What permaculture isn’t — and is

Permaculture flower

Permaculture is notoriously hard to define. A recent survey shows that people simultaneously believe it is a design approach, a philosophy, a movement, and a set of practices. This broad and contradiction-laden brush doesn’t just make permaculture hard to describe. It can be off-putting, too. Let’s say you first encounter permaculture as a potent method of food production and are just starting … [Read more...]

Permaculture works


Based on the latest maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it appears that the eastern third of the country should be in good shape this year insofar as rainfall is concerned. For someone saddled with completely infertile soil, that’s good news. In my opinion, it’s bad enough to have to deal with unending amendment of the soil, without having to feel guilty … [Read more...]

Green waste

Waste not want not WWI poster

I was riding my bicycle into town on trash collection day last week and noticed that one of my neighbors had filled their can with weeds and other green waste. They had obviously cleaned up their yard and had accumulated a lot of green material in the process. But, I stalled out in trying to figure out why they had put it in their trash can? Weeds, grass clippings, twigs and other cuttings are, … [Read more...]

Towards ecological literacy: A Permaculture approach for junior secondary science


The profound lack of sustainable systems on our planet is of great concern to environmentalists, some of who are educators and some of who are permaculturists. Many of the problems facing Earth and its inhabitants are caused by a lack of ecological literacy among much of the human population. Ecological literacy includes an understanding of the scientific principles of ecology, including the … [Read more...]

There’s got to be a better way


One of the best things about being outdoors – bottom up, head down, hands in the soil – is the way glorious smells take you by surprise. You brush up against a plant, inadvertently step on a wildflower, or crumble the dirt in your hands, and suddenly your nose is in overdrive. As soon as it happens, you begin sniffing madly, hoping against hope that tiny bit of heaven hasn’t already left this … [Read more...]

Postcards from a low-energy future: now

Student design

Upon entering Bayan Ulgii province we saw no trees until we finally arrived in Ulgii City. Locals can remember that only two generations ago, the river flats of Ulgii City, and much of the rest of the province, were covered in trees. Just like the Lorax in Dr. Suess' fable, all were cut down for winter fuel and building materials. No carbon offset here The next thing to greet us is the … [Read more...]

A more flavorful, meaningful life

Mongolian farm workers.

Food security has been defined as "access by all people at all times to sufficient food for an active and healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum: the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and an assured ability to acquire food in socially acceptable ways (without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing and other coping strategies for … [Read more...]

How community is like a garden

Mother and son find play in life. Lynn Crounse Photography

Have you ever sat still in a garden and focused your attention on the symphony of life around you?  Perhaps you lifted some mulch and witnessed the soil teaming with life just below the surface – insects, nematodes, bacteria, worms, mycelia mats, young sprouts, rotting debris – all dancing in unison to the fecundity of life. Observe and flow with nature As an instructor in Permaculture, a … [Read more...]

Live and let die: Permaculture primer

Termite mound inspires home insulation

A brief permaculture primer Permaculture urges humans to imitate nature. It's an idea worth considering now more than ever. As we face a triple-threat of James Bond villains -- peak oil, climate change, and the Great Recession -- many things are clearly going wrong with the industrial world's plan. Nature, on the other hand, has been able to run things pretty well on Earth for a few billion … [Read more...]