ReGrarians PDC - Day 2 - Concepts and Themes

Day 2 - Concepts and Themes

On this day were introduced to the land of 'Emergy' - Embodied Energy. I love this term as I beleive if people living in the Western and Developing worlds became more aware of this concept and its effects on ecological systems, there would be more of a chance of changing the way we utilize our energy.
Basically what you want to ask yourself when considering a product is "How long will it last?"
When I was completing my Diploma in Permaculture we had a class on energy, and I distinctly remember learning that 80% of Australia's fossil fuel usage was attributed to our 'Goods and Services', that is purely the SHIT WE BUY.
I was so shocked by this, and it is for this reason that stepping into a shopping center is enough to give a Permie an anxiety attack!

One thing that was stated during this class was that agriculture has lead to culture, and now that I am reading a book called 'Pandora's Seed' I am seeing that this is true. What this book has also taught me is that not only did agriculture lead to culture, but alongside its birth 10,000 yrs ago also came government. 

 When designing we want a diversity of species to build an ecological system which is resilient, and we also want to select species which use the least amount of Emergy. Some species of flora which require little Emergy include Almonds, Olives, Carob and Oaks.
An interesting fact that I learned when discussing Oaks was that 2000-4000 yrs ago Africa was Oak Savanna.
Animals with cleft hooves (like cattle) are designed for grazing savannas, where as Horses are plains animals.

When thinking of embodied energy, shopping centers and supermarkets are something that make me cringe. Australian mega supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths control 65% of supermarket sales. This is a lot of power for a handful of companies to have over a nation. Following is an image of which mega corporations own smaller companies, meaning our consumer dollars are being controlled by such a small fraction of the world. This is where a lot of our imbalances between the wealthy and poorer populations.

 Many of these companies have been responsible for mass environmental and social destruction. When most people become aware of the power of consumer choice, like many people that delve into the world of Permaculture do, it is no surprise that self sufficiency is aspired to. The problem with self-sufficiency is that it is in fact, unsustainable. People in the Western world take the individualistic lifestyle that we are conditioned to have, and then apply it to self reliance. In our society it is seen as successful to be independent, work hard, work for what you own, own a lot of stuff and basically be able to 'survive off your own back'. Only thing is, you are not surviving off your own back, you are surviving off the planets. The only reason we can lead such independent lifestyles is due to our dependence on oil. Every light that is switched on, car that is driven, item that is brought... is a product of oil (with exceptions of course, but here I am talking about the general mainstream picture of the Western household, where going shopping on a Saturday for no particular reason or product in mind is normal).
If you take our conditioning and apply it to wishing to live without a dependency on oil, it puts tremendous stress on a person, couple or family. We have lost our connection with community, and without community we cannot sustain our needs within a Western framework.

When considering a more sustainable or regenerative lifestyle, we are looking at producing enough of a yield to feed the household, family or community.
Below is a list of what the class brainstormed when asked what defines and determines a yield:
- Production
- Effort
- Gain
- Output
- Income
- Work
- Consistency
- Longevity
- Profit
- Energy/Emergy
- Need

The last point is very interesting. Production is based on what is needed within a system.
As P.A Yeomans says "If a dam is filled with water at the start of the rainy season its a waste of capital".
We need to Manage our Abundance or we will waste our time, energy and money.

In order to manage efficiently, it helps to have a decision making framework. This is where we come to the topic of Holistic Management.
Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory as a decision making framework for landscapes, although it can be applied to many areas of life (just like Permaculture).
Its crux is upon developing a Holistic Context and a Statement of Purpose.
After this has been obtained then the Quality of Life is you wish to achieve and the forms of production to reached that quality of life are defined. A resource base in then outlined as a platform to draw from throughout the decision making process.
This is my basic understanding and something I am working on at the moment, but in order to further understand this concept please take a look at Dan Palmer from Very Edible Garden's informative pages on how to apply this framework to your life:

Darren aspires to find a synergy between Permaculture, Agriculture and Holistic Management, and use this as a foundation for his work and facilitation.
Permaculture is great for research, planning and design, but does lack a way of testing and making decisions (although both observation and applying self-regulation and accepting feedback are both principles that will contribute to more responsible and thoughtful decision making).
Humans are a reactionary species which rely on effect as a basis for decision making, rather than foresight. This is the reason Allan Savory developed Holistic Management, as he saw this lack of foresight as the downfall of our species due to the destruction of our landscapes.

The topic of the day being 'Concepts and Themes' brought us to two of the main design aspects of Permaculture: Zones and Sectors.
I will not go into detail on these as I feel that should be reserved for another (quite lengthy) post.
I will however state that Zones are organized relative to distance and energy. For example, the home or place of residence (could be an office, studio or shed depending on where most time is spent) is Zone 0, places which are visited everyday (such as driveways, backdoor, chicken coop, clothesline etc.) are within Zone 1, and this radiates out to Zone 5 (within larger rural and farm landscapes) which is rarely visited and composed of wilderness.
If a design is not zoned badly it does not encourage interaction between aspects and elements structurally, socially, economically or environmentally.

The sectors are described as the analysis of wild energies, the unchanging factors within a design.
These are:
- Climate
- Water
- Geography
- Topography
- Access
- Boundaries
- Utilities
- View
- Pollution
- Fire
- Wind
- Sun
- Wildlife
- Noise

These are to be researched and considered at the beginning of the design process, although many designers can suffer from what Darren called "Paralysis by Analysis"!
I have suffered from this myself, and encourage people to take breaks and find a balance between careful research without becoming obsessive, anal and overwhelmed.

Becoming aware and familiar of the concepts and themes within Permaculture will not only enable one to become a good designer, it will aid in the development of life skills, help to reconnect to nature and to find our place as part of ecology.
Through awareness and understanding of how to make choices based on an Emergy efficiency, foresight and research and planning, we will be a step closer to a more regenerative and habitable ecosystem.

'Fundamentals of Ecology' Howard Odum
'Restoration Agriculture' Mark Shepard
'Co-Operative Farming' Joel Salitan
'The Diffusion of Innovation' Everette Rogers
'Ecological Pioneers' Martin Mulligan
'The integrated Urban House' Sim Vanderin

Kathy Voth
Future Farmers
Bruce Maynard


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