Written by: Nicole Brekelmans
Edited by: Richard Perron
Permaculture is a term coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, acting as a contraction of the words permanent and agriculture (Hes & Plessis, 2015). Later, permaculture also stands for “permanent culture” as it heavily focuses on integrating society within the sustainable systems (Hes & Plessis, 2015). Permaculture is a response to the growing agricultural industry which is using land and resources in abundances creating regional, national, and international land shortages, along with pollution issues from agricultural runoff. Permacultural practices involve using traditional and natural practices for food production in urban areas, while being cautious of its environmental impacts as well as its set of ethics and foundational principles of the natural world. These include repair and conserve, guard human rights, and implement intelligence, goodwill, and labour (Holmgren, 2018).
The overall goal of a Permaculture project is to create long term sustainability through the use of multiple elements such as technologies, culture, education, spirituality, finance, community, nature stewardship, and the built environment (Hes & Plessis, 2015). Along with these functions, Permaculture also has specific design principles to be followed such as observe and interact, catch and store energy and other resources, obtain and yield, apply self-regulation, and accept feedback, use and value renewable resources, produce no waste, design from patterns to details, integrate rather than segregate, use small and slow solutions, use and value diversity, use edges and value the marginal, and creatively use and respond to change (Timber Press, 2013).
Permaculture was developed first in Australia with multiple projects originating from the practice, including Perth City Farm. Perth City Farm project first started in January 1994 by Rosanne Scott, Chris Ferreira, Clayton Chipper and Neal Bodel (Perth City Farm, n.d.) . The space was previously an engineering workshop and a toxic wasteland but was soon to become a community garden and cultural hub (Perth City Farm, n.d.). The project took a decade to develop, with the most drastic change being the remediation of the wasteland. An important aspect of the project was that the majority of workers were locals and volunteers providing East Perth with community building. The old warehouse was converted into a classroom for a training course focused on permaculture (Perth City Farm, n.d.). Along with this building, a café, coffee shop, and art gallery were created, and 5000 vegetable plants composed the community garden. This project exemplifies the importance of the function stacking, providing multiple spaces and purposes in one area for the community (Perth City Farm, n.d.).
Permaculture being developed in Australia with a tropical and subtropical climate, made this urban sustainability strategy more challenging for colder climates to adopt, such as Canadian cities. Canadian cities have developed permaculture projects from home-scales to community-scales, working with perennial food production and rain water harvesting to rooftop gardens and urban farming (Berezan, n.d.).
Permaculture challenges the view of agricultural practices being separate from the urban areas, and the view that food production requires an abundance of land, tools, and supplies. Permaculture provide opportunities for food production to be incorporated into cities, providing its residents with a sense of stewardship and ownership towards their food, and increases the local market for further economic benefits (Timber Press, 2013). It also pushes the boundaries towards land-use and offers innovative ways to use less land in more dense areas, such as rooftops, or green walls. Permaculture’s end goal is to provide to provide guidelines for projects, pushing them toward long-term sustainability through community actions while being woven into cultural and natural systems of the space (Holmgren, 2018). Therefore, providing a city with more independence and empowerment from what it can produce on its own.
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