In Permaculture, the main goal of the movement is to prepare for a global low energy future. The focus is on our present communities (locally and globally) for long term survival and thrival. In order to achieve the goal, homesteads are the first priority. “Homestead” implies self sustaining livelihoods; growing own food, capture and using own energy supply, creating own goods and services. DSC_0059_1024
The main way to achieve self reliance and community empowerment is to capture and store energy. To apply energy usage in a balanced lifestyle (in order to prevent too much work or waste) a system of positive feedback and negative feedback reactions need to be set. In current economics, the system can be correlated with checks and balances. Unlike, economics there is not enough direct feedback of the impact our actions or habits have an affect on the environment.
The next step to a global shift starts with the utilization of developed goods and services for the betterment of the wider community. Bartering, or solely giving away, makes life easier for each member of the community. The dispersion of roles can be seen in past villages where there were fishers, butchers, carpenters, blacksmiths, etc. To create a naturally functioning and maintained larger system we must apply tactics of homesteading to the greater whole; feedback, self maintenance, maximum energy usage, allocation and usage of resources.
Self reliance comes in many forms for me. I am placing responsibility on myself to create my own home, my own food, and my own supplies. Self reliance is a form of activism, switching from the waste and mindless consumer to the educated, thoughtful producer. Most of all self reliance is freedom for me to have minimal ties to corporations or the government, providing my own security and happiness.
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
posted 5 years ago
From a purely mathematical analysis: It takes about twice as much energy per pound of food for me to transport my vegetables to the farmer's market 11 miles away as it does to bring them 700 miles from California. So if we are only worried about total energy consumption, globalized markets seem like the way to go. Small systems use energy much less efficiently than huge systems. The advantage of many small inefficient systems that waste huge amounts of resources is that they contain many many redundancies. If I stopped going to the farmer's market people would still get fed. If the single grocery store in town couldn't truck in food from far away the impact would be tremendous.
In a low-fossil-fuel future I wouldn't take my vegetables 11 miles. I'd likely make people come to my farm to get them, or at most I'd travel 1/2 mile to the village center.
I don't have any expectation of ever being self sufficient. I may be able to grow vegetables today and into the future even without oil, and I may make eggs or bacon some day, but I'm unlikely to ever want to make milk or cheese. I'm unlikely to want to thatch a roof. My temperament isn't suitable for providing security for anything other than basic bodily integrity, so in a low-fossil-fuel future I'd expect to make routine gifts to the warlord's young men who provide security for the village.
I think complete self-reliance is a lofty and worthy aim; however, I am unsure if that is the goal of permaculture. I think this is more of a perspective thing because people can interpret what they read and hear many different ways.
Here's what the Permaculture: A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison says on the ultimate aim of permaculture.
Bill Mollison wrote: The Prime Directive of Permaculture The Only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.
Make it now.
Discussion about Chapter One can be found at this thread, and discussion on The Ethics can be found here.
And the way a "permanent agriculture" and "permanent culture" is achieved will vary from situation to situation, so self-reliance may work well under some conditions but not under others. Whatever works!
Here is the rest of the article:
Storage of Energy
Homesteading is the symbolic, grounded declaration of my self reliance. My passion holds strong, but there are a few techniques to be learned first. The main sustenance for a homesteading person is the storage of energy. The ability to capture and store ensues security and abundance for multiple seasons, years, and ultimately, generations. So what is energy? Energy on a land that can be captured starts with the sun. Every part of life on Earth is created and propelled by solar capture and use. Solar gain is transmitted into four key energy storages; water, living soil, trees, and seeds.
Each is fundamental and strategically chosen to be self maintaining, low depreciating in value, and resistant to theft or monopolization.
One of the key principles of permaculture is “Observe and Interact”. Observing each renewable source on a plot of land (or community), we can utilize the best practices of catching a storage of energy. Water interacts with the land ideally through rainfall, aquifers, rivers, and basins. Water can then be captured as reservoirs, dams, swales, tanks, cisterns, ponds, and swamps. The energy can be stored and transmuted into natural capital as vegetation, forests, and soils or can be used as immediate energy for irrigation and mechanical energy (watermills).
