A Chain is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Link

 In Sustainability

Part two of a 4-part series that delves into the fundamentals of Permaculture, and how it could be used to restore and amplify Goa’s glory. Read the first installment here.

Previously, we briefly discussed how permaculture isn’t simply an agricultural technique, but a holistic design concept rooted in the belief that we can transition from being dependent consumers to becoming responsible producers. It is the idea that clever design which factors in surroundings, processes, and all involved elements can not only increase output tremendously, but also decrease the amount of effort required by far; all while causing no damage to the environment, whatsoever.

Permaculture is about building resilience and using only what we need and what we have access to — in other words, living within our ecological means.” – Jessi Bloom, award-winning ecological landscape designer and author.

What makes a design qualify as a permaculture-based design?

The answer is simple. Permaculture is a design system with ethics. Consequently, there are three fundamental tenets that it’s underpinned by:

  1. Care for Earth:

In permaculture, the primary client is always earth. Caring for soil just as it were a living, breathing entity is essential to maintain long-term fertility and vitality of our ecosystems. Whether planning a farm or designing a product, the first question to ask ourselves is: how can the earth benefit from what we are creating?

Designing business cards? How about having them printed on plantable seed paper, a la Mihir Jagdish of
Hemp Industree?

Care for the earth, and it will care for you right back.

2. Care for People:

Anthropocentric in ideology, permaculture also solicits for strong interpersonal relationships. Advocating for a systematic approach that enables synergy among a group instead of having it fall apart at the sight of the first challenge, permaculture can thus help build organizational resilience. Thinking about minor factors such as how meetings can be made more fun and productive, to facilitating organization-wide realignments that improve both people satisfaction and productivity is just as important as the product your organization creates.

The idea is to replace the untenable age-old mindset with contemporary political and economic systems that promote equable collaboration with people and communities around us.

Environmental and social justice are inherently symbiotic. Both require increasing accessibility to tools and education that help build natural and social capital. Do your processes allow for an open space that lets everyone’s voice be heard, however small? Is respect for each others’ need a precondition in your community? Do you put cooperation over conflict, when the former means transitioning to a better community?

2. Fair Share:

Meant originally to denote equity by regulating use of resources and redistributing surplus, fair share no longer stands for simply handing your neighbours an extra sack of potatoes you grew. The third ethical tenet of permaculture comes from a place of unity in recognizing that we share challenges and goals, i.e. environmental conservation, tackling air pollution, reducing build up of greenhouse gases, resources disappearing with breathtaking speed, etc. as a species. These issues are all tantamount to, or will contribute to, the erasure of our species on the whole. Therefore, we must tackle them as a whole.

Fair share means empowering the most oppressed communities, regardless of cultural differences,  by sharing of resources. These resources can be knowledge, experiences, or an extra pair of hands.

An interesting example of this third tenet is perhaps the Gatekeepers Experiment. Recently, at See Sharp – India’s first green living and sustainability festival – I encountered an unassuming person under the shelter of one of the few trees at the beachside venue. Surrounded by paper gift bags, his little project only drew my eye as I sat down in the shade to get some reprieve from the relentless sun.

Tucked away in each bag were a small clay pot, a pack of seeds, and a brochure on how to care for your plant. Mathew, the Gatekeepers Experiment founder, must have given away about 20 of those that day, apart from selling quite a few.

Perhaps some of them ended up in trash cans. Some of them never saw the light of the day. At least one of them was planted that day though (mine), so at least one of them will be home to a bee or two soon.

It’s the little things.

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  • […] Previously, we’ve discussed the basis of permaculture and how it works as a regenerative interdisciplinary design system that can help Goa fortify its ecosystems and become a truly sustainable state. This is part three of a four-part series, previous installments of which can be found here and here. […]

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