Connecting with the Earth and all its inhabitants on a deep level and re-establishing our relationship with nature is the essence of permaculture as nature’s art.
Permaculture is a design system that mimics nature in a way that is aesthetically pleasing while also functional, productive, and sustainable.
There are specific artistic design patterns associated with permaculture like the spiral. The whole system is an artistic application of common sense design ideas that are right in front of our noses. I live in a central Florida suburb with really small lots (less than 1/4 acre). It’s small and intricate, but I’ve been planning and designing it for maximum food, flower and herb production. It is a much different system design for this small space compared to what some people do on large pieces of land. Soon, I’ll have fruit trees and bushes in the front yard and all kinds of herbs and vegetables in the back yard. Both interspersed with flowers. I want to show people that you can do a lot with very little space.
Ultimately, bringing ecology into art and design takes the conversation from scarcity to abundance. In the past, artists have had to go to stores and buy paint brushes, paint, canvases, etc. The zero waste conversation turns everything into a potential art supply. Everything is a potential canvas. You can produce food, water, entertainment, beauty and abundance by applying the zero waste-permaculture philosophy.
You can go to a landfill and find materials to make art, an epic building, and probably even a 3D printer! With food waste, you make compost that helps you build fertility in the soil to grow food, etc. You can help end hunger by teaching people about making compost out of food waste, saving seeds from local organic produce, and then planting them. When you have way too many seeds for your own household, you get to start sharing them with others. Zero waste solves everything, and it is just one of 12 permaculture principles! Not only that, but a permaculture garden can be very artistic.
Here are the 12 principles of permaculture as described by David Holmgren, the co-originator of the permaculture concept.
- Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder”
By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
- Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines”
By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
- Obtain a yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach”
Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
- Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation”
We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
- Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course”
Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
- Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine”
By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
- Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees”
By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
- Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work”
By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
- Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”
Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
- Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
- Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”
The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
- Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”
We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.