.  Additionally, even if inedible vegetation can be grown in seawater, the organic material and minerals could be used as compost/fertilizer for other plants and possible move many soluable minerals back inland to reverse some effects of erosion and depletion of soils.

An interesting sidenote is that the petroleum/oil industry helps a lot in sustaining agriculture and many things considered to potentially cause harmful environmental efforts are actually quite beneficial.  Claims of global warming dangers have become minimal in favor of trying to understand why climates change.  Most pollutants from fossil fuels are actually components of fertilizers (nitrates and phosphorus etc.) and promote plant growth (including carbon dioxide).  Tropical aquariums can use CO2 to speed growth of coral reefs.  The acidity from "acid rain" or from dissolved CO2 is what is used for carbonated drinks or that from brewed alcohols etc. and it's interesting to note that thermal vents in the ocean emit high concentrations of many forms of conventional pollutants to form mini eco systems in generally otherwise barren landscapes.

Yes, this article turned somewhat against many modern sentiments but that's because permaculture introduces many new concepts to consider and ideas that are simply unconventional don't need to be shyed away from.

Yes, pollutants can be a problem but many things currently considered to be harmful, dangerous or pollutants etc. may have their beneficial aspects overlooked.  In the case of global warming concerns I was going to try computing what the average temperature on the surface of the Earth should be simply by considereding raw solar energy input (about 1 kilowatt per square meter) as well as that reemitted back into space due to Blackbody Radation  (basically the infrared "heat" felt from a heat source) and luckily someone else had already done the math and came up with ~55 degrees Fahrenheit (sounds reasonable).  Doing another search online for what the average temperature is multiple feet underground (in order to avoid seasonal variations) gave an almost identical temperature.  A couple things to consider regarding solar absorption due to CO2 are both that it's a high enough concentration to already absorb moe than 90% of the solar energy input in the atmosphere at wavelengths it interacts with and so further increases in CO2 levels do almost nothing to increase this (just like adding more and more colored red filters to a light source become redundant and don't further block out more non-red colors) as well as CO2 also reemitting blackbody thermal radiation just like most everything else and being ignorable in influence when using the blackbody equilibrium model (at least as far as I know though maybe there are wavelengths of energy that aren't in a conventionally measurable spectrum by modern physical sciences?  Interesting possibilities)


Anyway, I'm rambling but there are a lot of good ideas surrounding permaculture and a simple way of looking at it is that "a penny saved is a penny earned" as well as considering that every resource or value one is able to retain is something that doesn't need to be acquired by the whim of some external source.  If someone's truly living in the country even composting toilets could be useful and again, utilizing whatever nature already provides is a great idea as well.  If it ain't broke, there's no need to fix it.

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