Living soil, another energy storage, is a critical element of healthy ecosystem. The essential chemical break down is carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. When there is a large presence of humus on the ground, the soil metabolizes and stores these necessary nutrients. Humus comes from the rotting of plant life and then acts as a sponge absorbing water, carbon, and minerals. The minerals determine the alkalinity of the soil. They include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Ideal PH level of the soil is 6.5. With the use of nitrogen fixing plants, herding of animals, and mycology we are able to remediate abused lands. Living soil that is abundant in humus, minerals, water, carbon, and nitrogen needs to be highly valued as a resource of homesteading. DSC_0066_1024
Here is a piece of land we are healing the soil with mycology, specifically king stropharia and oyster mushrooms
As the third energy resource, trees contribute to the ecosystem immensely. Contributing to foliage on the ground to break down into humus, acting as a cover for other plants and animals, and large carbon stores; trees are a wealth to be had! Because most trees are resilient after a few years, they become self maintaining, a keystone to the local ecology. Trees are able to reproduce without the need for felling and can easily be translated into material wealth of wood and fruits. Conjointly, the forest provides a habitat for animals, bees, herbs, fungi, and seeds which all have the capability to be valuable stores of energy.
The reproduction of plants, seeds, have unlimited capabilities making them one of the biggest investments of energy storage. Usually small in size, most seeds are easily stored for years on end. They are resistant to most environments and each seed has the capacity to produce futures seeds by the ten fold.
When we value the abundant resources from nature for its true worth, we can gain much more from it. The key to harnessing this energy is to observe these stores of energy in nature, understand the true value, and recreate this occurrence on a homesteading plot. The measurement of wealth can be attributed to how the energy is stored, how it can be transmuted into different forms, and how long the energy is thriving in storage. Wealth that is valued in this way can further our livelihoods in terms of bartering or monetary gain and secure our future. Talk about preparing for retirement!
posted 5 years ago
I would like to know the mathematics behind your statement?
Also I find that if we are thinking strategically our farmers markets should be no more than five miles away not eleven. Although that is not the case today, one day we will not be able to rely on energy intensive transportation systems.
In regards to waste, one permaculture principle is there is no waste. If we design efficient systems we can use the "waste" for other purposes. An example would be using hydrogen to fuel cars and capturing the steam.
In order to create effective systems, we need to think in terms of dividing societal tasks into communal roles , providing our basic necessities and leaving room to enjoy life.
posted 5 years ago
Here is an image from David Holmgren's book Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability. Much of this article I wrote was based off this book.
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
posted 5 years ago
The trip is 750 miles long from the broccoli fields to my local grocery store. The semi-truck gets 7 miles to the gallon. Therefore, the trip requires 107 gallons of fuel. The truck can carry 40,000 pounds of broccoli. So that equals 0.34 ounces of fuel per pound of broccoli.
The trip to my farmer's market is 11 miles. The farm truck gets 11 MPG. Therefore, the trip requires 1 gallon of fuel. The truck holds a maximum of about 500 pounds of vegetables. So that equals 0.26 ounces of fuel to get a pound of vegetables to market, but I need to make it a round trip so call it 0.52 ounces of fuel per pound of vegetables. The semi returns to California full of beef, so no wasted fuel for the return trip like I am doing.
A train could bring that broccoli from California to my store for about 0.1 ounce of fuel per pound of vegetables. So the break even point, is 2.2 miles...
The closest urban town to my farm is 11 miles away. I gotta sell my vegetables to non-farmers, not to the other farmers in my village. Sure I swap for eggs and meat with the other farmers that specialize in different foods than I do, but we are few in number compared to the hordes in the city.
Hydrogen as a fuel has been known for 344 years. There are very good engineering, technical, and thermodynamic reasons why it is not commonly used. It seems to me to be unlikely to ever be a successful fuel, because if I have the energy necessary to make hydrogen, then I might as well use that energy directly rather than suffering the huge inefficiencies that are associated with creating hydrogen.
If the steam/heat from an internal combustion engine in a vehicle could be easily captured and used, then it already would be captured and put to good use. Brilliant engineers have been working on the problem of fuel efficiency since before my grandfather was born. The laws of thermodynamics don't care about good ideas... All they care about is that the greater the difference in potential energy between a source and a sink the easier it is to capture some percentage of it to do useful work. Chemical energy (burning fuel) is much more concentrated than the diffuse heat left over after a chemical reaction.
And now, just for fun... Let's calculate how much oil it takes for me to go to the farmer's market via human power, say on a cargo-bike... Presuming that I eat a diet consisting only of peanut oil, which is a fair approximation of diesel. Say I need 3500 calories on market day, because pedaling a bicycle into town is hard work... So that's 408 grams of oil, or 14 ounces. Supposing that I can haul about 150 pounds of vegetables on my bike... That works out to about 0.09 ounces of oil per pound of vegetables. Approximately the same amount of fuel required to bring the vegetables from California to my town on the train. California broccoli will always taste better than even the best grown broccoli in my valley. Our climate is totally unsuitable for growing broccoli.
World Tomato Society ambassador
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